After impressing in the first half, West Ham United U23s were made to pay dear for a looser second-half performance at Manchester City U23s on Monday afternoon.
That is the view of 17-year-old Freddie Potts, who made an assured first start at development squad level in the 5-0 loss at the City Academy Stadium.
A first-year scholar who had only featured once in midfield at U23s level prior to the game, Potts was named on the right side of a three-man defence against the runaway Premier League 2 leaders.
It was a shift in shape which seemed to work well for the young Hammers against an all-conquering Manchester City U23s side.
Despite falling behind in the second minute to a cute Cole Palmer finish, it was West Ham’s U23s who had arguably had the better of the chances before the interval.
The momentum of the game shifted when Palmer struck moments after the restart, however, and City went on to add further goals through a Joshua Okotcha own-goal, Liam Delap and a third from the boot of Palmer.
Speaking after the game, Potts told whufc.com that he felt the scoreline was harsh on a West Ham team who showed their true potential in the first half – only to let things slip in the second.
He observed: “We came into the game knowing it would be a tough game, but with the game plan that we had before the game, we knew it was also possible to get something in terms of points. In the first half, that’s what we showed.
“As we went on in the first half, we got a lot better in our shape. They didn’t really play through us and in some moments, we thought we were the better team as well.
“We came in at half-time thinking we could get something from it, but then it all just came down to silly mistakes and a lack of concentration in the second.
“Against a team like City, with the players they have, they just exploit those mistakes and it showed in the game with the 5-0 result.”
The Hammers rallied superbly in the first half to Palmer’s second-minute goal, but could not do so again when the tricky winger plundered a second just moments into the second half.
Potts contrasted the two periods of football and, moving forwards, expressed his hope the Hammers would build on the former rather than the latter.
He added: “I think we grew into the game in the first half especially, particularly when we had a lot of chances – we had a couple getting through the box, and we had Conor’s good chance.
“We started getting more confident on the ball – we didn’t give them too much respect, because if we did, City would have been able to exploit that and take over the game but we didn’t want to let them take over.
“In the first half that showed, but in the second half, we tried to do the same but silly mistakes cost us the game at the end of the day.”
Reflecting on the game, U23s lead coach Dmitri Halajko mentioned he felt Coventry’s and Potts’ performances were two of the outstanding displays on the pitch.
The 17-year-old was composure personified in a newfound position for Potts – son of assistant coach Steve – who adapted well to his new surroundings and level on his first U23s start.
“It couldn’t [have come against a tougher team],” Potts admitted. “I knew that – we all knew that – coming into the game, but I didn’t really take much pressure from it, I just tried to make myself enjoy it.
“In this stadium, as well, I’ve never played in a stadium like this really. I just tried to look at it as a really good experience for myself and that helped me as I went through the game and got more confident.”
Potts concluded by looking forward to Saturday’s Premier League 2 trip to Liverpool U23s – a chance for the young Hammers to bounce back immediately later this week.
He said: “It’s going to be another tough game, Liverpool away, but we’re always going to look at the next game thinking we can get something from it.
“It showed today – we could have got something from it, so if we can cut out silly mistakes, we can definitely get something from Liverpool.”