Keenan Forson: U23s will keep on fighting to stay up
As West Ham United U23s prepare to enter the final stretch of their 2020/21 fixture programme, midfielder Keenan Forson believes his side have it all to play for.
The Hammers recorded a vital victory in their last Premier League 2 outing two-and-a-half weeks ago, seeing off Leicester City U23s 3-1 at Rush Green Stadium to close the gap between themselves and the Foxes, who sit just outside the relegation zone.
That deficit now stands at just four points, with West Ham’s development squad having six matches left to play including a game in hand; Tuesday evening’s clash with Chelsea U23s in east London.
Two of the Hammers’ remaining games take place this week, with a testing tie against last season’s Premier League 2 Division 1 champions Chelsea rapidly followed up by a final long trip of the season to Manchester United U23s on Friday night.
Having gathered some momentum with their performances prior to the international break, Forson – a goalscorer in that win against Leicester – knows that there is still plenty of work to do, but feels his side have the ability and strength of will with which to do it.
“We know it’s possible for us to stay up in Division 1,” Forson told whufc.com.
“That’s what we’re working so hard to do – we’re trying to stay up in this league because it’s really good developmentally for our football.
“After our last win, we’re not just going to take the stress out and think we’ll stay up – we’re going to keep fighting and keep working hard for our right to play in it.”
That battle begins with the visit of Chelsea to Rush Green Stadium on Tuesday, with the Blues – undoubtedly a top-quality side in development football terms – themselves enduring a more challenging campaign so far this season.
Having won last season’s Premier League 2 Division 1 title with an unbeaten record, Chelsea this season sit sixth in the table, 12 points behind runaway league leaders Manchester City.
Managed by former academy graduate and first-team player Andy Myers, the Blues’ development squad have recorded one win in their last seven league games – but did pick up an impressive point at home to City in a 2-2 draw prior to the international break.
When West Ham and Chelsea’s U23s met at Kingsmeadow back in September, an extremely tight game ensued, with Dion Rankine’s 76th-minute goal ultimately tipping the scales in the hosts’ favour.
West Ham could arguably feel hard done-to that day, but the Hammers were more clinical in the recent 3-1 win over Leicester – a trait which Forson hopes they will maintain across the season’s climax.
“I really enjoyed last game,” the 19-year-old admitted.
“We had a sloppy first half I think, but we were happy just to stay in the game, and then I was delighted to grab a goal for myself and the team.
“We’ve had lots of games this season where we’ve been on top but haven’t got the result that we wanted, so we were just happy that we got the result we deserved against Leicester.
“Going forwards, we know we need to stay in the game and, when they come, take our chances.”
West Ham United U23s take on Chelsea U23s on Tuesday 6 April in a behind-closed-doors fixture. Kick-off is at 7pm; you can follow all the action with our live blog on whufc.com from 6.30pm.
Please note that Academy fixtures will be played behind closed doors until further notice. Only key personnel will be admitted on site and the match will be played without supporters present, in line with safety guidelines and social distancing measures in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.