Dmitri Halajko: Recent U23s results are what they should be

Dmitri Halajko

West Ham United U23s are turning the tide in their Premier League 2 Division 1 campaign, according to lead coach Dmitri Halajko.

The 2020/21 campaign has been a challenging one at times for the Hammers’ development squad, as an impressive run in the Papa John’s Trophy was countered by just two league wins in the half of the season.

That run of results did not always reflect the quality of performances produced by Halajko’s side, however – a notable example being the reverse fixture against their next opposition, Everton, back in December.

On that occasion, West Ham had no fewer than 19 shots, ten on target, 60 per cent possession, and complete dominance of the second half – yet fell to a 2-1 defeat after two early defensive mistakes and bouts of profligacy in front of goal.

Despite a good overall showing, therefore, that match was a microcosm of those early-season difficulties, but Halajko believes the U23s’ recent results have been much more befitting of the overall standard of their performances this season.

With eight points and no defeats in their last four games, and having secured a dramatic 3-2 win away at Manchester United last time out, the development squad have given themselves every chance of retaining their Premier League 2 Division 1 status.

They currently sit in eleventh place, outside of the relegation zone and ahead of Leicester City by a single goal’s difference, whilst also being one point ahead Southampton U23s.

With four games to go, Halajko has been pleased to see the young Hammers’ early struggles translate into late-season positives.

The lead coach told “If you look at the form guide for the last five games, we’re in the top half of the table – we’re moving in the right direction. 

“Our younger lads are not younger lads anymore – they’re experienced. Other teams are getting younger and just starting to blood their young players, whereas we’ve been playing them from the start and now they’re showing what they can do. 

“We’ve got some of our established players back from injury who were maybe missing during the other parts of the season. 

“Those things are just turning the performances and results into what they should be.”

The U23s welcome Everton U23s to Rush Green Stadium on Monday afternoon seeking valuable points in their bid to stay up in development football’s top-flight.

If we manage to do what we did for the last 30 minutes against Manchester United, we should be in real good stead

Dmitri Halajko

Managed by former Hammer, and long-serving former player and Director of Academy, David Unsworth – the Toffees currently sit seventh in Premier League 2.

Everton U23s have struggled in trips to the capital in recent weeks, falling to defeats at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, but last time out claimed an impressive 2-1 win over title-chasing Blackburn Rovers in the North-West.

Halajko has therefore called on his players to channel the impressive control they displayed in the closing stages of the Hammers’ last game, a 3-2 win over Manchester United in which three goals from Mipo Odubeko inside the final half-an-hour turned the result on its head. 

The lead coach recalled: “We had a good game against Everton last time, and they just pipped us on the day, but I thought we were unlucky not to get anything from the game. 

“It was a tight game, but we definitely deserved something from it. We dominated the ball – possession-wise, it was one of our biggest games, and we really had them penned in, but just didn’t find a way to get enough goals to get any points. 

“We’ll be looking to improve on that this time. If we manage to do what we did for the last 30 minutes against Manchester United, we should be in real good stead.”

West Ham United U23s take on Everton U23s on Monday 19 April in a behind-closed-doors fixture. Kick-off is at 4pm; you can follow all the action with our live blog on from 3.30pm.

Please note that Academy fixtures will be played behind closed doors until further notice. Only key personnel will be admitted on site and the match will be played without supporters present, in line with safety guidelines and social distancing measures in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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