Dmitri Halajko: West Ham United U23s’ quality shone through in spells


Dmitri Halajko

West Ham United U23s lead coach Dmitri Halajko was generally pleased with his side’s output in their opening pre-season fixture of the season: a 4-1 win at Loughborough University on Saturday afternoon.

Having undertaken a six-day training camp at the University’s state-of-the-art facilities, the Hammers’ development squad went up against their United Counties League-based football club as an acid test of their progress up to that point.

They duly got off to the best possible start when a superb run from Amadou Diallo ended with a precise finish to match from the young winger, before new U23s signing Armstrong Oko-Flex won and converted a penalty kick with 25 minutes played.

Loughborough University offered stiff opposition, however, and despite Bernardo Rosa tucking home a simple finish to treble Halajko’s team’s lead after half-an-hour, the home team called the West Ham backline some strife in an entertaining first half.

Indeed, Loughborough went on to pull a goal back midway through the second period through Tongsoung Lee, before second-half substitute Mesaque Dju rounded off the scoring for West Ham late on.

We couldn’t break them down with ease – we had to work the ball with quality to break them down. At times we did that

Dmitri Halajko

Halajko told “It was a really good first match, and a good challenge point against a well-organised Loughborough University team. As university teams go, they’re probably the best in the country, so it was a good game. 

“It was a tight match. Our quality shone through in the end, but it wasn’t easy and we had to work hard and press after the ball.

"We couldn’t break them down with ease – we had to work the ball with quality to break them down. At times we did that, and that was good.”

With the focus of the training camp being to instil a collective football philosophy in the group, Halajko feels the U23s demonstrated their progress in patches of the game.

“The intent was certainly there,” he explained. “The intent, what they were trying to do and how they were trying to play, was certainly there. 

“Sometimes, the execution could be better, and that’s the bit we need to brush up on. When we did get the execution right, I thought we looked really good and really exciting, but sometimes that execution just let us down. 

“We’re not there a hundred per cent on our execution but the intent and what they were trying to do, and the effort they put in, was top class.”


West Ham United U23s

Goalscorer Oko-Flex was among a number of fresh faces representing the U23s during the victory, with the young attacker making his non-competitive development squad debut alongside fellow summer signing Thierry Nevers.

As the match wore on, Halajko also introduced a whole host of U18s players to the action from the bench, and the U23s lead coach was pleased with their general displays.

“The new boys were really good,” Halajko said. “They’ve joined in with the lads and feel part of it already in every way. 

“They’re learning how we want to play, and they have taken that on board and we’ve seen improvement even in this week, so it’s been a really good training camp for them.

“I think the U18s can be really proud of their performances. They were playing against boys who were two, three or four years older than them and it didn’t look like it at times. 

“They acquitted themselves really well, and that hopefully gives them a little taste of what this standard looks like. They’ll be hoping to get there on more occasions this coming season.”