Haycock looks to season finale

Nick Haycock has turned his attentions to the final game of the Development Squad's season after watching his side go down to a 1-0 defeat against Blackburn Rovers at Rush Green on Friday afternoon.

Before the game against Rovers, the U21 coach had targeted a minimum of one win from their final two Barclays U21 Premier League fixtures and with a single goal from Darragh Lenihan enough to down his charges, his focus has now switched to the final day of the season.

The squad head north to Sunderland on Thursday for their season finale knowing only three points will be enough to help them achieve a top half finish, and Haycock believes they will need to be on their game to achieve a positive result.

He told West Ham TV: "I'm disappointed, but I think it's a great experience for them.

"You look at the Champions League games this week and it was must-win games for teams, and obviously we're going to have a second bite of the cherry against Sunderland next Thursday, but we'll need a better performance than that.

"It'll be a tough ask up at Sunderland. They've been quite a strong, old U21 team all season ran by Kevin Ball and they'll be tough to beat. It may be that we can do a job up there, or we may have to rely on other teams not amassing as many points as us."

Defeat against Rovers followed a 2-0 loss to Bolton Wanderers four days previously, and it was again the side's failure to put the ball in the back of the net which cost them dear.

Joe Cole came close to opening the scoring with less than a minute on the clock, but instead watched as his shot flew just wide, and Haycock felt the game may have panned out differently if his side had got in front.

"Had we scored with the chance that came after about thirty seconds, I think that would have settled the boys down and we might have got a normal, composed performance.

"Even then, you're not going to take every chance you create and the one in the second half the 'keeper makes a great save. It was always about scoring the first goal because we needed to score the first goal to try and make them come out a little bit more.

"Obviously when they scored the first goal it made it even more difficult because it allowed them to sit even deeper than they were. At the end of the day that's no criticism to them because their game plan outwitted ours today."

The Hammers' current league position is in stark contrast to the standings before Christmas when they were second in the table heading into the New Year.

Injuries and players departing on loan have presented selection issues for Haycock, who feels those factors have played their part in the team's slide down the table.

"At first you want to be in the Play-offs, then you want to be in the top half of the league and that's got to be the commitment from the football club.

"I think what people have to take into account is that I've got five players out on loan and seven players injured at the minute. Had that not been the case, we'd have comfortably been in the top half and the Play-Offs.

"It's just confounded towards the end to make it a difficult season in what on the whole has been a good season."