Hendo happy with Dev Squad progress

Ian Hendon was once again in a positive mood after seeing his Development Squad chalk up a fifth consecutive Barclays U21 Premier League victory against Everton.

Played in cold and windy conditions, the match was nothing like the 5-1 drubbing that the Development Squad handed out to the Toffees at Finch Farm in August, but instead was a hard-fought, intense but equally satisfying 1-0 win.

Reflecting on a fifth straight victory and fourth straight clean sheet, Hendon expressed his pleasure with the way his team dealt with the adverse weather conditions and praised the impact made by match-winner Elliot Lee.

"We most definitely deserved the win, it was very windy and the pitch was not perfect but I think we dealt with the conditions a little better than they did. I was also very pleased for Elliot Lee because he came into the side and scored a very good goal.

"We were at the training ground on Friday afternoon doing some pre-match preparation and we watched a DVD of the last game and did a few set plays. We scored from a corner and it was one we had practiced so it is nice to see it come to fruition and know that the players are paying attention."

Hendon was without Jordan Spence, Leo Chambers, Rob Hall and Raphael Spiegel on Friday which made the result even more enjoyable. Second-year scholar left-back Frazer Shaw impressed on his Development Squad debut, while Jake Larkins made a solid first appearance of the season in goal.

"We made four changes from the side who beat Bolton and, in a way, I am pleased because four went away with the first team [to Wigan] and four others came in and did very well.

"Elliot and Frazer Shaw are both scholars yet they came in and looked like they had been playing all season, so I was very pleased."

The Development Squad's supremely-talented forward line have often taken the plaudits this season, but Hendon took a moment to praise the work being done at the opposite end of the field.

"Jake Larkins played his first game for the Development Squad on Friday and kept a clean sheet, making some good saves. You also have to credit the back four because to be fair to Jake he had very little to do, I am very pleased with all of the lads, especially those who came in."

Qualification for the post-Christmas Elite Group Stage looks almost certain now but Hendon refused to get carried away following a difficult run of games.

"In recent weeks we have had to grind out results. We beat Everton comfortably away and did the same at home against Arsenal, but the last few games have been tough. Whether that is because people have wised up to the way we play or they know who our danger men are I do not know, but I do not get carried away as a coach."

Luck has also played its part according to Hendon, whose side have taken two 1-0 wins from two with both goals coming from corners in the second-half.

"We were very lucky at Bolton last week. We did not defend particularly well and we cleared a couple off the line, as did they, but we still came away with the win.

"It was similar on Friday. We played a big, strong side who tested us early on and caused us problems. Right at the end they hit the post and luckily it landed in Jake's hands."

After a 2011/12 season in which the Dev Squad played friendly after friendly, Hendon made his intentions clear by demanding that his side continue their winning ways at Reading on Friday.

"We are here to learn how to win. The players have come out of Academy football now and it is all about winning, so at the moment it is going very well. The one-nil win over Everton was our fifth on the bounce and what is even more pleasing is that it was our fourth consecutive clean sheet."

Sam Allardyce and Neil McDonald were both in attendance for the 1-0 win at Bolton and Hendon believes they will have been encouraged by what they saw.

"I think gives the lads extra incentive to perform when they see them at the games, Macca is at every game without fail and it is nice to now see the manager and the chief scout in attendance. I complete a match report for Sam after every game. I give him a hard copy and a copy via email and now he is here to see for himself which is great."

Hendon was previously assistant manager at Gillingham but believes he made the correct decision in making the decision to move to take over the Hammers Development Squad a little more than a year ago.

"Last year I had a season to settle into the role because I did not know which players would be training with me and which would be with the first-team. That was initially hard to swallow but after a period of adjustment I am thoroughly enjoying it and it is making me a much better coach.

"I am pleased because I am helping players into the first team and that is what it is all about. If we can keep playing well and keep making the step up it can only be healthy for everyone at the football club."