West Ham United Under-23s played out a rare goalless draw with Blackburn Rovers Under-23s on Friday afternoon at Rush Green Stadium.
Chances were well and truly at a premium prior to the interval, with minimal openings in a stop-start half which saw three enforced substitutions and no fewer than 12 minutes of added time before the break.
Disruptions continued in the second half as both teams picked up knocks in a combative encounter, but despite creating two clear openings for Sean Adarkwa and U23s debutant Kamarai Swyer, the Hammers were forced to settle for a point against well-drilled visitors.
The 0-0 draw saw lead coach Dmitri Halajko’s side record their first clean sheet of the Premier League 2 season, a positive aspect from a fairly toothless match offensively for both teams.
Halajko reflected afterwards: “It was a tight game, which we thought it would be. They’re unbeaten in the league and they’re unbeaten for a reason, so we knew it was going to be a tough game. It was tight, with not many openings at all.
“We were pleased with ourselves tactically. I thought we didn’t give much away. We’re happy with the clean sheet, but in terms of quality-wise on the ball, we were below what we needed to be, especially in the crucial areas.
“If we’d have got that right, we could’ve turned it into a win, but we didn’t manage it today so we’re going to have to settle for a draw.
“We’re happy with the clean sheet – that is probably the main positive to come out of it. It’s our first one in the league this season – we’ve had one other in the EFL Trophy as well.
“It was quite a convincing clean sheet. We didn’t give them much at all – that's not an easy thing to achieve.”
The disruptive nature of the players’ injuries contributed to 17 minutes in total of stoppage time across the two halves, often killing any momentum either side could build up.
We need to manage to keep our intensity and tempo high no matter if there’s a break in play or not, and I think we did fall for that a bit today
The Hammers themselves were forced to make two changes in the first half, with Ajibola Alese and Ossama Ashley replaced by Will Greenidge and Swyer respectively.
“There were a lot of injuries and people going down, and it was always very stop-start which did not give the game the best of flows, which was frustrating,” Halajko admitted.
“We can’t let that spoil our intensity or spoil our tempo. At times, we did today. We need to manage to keep our intensity and tempo high no matter if there’s a break in play or not, and I think we did fall for that a bit today.”
As for Swyer, Halajko believes the 17-year-old can be pleased with his first-ever appearance at U23s level, having been named in several matchday squads so far this season.
“I think Kamarai can be pleased,” Halajko said. “He showed invention, creativity, and he wanted to get forward and could have won it.
“He had probably the best chance of the game and the goalkeeper made a good save, so I think he can be very happy with his first performance at this level.”