Armstrong Okoflex: It was a strong performance from West Ham United U21s
Armstrong Okoflex was delighted with West Ham United U21s' strong performance in the 2-1 victory against Ipswich Town in their Papa John’s Southern Group A opener.
The 19-year-old forward had the chance to score the winner from the spot after Jamal Baptiste had been fouled in the area by Town goalkeeper Tomas Holy.
And the confident attacker dispatched his spot-kick coolly into the bottom left-hand corner to give Dimitri Halajko’s side a well-earned win and the best possible start to their cup campaign.
The east Londoners faced off against an Ipswich side that were without a win so far in the 2021/22 season, but the hosts' starting XI was filled with experienced names.
However, this didn’t faze Okoflex or his team-mates, as they managed to get the job done and pick up an impressive win on the road.
"It was a tough game against a good League One side,” the young forward told whufc.com.
“The atmosphere in the ground was really good and overall. It was a good game for us. I feel like we pushed them well and it was a really strong performance from the team.
"I feel as though the opening goal was like a shock for us, it happened so quickly into the game. After that we just needed to be calm, go back to basics and try and get comfortable again. Once we did that, we were able to get on the ball and start building attacks, and then Keenan [Forson] scored a good goal.”
It was an end-to-end tussle in Suffolk, with both sides creating opportunities throughout the match. At times, Halajko’s men had to be disciplined and keep their shape, with the League One outfit struggling to break down a determined back line.
At the other end, Okoflex and his fellow attackers had sighters at goal to try and score the winner, but with the game looking like it would go to penalties, the mistake from Holy presented with Irishman with the opportunity from the spot.
“I wasn’t too sure if the goal was going to come at the end, or if we’d end up in a penalty shootout, but I felt like I was going to score in today’s game.
"Jamal [Baptiste] did well to win the penalty and when the referee gave it, I just knew I was going to score,” Okoflex smiled.
There was a lively atmosphere amongst the Ipswich Town faithful, who were looking to cheer their team to their first win of the new campaign, but Okoflex wasn’t fazed by the noise that they created, with the former Celtic man focused on what was happening on the pitch.
“I feel like when you’re on the pitch certain players pick up on the atmosphere more than others. I’ll be honest, I didn’t hear too much of it. People have asked me about if I was nervous about taking the penalty because of the noise and some flashing lights – I didn’t hear any of it,” he laughed.
“When the ball is in play, I don’t focus on what’s going on elsewhere, but when the ball is out I take a little bit more notice of it. They were a good crowd and they got behind the team, but I’m pleased that the players stood up to the occasion and managed to get the win.”
Next up for the development squad is a trip to Loughborough University to take on Derby County U23s on Monday 20 September. Kick-off is at 7pm and you can follow all the action on whufc.com!