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Michail Antonio already targeting Europa Conference League glory for West Ham

Michail Antonio (right) fired West Ham in front at Brighton (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Michail Antonio (right) fired West Ham in front at Brighton (Gareth Fuller/PA)

West Ham forward Michail Antonio is already targeting Europa Conference League glory following an anticlimactic end to a memorable Premier League season.

The Hammers blew a major opportunity for another crack at the Europa League after letting slip a lead to lose 3-1 at Brighton on the final day.

Antonio opened the scoring at the Amex Stadium but a second-half capitulation prevented David Moyes’ men leapfrogging Manchester United into sixth position.

The London club, who were beaten by eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt in the last four of the Europa League earlier this month, must be content with a place in the play-off round of European football’s third-tier tournament next term.

While manager Moyes was furious with his side’s performance on the south coast, Antonio believes the club will eventually look back on a gruelling 56-game campaign with pride and is eager for another run in continental competition.

“Obviously it’s been a hard season with a lot of games,” he told the club website.

“We wanted to get into the Europa League again but we’ve got the Conference League and we’ve got to take all the positives we can so that hopefully next year we can win that.

“It’s been a great season because we’ve got into the Europa League semi-finals but still qualified for Europe next year.

“Obviously we’re annoyed right now because we wanted to achieve something else and get Europa League instead of Conference but it’s one of those things where, as we go away for our holidays and look back over the season, we’ll think it’s been a good season.”

Sunday afternoon’s visit to Sussex included a 550th and final West Ham appearance for retiring club captain Mark Noble.

The 35-year-old midfielder, who made his Hammers debut in 2004, is delighted to be leaving a lasting legacy at his boyhood club.

“To qualify for Europe twice in a row, with what we’ve done already this year in Europe, is a great achievement,” he said.

“This club will be here for a lot longer than we all are, so to leave with my name associated with this club is pretty special for my family.

“To call it a day on my terms and on a season like this is incredible.

“Hopefully I’ll come to watch the games sooner rather than later but I want to say a last thank you to the fans for the last 18 years because we’ve done it together.”

Brighton finished in the top half of the Premier League for the first time following their superb fightback.

Second-half goals from Joel Veltman, Pascal Gross and Danny Welbeck pushed Albion into ninth place on the back of just one defeat from their final nine fixtures.

Seagulls captain Lewis Dunk is eager for further progression next season.

“It has been a long old season with a lot of ups and downs but to finish it in the way we did has been unbelievable,” the defender told his club’s website.

“We wanted to get into the top 10 and to accomplish it is brilliant – but we have to go again next year and try and do even better.

“You have got to have ambition but the Premier League can be hard, as we found out a few weeks ago.

“We have come a long way as a club and I’ve been lucky to be on the whole journey from Withdean to the new stadium but we want more.”