Nathan Trott and his West Ham United Under 23 coach Liam Manning admitted his team were taught a lesson as they were beaten 3-1 by Middlesbrough in their final home Premier League 2 match of the season.
The young Hammers, chasing a play-off spot in the division, were keen to give their top five hopes a real boost with a positive result on Monday but went down to their north east opponents.
James Husband’s deflected free-kick gave the visitors the lead in stoppage time at the end of the first half and they increased their advantage in the second period through Hayden Coulson and Marcus Tavernier.
Substitute Anthony Scully pulled one back for the Hammers with a fantastic free-kick but it was not enough and Manning was left disappointed.
He said, “It was a big lesson for us tonight. We had large amounts of possession but there wasn’t enough quality in the final third to make it count.
“We gave away some needless free-kicks and we conceded and didn’t defend the set-pieces well enough.
“At 23’s level, we do a bit opposition analysis and look at where we can hurt them, and it’s a mark of respect that Boro came down and set up like they did.
“We’ve struggled a couple of times this season when teams come and do that and it’s a problem that we have to solve and from a development point of view it’s a big lesson.”
One huge positive for the hosts was the comeback of Reece Burke from injury, the centre-back making his first appearance since being forced out of action while on loan at Wigan Athletic.
“Reece has been out a little while so it was good for him to get some minutes under his belt,” Manning continued. “He’s built up from playing Stevenage in a friendly last week and it’s good for him to come through 90 minutes physically fine, so that’s a positive.
“Also on the plus side, Anthony Scully scored a brilliant free-kick. He’s got that, and he’s now adding the other bits to his game as all of them have got to do.
“There are key areas he needs to focus on, and I think it highlights it tonight, the importance of coming in and doing it properly every day.
“The West Brom is the final league fixture and we need to move on from tonight, work really hard in training and make sure that when we play them, the boys are ready to go because we need a result ultimately.”