West Ham: Allardyce bemoans cup exit
Sam Allardyce's West Ham side went crashing out of the Capital One Cup at the first hurdle after they were beaten on penalties by Sheffield United.
The manager said despite a good performance, he was mightily disappointed with the result, while also heaping praise on the visitors goalkeeper Mark Howard.
"At the end of the day, it's our fault," he said. "There was an inspired performance by the Sheffield United goalkeeper. Whatever we seemed to throw at him, he seemed to deal with it.
"It's a frustrating night after a good performance by players who have just joined us.
"Enner (Valencia) played and had to play the full 120 minutes because (Diafra) Sakho tweaked his back, Ravel Morrison only played half an hour of a pre-season game before tonight and we had three under-21 players who were all very impressive."
As well as missing out on the chance of cup glory, being eliminated from the competition also disappointed the former Newcastle and Blackburn boss because it meant it would be very difficult for the fringe and youth players to establish themselves in the first team.
Allardyce stressed the new under-21 league failed to allow players to develop.
"The Capital One Cup is the only competition some other players can show me they deserve a place in the first team," he said. "The rest of the time we can only train them because the under-21 league is not competitive enough.
"It's a disappointment when you have a 25 man squad, which we name two days after the window shuts, a lot of them will have to keep themselves fit by training and not in the Capital One Cup and making a statement to me.
"The reason why Adrian was picked as our number one goalkeeper was because of his performances in this competition that got us to the semi-finals."
Sakho, who was making his first start in claret and blue since his £3.5m switch from French Ligue 2 outfit FC Metz, gave the Hammers a deserved lead just before half time with a glancing header.
Not long after the interval, Winston Reid made a uncharacteristic mistake, forcing the ball into his own net from a dangerous ball from Sheffield United left back Bob Harris.
As nothing could separate the team after 90 minutes, the game went into extra time, with Stewart Downing and Enner Valencia, another debutant making his full start for the hosts, forcing Mark Howard into some impressive stops inside the 30 minutes.
In the penalty shoot-out, Mark Noble, Stewart Downing, Mauro Zarate and Diego Poyet all slotted home there spot kicks, while Neil Collins, Ben Davies, Marc McNulty and Jay McEveley all dispatched well for the visitors.
However, Valencia, who was full of energy and promise all game, had his penalty saved, and Blades' captain Michael Doyle sent the visiting fans home happy, slotting past Jussi Jaaskelainen with ease.
West Ham will be looking to get back on track this Saturday, when they are back in Premier League action as they take on Southampton at Upton Park, before the international break.