Friday 03 Dec
Updated Friday 03 Dec 16:16

Mark Robson: West Ham United U23s produced a performance of two halves

Mark Robson

West Ham United U23s lead coach Mark Robson was pleased with the first-half performance of his players in the 4-2 win over Swansea City U23s on Friday, but felt their second-half showing presented aspects to work on.

Going into their third Premier League Cup group-stage game knowing that a win would put them in a strong position to seal qualification for the knockout stages, the Hammers made a bright start and largely controlled the first half, fashioning some presentable chances.

When the breakthrough did arrive in South Wales, it was a special moment for U23s captain Ajibola Alese, who carried the ball over the halfway line and, powering through the Swansea ranks, reached the penalty box before stabbing home.

That lead was doubled moments later when Alese was fouled from a corner and Dylan Tombides Award winner Jayden Fevrier, on his first Academy start since March after recovering from injury, converted the spot kick.

Armstrong Okoflex trebled that advantage shortly after the restart but momentum swung between the two sides from then on, with Swansea twice reducing the deficit to just two goals either side of Mesaque Dju’s late penalty – 4-2 the final score.

“I thought we played really well in the first half – I was really impressed with the boys,” Robson told “There were a couple of sloppy bits of play, but in the main, it was really good. 

“We controlled the game I felt, which was really pleasing, and the work we’d done on the training ground leading up to the game worked. It was a really good half. 

“I’m disappointed with the second half. I felt that we just got sloppy and lacked a little bit of energy. We didn’t move the ball anywhere near as quickly as we did in the first half, so I was a little bit disappointed with that. 

“Although we went 3-0 up early in the second half, we then let them back into the game by getting sloppy, so I’m really pleased with the first half and some parts of the second, but in the main the second was disappointing.”

Robson made seven changes to his starting XI for the trip to the Landore Training Centre, with many players previously on the cusp of the side handed the opportunity to start the Cup game.

We call him Messi now! What a great goal from Aji

Mark Robson

Discussing the side’s composition, Robson noted: “I thought firstly as a team, first half, we played really well both in and out of possession. We had a game plan that we stuck to, and everybody did it really well. 

“I thought there were a couple of good performances from one or two or haven’t been playing regularly. One or two just needed time on the pitch, so it was good to see them out there – it’s the first time I’d seen them in a game since I’ve been here. 

“Hopefully we can build upon that for them, with their performances, and keep them knocking on the door saying ‘I want to play’.”

Robson was also pleased to see both Alese and Fevrier on the scoresheet again in Claret and Blue – particularly given the remarkable nature of his captain’s opening strike.

“We call him Messi now!” Robson laughed. “What a great goal from Aji. 

“He stepped in and was really positive. He just kept going and kept going and kept going, and finished it off really well – although I need to look back at it, I haven’t quite seen the finish yet! 

“Either way, it went in, and it came from inside his own half, so I’m really pleased for Aji. He’s a great lad, he’s the skipper of the team and he leads by example, and he showed that in that moment.

“It was Jayden’s first start since March. He got a little bit tired in the second half, I felt, so the plan was to give him as much time as we could. 

“I think he’s feeling his way back into it and it’s going to take a bit of time, but it was great for him to get on the scoresheet. I think everyone was really pleased for him.”

A return to Premier League 2 action – away at Crystal Palace U23s on Monday afternoon – is the development squad’s next assignment.