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Owen Bailey West Ham.jpg

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Bailey speaks after play-off final agony

Written by Dan King

Just over a week after Rafa Benítez’s first team lifted the Sky Bet Championship in front of their jubilant supporters, a podium was once again erected in the St. James’ Park centre-circle on Tuesday night and silverware handed to the triumphant captain.

But this time, it was not Newcastle who were celebrating. West Ham United's under-23s had narrowly beaten their Magpies counterparts in the Premier League 2 second division play-off final and the cries of 'we are going up' were coming from the young men in claret and blue.

Tom Heardman had given Peter Beardsley's side a 19th-minute lead but strikes either side of half time from Toni Martinez turned the game on its head and sealed promotion for the Hammers.

Yet, despite the disappointment that was written all over the faces of Owen Bailey and his team-mates, they watched and applauded - sportingly, magnanimously and no doubt enviously - from the sidelines as West Ham's youngsters were presented with the trophy and their medals.

"We felt it was appropriate; if it was us in the same position, on the stage, I'm sure it would have been the same," 18-year-old defender Bailey told nufc.co.uk.

"We were just showing a bit of respect to them, really, but we're gutted, because we've worked so hard during the season and we've just fallen short tonight.

"We started well but then we just didn't do enough. It was a great effort over the season - it was just a pity we couldn't get the result we wanted in the end.

"We flew out of the traps again, like we did against Fulham last time out, but we just couldn’t sustain it.

"They got the goal before half time which made our heads go down. They then got the second one, and we were chasing the game after that which was difficult.

"They were two good goals (from Spanish striker Martinez) but it's one of those things, sometimes they go in and sometimes they don't.

"Sometimes there's nothing you can do about it - it just falls one side of the post, and they were two good strikes."

Newcastle, though, can be proud of their campaign at second-string level.

They finished third in the division two table, then beat Fulham in the play-off semi-finals - all while the likes of Adam Armstrong, Ivan Toney, Alex Gilliead and Sean Longstaff gained valuable loan experience elsewhere.

Players like Bailey - an old-fashioned but cultured centre-back who has been with the club since the age of seven - were handed opportunities as a result, and took them with both hands.

And the teenager said: "It's been really good. There are loads of positives to take from the season.

"All the lads have been really good this season and I'm fortunate to have played a few games for this side, so hopefully I'll continue that next season."

"It was a great effort over the season - it was just a pity we couldn't get the result we wanted in the end."

Owen Bailey

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