West Ham United U23s Lead Coach Dmitri Halajko saw positives and negatives in his side’s 4-2 victory at home to Sunderland U23s.
The Hammers raced into a 3-0 lead within the first 23 minutes of Sunday’s Premier League 2 Division 2 fixture, Anthony Scully opening the scoring before Nathan Holland struck a sweet brace.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, however, as Sunderland clawed two goals back either side of half-time to make it a nervy second period at the Chigwell Construction Stadium.
Both sides traded chances until the final minutes – West Ham in particular playing some excellent attacking football – but were unable to capitalise, before Scully settled the contest before the game entered injury time.
Halajko feels the result was warranted after his team’s fast start, and that they played some impressive football at times, but also believes his side will need to maintain their tempo in future matches.
“We started really well and took the lead, but then we took our foot off the gas a little bit,” Halajko admitted.
“They made it really difficult for us to play against them, and were really hard to break down, which we thought before was going to be the case.
“We managed to edge it but we struggled at times. The times we played our football, we looked at a good level and we went through them and created chances, but there were times we maybe didn’t move it quick enough and they managed to nick it off us and break.”
It’s been one of our better training weeks, especially in terms of goalscoring. In the first 20 minutes they really put that into action.
After four fixtures in the space of 20 days, the game against Sunderland was West Ham’s first in nine days, and Halajko believes the side utilised that preparatory time effectively.
“It was the first time we’ve had a whole week building up to a game in quite a long time, so the lads were fresh,” he observed.
“They’ve trained really well this week as well. It’s been one of our better training weeks, especially in terms of goalscoring. In the first 20 minutes they really put that into action.”
The victory was also the U23s’ sixth in seven league matches and stretched their unbeaten run under Halajko to 16 games, including pre-season.
Five of their wins this season have now come at their home ground, the Chigwell Construction Stadium, and the Lead Coach is pleased with how his side are making home advantage count.
“We’ve won every game and done really well so far here,” he said.
“The goals today were the first we’ve conceded here, so we’ve made this home for us this season. Last season, the team struggled here, but this season it’s been a real fortress for us.”
Looking ahead to their upcoming run of games, which includes six away games in the next two months, Halajko identified from the Sunderland match one key area he’d like his side to improve upon.
“We still want to get better at probing with the ball, recycling it, moving it, stretching teams, dominating the ball for long periods,” he said. “There are times we’re doing it well, and there are times we’re letting other teams get back into the game.
“Hopefully we’ll learn from that game how to play against a team that comes to try and stop us and work off of our mistakes. From our point of view, we need to be really tidy, really clean, move the ball nice and quickly, and not give them much to latch onto.”