Dmitri Halajko: U23s are getting stronger as the season goes on
West Ham United U23s lead coach Dmitri Halajko believes his side’s recent upturn in results evidences their progression over the course of the season.
The Hammers’ development squad have generally performed well within matches during 2020/21, but in a number of games struggled to convert positive displays into Premier League 2 points.
Yet following Tuesday evening’s 1-1 draw against last season’s champions Chelsea at Rush Green – only a late penalty denying the Hammers victory – West Ham’s U23s have accrued a decent return of five points from their last three games.
Now, looking to secure their Premier League 2 Division 1 status by overturning a three-point deficit on Leicester City U23s – who sit just above the drop zone – Halajko has called on his side to further their momentum in the closing weeks of the campaign.
With five league games to go, Halajko’s players have it all to play for – starting with a trip to Manchester United U23s’ Leigh Sports Village on Friday night.
“I think we’ve got a good little bit of momentum at the moment,” the lead coach reflected.
“Before the international break, the last two games had positive performances and positive results and we wanted to carry that on against Chelsea. I think we managed to do that, so we’re on a good run.
“As the season’s going on, we’re getting stronger. We’ve had young players in the squad all season – some of the youngest players in the league – and they’re only getting better.
“Our experienced players, such as Conor Coventry and Joseph Anang, are in form. We’re getting stronger, progressing and improving, as the season’s going on.
“Let’s continue that and see if we can carry on getting better.”
On Friday, the Hammers will travel to face a Manchester United U23s outfit with no shortage of talent amongst its ranks, albeit with inconsistent results of late.
It’s a game we always look forward to because it’s going to be a top game with some top players in it
Sitting seventh in the table, The Red Devils have won just one of their last four games and, in their most recent Premier League 2 match, were beaten 3-0 by Tottenham U23s in an ill-tempered affair in North London.
Recent history between West Ham and Manchester United at development squad level would indicate that Friday’s game will be an absorbing contest, with Halajko having seen his side compete in some fantastic contests against them since joining in the summer of 2019.
The Hammers eclipsed The Red Devils in last season’s Premier League 2 Division 2 title race, sitting three points ahead of them at the time of the season’s early curtailment in March.
That victory was in no small part thanks to an impressive 2-2 draw away at Old Trafford and, later in the season, a 2-0 win for West Ham’s U23s at Victoria Road.
Earlier this season, the Hammers picked up their first league win of the 2020/21 season in a diligently drilled display against Manchester United at Rush Green, with the east London youngsters prevailing thanks to a Will Fish own-goal and an Oladapo Afolayan penalty.
Halajko reflected: “It’s a game we always look forward to because it’s going to be a top game with some top players in it.
“We always look forward to this one. Every game we’ve played against them, certainly since I’ve been here, has been a standout game of football.
“So far we’ve managed to just edge it, so we’ll be looking to do that again on Friday.”
West Ham United U23s take on Manchester United U23s on Friday 9 April in a behind-closed-doors fixture. Kick-off is at 7pm; you can follow all the action with our live blog on whufc.com from 6.30pm.
Please note that Academy fixtures will be played behind closed doors until further notice. Only key personnel will be admitted on site and the match will be played without supporters present, in line with safety guidelines and social distancing measures in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.