U18s to face Bluebirds

Tony Carr may be forced to shuffle his pack of players for Saturday's FA Premier Academy League visit of Cardiff City on Saturday.

The Bluebirds compete in Group B in the four-group Academy League system and will take on the Hammers in an inter-group fixture at Little Heath this weekend. It is the only time the pair will face one another this season.

Group A members West Ham go into the game in high spirits after beating Crystal Palace 4-1 away from home last Saturday, but Academy director Carr may call upon a number of Under-16 players after several Under-18 regulars turned out for Alex Dyer's reserve team on Tuesday evening.

Striker Balint Bajner, who scored twice in the win over Palace, defenders Matt Fry and Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson and midfielders Daniel Kearns, Oliver Lee, Georg Grasser and Conor Okus all lined up as the Hammers' second-string went down to a battling 2-0 defeat by Aston Villa in midweek, and Carr admitted he may be forced to rest some of his young charges at the weekend.

"We play Cardiff on Saturday at home which makes a change because in each of the last three seasons we have played them away in Wales. We only play against these teams from outside the southern area once a season and we either play them home or away and we've got them at home this year. It will be different for us this year in that we won't have to travel to Cardiff.

"It's going to be a tough game this weekend but we are looking forward to it because we're going into it off the back of a good performance at Crystal Palace. Most of the boys had to turn out again on Tuesday in the reserves against Aston Villa and so, consequently, I'll have to keep one eye on who has played, who has got a knock and who is tired and needs a rest.

"It may sound a bit clichéd when you talk about some of the boys needing a rest but when you play at your maximum and you are young and your body is still developing, you are going to get a below-par performance. It is as simple as that. It is about managing this week and hopefully we'll be able to get a strong enough team out to get a good result and a good performance again this weekend."

Carr was impressed with the Academy professionals' collective performance against a Villa team including former Hammer Marlon Harewood and England Under-19 forward Nathan Delfouneso. With Tom Harvey unavailable for selection, Dyer fielded Lee and Okus in unfamiliar wing-back roles, but Carr believes both could take credit for their reserve team performances.

"We had a late withdrawal as Tommy Harvey couldn't make the game so Alex Dyer had to shuffle his system. We're a bit stretched as the first team have a number of injured defenders at the moment so that had a knock-on effect and he played with three at the back. Conor had to play as a left wing-back and Ollie played right wing-back and playing against the top side in Aston Villa they were mostly called on in defensive areas. It was great experience for them and something new and, although we lost the game, it was a creditable performance and they had their moments.

"We'll look at what we've got and find the eleven who are fit, keen and eager to play and hopefully pick the team that will do the business."

With some of his Under-18 players set to be rested, the likes of Sergio Sanchez, Miles Smith, Robert Hall and Daniel Subuola - all regulars in the Under-16 side - could all feature against Cardiff.

Kick-off at Little Heath on Saturday is at 11am. Admission and parking are both free of charge.