Potts eyes U18s improvement

West Ham United U18 boss Steve Potts was left ruing missed opportunities after the Hammers went down to a 4-1 defeat to Stoke City at Little Heath on Saturday.

The Hammers went behind midway through the first half when Stoke striker Tomi Adeloye broke the offside trap to cooly chip the ball over Sam Howes, before Portuguese striker Marcio Martins headed the home side level on the hour mark.

Despite West Ham looking the better side throughout, Edward Saunders bundled in a second for the visitors, before Adeloye bagged his second of the game and Derice Richards condemned the Hammers to a third straight defeat.

"I'm disappointed with the result, but there were parts of the game that weren't bad at all," said Potts. "We came in at half time 1-0 down after giving a poor goal away but I thought we were the better team in the first half.

"We just needed that little bit of quality to the final ball, cross or shot and that was what was missing.

"We then came out for the second half and I thought that we started the better team. We got the equaliser and then had a good chance to go 2-1 in front and then let a goal in from a set piece.

"It became hard work after that because they got the third pretty quick after that and it's a hard one to turn around then."

Potts assessed where he thought his team went wrong against Stoke, believing that they lacked the ability to create clear cut opportunities.

"It just boiled down to, I thought, could we really move the ball quick enough and create that opening and shift them out of position," continued Potts.

"They made it hard for us because they were organised and a big, strong team but these are problems you are going to come up against.

"It was just a case of did we have the quality to open them up?"

In recent weeks, Potts has seen a wealth of his youth team players pushing up the development ladder to feature regularly for Nick Haycock's Development Squad, forcing the U18s boss to call on a number of younger players.

After watching his side lose out against the older and stronger Stoke players, Potts believes that the result flatters their northern opponents.

"I think it flattered them, that's for sure. Yes the players are older and stronger than them but, as I said to the boys in the dressing room, that's what we are looking for.

"Can they handle playing against older and stronger players to be able to push up into the U21s?

"We had some good possession but we needed to penetrate them a bit more because you create the clear cut chances. I think that was the area we were maybe lacking.

"Saying that, we definitely had more chances then them, but it seemed like most of the chances they had fell into the back of our net.

"Score-wise this game definitely flattered them but you have to just take this game on the chin."

Up next for the West Ham Academy is a trip to Barclay's Premier League North leaders Manchester City, with Potts hoping that the Hammers can turn their fortunes around and get their season back on track.

"It will be a tough game because they are doing well so it will be a good test for the boys. We have to go up there and put a good performance in.

"In the past three games that we've played, there have been large spells of those games that I've liked.

"It might just be that throughout the season where we have denied the opposition quite a few opportunities, we haven't done that as well and I made a few mistakes there.

"At the other end, maybe we need to open the opposition up more or when we do get the chances, be a little bit more clinical with them."

The disappointing feeling of a 4-1 defeat was also confirmed by captain Kieran Bywater, although the skipper believes that the Hammers have a good enough squad to push towards the Barclays Under 18 Premier League title after picking up a positive result at Manchester City on Saturday.

"Obviously a 4-1 defeat is always disappointing but I didn't think the performance was too bad from the side," added Bywater. "We had a few youngsters in there too so I think everyone has to just look onto the next game really.

"Of course we still have a chance. There's four or five games left now so we will be looking to win all of them if possible and just keep the performances there like we have done all season.

"Every game this season has been a tough game against all of the teams in both the northern and the southern leagues, but we have a good enough side to go up there and pick up a good result."

It's been a successful season personally for Bywater, who sits second in the top goalscorer charts with 17 goals, although he is looking more towards pushing onto the Development Squad.

"There's not too many games left now but I've just got to keep trying to do what I've been doing all season and stay focused. If the opportunity comes, I've got to take it."

The Academy's next fixture is that trip to Manchester City on Saturday 12 April, which kicks off at 11am.

U18s: Howes, Pike (Diangana 75), Mavila, Akinola, Onariase, Nasha, Makasi, Amoo, Bywater, Parfitt-Williams (Hector-Ingram 75), Martins
Subs not used: Bailey, Borg