Dmitri Halajko: West Ham United U23s have to play against these kinds of challenges
Dmitri Halajko was slightly disappointed with West Ham United’s U23 performance against Ebbsfleet United in a 2-1 pre-season loss on Saturday afternoon, but believes they will have learned from the experience.
A week after the development team kicked off their preseason program with a productive training camp at Loughborough University – culminating in a 4-1 victory over their hosts – they were back in action against Ebbsfleet , southern team of the National League.
The first-team not playing a game, Halajko was able to name a solid starting XI for the Under-23s, but the young Hammers started off slow and struggled to get their much more experienced opposition under control.
Ebbsfleet made full use of their 1-0 halftime lead and, although Nathan Holland’s precise strike brought them to level in the opening moments of the second half, a long late ball grabbed the defense. of West Ham on their heels, allowing Elliott Romain to sprint behind and win it for the home team.
The nature of the match – played by extremely hot temperatures in Kent – proved invaluable in the development of the Hammers, Halajko believes, with Ebbsfleet’s roster including players like captain Lee Martin, who has more than 250 appearances in Football League to his credit. credit.
“We are really disappointed with our performance in the first half,” said Halajko. “These were not the levels we have to go to. I know it’s the start of the season, but we’re not going to make excuses – we’re going to say it wasn’t enough.
“We looked at each other at half-time, had a few words and started the second half more like ourselves. We came back into the game and I thought that in the second half we were the better team.
“We are disappointed with their second goal – it was quite naive – but the second half was an improvement on the first, where we were really far from our levels.
“We were playing against experienced players and that’s why we love these games, because that’s what our guys need to play against: people who have played 200 or 300 games and have a bit of know-how. That’s why we also have Southend United and Crawley Town.
“We can see if they can meet this challenge, and we will when we get better, but today we haven’t.”
A number of young West Ham players who made the trip to St Andrew’s with manager David Moyes’ first team were on display at Northfleet, including Ajibola Alese, Jamal Baptiste, Pierre Ekwah and Nathan Holland.
A grand total of six Academy Football players also made their non-competitive first-team debuts in this week’s friendlies against Leyton Orient and Northampton Town, and for Halajko such experiences are invaluable in the journey of a U23 player.
He added: “Our players have had a lot of sessions and a lot of minutes with the first team, sometimes training with them and sometimes with us.
“We’re not yet established as an Under 23 team, but we weren’t really looking for a team performance as such – we were looking for people to bring their best individual play.
“We haven’t really had a practice all together because the first team have been so good using our guys this preseason. This is not a problem for us because their individual development is our priority.
“It was a great opportunity for our guys to go show the first team what they’re doing. Today, individually, we were still a long way from what we think our individual performances should be. “
Young Hammers’ visit to Kuflink Stadium was also the first game many of them will have played in front of fans since the Papa John’s Trophy match at Peterborough United in December 2020.
West Ham fans turned to Ebbsfleet in large numbers and with healthy voices, and Halajko was keen to highlight the impact they had on an entertaining contest.
The head coach concluded: “It definitely adds something to the game – to any game – without a shadow of a doubt. It didn’t feel like a preseason game, and the fans were the main reason.
“From our perspective, if someone paid money to watch us play, it’s not a friendly match. Right now, you have to respect that. It means it’s a good game because people donated their afternoon and some money to come and watch you play.
“We didn’t want to treat it like that and we wanted to give the people who were in the ground something worth watching.”
The next stop on a busy West Ham United Under-23 preseason schedule is a trip to Southend United’s Roots Hall on Friday, July 23.