Dmitri Halajko: U23s must be ruthless against Norwich
With just five games to go and an enthralling title race approaching its climax, West Ham United U23s Lead Coach Dmitri Halajko has called on his players to demonstrate their ruthless side.
The Hammers’ development squad continue to lead the way in Premier League 2 Division 2 this season, unbeaten in the competition thus far this season.
Nevertheless, nearest challengers Manchester United are hot on their heels, just three points – and relatively hefty goal difference – separating the sides, with the Red Devils possessing a game in hand.
Halajko’s side were unfortunate to draw in their last fixture against Stoke at London Stadium, having led for large spells of the match only to concede in the dying embers from the penalty spot.
We’ve looked at ourselves and what we could’ve done better and we’ll put that into our next performance
After West Ham’s fourth draw of the season – all stemming from late equalisers inside the final ten minutes – Halajko will be seeking greater ruthlessness when Norwich visit the Chigwell Construction Stadium on Monday evening.
“There’s loads we took from our last game,” he explained. “We need to make sure the last 15 minutes are as good as our first 15 minutes and the rest of the game.
“We need to be more clinical in front of goal for sure, and there were good parts of our play we want to continue, like times we played out well and times we kept the ball well – it’s just that cutting edge where we need to be a bit more ruthless to make sure we secure the three points.
“We’ve looked at ourselves and what we could’ve done better and we’ll put that into our next performance [against Norwich]. That’s all you can do. We’ve been honest with ourselves, looked for the improvements, and we’ll put it right for the next game.”
Monday evening’s opposition, Norwich, have endured an inconsistent league season thus far and sit tenth out of 12 teams, albeit only five points off the relative comfort of sixth.
Led by former player David Wright, the Canaries are the last Premier League 2 team currently scheduled to visit Dagenham & Redbridge’s Chigwell Construction Stadium this season, with the Hammers’ five remaining subsequent fixtures set to be played at first-team stadia.
Hopefully, in the future, we’ll get them playing at those kinds of stadiums at full capacity
As well as welcoming Swansea and Middlesbrough to London Stadium, West Ham U23s will also visit Aston Villa’s Villa Park and West Brom’s The Hawthorns in the league, as well as enjoy a trip to Derby Country’s Pride Park for their Premier League International Cup quarter-final.
Halajko is delighted with the platform – and challenges – such occasions will represent for his players.
“It adds something to the game when you get to play at the stadia where the pros will play, and where Premier League football happens,” he observed. “That certainly adds an extra bit to it.
“All our lads want to play in those type of stadiums, but they want to play in them really when they’re full, in Premier League games, so getting to taste what it’s like with the U23s is great and what it should be like.
“Hopefully, in the future, we’ll get them playing at those kinds of stadiums at full capacity.”
West Ham U23s against Norwich U23s takes place at Dagenham & Redbridge’s Chigwell Construction Stadium on Monday 2 March. Kick-off is at 7pm.