Terry Westley said his West Ham United U23 side did not have the same edge which won them away games at Liverpool, Manchester City and Everton on Monday as they were beaten 1-0 by Derby County.
The Hammers came into the fixture in Premier League 2 off the back of two wins but, according to the Academy Director, started slowly and allowed the Rams into the match early on.
Jayden Bogle scored the game’s only goal early in the second half, though the visitors did have their chances to equalise, namely through Marcus Browne who scored four goals against Everton last week.
But it was not to be for the Hammers who were facing an experienced Derby team containing the likes of Richard Keogh, George Thorne and Jamie Hanson.
“Today was a hard game,” admitted Westley. “They needed to win to keep their survival hopes going, which they have pretty much done now, and you could see how much it meant by the nature of their team; Thorne, Keogh, Hanson.
“On the other hand, we had four U18s starting, so physically it always going to be a big task. I think that played a part for sure. It was very windy too, and the conditions weren’t easy.
“We also lost Josh Pask in the first ten minutes, and Aji [Alese] stepped in after playing 90 minutes for the U18s at the weekend.
We didn’t quite have the same edge as we did at Liverpool, at City and Everton and if you don’t, you get beat
“We did grow into the game though, and probably had enough opportunities to get something from it. I’d look back and think it was a good draw if we nicked something.
“But we didn’t start fast enough, and you only have to be a fraction off, and you’ll be undone and that’s what happened.”
Conor Coventry and Alfie Lewis – both of whom were regulars for the U18s last season but have firmly established themselves in the PL2 side this campaign – started in midfield against the Rams’ experienced lineup.
And Westley explained those challenges are exactly what his young players need in order to prepare for future experiences in senior football.
“That’s the level our young players have to play, if you want to go out on loan and play against the Keoghs of this world; you need to go out and adapt to that,” he continued.
“Martin Samuelsen [on loan at Burton Albion] is now on 40 total Football League appearances in total, Moses [Makasi, on loan at Plymouth Argyle] has gone and adapted; that’s the challenge of the young three midfield players now against their senior ones but it took us a little too long to get a foothold in the game today.
“Now we have Arsenal at London Stadium on Friday; again, it will be very intense, because like we came here where they had to win to stay up, we play Arsenal who need to win to try and win the league.”
The Hammers host their final Premier League 2 game of the season at London Stadium against Arsenal on Friday 20 April at 7pm. Supporters can book their seat for the London derby by clicking here.