Even at the very start of your career as a professional footballer, these are sorts of nights you come to relish.
West Ham United U21s travel to Peterborough United on Tuesday evening in the second round of the Papa John’s Trophy, bidding to become the first side to reach the third stage of the competition in Academy of Football history.
They go into the game rightfully full of confidence, having secured three wins out of three in the group stages of the tournament: 3-1 and back-to-back 1-0 wins over Southend United, Colchester United and Portsmouth respectively.
While Peterborough present an imposing challenge – Darren Ferguson’s Posh have won nine of their opening 16 league games to sit fifth in League One – midfielder Keenan Forson believes the young Hammers will fear no task this season.
The tenacious 19-year-old midfielder was in excellent form in the latest outing for West Ham’s development squad, providing an energetic display at the heart of a compact midfield in the 2-0 win against an in-form Manchester United U23s side.
A battling team effort for the young Hammers sealed their first Premier League 2 win of the season on that occasion and Forson is certain that he and his teammates can take great confidence from the nature of that performance.
“It felt amazing to get our first three league points of the season,” he recalled.
“We’ve been working so hard in training trying to work out what’s not been going right – and what has – while trying to work to our strengths and our weaknesses. That paid off against Manchester United so we were really happy with our performance.
“Now, Tuesday’s another big occasion. We know Peterborough are a very tough team, so everyone’s just going to give it their all and hopefully we can get the result that we want.”
After an initially slow start to his campaign, Forson has now started each of the development squad’s last three games, reflecting his burgeoning confidence in Dmitri Halajko’s side.
I’ve had some great experiences in the Papa John’s Trophy and really enjoyed playing in it. Hopefully we can make more memories on Tuesday
The midfielder has a history of producing strong performances in the Papa John’s Trophy, most notably his development squad debut last season, which arrived when he entered the field at half-time in an incredible 5-4 comeback win at Newport County.
Forson was also imperious at Fratton Park earlier in the campaign, shielding his defence impeccably as the U21s restricted last season’s finalists Portsmouth to merely half-chances on the way to a 1-0 win.
The 19-year-old will therefore be looking to impress against a League One team once again, should he feature at the Weston Homes Stadium.
Forson explained: “Obviously the manager’s giving me the opportunity to play and I’m feeling happy, while just trying to build my confidence out and keep going. I love being out there on the pitch.
“I’ve had some great experiences in the Papa John’s Trophy and really enjoyed playing in it. Hopefully we can make more memories on Tuesday.”
The young Hammers’ results haven’t always reflected the general strength of their performances in Premier League 2 so far this season, but Forson believes the work the Irons are doing on the training pitch is turning the tide in that regard.
He noted: “In training we’ve also been working on more attacking aspects, trying to be more harsh on ourselves when it comes to hitting the back of the net more regularly.
“We’ve also been working on our defending – we got a clean sheet in our last game because we stayed compact as a unit. The defence blocked everything and everyone was putting in a hundred per cent.
“Everyone’s just sticking together. For example, sometimes people will be telling me, ‘Well done Keenan’ – just giving me that edge to push on. It’s a team effort overall.”
West Ham United Under-21s take on Peterborough United on Tuesday 8 December in the second round of the Papa John's Trophy. Kick-off is at 7pm; you can follow all the action with our live blog on whufc.com from 6.30pm.