West Ham United U23s v Crystal Palace U23s - All You Need To Know
West Ham United U23s will look to put the disappointment of defeat away at Derby County U23s on Monday evening behind them when they welcome Premier League 2 Division 1 new boys Crystal Palace to Rush Green Stadium on Friday night.
Here’s everything you need to know about the behind-closed-doors game in East London…
The story so far
U23s lead coach Dmitri Halajko has challenged his team to address the inconsistencies which have disrupted their domestic form in recent weeks, after a disappointing second-half display at Loughborough University yielded a 3-1 loss at Derby County on Monday evening.
In a fiery and fierce contest, the east Londoners battled hard in the first half, but conceded two quickfire goals in the early stages of the second to give the Rams an advantage which ultimately proved unassailable.
Youth team regular Sonny Perkins fired in on his Premier League 2 debut with eight minutes to go, but any hope of a comeback was thwarted as Jack Stretton scored his second of the evening for the Rams with a deflected long-range effort.
And so the young Hammers, who went into the game off the back of two hugely impressive results - a 2-2 draw away at much-fancied Leeds United, and a 2-1 win over senior League One team Ipswich Town - were condemned to a second league defeat in their opening five games.
Nevertheless, they remain in a good position in the Premier League 2 Division 1 table, sixth in the standings but only six points behind league leaders Manchester City, as the general quality of every Premier League 2 side has cancelled one another out and no clear dominant force has emerged - as yet.
A chance to quickly rectify Monday's defeat will be welcome for Halajko and his players, and the lead coach will be keen for his team to take advantage of it.
Crystal Palace U23s lie one place behind the young Hammers after five games gone, having won two and lost three of their opening league fixtures.
The teams they have been defeated by, however, are all considered among the Premier League 2 favourites, with Leeds, Arsenal and Manchester City their most recent conquerors.
Back-to-back spectacular wins over Everton and Leicester City have nevertheless marked a strong opening to their first season in the top-flight of development football, having secured Category One academy status in the summer of 2020.
Crystal Palace U23s subsequently secured promotion from Premier League 2 Division 2 at the first time of asking via the Play-Offs, in the same campaign as their U18s narrowly missed out on the U18 Premier League South title on goal difference.
After finishing third in the division, Palace saw off fourth-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-2 in a dramatic Division 2 semi-final, before defeating Sunderland 5-3 on penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw in the Final.
Led by a new manager this season in former centre-back Paddy McCarthy - who made 151 senior appearances over seven seasons with the Eagles - Crystal Palace U23s boast a hugely talented crop of youngsters, including gliding winger Jesuran Rak-Sakyi, who scored a hat-trick against the Hammers at youth team level last season and made his first-team debut on the opening day of the Premier League season.
Rak-Sakyi already has four goals in four appearances for the U23s to his name this season, and has consistently featured for the U23s along with former Hammer, left-back Reece Hannam, and top scorer and 19-year-old striker Rob Street, who has scored five goals in five games so far this season.
What they’re saying
West Ham United U23s lead coach Dmitri Halajko: “Palace is another big game. It’s another London derby and always good to be back at home.
"Some of our first-team staff will be watching on, so that should give the lads some extra incentive to bounce back.
“They’re a good team, they haven’t struggled and have managed to adapt to the new division. We expect it to be another tough test, but we hope to put right the wrongs from Monday evening.”
How can I follow?
West Ham United U23s’ match against Crystal Palace U23s will be played behind-closed-doors at Rush Green Stadium on Friday 24 September, kicking off at 7pm. Only key personnel and invited guests will be admitted.
You can still follow proceedings, however, with our live blog on whufc.com from 6.30pm and Twitter updates, and there will be the usual array of post-match reaction and highlights pieces available over Friday evening and Saturday morning.