Tuesday 18 Jul
Updated Wednesday 19 Jul 11:49
Premier League 2

Hammers youngsters praised for improvement in Colchester defeat

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Terry Westley believes his U23s vastly improved their level of performance from the weekend defeat to Barnet as they were beaten 2-0 in a close encounter away at Colchester United on Tuesday night.

The home side took an early lead after Drey Wright's composed finish and doubled their advantage on the hour mark through Denny Johnstone's header.

The Hammers had their chances to get on the scoresheet, most notably through Alex Pike who missed the target from the penalty spot, but it was once again another battling display against Football League opponents from Westley's young proteges.

"I believe it was a kick on from Saturday. The players got more minutes under their belt against a League Two outfit," Westley observed.

"We saw some good things tonight. When we played to the way we want to play and our philosophy, we had more of the ball than them and created some good opportunities to score.

"Overall, with two games in and two League Two sides and fifteen players not here who could have played for us, the ones who have played have done a very good job."

After the Hammers spirited display at Barnet on Saturday, Westley only tinkered with his starting eleven, making two changes with Joe Powell and Jaanai Gordon making way for trialist Oriol Rey and Jahmal Hector-Ingram.

It was a blustery evening in Essex and the home side took advantage of the conditions in the early stages. A clipped ball over the top of the Hammers defence allowed Wright to control and finish neatly past Rihards Matrevics.

West Ham started to enjoy possession in the minutes after going behind but they almost conceded again with 15 minutes on the clock. Sean Murray tried his luck from distance but his speculative lob hit the crossbar. 

The Hammers first meaningful effort came on 23 minutes - neat build-up play from Julian Kristofferson and Dan Kemp ended in the latter crossing for Grady Diangana who couldn't quite divert his effort on target. Straight up the other end, Colchester went close to a second but Johnstone could only fire over when it looked easier to score.

West Ham continued to control possession in the hope of creating potential openings and it almost paid dividends when Hector-Ingram headed a Vashon Neufville cross inches wide of the post.

When we played to the way we want to play and our philosophy, we had more of the ball than them and created some good opportunities to score.

Terry Westley

Westley and assistant boss Liam Manning's words of encouragement at the half-time interval seemed to have an effect on the youngsters. They began passing with more intent and purpose and it was left-back Neufville who had their clearest opening when he was thwarted by Us stopper Sam Walker at full stretch. 

However, Colchester showed their experience to punish the Hammers for missed opportunities just after the hour mark. Craig Slater's deep free-kick was headed home by Johnstone.

Like Saturday, Westley rung the changes around the hour mark and it almost made the difference with 20 minutes left. Jaanai Gordon was sent tumbling by Walker in the penalty area but Pike was wide of the mark with his spot kick.

On paper, it was a second pre-season defeat for the U23s, but once again it was a promising display by Westley's talented group of youngsters as they continued their preparations for the new season.

"It doesn't get any easier. We've now got a Dagenham [and Redbridge] side to play at where we have our home matches, so it will be good for us to go there and play," added Westley.

"The strength and physicality of Dagenham will be a good test for our boys. Whether we get any players back from the first team trip in Austria, we'll wait and see."

Colchester United: Walker, Kinsella (Barnes, 73), Lapse (Szmodics, 73), Kent, Dr. Wright (Issa, 73), Johnstone (Di. Wright, 73), Murray (Dunne, 73), Eastman (Wynter, 53), Vincent-Young (O'Sullivan, 73), Slater (Brown, 73), James (Edge, 73).

Subs not used: N/A.

Goals: Dr. Wright, Johnstone.

West Ham XI: Matrevics, Pike, Neufville (Hannam, 58), Coventry, Akinola (Wells, 69), Alese (Ngakia, 84), Kemp (Powell, 46), Rey (Belic, 69), Kristofferson (Scully, 58), Hector-Ingram (Henry, 73), Diangana (Gordon, 58).

Subs not used: Rosa, E. Longelo.