‘I would have liked more challenges’ - Hurst happy to end pre-season against West Ham
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Facing West Ham this afternoon is the step up in quality manager Paul Hurst has been craving for his Ipswich Town players during pre-season.
The Blues have lost 2-0 at Braintree before winning 1-0 against Crawley, Barnet and MK Dons during pre-season, but today’s test against the Premier League Hammers is set to give Hurst’s men a thorough workout, in what is their final dress rehearsal before the Championship season begins.
Hurst would have liked some tougher encounters during the summer but is now looking forward to seeing what his side are capable of against Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
“I would have liked more challenges, no disrespect to who we have played,” he said.
“I would have preferred some tougher games and that’s something next pre-season, if it’s down to myself to sort, that we will be looking at.
“Every game’s a challenge and if you look at the scorelines we certainly haven’t blown anyone away, but if you look at the games we’ve had a lot of the ball and how much have we really been tested? How many games could I have perhaps gone in goal and still had a chance of maybe keeping a clean sheet.
“From that point of view I’m glad that the opposition is a step up and I’d have liked another one, if not two teams to really stretch us and have more of the possession.
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“I think you also have to look at the players and how they react to coming up against better players and even to the crowd.
“We know a lot of them will have been there and done that sort of thing before but it’s new. Maybe we are playing a little bit differently so do they take that on board or do they hide away a little bit and not rise to the occasion.”
While today’s game is Hurst’s last chance to see his players in action before the start of the season, he won’t take any unnecessary risks with his team selection.
Cole Skuse is struggling with a thigh problem, Joe Garner has only just returned from knee trouble, Teddy Bishop and Emyr Huws are battling back from long-term injuries and Tom Adeyemi is not yet training due to an Achilles issue.
“We always want to try and win every game but I’m looking at it and thinking what team we can put out, which won’t help in terms of trying to work,” he said.
“Nobody will be risked if there is any thought whatsoever,” Hurst said. because I’m not prepared to take that chance of maybe having a stronger team for Saturday but then losing them for when it really matters.
“Cole is one I can’t afford to lose. I think he was generally better than we expected and I think if you asked Cole he would probably tell you he was ok to play. We like that attitude but this isn’t a league game and, if we lose him, then we’re really starting to struggle.
“Unless there’s a dramatic improvement, and I really don’t see that, then he won’t be involved.”
West Ham have sold their full allocation of more than 4,000 tickets for this afternoon’s game, in which Lukasz Fabianski could make his first appearance in goal following his summer move from Swansea.
New signings Jack Wilshere, Felipe Anderson and Fabian Balbuena could all be involved, along with Hammers captain Mark Noble, who spent three months on loan with the Blues in 2006.