Before the Hammers’ last 32 tie, lead coach Steve Potts asked his players one thing: 'to be brave'.
It was a mantra well-served in north Essex, as the U21s dominated for a fourth straight win in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy.
Goals from Dan Chesters, George Earthy, Lewis Orford, and Divin Mubama secured a 4-0 win over Colchester United – a victory that could have well been by more.
As the Hammers booked their place in the last 16 of the competition, they also stretched an unbeaten run to 15 games.
In the Bristol Street Motors Trophy, the U21s have now beaten Bristol Rovers, Cheltenham Town, Newport County and Colchester United.
Incredibly, they have scored 12 goals in those four games and conceded just once. Lots of positives for the lead coach, then?
“There was some really good stuff,” Potts stated. “It was maybe not as fluent as we have always been but it there was really good stuff against Colchester United.
"They are League opposition and senior pros, so they made it difficult for us, but I thought the boys worked it out really well.
“Every player has got to keep on pushing on because you can’t afford to stand still. You’ve got to keep on improving.
“It gives us another game in this competition and that’s the way we are viewing it. So, it’s great the boys, will get that chance to play hopefully in a senior EFL Stadium and against another senior side.”
Colchester United did have their chances but the scoreline was settled by the finishing of a fierce Hammers attack.
The first goal saw Callum Marshall set-up Chesters to net the opener on eight minutes. The wing-back then turned provider as George Earthy made it two on the hour. Delightful finishes from Orford and Mubama late on would cap an impressive victory.
“We got there in the end,” Potts admitted. “Because I thought we started a little bit slowly. I thought we started to take control of the game after that and got the goal. The finishing was good, which you need to do at this level. And that gave us that breathing space.”
But while the attackers will get the plaudits, there is no doubt the defence gave the U21s the platform to push on.
The set-up meant the Irons were brave and aggressive and often left a 2v2 at the back, with Potts confident the Hammers could play their way through the opposition in an attacking 8v8.
Indeed, they did. But in the 2v2 at the back, Kaelan Casey, alongside Ben Johnson, and Luizão, more than played their part in a fourth clean sheet in their last five matches.
The lead coach reflected on the work of youngster Casey, who was impressive in the middle of the back three.
Potts added: “I thought Kaelan Casey was very good. He had a lot of the ball and had to find the passes when we had it at the back.
"When we didn’t have it, because I had asked them to go and play 2v2 at the back, I thought he read the danger really well and dealt with it.
“He is a young lad, but this is the great thing about this competition, that senior players are getting that chance and I thought he handled it really well.”