West Ham United Under-23s overcame a disjointed first-half display to fight back from two goals behind against Southampton Under-23s on Saturday afternoon, a happening which midfielder Ossama Ashley attributed to his teammates refocusing at half-time.
The Hammers were second-best throughout the first half but managed to reach the interval with their deficit comprising only Dan N’Lundulu’s tenth-minute finish.
The Southampton striker went on to double their advantage from the penalty spot shortly after the restart, but the remainder of the second period proved Ashley’s and West Ham United’s to dominate, having got one goal back straight away through Oladapo Afolayan.
As the young Irons continued to commit bodies forwards and create chances, they eventually found a deserved equaliser in the dying moments when Mesaque Dju’s cross deflected off a Southampton arm inside the area; from the subsequent penalty, captain Conor Coventry stepped up and found the back of the net.
Typically tenacious in midfield, Ashley admitted that the half-time break was important for allowing his side to regather themselves, refocus – and fight back to claim their first Premier League 2 point of the season.
He told whufc.com: “Obviously in the first half we came out a bit slow, and they took the momentum from that and pretty much dominated the first half.
“We did really well to keep ourselves in the game and set ourselves up to come out in the second half and give everything we had.
“We were well up for it. Obviously in the two previous games [against Chelsea and Tottenham] we’d played much better than we did in the first half today, so half-time was just more of an encouragement thing to get us going, so that we could really push on and see what we could get from the game.
“We came out with a strong mentality, so it was a well-deserved draw in the end.”
After suffering defeats in their opening two league fixtures this season – both games on the road settled by fine margins at Chelsea and Tottenham – Ashley was pleased that the U23s were able to chalk up their first Premier League 2 point of the season.
We’ve played very well but unfortunately the results haven’t gone our way. Having got our first point away, and our first goals of the season, we can really push on for the rest of the season
Both the result and the nature of it, he hopes, can now act as a springboard for greater aspirations moving forwards, with the midfielder believing the work on the Academy training pitch is now transpiring within matches.
“We always play with confidence,” the 20-year-old reaffirmed.
“We’ve been unlucky with the results that we’ve had so far. We’ve played very well but unfortunately the results haven’t gone our way. Having got our first point away, and our first goals of the season, we can really push on for the rest of the season.
“We have a good week of training ahead of us. That’s where we will really push on and get to the standards we need to reach. If we keep doing what we’re doing in training and apply it go games, we’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Having officially joined the Club on an initial one-year deal earlier this month, Ashley is already a popular figure amongst his teammates, and admitted he has enjoyed developing himself in east London so far.
He smiled: “I’m loving it, especially being in such a professional environment.
“Having all the coaches and the players around me, it’s easy to adapt to the professional standards that West Ham have. It’s only bettering me as a person and as a footballer, so hopefully I can just push on from here.”