How West Ham United U21s react to their first defeat of the season will say a lot about their potential as a team, according to midfielder Joe Powell.
The attacking midfielder sported the captain’s armband during the U21s’ 4-3 loss at Cheltenham in the Leasing.com Trophy on Tuesday evening.
The U21s were on course to qualify for the knockout stages when they held a 3-1 lead at half-time, but their hosts hit back with an impressive comeback in the second period.
While the Robins’ greater experience eventually told, 20-year-old Powell spoke afterwards of his pride in his teammates’ display – and told of his belief that they won’t let it happen again.
“I’m very proud, I always am of them – they gave everything,” Powell said. “There were moments when we switched off and they managed to take their chances, so credit to Cheltenham for that.
“We were missing a couple of defenders due to international duty, and a couple who were playing in that position got injured, so things didn’t go our way tonight, but in that case it’s important that you keep going, and the boys did.
“I think it’s key that the boys keep their heads held high, and that they go into the next game aiming to make sure that we don’t lose again - because the best teams don’t lose twice.”
The Hammers were playing against high-flying League Two opposition in Cheltenham, who currently sit fifth in the division.
Powell has ten appearances in League Two to his name, having spent the second half of last season on loan at Northampton Town, and was pleased to harness that experience to help his younger teammates when possible on Tuesday.
“In this game especially, we were playing against an experienced team in League Two,” he said. “I tried to apply my experience and share it out with the team.
“I’ve tried to do it throughout the season really, in every game, but tonight we were just unfortunate that we didn’t get the win.
“As a team and individuals, people made their mistakes, but there were positives to take. Many of us, especially the older boys, tried to help out the younger boys, and there were moments of excellence given from everyone.”
As for the result itself, which ends the development squad’s 16 match unbeaten run under new coach Dmitri Halajko, Powell was philosophical.
“Every team has to lose at some point. Nobody goes through their career just winning, winning, winning,” he observed.
“There are positives you can take from a negative outcome. There are positives we can take in terms of learning curves, and hopefully the boys will go back and watch the game and learn from their individual mistakes and some of the mistakes that we made as a team.
“I think it’s key that we take time now to get ready to go again - and get another win.”