Reserves Draw with Saints

Striker Petr Mikolanda was on target as the reserve team drew 1-1 at Southampton on Tuesday night.

The 21-year-old Czech hit the equaliser three minutes after half-time to rescue a point for Kevin Keen's men at Saints' Staplewood training ground.

The Hammers coach named a strong side in what was our first reserve match for almost two months following a couple of postponements and fixture changes before Christmas.

Israeli striker Yaniv Katan made his first start in a claret and blue shirt, while Mark Noble returned to action after illness and three players made their first appearances since returning from loan spells this week - Mikolanda (at Northampton and Swindon), Darren Blewitt (Hereford) and Sekou Baradji (Reading).

After a scrappy start to the game, it was Southampton who opened the scoring on 20 minutes through Latvian striker Marian Pahars, but the visitors sparked into life after conceding and were the better side for the rest of the game.

Unfortunately, they found Saints' new Polish goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski in inspired form. Before the break he tipped Mikolanda's fierce drive round the post and was also at full stretch to deny Kyel Reid.

Hammers went in at the interval still a goal down, but it wasn't long before they levelled the scores. Breaking away on a counter-attack three minutes after the restart, Hogan Ephraim raced down the right flank and crossed low for Mikolanda to slot home from 12 yards out.

The visitors continued to dominate throughout the second half but, despite creating several good chances, could not find a way past Bialkowski again. Noble went close with an acrobatic bicycle-kick, Ryan Andrews had a fierce shot saved, while the impressive Katan saw two decent efforts saved.

Kevin Keen said afterwards: "After two months without a game, it wasn't the most fluent of performances, but after a scrappy opening 20 minutes, I felt we dominated and it wouldn't be unfair to say we deserved a little bit more.

"Their goalkeeper was outstanding and made a handful of very good saves. On another night, we would have scored three or four goals, but it wasn't to be.

"There were plenty of positives to take from the performance, though. The young players all acquitted themselves well and Yaniv Katan looked very impressive - he was at the heart of everything and showed some good movement.

"All in all, I was very pleased with the performance after such a long lay-off, and hopefully we can pick things up again now."

Team: Bywater; Andrews, Tomkins, Blewitt (White 75), Clarke; Ephraim, Baradji, Noble, Reid; Mikolanda (Hines 75), Yaniv Katan (Cowley 65). Unused subs: Kemal, Welsh, Davidson.