Ossama Ashley: We must play to our strengths against Derby County

Ossama Ashley

When the form book is against you, you must revert to basics; you must play to your strengths.

That is the view of West Ham United U23s midfielder Ossama Ashley, who returned from injury in the 4-1 defeat at Blackburn Rovers last week.

The 21-year-old has had two separate month-long injuries this campaign but, tenacious as ever, has showed little fear in his returning appearances.

That is a resilience all of the U23s will need to show when they host Derby County U23s at Rush Green Stadium on Friday night.

With only ten games left to go of their Premier League 2 season, and the Hammers eight points from safety, the U23s cannot afford to get caught up in prospective fortunes if they are to fight their way out of the situation, according to Ashley.

“To be totally honest, it’s reached a stage where we take it game-by-game now,” he told whufc.com. 

“Looking too far ahead isn’t what we need to do. We need to go into a game and focus on what we’re good at and show our quality each game at a time.

“It’s who we are. Every game we go into, we give what we’ve got. If it doesn’t always work out, it doesn’t work out, but that’s football. 

“We go out there and give it our all, so we’ve just got to wait and see.”

While the Irons have admittedly been on the wrong end of heavy defeats in their last two games – the loss at Blackburn was preceded by a 6-1 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion U23s – there were spells in both fixtures where they played themselves back into the contest.

In training, we’re looking good, looking sharp, but transitioning that into a game is where we’re going wrong at the moment

Ossama Ashley

Indeed, although they have only won twice in Premier League 2 so far this season, it was arguably not until the Brighton game where the Hammers could claim to have been truly outperformed.

A combination of profligate finishing and defensive mishaps have, however, cost them dear within games – an aspect of life in development football’s top-flight which Ashley is keen to see his side put right in their season run-in.

He explained: “Last week, at Blackburn, it was a game of two halves. We started off really strongly in the first half but didn’t take our chances, and sadly we regretted it in the second half. It’s been a theme of the season.

“It’s the story every game really – we’re not taking our chances. In training, we’re looking good, looking sharp, but transitioning that into a game is where we’re going wrong at the moment. 

“The boys are putting all the effort in that they can to try and improve that, so hopefully, against Derby, we can get a win.”

Ashley himself hopes to have a significant say in that on Friday.

He smiled: “I’m buzzing to be back out there. I’ve been working hard in training. 

“Fitness-wise, I’m getting there. I gave it my all out there last week and hopefully I’ll continue to get fitter and being able to help the team.”

West Ham United U23s take on Derby County U23s on Friday 26 February 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.

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