Armstrong Okoflex: West Ham United U23s showed our resilience again in win over Crystal Palace
West Ham United U23s showed their mental strength in twice coming from behind to defeat Crystal Palace U23s 4-2, hat-trick scorer Armstrong Okoflex believes.
The 19-year-old winger was in sparkling form for the development squad on Monday afternoon, scoring another treble in a London derby to turn things around at Palace’s academy training ground.
The win – combined with other results on Monday – sees West Ham now sit four points clear at the top of the Premier League 2 table.
And Okoflex, who scored two equalising goals either side of half-time – the first a penalty, the second a fine finish from Pierre Ekwah’s precise pass – was pleased to complete his haul with another penalty, won and converted by the forward himself.
“It was a tough game, Crystal Palace away,” Okoflex told whufc.com.
“Last time out, they gave us a good game when we won 1-0 [in September], so we knew it was going to be a tough game, but we had good tactics from the coach and we went out and fulfilled the game plan that was given to us.
“We have a strong squad and we always knew that we could get back into the game, no matter what the score was. We’re resilient, and we showed that again.
“It was good to come from behind twice. We showed how strong mentally we are, and it was a good win.”
Okoflex’s successful penalties were his fifth and sixth such converted kicks of the season, with the forward proving ruthless from 12 yards this campaign.
We’ve got players going up with the first team, so I think it’s great when players go up and it gives chances for other, younger players to come up as well
“It’s a free shot on goal really!” he joked. “It’s just about putting the ball in the back of the net. Sometimes I have different ways.
“I don’t really think about it too much, I just try and score, which luckily I managed today twice.”
West Ham’s collective performance was made all the more impressive by the composition of their line-up, with U18s captain and Northern Ireland U19s centre-back Michael Forbes making his first U23s start in South London.
Left-back Regan Clayton made his U23s debut as a substitute early in the second half and Divin Mubama, another U18s regular, helped the team see out the closing stages successfully.
“Of course, I think it’s great bringing the younger ones up,” Okoflex smiled. “It’s a system throughout the Club.
“We’ve got players going up with the first team, so I think it’s great when players go up and it gives chances for other, younger players to come up as well.
“They did well. Divin came on and worked his socks off. Regan did well and held his own at left-back, and Michael started and did very well at centre-back. That’s what they wanted, and if I were in that position as well, that’s what I’d want: chances.”
Having now scored four goals in his last two games, and 12 goals in 16 appearances for the development squad since signing from Celtic in the summer, Okoflex is clearly relishing life at West Ham under new U23s lead coach Mark Robson.
He concluded: “He [Robson] has a certain gameplan and it allows me to get the ball in areas I want to get the ball in, where I can really make myself more dangerous.
“I get it wide in one v ones, taking on players, expressing myself, and that gives me opportunities in the final third.
“Obviously, I have to work on some things – maybe the defensive part of the game and middle stuff – but in the final third, he allows me to express myself.”