West Ham United Under-23s will learn from the mistakes they have made in their opening Premier League 2 matches, forward Oladapo Afolayan has declared.
A second defeat in two games beset the U23s at Tottenham Hotspur on Friday afternoon, but in a similar manner to Monday’s defeat at Chelsea, the result could have been very different had the Hammers not spurned some good opportunities in front of goal.
As it was, George Marsh’s goal from a quickly taken set-piece shortly after half-time was consolidated by two further late strikes to give the Lilywhites a flattering 3-0 win.
That scoreline arrived despite the Hammers controlling long spells of the game, albeit without hitting the back of the net, and Afolayan feels that it is simply a case of the U23s needing to sharpen their end product to improve results moving forwards.
He observed: “Throughout the first two games we’ve played well and been the better team, it’s just been that final finish we’ve missed.
“We had more chances against Tottenham and were largely the better team, but they scored from a set-piece and, as we chased the equaliser, they caught us out twice.
“Personally I think as a team we’ve got to be better in both boxes. That’s what separates the top teams in first-team football, and that’s where all of us as a collective should be trying to get to.
“We know we’ll bounce back, we know we’ll keep putting in good performances, and when we get those finishing touches, we’re confident we’ll be one of the top teams in this league.”
A versatile attacker, 22-year-old Afolayan joined the Hammers in February 2018 and, alongside productive loan spells at Oldham and Mansfield, has enjoyed excellent form for the U23s in both divisions of Premier League 2.
The teams that convert their chances and are good in both boxes win games, and go on to win leagues, so for us it’s just learning that that’s what we need to do
Having been promoted from Division 2 last season, the side’s return to the top tier of development football now demands that they be more clinical, the forward argues.
“There are some good teams in this league, but none are a lot better than us,” Afolayan explained. “Every game I’ve played in this league I’ve never felt we’re miles away from it, it’s just that final bit to our game.
“For the group, it’s a learning curve, because it’s what separates us from being boys and becoming men and making that step up into first-team football.
“You see it week-in, week-out in the Premier League: the teams that convert their chances and are good in both boxes win games, and go on to win leagues, so for us it’s just learning that that’s what we need to do.
“We’ve got Southampton next weekend and then Colchester [in the EFL Trophy] after that, so we go into both of those games confident that we’ll dominate possession and create chances.
“Then, it’s just about us converting them. We played some great football against Tottenham, but it means nothing if we lose a game 3-0.
“We’ll go back, we’ll rewatch the game, and we’ll learn from this.”