Mark Robson was in ambivalent mood following West Ham United U23s’ 1-0 win over Blackburn Rovers U23s on Friday evening.
Once again, the U23s lead coach saw his side take an early lead when Kamarai Swyer opportunistically poked in Dan Chesters’ cross after 17 minutes, before holding onto that advantage to see out a win.
But whereas the young Hammers exerted an element of control in their win over Manchester City U23s in Robson’s first game in charge, Blackburn had several moments in the second half when they could have – and perhaps should have – drawn level, hitting the crossbar twice.
As it was, however, Robson’s side saw out a second successive 1-0 victory which, following Arsenal’s 5-3 loss at home to Derby County U23s on Friday, sees the West Ham development squad go two points clear at the top of the Premier League 2 Division 1 table at the halfway point of the season.
“I’m obviously pleased that the boys got the win and got the result,” Robson told whufc.com.
“I said to them after the game, however, that we hadn’t really dominated today. Blackburn were a really good side and caused us more problems than Manchester City did.
“We just didn’t quite get the flow tonight in possession and we didn’t control it well enough out of possession, so I’m a little bit disappointed with the overall performance.
“I thought Armstrong Okoflex was really good for us, particularly in the second half, so that was a big plus, and of course getting the three points and keeping the run going is great for the boys.
“I think tonight the performance wasn’t as good as last weekend. We lacked a bit of final product tonight. When we won the ball back, we gave it away too cheaply at times, so that’s something for us to look at and improve upon. We’ll certainly do that in training.”
The Hammers kept a fourth successive clean sheet at Rush Green Stadium on Friday, and have now gone 381 minutes without conceding a goal on home turf – a rarity in Academy football.
... our two centre-halves [Aji Alese and Jamal Baptiste] defended very, very well, and if we can keep doing that, clean sheets are very important
That record was maintained, in no small part, thanks to another brilliant defensive effort from the back four and an outstanding stop from Scotland U21 ‘stopper Brian Kinnear, who pulled off a spectacular flying one-handed save to tip a long-range Blackburn effort onto the woodwork.
“We rode our luck tonight to be fair,” Robson added. “Brian’s made a great save to tip it onto the crossbar – a fantastic save – and there were a couple of opportunities where Blackburn’ll be disappointed not to have got something from the game.
“Having said that, our two centre-halves [Aji Alese and Jamal Baptiste] defended very, very well, and if we can keep doing that, clean sheets are very important and play a big part in winning matches.
“It gives you a big platform to go on and win the game, and they did that again for us today. We held on, I thought, in the end, but the lads are working hard to keep teams out, and long may that continue.”
Robson was pleased to welcome back Alese, Baptiste, Dan Chesters and Sonny Perkins – a first-team debutant for West Ham on Thursday evening – into his starting XI, after all four U23s regulars travelled to Austria for the Club’s 2-0 win over Rapid Vienna in the UEFA Europa League.
“It was a great experience for them – and it was great to see Sonny get on as well,” the U23s lead coach smiled.
“It’s fantastic for the Academy.”