West Ham United U23s defender Jamal Baptiste believes his team could not have put any more into their battle to avoid the drop from Premier League 2 Division 1.
The Academy of Football development squad came within seconds of clinching safety on Friday evening, only to concede a last-gasp equaliser to Arsenal U23s – the resulting 2-2 draw leaving the Hammers reliant on another team's result on Monday.
The late blow was particularly harsh on West Ham’s U23s, who were – for the second time in a week – the dominant force up against the North London side.
Yet despite having 58 per cent of the ball and double Arsenal’s shot count in East London, producing some impressive build-up play throughout, the Hammers could not make the most of their opportunities when they arrived.
For 17-year-old Baptiste, the disappointment at the final whistle was mollified by the knowledge that his team left nothing wonting for effort.
“I think we went all out for the win, and left everything on the pitch,” Baptiste told whufc.com. “We worked well as a team and created a lot of chances that we should have taken.
“We moved the ball well and played to our advantages, using our strengths, we just couldn’t find the finishing touch, the finishing pass or finishing goal.
“We’ve looked at it in previous games this season and seen that that’s been our only default, and I think we just lacked that efficiency today which stopped us from winning the game.
“It’s a big responsibility that we have and a lesson that we need to step up to our full game. We gave it our all and we know we need to be more clinical in front of goal.”
The young Hammers now face an anxious wait for the result of Monday’s Premier League 2 game between Leicester City and Liverpool in the Midlands.
If we’d have been playing like that at the beginning of the season, we’d have finished a lot higher, but we’ve done really well recently and given it our all until the end of the season
A point for Liverpool would be enough for West Ham to retain Division 1 status in development league football and, moreover, would be a fitting reward for how they have persevered to turn their season around.
Baptiste – who made the second-most appearances for the U23s in 2020/21, with 23 starts in all competitions – has been a key part of result performances that have pushed his team off the bottom of the table, having recorded 15 points from a possible last 24.
While efficiency in front of goal did cost the Hammers on Friday night, improvement in that aspect has generally been a factor in their recent fine run of form.
Baptiste confirmed: “The last five or six weeks we’ve been in top form, playing our best football of the season.
“If we’d have been playing like that at the beginning of the season, we’d have finished a lot higher, but we’ve done really well recently and given it our all until the end of the season – we can’t really do any more than that.
“We’ve definitely developed as a team, especially from the beginning of the season. We’ve worked hard – and it’s been difficult, given the challenging circumstances this season – but we’ve worked hard as a team when we could, and given it our all.”