Five Talking Points

The hot topics for discussion as West Ham United continue their pre-season Tour of Austria, Ashley Fletcher gets off the mark and the Development Squad score a fine victory...

Nordtveit and Cresswell to return

Havard Nordtveit and Aaron Cresswell will return to action in Wednesday’s pre-season match with Russian Premier League side Rubin Kazan.

The pair missed the draw with Czech outfit 1.FC Slovacko on Tuesday as, after suffering fatigue-related minor injuries during the Club’s US Tour, their workload is being managed by the medical team.

Defensive midfielder Nordtveit and left-back Cresswell are both expected to be important figures for the Hammers when the season proper begins, so such an approach to both players’ fitness is surely sensible.

Carroll and Reid take a short break

Andy Carroll and Winston Reid have both had the misfortune to suffer injuries during their otherwise successful careers.

Carroll returned from leg muscle problems to goalscoring form and fitness in the latter half of last season, while Reid was ruled out for a period after Christmas with a hamstring strain.

As with Nordtveit and Cresswell above, the duo – who both scored in last week’s draw at Carolina RailHawks – will be managed carefully through pre-season with a view to them being 100 per cent for the big Premier League kick-off in August.

Expect the pair to train with the squad but miss both midweek friendly matches in Austria ahead of a return to the pitch to face German side Karlsruher SC on Sunday.

Europa League opponents TBC

Last Friday’s draw in Geneva saw West Ham United drawn to face exotic sounding FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk of Belarus or NK Domzale of Slovenia in the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round – the first fixture at the Club’s new London Stadium home.

The pair drew 1-1 in front of 2,100 fans at Shakhtyor’s Stadyen Budaunik in the first leg of their second qualifying round tie last week, with the return game set for Domzale’s Sportni Park this Thursday evening.

Whoever wins is guaranteed two money-spinning ties against Slaven Bilic’s Hammers, with both potential opponents already confirming that they will switch their home leg to bigger, more-modern stadia – Shakhtyor to the 13,200-capacity Borisov Arena and Domzale to the 16,000-capacity Stozice Stadium in Ljubljana.

The Belarussians have an away-goal to defend, but Domzale will be confident after opening their domestic season with a 2-0 home victory over Radomlje on Sunday.

While the identity of West Ham’s opponents remains a mystery, one thing is for sure – Hammers fans will be looking out for Thursday’s second-leg result with huge interest!
AF or AC?

Tuesday’s draw with Slovacko saw Ashley Fletcher bag his first goal in Claret and Blue just four minutes into his first-team debut.

The former Manchester United frontman showed bravery and skill to nod in a teasing cross from the penalty spot, shrugging off the presence of two FC Slovacko defenders.

It is early days, but did the powerful 20-year-old’s dominant aerial finish remind you of a certain long-haired centre forward?

Developing Squad

While the first team have yet to register a win in pre-season, the Development Squad bounced back from defeat at Chelmsford City to score an impressive 2-1 victory at Peterborough United on Tuesday.

Jaanai Gordon bagged a fine finish against his former club, while Alex Pike showed admirable composure to slot home a last-gasp penalty to secure the success.

Terry Westley’s youngsters travel down the A13 to face Southend United in Great Wakering on Saturday before jetting off to the Netherlands for two pre-season games next week.