West Ham United forward Jarrod Bowen was left rueful that his team were unable to capitalise on a position of well-earned authority during Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester United.
Inspired by the direct running of their No20, the Irons were well on top for much of the match against the Red Devils at London Stadium, but were made to pay for only taking one of numerous presentable opportunities.
Bowen came close to doubling that advantage at the start of the second half, and the likes of Pablo Fornals and Sebastien Haller also came close to adding to Tomas Soucek’s first-half opener, but it was not to be in the end.
In the closing 30 minutes of the game, Manchester United’s forwards showed efficiency where West Ham’s did not – and that was the nature of the harsh, but critical, learning curve Bowen feels his team were on.
He explained: “Especially in the first half, I think we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit by not taking the chances that we had and that we created.
“Especially against a top team like Manchester United, you can’t miss those chances, and then they brought on world-class players in a world-class team, and they make a difference and they punish you.
“It’s a lesson for us to learn. No-one misses on purpose but it’s just about learning to take our chances and stay on top of the game and put the game to bed when we should have.
“3-1 was really harsh on us, but with that little ten-minute spell they had where they were clinical with their chances, we need to look at that and take our chances when they come.”
The Hammers were buoyed on Saturday by the return of Claret and Blue-clad supporters to London Stadium, with 2,000 in attendance to roar their side on for the first time since February.
You can see what it does to the fans when a tackle goes in and you win the ball higher up. It really gets them off their seats and it really gives us a push as well to keep on top of our game
At the centre of their vocal support, Bowen credited the West Ham fans for the influence they had on the whole side, only regretting the end result of the match which marked their return.
“I think without the ball [it influenced] our work-rate when we won the ball much higher up the pitch,” he recalled.
“You can see what it does to the fans when a tackle goes in and you win the ball higher up. It really gets them off their seats and it really gives us a push as well to keep on top of our game.
“We always knew in the second half, after being on top so much in the first half, we expected a reaction [from Manchester United].
“We probably took our foot off the gas a little bit, which is disappointing because we should have just kept on top of it. We had chances to get more goals on the board.”
After only a second defeat in nine Premier League matches, West Ham will now look to bounce back at the first time of asking when they travel to Leeds United’s Elland Road on Friday evening.
Despite the end result, Bowen saw plenty of promising signs in the Hammers’ display for their challenging festive fixture list ahead.
The No20 noted: “I think we all knew in the group what we’re capable of, and that first-half performance really was one of our better performances this season.
“You can’t always it up for 90 minutes. It’s impossible because different things can happen in the game, they reacted to it, but like I said if we keep playing like that we can eke out the results to come.
“Like I said before, it’s just down to us to take the chances when they come our way.”