Keen praises youngsters battling in reserve

Kevin Keen has paid tribute to the academy and schoolboy players who have stepped up to reserve team level in recent months.

The second string rounded off their Barclaycard Reserve League South campaign on Tuesday evening with a battling 2-2 draw against Chelsea, thanks to two goals from youth team striker Zavon Hines, and the Hammers coach admitted he was delighted to have finished the season on something of a high note.

"I told the players after the game that they had worn the shirt with pride," said Kevin. "Over the last couple of months, we haven't really got the results that our performances have deserved, but the display against Chelsea epitomised the spirit among the team.

"Again, we had such a young side out - the three schoolboys came out of the game with immense credit - and to bounce back twice against Chelsea showed the character of the players.

"The young lads have got to learn a few things tactically and technically but, if they continue to show the same pride and passion to play for this football club, then they will go far, and hopefully two or three of them will make it through to the first team.

"It has been tough during the last couple of months, because the first team squad isn't big enough for us to field a senior reserve side every week and, with the amount of games Alan has had to face, we've had to count on young lads who are also playing on a Saturday for the under-18s, and boys who have been at school all day!

"It's not an ideal situation but the players have all shown the right attitude and a tremendous desire to work hard, and the experience will stand them in good stead for next season."