Stubborn Zagreb were hard to break down, says Manning



Liam Manning says his West Ham United U23 team found it difficult to break down a stubborn GNK Dinamo Zagreb side in the Premier League International Cup on Tuesday as the Croatian visitors were 2-0 winners.

The Hammers headed into the fixture at Dagenham and Redbridge having won their first contest in the competition this season – 2-1 against reigning champions FC Porto – but could not add to their points tally despite controlling large parts of the game. 

A goal in each half saw off the east Londoners’ challenge, and Manning admitted his outfit needed to move the ball quicker in order to get a result on Tuesday. 

“I think if you look at the game, we had the greater shared of possession and controlled the game,” he said. “First half, we created some chances, probably not enough in the second half and we maybe lacked some discipline, but it’s part of our learning when you play teams like that. 

“They make it hard for you to break them down and to create anything. What you definitely don’t do is to then go and hand it to them on a plate, which we did.

“I think we could have moved it quicker. Too often, too many people took too many touches, and it allows them to get bodies around the ball and slide it across the pitch, and one thing we set out to do before the game was to move it quick to get round the outside. When we did it, we got a little bit of joy, but it wasn’t frequent enough.

“There were positives though. Moses [Makasi] was excellent again. He led by example and showed real discipline in what he did, and Ben Johnson was a lot better as well, so there were positives to take out the evening.”

The Hammers miss a chance against Zagreb

Another plus point for Manning and fellow coach Steve Potts was the return of left-sided duo Nathan Holland and Vashon Neuville, both of whom have been missing for the majority of the season through injury.

The pair started on the same flank tonight and looked sharp on their comeback to the U23 team.

“It was good for Nathan to get the 45 minutes in his legs, because he has been out for a little while so that was a real positive for us in terms of him getting the minutes,” continued Manning.

“Vashon as well; it’s good to have him back so now it’s about getting a lot of game time so that they can push on from here.

“It would have been good to pick up some points tonight to put us in a better position but we will go into the Southampton game in December and it’s a must-win game if we want to qualify.”

The Premier League 2 side now have just shy of a fortnight’s break, with Blackburn Rovers the next opponents on Monday 26 November in Lancashire.

The Academy of Football coach is looking forward to working with his players on the training pitch in order to bounce back in the fixture.

“We’re constantly looking at how we work and what we do, and with the number of games we’ve had, it’s been difficult in terms of sessions on the grass because of the volume of games,” he explained.

“It will be good to get the training sessions in where we can really start to reinforce habits again and get back to where we need to be against Blackburn.”