West Ham United U23s are back in Premier League 2 Division 2 action as West Bromwich Albion are welcomed to the Chigwell Construction Stadium on Monday evening.
Following two impressive cup performances against Newport County and Valencia ‘B’, attention now switches back to continuing the Hammers unbeaten league start.
After round four of fixtures in the Premier League 2 Division 2, West Ham sit second with ten points from a possible 12. The only dropped points camefrom an entertaining 2-2 draw with table-toppers Manchester United at Old Trafford.
For the U23s and Lead Coach Dmitri Halajko the upcoming week is a crucial one as, following the home game against West Brom, the squad will travel Teesside to face Middlesbrough on Friday in another difficult-looking league fixture.
West Ham’s last trip to the North East saw them beat Newcastle 2-1 in August - a game in which full-back Emmanuel Longelo was replaced at half-time with an injury that ruled him out until his return to action in the midweek Premier League International Cup victory over Valencia ‘B’.
“It felt really good to get back out there” Longelo said. “After spending a month out, it was good to get 70 minutes back in the tank and just try and make sure that I am ready for the next game against West Brom.”
It was a great experience coming up against my brother Rosaire, it was the first time that had ever happened
Monday's opponents currently lie fifth in the Division 2 table and Longelo is expecting a difficult test from a Baggies side who are also targeting promotion.
“We expect West Brom to be a good team, they are in the play-off positions at the moment," he observed. "We are sure that they will be challenging for the league title alongside us, so I expect nothing less than a tough challenge from them.”
The defender’s last Premier League 2 game saw him go toe-to-toe with older brother Rosaire, who, after leaving West Ham, now plays for Newcastle. While his own evening was cut short, it was still a memorable occasion for Emmanuel.
“It was a great experience coming up against my brother Rosaire," he confirmed. "It was the first time that had ever happened, it was even better for me because we managed to get the win against Newcastle, I was really happy!”
Despite not suffering defeat yet this season, Longelo emphasised that the U23s must keep their concentration on the next game at hand and not look too far ahead.
“The whole squad is excited as 13 games unbeaten is great but we also know that we have to keep a cool head, stay humble, not get ahead of ourselves and make sure that we do not get complacent despite how well we have been doing.”
Following Monday's game, West Ham return to Chigwell Construction Stadium on Sunday 29 September, when they take on Sunderland U23s in a 12noon kick-off.