Keen hails new recruits

Kevin Keen looked back on his taste of being caretaker manager with positivity despite the frustration of conceding a late goal in the 3-2 defeat at West Bromwich Albion.

Deadline-day recruits Herita Ilunga and David Di Michele both made impressive debuts in an entertaining contest in which the visitors will feel unlucky not to have taken at least a point. Ilunga played the full 90 minutes at left-back while Di Michele, who was playing his first competitive game of the season, was on the pitch for more than 70 minutes after coming on for Dean Ashton, who took a nasty cut to the side of his head and had to be substituted.

The home side took the lead in the fourth minute before strikes from Mark Noble and Lucas Neill - his first for the club - put West Ham United ahead. West Brom soon levelled through a Roman Bednar penalty after Robert Green was adjudged to have felled an opponent illegally, although replays suggested he got a hand to the ball. West Bromwich Albion then sealed the win with an 85th-minute breakaway strike from Chris Brunt.

Despite the disappointment of not getting anything from the game, Keen was excited about what he saw from the two new faces. He said: "I thought Herita Ilunga was superb and he will be really good for us. He only came in on Thursday morning from the Congo DR. I think the supporters will like him, he's got an aggressive side to him and can get forward and make things happen."

Keen was equally impressed with Di Michele, after the striker had a major hand in Noble's equaliser. Keen said: "That was David's first game of the season and to be thrown in like that - especially the first half - I thought he did really well. He got into a few pockets and made things happen. Hopefully when he gets a little bit fitter and gets used to the Premier League he can go on and be very creative for us."

The late goal seemed harsh on the visitors who had more than contributed to an enthralling end-to-end game that was denied the input of Craig Bellamy after he had "trained hard all week" in a battle to play. He added: "Putting Craig on the bench was a bit of a risk today. He's been struggling a bit with his hamstring. After his extended warm up he came to me and said he wasn't quite ready."

Summing up the result, Keen said: "Having just gone through a whirlwind of 94 minutes I've come away thinking 'yes we should have got something out of the game'.

"I think in the first half we created some good chances and a little bit of bad luck and some good goalkeeping [stopped them scoring] so I'm disappointed especially for the players who have been tremendous this week and really given their all for me as they did today."

The visitors had to recover from the early loss of their No9, who was hurt by a stray elbow in the 17th minute but should have no lasting problems. Keen explained: "Deano's got six or seven stitches in his ear - it's not very pretty - so the recovery of going one down and Deano going off, was a great reaction. The only disappointing thing was to lose the second goal just after we went in front."

The penalty decision that levelled the match also appeared to be harshly awarded, but the caretaker manager was not looking to blame the officials. "Greeny is the most honest person in our changing room and he honestly says he got the ball. I see on Match of the Day every week ... they have these cameras that go so close but the referee has got a difficult job, I'm not going to say anything about that and I thought he was good today."

Finally, Keen was keen to acknowledge the performance of the travelling fans. "I think we've got the best away support in the league and they were really good today. They didn't stop singing and I'm just disappointed we came up a fraction short today." He will now hand the reins over to Gianfranco Zola and will play his part in building up for the visit of Newcastle United next Saturday.