A ‘first-class performance’ against Leicester City caps a great week for the West Ham United U23s, according to Academy Director Terry Westley, after his side fought to a 0-0 draw with the Foxes.
Leicester, sat second in Premier League 2 Division 1, proved to be a tough test for the Hammers on Friday at the Chigwell Construction Stadium, but a solid defensive and hardworking outing by the Irons allowed the home team to claim a deserved draw and point.
The determined showing came just four days after West Ham beat Manchester United U23s 3-0 away from home and Westley believes this most recent match was just as good, albeit in a completely different way.
“I thought it was a first-class performance on a difficult pitch against a very physical and strong side,” A beaming Westley told whufc.com. “In many ways, that was as good as our Manchester United performance, but in a totally different way. Technically, against Man United, we were very good, but tonight we had to be resolute. We had to defend set plays and long throws, and balls going through the centre of the pitch.”
I thought it was a first class-performance...in many ways, that was as good as our Manchester United performance, but in a totally different way.
Leicester boasted the likes of Premier League winner Robert Huth and big-money signings Adrien Silva and Ahmed Musa in their team but the Hammers, who named nine players aged 20 or under in their starting XI, were more than worth their share of the points.
The Academy Director couldn’t be more thrilled with the fighting spirit his team showed against these top calibre players.
Westley continued: “It was like an old-fashioned, combination reserve team game from many years ago, when first team players played. I counted about £47 million worth of players out on the pitch.
“Robert Huth is a very experienced Premier League champion so Toni Martinez had to really fight him, and he showed what he could do and how hard he works. The same could be said with Diangana, Samuelsen, Quina, Coventry and Makasi. Without the football, they really worked hard tonight.
“The two centre-backs were colossus. Young Aji Alese is only 16 and it was only his second game back. He was fully spent in the dressing room after the match. It was an outstanding performance, for me.”
Four points from the two games this week puts Westley’s side on 21 points; a number that he points out was enough to keep sides safe from relegation last season.
Now that amount has been reached Westley wants his side to push on even more and reckons his player’s efforts will see a few involved in the first team on Tuesday, when Shrewsbury Town visit London Stadium in the FA Cup.
“We’ve now got 21 points. Everyone stayed up last year with 21 points. Our first target, with nine games to go, has been reached, and our players and staff deserve great credit,” Westley added.
“We said we want to make sure we’re not struggling and we haven’t done that, touch wood. The next target, which we set ourselves around Christmas, was if this group could finish in the top six. A win against Leicester would have taken us third so we are there or there about.
“It’s been a great week. We will report again on Sunday and one or two of our side will be challenging to get in the manager’s plans for Tuesday against Shrewsbury Town at London Stadium. That’s obviously where we want people to be and this week has done nobody any harm whatsoever.”