Dmitri Halajko: Under-23s must learn that the first goal is crucial

Dmitri Halajko

West Ham United Under-23s suffered a 3-0 loss at Tottenham Hotspur U23s on Monday afternoon, but the end result arguably did not reflect the balance of play in the match.

Looking to bounce back from their opening-day defeat to last season’s champions Chelsea, the U23s made a bright start at their hosts’ training ground, almost going ahead inside the opening minutes through Harrison Ashby.

The Irons continued to create presentable opportunities but, after conceding from a quick free-kick early in the second half, were twice picked off in the closing stages as they committed bodies forward in search of an equaliser.

Lead coach Dmitri Halajko was therefore disappointed to see his side come away empty-handed for the second time this week, despite the numerous positive aspects of his side’s performance.

“Disappointing, and a big opportunity missed,” Halajko surmised. “We were dominant in the first half and by far the better team. We missed chance after chance. 

“I thought the first goal was going to always be important, and if we’d have scored it, I think we would have gone on to be comfortable winners. 

“On 50 odd minutes or so, Tottenham got that first goal and it gave them the momentum, but up until the point they scored, we were by far the dominant team and should have made our chances count. 

“When that goal went in, it swung the momentum and they went on to win, so we’re really disappointed with that.”

Halajko’s development squad now have just over a week until their next Premier League 2 fixture, away at Southampton on Saturday 26 September.

They have to learn that when they have spells in the game, when they’re on top and they’re dominant, they have to make that count

Dmitri Halajko

Having won promotion from Division 2 so dominantly last season, however, Halajko is hoping his players can learn from the harsh lessons top-flight football can provide to bolster his team’s otherwise encouraging displays.

He explained: “Our build-up play and attacking play’s been good. We’ve played Chelsea and Tottenham now and we’ve had more chances than both of them, especially in those first halves. 

“Scoring that first goal is so crucial and in both games we should’ve done that, haven’t done that, and have really paid the ultimate price for that which is a great lesson for these lads to learn. 

“They have to learn that when they have spells in the game, when they’re on top and they’re dominant, they have to make that count, otherwise it’s all for nothing. 

“It’s a good learning opportunity for us, and we need to take it and learn from it pretty fast.”

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