A tough-to-take defeat was to be the outcome of West Ham United U23s’ trip to Brighton & Hove Albion U23s on Friday night, with a promising first-half display giving way to a more submissive second at the Amex Elite Performance Centre.
Captain Aji Alese and his teammates were in a strong position at half-time, leading through Mipo Odubeko’s second early goal in the space of four days – a finish equally as powerful as Monday’s rocket against Arsenal, but on this occasion a volleyed strike from Harrison Ashby’s cross.
But this time, try as they might, the Hammers simply could not build on it.
Half-chances came and went, but a devastating spell midway through the second half saw Brighton score three times in 13 minutes to take the game beyond their visitors.
Despite Thierry Nevers pulling a goal back for West Ham, Brighton added a fourth, leaving Alese rueful at the manner in which control of the game deserted his team on the night.
The 20-year-old admitted: “It was tough to take, especially with the way we started and the chances we had and the position we were in at half-time.
“Obviously the goal was a positive, and I remember Armstrong [Okoflex] and Mipo getting in a few times, and we had some other chances where we could have slid players in during that first half.
“From a defensive point of view in the first half, I didn’t really feel like they were going to score. We felt as a back line we were doing well, and it was a good first-half performance which we were happy with at the time.
“Looking back, we definitely believe we could have got more from the game. The final result was difficult to take, but there are things for us to look at and build upon moving on to next week against Chelsea.
"Hopefully we can get a better result than today and move on.”
Despite the difficult nature of Friday’s defeat, the season remains in its early days, with the Hammers looking having plenty of positives to draw upon as they look to their run of fixtures ahead.
Every time we step out onto the pitch for training and every time we play together, we’re going to learn and we’re going to gel more
New faces such as Okoflex and Thierry Nevers have both scored their opening competitive goals in Claret and Blue – Nevers’ on Friday evening in particular being a brilliant 25-yard effort – while a number of new professionals have also adjusted well to the step-up of regular U23s football.
The U23s captain explained: “Every time we step out onto the pitch for training and every time we play together, we’re going to learn and we’re going to gel more and more.
“It’s only our second league game, so we’re still getting to know each other and the way one another play. The more we play together, the easier it will get for us as a team.”
As for next week, Alese feels he and his teammates will do everything they can to put things right when they welcome London rivals Chelsea to Rush Green Stadium on Sunday 29 August.
“That’s the plan,” the defender confirmed. “We’ll rest up from today, look back on it in the next few days and see where we’ve gone wrong.
“We’ll see where we can get better, and look forward to facing Chelsea next week on Sunday.”