Darts too strong for Dev Squad

A young West Ham United Development Squad missing a number of regulars were beaten 3-0 at Blue Square Bet Premier side Dartford on Tuesday evening.

With Rob Hall, George Moncur, Pelly Ruddock and Blair Turgott training with the first-team squad in Germany, Ian Hendon fielded a starting XI that included debutant goalkeeper Raphael Spiegel (pictured), scholars Leo Chambers and Frazer Shaw and trialist centre-back Jordan Tunnicliffe.

Dartford took advantage by scoring twice within the opening 12 minutes, but the young Hammers continued to give their all and could easily have snatched a positive result had they converted the numerous chances they created.

With that in mind, Hendon was positive despite the defeat, saying: "Obviously I'm disappointed we haven't won the game but we had spells after they had gone 2-0 up where we created five or six chances and, with the rub of the green, we could have been back in the game.

"It is still pre-season and so it was a good workout, with players getting 90 minutes under their belts.

"We go to Welling on Saturday, who are in the Blue Square Bet South, and I'll hopefully be getting a few players back. Whoever plays, though, it will give the players experience and help the lads to learn and develop by playing against more experienced opposition."

On a balmy evening at Dartford's Princes Park, West Ham started slowly and fell behind within two minutes when Ryan Hayes converted from ten yards after Spiegel had made a good initial save.

After a difficult opening ten minutes, West Ham were just gaining a foothold when Dartford snatched a second goal to the delight of many of the 1,524 fans inside the stadium.

After Spiegel had tipped over a long-range effort, the resulting corner was headed back across the six-yard box and Jacob Erskine stabbed home from close-range.

The second Dartford goal shook West Ham into a response and a tactical change that saw Matthias Fanimo move to left-back and Dominic Vose go out to the left of midfield saw the Hammers have significant success down that flank.

West Ham were growing in stature and Kieran Sadlier had a rasping shot saved low down to his right by Dartford goalkeeper Louis Wells. Minutes later, the ball again broke to Sadlier inside the penalty area but his shot was saved by Wells for a second time.

The closing 20 minutes of the first half saw West Ham have numerous efforts on goal - in particular when a well-worked corner was driven across the penalty area and Sadlier shot narrowly wide.

The chances showed that the West Ham youngsters were a match for their more experienced opponents, although Dartford were still a menacing threat going forward with a free kick narrowly curling wide late in the opening half.

The frantic, fast-paced nature of the first half was never likely to last, considering the heat the opening 45 minutes was played and the numerous changes made by both managers throughout the second half.

The greater experience and physical presence of Dartford saw them take gradual control of the second half, although West Ham were not afraid of getting stuck in and did not give the Dartford players an easy ride.

Two crunching tackles saw Declan Hunt and Chambers both booked, while a brilliant block by captain Eoin Wearen after Danny Harris had rounded Spiegel showed that West Ham had not given up.

The award to Dartford of a 74th-minute penalty was to extinguish to any of those hopes, however, when Harris cut in from the left and Wearen was adjudged to have fouled the left-winger. Spiegel guessed correctly but his dive was not enough as the Dartford substitute Lee Noble powered the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.

The goal ended hopes of salvaging a result from the game but West Ham continued to look for a consolation but it was not too be their night.

The Development Squad return to action at Welling United's Park View Road on Saturday, with kick-off at 3pm.

Dartford: Wells (Sutton 81), Burns (Sawyer 81), Green, Bonner (Sinclair 46), Arber (Muggeridge 69), Wallis (Noble 46), Hayes (Collier 46), Simmonds (Daly 46), Erskine (Rodgers 46), Bradbrook (Champion 46), Harris

West Ham United XI: Spiegel, Chambers (Nasha 78), Shaw, Hunt (Bywater 78), Tunnicliffe, Wearen (Seidu 78), Powell, Fanimo, Piquionne (E.Lee 46), Sadlier, Vose (Gogo 78)
Unused subs: Larkins, Schiavi