Slaven Bilic says West Ham United's 2-0 Carabao Cup second round win over Cheltenham Town will give his squad confidence for Premier League challenges ahead.
The Hammers boss named a strong team at Whaddon Road on Wednesday, with all eleven starters having Premier League experience and full internationals Cheikhou Kouyate and Chicharito being introduced from the substitutes’ bench.
After an even opening half-hour, it was West Ham’s two strikers who settled matters, with Diafra Sakho and Andre Ayew netting within three minutes just before half-time. In the second half, the League Two side briefly threatened, but the Premier Leaguers were full value for their victory.
“It wasn’t easy but we didn’t expect it to be easy,” Bilic said, before explaining that the win would give his squad a boost after losing their opening two top-flight fixtures. “It doesn’t matter which team you are playing, it affects your confidence and the atmosphere on the training ground and in the dressing room if you lose, so it’s always nice to win.
“Nothing can give you confidence like a win. We won 2-0 and had a good game by a team and a lot of individuals, we kept a clean sheet and are through to the next round.
“Like every defeat harms your confidence a little bit, this one will help us in our preparation for our game against Newcastle.
“Our goals were well-taken, definitely, and that’s the difference in the class. We had a couple of chances at the end of the first half and that’s about the strikers taking their chances.”
It’s not a cliché but we are really big-time serious about this competition, which is why we put a strong team out
While some Premier League managers opted to rest senior players and paid the price, including Saturday’s opponents Newcastle United, who lost at home to Nottingham Forest on Wednesday, Bilic was rewarded for taking the Carabao Cup seriously.
Now, with the first hurdle safely negotiated in the town which hosts an annual National Hunt festival, the Croatian is taking aim at a long run in the tournament.
“It’s not a cliché but we are really big-time serious about this competition, which is why we put a strong team out,” he confirmed.
“The only player who we were resting who was 100 per cent fit was Pablo Zabaleta, but only because Sam Byram is also a regular player for us.
“We put a strong team out and we treated this game and this competition as one we really must win. We wanted to progress and we want to go very, very far, if possible to the end.”
If West Ham are to flourish, both in the Carabao Cup and in the Premier League, then the fit-again Sakho’s goals could prove very important.
“We know Diafra Sakho’s strengths and all that, and it wasn’t that he did not score last season, but rather that he did not play [due to a back injury],” said the manager.
“We know his problem last season was that he played only four games so hopefully he’s going to stay long-term fit and that would be a big, big boost for us.”
The Carabao Cup third-round draw will take place at 4.15am on Thursday 24 August, with coverage appearing on whufc.com and across the Club’s official social media channels.