Dev Squad off to Cambridge

West Ham United's in-form Development Squad will travel to face a Cambridge United XI on Wednesday evening.

In the absence of a Barclays U21 Premier League fixture this week, Nick Haycock will take his squad to the R Costings Abbey Stadium to take on the U's in a 7pm kick-off.

The likes of George Moncur, Sebastian Lletget, Blair Turgott, Matthias Fanimo, Pelly Ruddock and Elliot Lee are all expected to feature against Richard Money's side, who currently sit top of the Conference National division.

Cambridge are unbeaten in 15 league matches this season, having conceded just six goals, and come into Wednesday's game following a goalless draw at Chester City on Saturday.

Haycock's youngsters are also top of their table, having won five and lost just one of their seven Barclays U21 Premier League fixtures so far. The Development Squad beat Norwich City 2-0 at home last time out.

The U21s manager said the game would give him and his fellow coaching staff an idea of which players are ready to go out on loan to Football League clubs in the near future.

"I am hoping that Cambridge put out as close to a first team as they can," said Haycock, "because talking to Sam Allardyce and the backroom team, we think of the U21 league as a good step towards the Premier League, but they've got to be able to show they can cope against men.

"In the U21s league, you could be playing exclusively against 18 to 20-year-olds, if not younger, as they can only play three first-team players there.

"In these weeks when there is no league programme, I've noticed that the top clubs are taking their U21 teams to Europe and looking at the international aspect of it. For us here, we feel playing against Football League or top non-league opposition gives us a better judge of whether boys can cope playing in the league against men. That is the whole purpose of this game.

"Yes, we sit proudly top of the league and will try to win every game, but for me this is even more important than the league programme because it's a test in a stadium in front of a decent crowd and we'll see if the boys have what we're looking for. We've got to show Sam these boys can cope playing against senior opposition."

Haycock has challenged his players to impress in front of the large number of scouts expected to attend the game.

"I said the same thing before training and will do so again before the game - I'm putting pressure on the boys to perform in this game because there will be a lot of Football League scouts watching this game. As individuals, they have to convince a manager to put them in their team in the league - that's the situation they are in.

"When they go out on loan, we can feed more of Steve Potts' U18s into our team. We want to give everybody the correct level of challenge. If results start to go slightly astray, that's not the concern because we know the player development route is of the highest possible standard.

"The loan situation is an interesting one because we want to know they will play, how they will be trained and what sort of sports science back-up they will have. We have a strategy and have certain expectations of how they will look after our players, as we did with Ravel Morrison at Birmingham City."

U's Director of Football Jez George is looking forward to the game. He said: "Richard Money explained the importance of these games in his programme notes a few weeks ago.

"On the last occasion it was necessary to fill the team with trialists due to injuries, but with almost a clean bill of health within the squad at this moment in time, it is really important that one or two players coming back from injury and others who have not been playing regularly are able to get some competitive game time.

"It is also a brilliant opportunity for one or two of our younger players to gain valuable experience alongside our senior professionals. I would urge our fans to support the evening because having an atmosphere inside the stadium makes a massive difference to the intensity of the game."

The Main Stand will be open at Cambridge from 6pm, with admission charged at £5 for Adults and Over-65s and free for Under-16s.

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