Monday 06 Dec
Updated Monday 06 Dec 17:31

Mark Robson: It was such a good performance from start to finish

Mark Robson

Mark Robson cut a proud figure following West Ham United U23s’ superb 4-2 win away at Crystal Palace U23s on Monday afternoon.

Up against one of Premier League 2’s most in-form sides, whose starting XI featured players with top-flight experience, West Ham’s U23s’ lead coach was without a large number of regular performers for the trip to Crystal Palace Training Ground.

To emerge, therefore, with three points – having twice come from behind within the game, and doing so in heavy downpour and cold conditions – was testament to the collective strength of his squad.

As it was, a hat-trick from Armstrong Okoflex – two of the goals penalty kicks, won by Dan Chesters and Okoflex himself – was rounded off by Kamarai Swyer late on for a memorable, and quite superb, victory.

“It was a really good performance,” Robson beamed. “We had to make some changes, but for all for the right reasons. 

“We had a bit of a put-together team with one or two playing in unfamiliar positions – Bernardo [Rosa] at right-back and Jayden [Fevrier] at left-back, and we had young Michael [Forbes] in at centre-half – but I have to say I was really, really proud of the performance. 

“It was such a good performance from start to finish. We made two mistakes which cost us two goals, but apart from that we were excellent. 

“Out of possession we were brilliant today – really good. The work that [assistant coach] Steve Potts has been doing with the boys is obviously paying off, and it’s helping us because on the attacking side we were able to create more chances.”

The game marked the first U23s start in the career of 17-year-old centre-back Michael Forbes, this season’s U18s captain, whilst U18s regulars Regan Clayton – making his U23s debut – and Divin Mubama both came off the bench in the second half. 

Rosa and Fevrier, meanwhile, have both played as full-backs before at U23s level, both in recent months have most often featured much higher up the pitch.

To come from behind twice at the home of a talented Crystal Palace team demonstrated superb character, Robson believes.

He explained: “We said to the boys before the game that this was going to be a real challenge, but we asked them ‘Can you compete against them?’ 

“We competed really well. There were some top, top performances today, not just individually, but as a team. 

“We were really good as a team and that was my message at the end of the game. Out of possession as a team, we were fantastic, and it gave us the opportunity to create the chances that we did on the attacking side.”

Steve Potts with Robson
Steve Potts with Robson

As well as his side’s collective efforts, Robson paid tribute to all three U18s, as well as young defender Sean Tarima who was also on the bench, for their maturity and mental strength in learning lessons from the opportunity and growing as young players.

It’s brilliant that these lads have had the chance to step into the U23s and we can see them. They did really well

Mark Robson

“I thought they did really well,” Robson explained. “I’ve had them for a couple of training sessions over the last few weeks, so I’m starting to see some of the younger players in action. 

“They all adapted to the U23s today and did really well. Young Regan, for their second goal, jumped slightly [out of position]. 

“He has been playing wing-back and we put him in as a left-back. I had a chat with him afterwards and he said, straight away afterwards, he realised he needed to stay in.A couple of minutes later, the ball came over and he did exactly what he needed to do, so I’m really pleased for him. 

“It’s brilliant that these lads have had the chance to step into the U23s and we can see them. They did really well.”

As for hat-trick scorer Okoflex, who now has four goals in his last two U23s games, Robson added further praise.

The lead coach noted: “Armstrong played really well today. In the offensive third I thought he was a real threat and even in the middle part of the pitch, we were just talking about tidying up a little bit and moving the ball a little quicker. 

“Sometimes you can’t beat two or three men – you need to move it, run and get it back further down the pitch – and I thought he did parts of that really well today. 

“If he can add that to his game, and we can get him in areas where he’s one against one with people, he’s a massive, massive threat, and I thought he was good at that today.”

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