Phillips ready for Rams test

West Ham United U18s coach Mark Phillips is hoping the Hammers can find their first win in the Barclays U18 Premier League Play Offs when they travel to play Derby County this Saturday.

The young Hammers started their campaign with a 0-0 draw at home to Brighton & Hove Albion which saw a number of schoolboys put in an assured performance.

The Rams finished sixth in the Northern Group with 33 points from their 22 games, however Phillips conceded he knows little else about Saturday’s opponents.
“To be honest, I don’t know much about them. We haven’t played them for a long time. I think the last time was at U15 level maybe five years ago. I’ve never played them at this level.”

“I know they lost their first game in the play offs 3-0 to Wolves, and we were sent a DVD of that game, so we know a little bit.”

Having named a youthful squad against Brighton last weekend, which included U16 players Declan Rice, Tunji Akinola and Vashon Neufville, Phillips is anticipating a similarly youthful squad.

“With the U21s playing away at Liverpool the night before, it largely depends on what team Steve (Potts) picks. Obviously the U21s is the priority, then we'll pick a team based around that.
“It’s a good situation to be in because that means our young players get the opportunity to play above their age groups.”

Having finished sixth in the Southern League, narrowly missing a top four finish by just two points, Phillips is targeting a strong end to the 2014/15 season.

After Derby, the Hammers are set to host Reading the following weekend, and Phillips continued to say he was confident that his side can end the season strongly. 

“Finishing as high as possible is without a shadow of a doubt the aim. The highest we can finish is now ninth which is obviously a lot better than finishing 16th. With the players we’ve got, we know that if we play to our strengths, we have a very good chance.”