Dan Chesters: It’s a great feeling to go top of Premier League 2
It might not have been the performance that West Ham United U23s were looking for on Friday evening, but the result remained in their favour.
After a hard-fought 1-0 win over Blackburn Rovers U23s at Rush Green Stadium – a tight match settled by Kamarai Swyer’s 17th-minute goal, but one in which the visitors twice struck the woodwork and missed several clear chances to equalise – the Hammers moved two points clear at the top of Premier League 2 Division 1.
And winger Dan Chesters, one of four U23s players to return from the first-team’s European adventure in Vienna and start for the development squad on Friday, was pleased to play his part.
The 19-year-old picked up his fifth assist of the campaign when crossing accurately for Swyer to prod home, and while the performance yielded points for his team to work on, Chesters was still pleased to secure an important win in the east London chill.
“It’s a great feeling,” he told whufc.com. “It was great work, hard work, from the lads today.
“Obviously we didn’t boss the game how we wanted to, but at least we got the result and the three points, which was good enough for us to go top of the league.
“Looking back, I think we could have finished it off earlier. We had a couple of good chances early in the second half, but the boys dug deep and kept the clean sheet as well.”
The 1-0 win saw West Ham U23s record a fourth consecutive clean sheet at home – and fifth in the last six matches in all competitions – with no goals conceded in the last 381 minutes of football played at Rush Green.
Such a steely defence provides an excellent platform on which to create, Chesters acknowledged.
He noted: “Our defence is top notch – really solid – and that number just proves the quality that we have at the back. It was good work from the boys.
“For me, I’m just running really hard in behind, trying to assist for people and get goals. I didn’t manage to get a goal tonight, but at least I got an assist, so that’s a positive.”
With a new lead coach in Mark Robson to impress, nine wins from their last eleven games in all competitions means that confidence is high among this U23s group.
“The changing room is so good at the moment,” Chesters smiled. “The atmosphere is amazing and the lads are on top of their game, so we just want to keep pushing forward and keep grabbing points.
“The new gaffer is great. He likes us to move the ball quickly and I think that suits our team, so we’re all enjoying our football.”
That the win came at the end of a week that Chesters – along with defenders Ajibola Alese and Jamal Baptiste, and most notably 17-year-old forward Sonny Perkins – will never forget, was all the more pertinent for the winger.
Having made his own West Ham United first-team debut in the UEFA Europa League earlier this season, Chesters was keen to congratulate Perkins on his own in Vienna.
Chesters concluded: “It’s good that the first-team manager includes the young lads in the Europa League games. It gets us the experience and first-team minutes.
“I’m happy that Sonny got to come on – and he nearly scored as well, so fair play to him!
“Hopefully we’ll get some more debutants from the Academy and we can get some more minutes for the first team.”