Mark Robson: West Ham United U23s gave it everything in win over Manchester City
West Ham United U23s gave every ounce of effort available in their 1-0 win over Manchester City U23s on Saturday afternoon, according to new lead coach Mark Robson.
The former Hammers midfielder enjoyed victory on his first outing in charge of the West Ham development squad, celebrating a successful return to East London which culminated in his young players going top – however temporarily – of the Premier League 2 Division 1 table.
Up against the reigning division champions, West Ham's U23s faced stretches of play without the ball but looked the sharper team with it; despite having just 45 per cent possession to City’s 55, they enjoyed 14 shots to the visitors’ three.
It took just one of those – the only shot on target in the game, from Sonny Perkins in the second minute – to clinch a win that takes the U23s four points clear of City and two points ahead of Arsenal U23s, who face Blackburn away on Monday night.
“I thought the lads did really well,” Robson told whufc.com.
“We’ve put some stuff to them in the last couple of days, both in and out of possession, and I just said to them after the game that there will be lots of stuff which we’ll clip out to show how well they took it on board.
“I don’t think our goalkeeper, Krisztian Hegyi, had anything to save in the second half, so defensively we were very good, and we had some great chances in the second half in particular – we perhaps could have won more comfortably.
“I thought the players gave everything today. They’re a good bunch and very much together as a group, which is always a good sign.
“In general, their work ethic was good. That’s what I asked them at the start: as a team, we had to work together, because you don’t get anywhere as individuals. You have to work with the players around you and I thought we did that really well today.”
A tight game settled by an early goal was symptomatic of a match-up between two high-quality sides in Premier League 2, with both teams playing with great intensity as they sought to press the ball at every opportunity.
It was a really good experience and I thought we restricted them to limited chances and, from our point of view, we created a number of good ones
Mirroring their first team, Manchester City U23s’ desire to play out from the back in particular poses unique challenges, and Robson was content that his players will have learned greatly from a fixture settled by the finer margins.
He reflected: “I think Manchester City pose you a different problem to lots of teams just because of the way they play. There is lots of rotation, lots of movement, so we just had to be patient, stay calm and keep our shape, and I thought we did that really well.
“That’s the good thing about this league: you’ll play teams like that, and like Arsenal, who do pose you different kinds of problems. We also played Gillingham a couple of weeks ago in the Papa John’s Trophy and that was a completely different type of game in terms of them being quite direct.
“It was a really good experience and I thought we restricted them to limited chances and, from our point of view, we created a number of good ones.”
Reflecting on the overall performance, Robson was pleased his young players applied themselves so well to the task in hand at the end of his first week in charge.
He smiled: “There were some really good performances. The back four were really good and our keeper’s distribution today was excellent.
“Our midfield four did their job really well and kept compact, kept their shape and made it hard for Man City.
“There were some really good performances – not just one or two, but five or six of them – so long may that continue.
“They have to keep performing and get even better. I thought we were good today, but there’s still lots more to come.”