Hitz plays, Benni scores

Thomas Hitzlsperger continued his comeback while Benni McCarthy returned to scoring ways as the reserves just lost out to Chelsea by the odd goal in a seven-goal thriller on Wednesday.

German international Hitzlsperger was playing his second match in a week, having got an hour in a 4-1 win at West Bromwich Albion seven days previously. There were plenty of other positives, with McCarthy looking sharp in a 45-minute run-out capped by a clinical goal - a timely strike as he is potentially eligible for Monday night's FA Cup fifth round visit of Burnley.

Elsewhere, young forward Freddie Sears and Zavon Hines also got on the score-sheet and winger Pablo Barrera did well with two assists. All three will also hope to be in Avram Grant's thoughts for the cup date, with a quarter-final place at stake for the winners.

The team were taken by Kevin Keen, with Wally Downes also involved on the sidelines at Chelsea's smart Cobham training ground. Ultimately, the Blues had the edge with their established reserve side - featuring first-team prospect Josh McEachran and hat-trick hero Fabio Borini - nicking it at the end through Milan Lalkovic's winner.

"The lads showed good resilience," said Downes. "We came back from losing an early goal to take the lead 2-1 and then got it back to 3-3. We showed a really positive attitude and were just unfortunate to lose out in an end to end finish to what was a competitive contest.

"Thomas got through 70 minutes which was always the plan. It is another step forward on his comeback and hopefully he will feel good in the morning. Up front, Freddie got better and took his goal well, while Zavon was always dangerous."

There was also special mention for the professionalism of South Africa striker McCarthy, who looked lively throughout and scored a well-taken goal.

"Benni played well and would have played for longer. He only came off because he got a whack and it left him with a dead leg. It is nothing serious and he was sharp. He took his goal very well and showed he is a natural finisher."

The first-team squad will step up their preparation for Burnley with a special team-building awayday on Thursday.

They will then be in for a lighter session on Friday before the intensity picks up again as usual in the two days preceding the match on Saturday and Sunday. "It is a good opportunity to change things a bit this week," added Downes. "Morale is good and everyone is looking forward to the next match."

West Ham United reserves: Stech, Faubert, Montano, Spence, McNaughton, Sears, Lee, Hitzlsperger (Edgar 73), Barrera, Hines (Tombides 89), McCarthy (Abdulla 46)
Subs not used: Mehmet, Craig