Saturday’s hotly-contested Premier League 2 Division 1 draw at Leeds United demanded a display of character from West Ham United U23s, defender Levi Laing admitted.
The 18-year-old centre-back was making his second start of the season at Thorp Arch Training Ground in the 2-2 draw and – as was the case with his teammates – put in maximum effort to come away from West Yorkshire with a point.
Two teams playing with a high level of intensity and endeavour made one another work for the end result, with West Ham’s two goals stemming from defender Harrison Ashby – the Scot’s 25-yard free-kick being his second goal in two league games – and Jamal Baptiste.
Leeds had gone ahead in the first half against the run of play and eventually equalised late on in the second half through Sam Greenwood’s penalty, but Laing was proud of how hard his team fought to come away with a well-earned point.
“It was a battle today,” the teenager told whufc.com, wearing an ice pack on his foot.
“It was a good game – a game with good moments for us, and a game with bad moments for us – but we felt unfortunate to only come away with a draw in the end
“The boys put a real shift in today to get that point, though, so I’m happy with how the boys played and happy with our hard work. We’ll keep going and look to build on it.
“We showed great resilience and great determination. We were 1-0 down, but went into the second half all guns blazing and scored two great goals.
“Unfortunately, Leeds managed to score another one to make it 2-2, but the boys showed great resilience, character and determination.
“We also showed courage to get on the ball and great intensity to win it back up high the pitch. I’m proud of the boys today.”
I’m keeping the pressure on myself to keep training hard because I’m enjoying it so far and I want to keep on enjoying it by keeping my place in the team
After making consecutive starts for the U23s for the first time since penning his first professional contract in the summer, Laing spoke of his determination to maintain the levels which brought him to such a feat.
“It’s been really good for me here so far,” he added. “Everyone’s been really welcoming and it’s good to be getting some game time.
“I’m keeping the pressure on myself to keep training hard because I’m enjoying it so far and I want to keep on enjoying it by keeping my place in the team.”
Next up for West Ham’s development squad is another entirely different type of test, as they travel to Portman Road to take on League One side Ipswich Town in the Papa John’s Trophy group stages.
Having played against three different senior teams in pre-season – Ebbsfleet United, Crawley Town and Aldershot Town – Laing feels that he and his teammates have a measure of what to expect from their midweek trip to Suffolk.
Laing admitted: “It’ll be a whole different ball game. In terms of playing in the Papa John’s Trophy, it’ll be a good challenge and interesting to see whether we can come away with a win.
“Senior teams seem to be a lot more direct, so it’ll be a good test for us to have to deal with long balls and play in a stadium with spectators present.
“We got an idea of how senior teams tend to play and how much more direct they are in pre-season. It’s all different to Premier League 2, but it should be a good challenge for the boys and we’ll see how we react to it.”