Tony Carr feels his Under-18s can look towards Saturday's trip to Portsmouth with renewed confidence after a hard-fought point at Crystal Palace.
The Academy side drew 1-1 at the weekend, and coped admirably with a second-half onslaught after seeing two of the more impressive performers substituted. Flying forward Cristian Montano - still finding his way back to fitness - and 16-year-old centre-half Paco Craig on his first start of the season made way around the hour mark but the young U18s regrouped and held out for the draw.
West Ham United had taken the lead through Conor Okus, the 18-year-old himself playing his first full match of the season, after he combined well with Montano before firing past the Palace keeper with a composed finish. Carr believed his team could have added to their tally before the home side capitalised on Craig going off for treatment on a back injury to score an equaliser.
"We had been leading one-nil and played very well for the first half hour," said Carr. "We then had to make some enforced substitutions which cost us the win to a certain degree. Cristian Montano had to come off because he is only just back from injury so we only played him an hour and Paco then got a back injury.
"At the point he was off getting treatment, they had a free-kick and made the most of it to score. It was a bit of a disappointment but in truth we did well to hang on for a point because they came at us afterwards. To be fair they looked the most likely team to win it at that point. They pressed us and pushed us back.
"We looked a little bit disjointed after the changes but we fully deserved the point for the way we had played. In some respects we can be a little bit disappointed we didn't win but we are also grateful we didn't lose in the end."
With Filip Modelski, Okus and Montano getting more minutes after injury and the likes of Jordan Brown, Sergio Sanchez and Nick Barrett all maintaining their 100 per cent appearance record - Carr believed things were perhaps settling down for his squad. "It was Conor's first full game this season and with Cristian back we may be getting back to full strength and hopefully results can pick up from there.
"We are starting gradually to learn the lessons and be a bit more organised and disciplined. Our concentration levels are lasting that bit longer and hopefully we can keep improving as the season progresses. We do change quite a lot. We are trying to blood the younger players and give them the experience. Hopefully we can improve as we do that."
He is still without Callum McNaughton because of injury but he had plenty of praise for Craig, who does not turn 17 until Monday week. "Paco has not played many league games at this level and equipped himself very well against a robust and aggressive Palace team. We were standing up to them and it is a shame he got his knock."
Carr should also have the option of Danny Purdy to start at Pompey next weekend after the striker's return from international duty with the Republic of Ireland Under-17s. Purdy scored a crucial last-minute winner for his country as they won 2-1 against Bulgaria to qualify for the UEFA European U17 Championship Elite round next spring.