U23s coach praises Michail Antonio's performance
West Ham United’s U23s shaded their opening fixture against Everton on Friday despite recording a goalless draw, according to assistant manager Liam Manning.
The Hammers had the better of the chances at the Chigwell Construction Stadium and went close to bagging their first of the season through Toni Martinez twice and once from defender Alex Pike.
But the visitors – last season’s Division 1 champions – held out for a point they will be delighted with, having come under serious pressure throughout the first half and parts of the second.
Manning, though disappointed not to get the win to kick-off the season in style, was pleased with the performance.
He said: “We just shaded the game I thought. Physically we looked the stronger team at the end even with ten men at the end.
“In terms of the overall performance, you expect to not be delighted with everything from the first game, but the key areas we will work on and go again on Tuesday.
“It’s really good to be back. Everyone’s been really looking forward to it this week, and we obviously had a really good year last year winning promotion. It was a good game.
“When we won the play-offs, we knew it would be a big challenge this season. When you look at our fixtures for October, they’re very tough.
Michail Antonio was first class in terms of his attitude and the way he approached it. He’s trained with us this week and it was great for the young lads to experience playing with someone at that level.
“Ultimately, the boys need to be challenging themselves against the clubs we’re going to come up against this season. It’s great to test themselves against the best oppositions and hopefully they can do that with success and play in the first team.”
Michail Antonio, returning to full fitness after a summer of recovery, played just over an hour for the U23s and looked sharp, having a couple of attempts on goal and creating a number of chances for his teammates.
And Manning praised the winger for his attitude, explaining how last season’s West Ham top goalscorer really bought into the U23s’ mentality this week.
“Michail Antonio was first class in terms of his attitude and the way he approached it,” the coach continued.
“He’s trained with us this week and it was great for the young lads to experience playing with someone at the level he’s at. His professionalism and attitude is certainly something for the young lads to look up to.”
Next up for the 23s is a trip to Swindon Town on Tuesday night, as they take on the Robins’ first team in the Checkatrade Trophy.
“It was a great experience last year playing in the Checkatrade Trophy last year,” said Manning. “People were dubious about U23 teams going into it, but from our point of view it was a massive experience for us.
“It’s a competition we’re taking very seriously and we’re really looking forward to the game on Tuesday.”