Potts proud despite defeat

Steve Potts was a proud man after a very youthful Development Squad went toe-to-toe with Chelsea in a narrow defeat in the Barclays U21 Premier League Cup round of 16 on Monday night.

With many U21 regulars involved in Sunday's FA Cup with Budweiser defeat at Nottingham Forest, the Hammers' line-up was made up entirely from the Club's U18 squad. Those selected did themselves proud against a Chelsea team who had won their last three matches, scoring 14 goals and conceding none.

For the majority of the squad it was their first taste of U21 football and their performance against players up to three years their senior left Potts full of praise for their efforts.

Read the minute-by-minute from the U21 Premier League Cup tie against Chelsea

He told West Ham TV: "I couldn't have asked anymore from them to be quite truthful. We're a young team with a 16-year-old [Sam Howes] in goal and I thought he was outstanding, he was terrific.

"The effort the outfield players put in was fantastic. We had a few half-chances and if we'd have nicked another goal who knows what might have happened, but effort-wise they were fantastic.

"We had a youth team out there and it was a fantastic experience for them."

The Hammers coped well with tricky conditions at Aldershot's Electrical Services Stadium but they fell behind after just six minutes when Isaiah Brown raced through on goal and struck the ball past Howes.

Far from retreating into their shells, the Hammers came roaring back seven minutes later when Jerry Amoo's cross caused a defender to deflect the ball past Mitchell Beeney for the equaliser.

The sides were level for eleven minutes until some good attacking play released Nathan Ake and the midfielder coolly found the bottom corner of the net.

Despite the final result, Potts was pleased with the way his side stuck to the task, while admitting that the physical nature of the game took its toll on his players.

"I thought we were a bit unlucky to go one down," he said. "We started the game well but they got a goal out of nothing and you're wondering where that came from.

"We stuck at it, got a goal back to make it 1-1 then two of our lads went in for a tackle and it broke to Chelsea and before you know it, it's in the back of the net. We got to half-time and I thought we came out really well in the second half, had a chance ourselves and if that had gone in, it's 2-2 and who knows?

"They gradually got a grip on the game and got into our half a bit more as the game went on, when we had been penning them in to start with in the second half. Physically, it was a hard game for the boys on a muddy pitch and it just became difficult in the end."

The Hammers were also thankful to goalkeeper Howes, who made a string of excellent saves during the course of the match, including a wonderful stop from Lewis Baker's early free-kick.

"I thought he was fantastic, I really did," enthused Potts. "As soon as he hit the free-kick, sometimes you think to yourself 'That's in the back of the net' and I thought it had goal written all over it but Sam got his fingertips to it and kept the ball out of the net. I don't know how he did it."

The Development Squad will likely have a more familiar look to it when West Ham host West Bromwich Albion in the Barclays U21 Premier League at Rush Green Stadium on Friday 10 January at 7pm. Potts' U18s, meanwhile, will return to Barclays U18 Premier League duty at Southampton on Saturday 11 January at 11am.