Westley hails young players

Terry Westley is looking forward to tonight's clash with Blackburn

West Ham United PL2 make their long awaited return to Premier League 2 action this evening when they host Blackburn Rovers at the Chigwell Construction Stadium (7pm).

The Hammers have once again been away from league action for a number of weeks since their 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion on Halloween.

Since then, they have gone unbeaten, starting with a 2-1 away victory at Nottingham Forest in the Premier League Cup.

That was followed by a terrific display against League One Northampton Town in the Checkatrade Trophy, drawing 1-1 and winning a bonus point via a penalty shootout victory.

Now attention turns back to the league, with the young Hammers looking to keep up the pressure on Division 2 leaders Swansea City.

“The loan success we’ve had this season has meant we’ve been able to play some younger ones in our U23 team,” said PL2 boss Terry Westley.

“We are by far the youngest team in the league and we’re still very competitive. We’re really challenging our young players and they’ve remained competitive.

“I would expect us to remain competitive for the rest of the season. We’re third in the table and looking good in the cup. It’s certainly going to be an interesting second half of the season.”

With the U18 Hammers looking forward to the FA Youth Cup tie against Stoke City on Tuesday night, expect the PL2 line-up this evening to look slightly different.

Captain Declan Rice, Dan Kemp and Nathan Trott, all of whom have not featured for the U18s recently, played in the defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, and are set to feature against Stoke on Tuesday.

The number of games being played by the Hammers youngsters this season is considerably more than last, and Westley believes it’s a huge benefit this year.

“We went too many weeks without games last year in the U21 league. The Trophy has helped, the Cup format has helped because It’s a Champions League format.”

“At U23s, you need to be playing at least once a week. Around 30/33 games is about right to allow the development to get better.”

Tonight's match at Dagenham and Redbridge's Chigwell Construction Stadium is a 7pm kick-off and is free to enter for season ticket holders. Otherwise, it's £5 for adults and £3 for children.