Halajko: We want three-game weeks to test the lads

Dmitri Halajko

Following West Ham United U23s’ 2-2 draw in a friendly with Brentford B at Griffin Park on Tuesday, Lead Coach Dmitri Halajko has revealed the Academy is plotting more testing fixtures moving forwards.

Having named unchanged starting line-up in both Premier League 2 Division 2 victories so far this season, Tuesday’s additional fixture gave Halajko the opportunity to keep his squad sharp with playing time against senior opposition.

The Irons were forced to come from behind to equalise late in both halves; in the first through a composed Anthony Scully finish, and in the second through a fine solo Nathan Holland goal.

Halajko said of the match: “It was a really good game, we really enjoyed it. We want this type of fixture to be an extra fixture that we put on, to try and get three games in a week to really test the lads.

“It’s something that the Academy Manager Ricky Martin’s suggested: to show the lads what league football’s going to be like when you have to churn out a performance on a Saturday, then on a Tuesday, and then again the following Saturday. I thought our performance was good today.”

On the thought process behind his starting line-up, Halajko added: “Although the team’s stayed the same the last two games due to them getting some good results, the lads who have been back-up have been working really hard back at the training ground. 

“We had no problems or worries putting them straight in. They were in there on merit, and they showed that tonight when they played.”

It was really good to see some of the youngsters come on in the second half and make an impression

Dmitri Halajko

Halajko also took the opportunity to blood a number of U18 regulars in at U23 level, including the likes of Veron Parkes, Sam Caiger and Kai Corbett, and he was pleased with the shift put in by the youngsters at Griffin Park.

“It was great to see all of the young lads,” he continued. “For quite a few of them it was their first taste of U23s football, and to have it at a venue like this, against some senior players, was a great test for them. 

“I think of Jamal Baptiste as well, who’s even playing at Under-16 level, out on that pitch also. It was really good to see some of the youngsters come on in the second half and make an impression.”

Marshalling a young defence at the back was David Martin, a West Ham summer acquisition who was making his first start in an Irons shirt versus Brentford B. 

Halajko reserved special praise for the veteran goalkeeper, whose influence on a young defence was keenly felt.

He said: “His talking throughout is exceptional. You can’t beat that in terms of learning and development for young players.

“To have an experienced pro in your team who constantly talks you through the game, constantly tells you when to squeeze, when to move across… you just can’t not learn from that.

“That’s gold dust, so to have him in there, everyone will have benefitted from that massively.”

West Ham U23s are set to return to PL2 action this Friday evening against Reading U23 at the Chigwell Construction Stadium, and having already played them in pre-season, Halajko is expecting another tough test.

“Reading are strong. We’ve just watched their game back against Manchester United, in which they played really well.

“They’re one of the teams that we expect to be up there, in and around the play-offs or fighting for promotion this season, so it’ll be a really tough game for us.”

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