Macca happy despite defeat

When it comes to the first match of pre-season, just as the old Olympic Games saying goes, it is not about the winning but the taking part.

That was the view of assistant manager Neil McDonald following West Ham United's 3-1 defeat at FK Austria Wien on Saturday.

Playing against a team that has been back in training for three weeks, the Hammers started brightly and went ahead through Sam Baldock's header before their opponents' greater fitness levels saw them come back to claim victory.

"The game went very much the way I thought it would go," McDonald confirmed to West Ham TV. "We started off well and scored a really good goal through Sam and then their passing and moving took over.

"We conceded two poor goals in the first half. The goal they scored in the second half was a really good strike so probably, all in all, we're pleased.

"We said before the game that it was all about improving our fitness and getting our endurance up and a lot of them played 45 minutes-plus so it finished off a good week, even though we got beaten 3-1."

West Ham rocketed out of the blocks at the Generali Arena, going ahead inside four minutes when Carlton Cole burst past a defender and clipped a cross to the far post for Baldock to bundle in.

Unfortunately, Wien were ahead by half-time as Roland Linz and Dare Srvic were allowed to finish from inside the penalty area.

The result was then put beyond doubt with 15 minutes to go when Czech substitute Tomas Jun lashed a well-placed drive past debutant Jussi Jaaskelainen from 20 yards.

"I think the goal was fantastic, wasn't it? Carlton Cole has run down the line and put in a good cross to the back post and Sam was in the right place at the right time.

"The positives are that we've had a good week's training and a stern test because they are three weeks ahead of us - they start in two weeks' time so they were always going to be a lot brighter and a lot fitter and fresher.

"The lads have done what they were asked to do, considering that was their first week."

Among those to give their all for the cause after just six days on the training pitch were teenagers Sebastian Lletget, who played at right-back in the second half, Ravel Morrison and Dan Potts, who featured at centre-back during the closing 45 minutes.

"They did very well. We asked them to play in different positions as well because of the lack of numbers and they've done OK.

"We're happy with their performances and it was a great experience for them coming away with the first team on pre-season, some of them for the first time, and to play against a very strong and sharp team.

"There are plenty of positives from a very, very good week in Austria."

Two players to miss the game were Jack Collison and Joey O'Brien, who have been on special individual training programmes due to the long-term knee injuries they suffered earlier in their careers.

Cole, meanwhile, was brought off after 25 minutes as the medical staff continue to manage his own well-documented knee issue.

McDonald said that, while all three could not play their full part in the game, there was great value in them being present for the whole week in Austria.

"The majority of the senior staff are here so, even though they were never going to play or be involved in the first game, it was important for them to come with the lads and do all the training sessions.

"They've got through all that so they'll be ready to move on to the next stage when we go back home."

The pre-season schedule will continue with a trip to non-league Boreham Wood on Tuesday evening - with Meadow Park set to be a shade cooler than the 90-degree temperatures experienced in central Europe.

"It's been lovely in Austria - the weather has been perfect from when we arrived to when we flew back home and that's the weather you want for pre-season.

"It's hot to run about in, of course, but I think the lads have acquitted themselves really well considering we have only had one week of training."

The midweek fixture will see the return of Sam Allardyce to the dugout after the manager missed the Austrian training camp to work on bringing in new recruits back in London.

McDonald confirmed that the Club would be working hard to strengthen the squad ahead of the opening Barclays Premier League fixture at home to Aston Villa on 18 August.

"That was the reason Sam didn't come. He's been very busy over the summer. He's been on the phone trying to get deals done and I'm sure he'll be trying even harder in the next few weeks to try and freshen the squad up because we need competition for every place in the lineup."