Dmitri Halajko: West Ham United U23s’ performances are on a really good trend


Dmitri Halajko

West Ham United U23s lead coach Dmitri Halajko feels that his team’s pre-season performances reflect a successful build-up to the new campaign.

The Hammers were dominant in a 3-0 win over Birmingham City U23s at Rush Green on Friday afternoon, with Emmanuel Longelo netting two direct free-kicks inside the first half and Bernardo Rosa adding a third with a well-worked team goal.

Birmingham’s only real chance of note was a first-half Odin Bailey penalty that hit the woodwork, but otherwise, West Ham’s U23s created a large number of openings and ran out deserved winners over last season’s Professional Development League champions.

After such a comprehensive display, Halajko praised the development squad’s control of the game, believing that aspect of their game to be on the rise throughout pre-season.

The lead coach told “I think overall it was a game that we dominated. We had the majority of the ball and the majority of the chances. 

“Our second-half performance was probably a little bit better than our first-half performance – in the first half we felt we were a bit deep at times and not pressing the ball or chasing it high enough. 

“We had a chat about that at half-time, and the players really took that on board. As soon as we got that right, I thought we were pretty comfortable and put on a good display.

“We certainly dominated the ball and it’s something we’ve been trying to build upon. I think it’s got better and better as pre-season’s gone on, so that’s a really good trend and hopefully we can continue with that moving forwards.”

Having netted from consecutive free-kicks, Longelo enjoyed an action-packed first half, scoring his second set-piece just moments after conceding an unlucky penalty when he was judged to have pushed a Birmingham forward inside the box.

Nevertheless, for Halajko, Longelo and West Ham’s U23s, it was a case of practice paying off.

“Manny practises his free-kicks a lot, to be fair,” Halajko revealed. 

“He works hard on the training ground and even in the warm-up before the game today, when everyone had gone in, he stayed behind and took an extra two or three just to get his eye in, ready for it. That obviously paid dividends today. 

“He works hard on them so it’s great when that pays off. He scored two, gave away a penalty, produced some great attacking moves down the left – so he certainly had an impactful game.”

That’s one of the great things about West Ham United: the first team take a real interest

Dmitri Halajko

After a collectively impressive performance, Halajko admitted to facing a selection quandary ahead of the Premier League 2 season opener against Arsenal at London Stadium on Monday 16 August.

With one final pre-season fixture still to come next week, the young Hammers will be doing their all to ensure it is their names which are on the lead coach’s teamsheet come mid-August.

He explained: “That’s going to be the hardest bit really, picking that team. 

“At the moment, everybody’s in good form. Everybody’s playing well, training well and working hard, so it won’t be easy. They’re making it really hard for us as coaches to pick out who’s going to start, and that’s what they should do. It’s good for us to see.”

Watching on at Rush Green on Friday afternoon were West Ham United manager David Moyes and his coaching staff, as well as Club captain Mark Noble and vice-captain Declan Rice, amongst numerous senior players.

Halajko concluded: “That’s one of the great things about West Ham United: the first team take a real interest. 

“I don’t think there are many other clubs where you’ll get a pre-season friendly on a Friday afternoon and you’ve got all the first-team staff, you’ve got the Club captain watching and you’ve got former Academy graduates, now in the first team, watching. 

“That’s special – that doesn’t happen at every Club. That tells you a lot about West Ham United.”

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