Joseph Anang: West Ham U23s will keep their composure in season finale
Goalkeeper Joseph Anang is confident that he and his West Ham United U23s teammates will keep cool heads when it comes to Friday’s crucial Premier League 2 season finale.
The young Hammers go into their final game of the development football campaign with their destiny in their own hands.
A win against Arsenal U23s at Rush Green Stadium on Friday evening would not only secure the Academy of Football side's Premier League 2 Division 1 status for next season, but also see them leapfrog the Gunners into a tenth-placed finish.
Sitting above Leicester City U23s in the relegation zone by just a point, with a slightly inferior goal difference, a draw against Arsenal could also prove enough for security – but would leave the Hammers nervously awaiting the Foxes’ result at home to mid-table Liverpool on Monday afternoon.
Yet Anang and his teammates can go into Friday’s game with confidence, having beaten Arsenal 2-1 at Meadow Park on Saturday afternoon in a fixture they dominated throughout.
That result means West Ham’s U23s have recorded four wins from their last seven Premier League 2 games, with just a sole defeat – by a narrow margin to confirmed champions Manchester City – in that time.
For Anang, Friday evening’s game will be about calmness, composure – and the will to fight.
“We all know that Arsenal are a top side,” the 20-year-old reflected.
“We got the three points against them last time out, so we know they’re going to come to our home ground at Rush Green feeling that loss, trying to get revenge, and we’ve just got to be ready for that.
“We are trying to stay up but right now it’s not guaranteed. The boys are keeping calm and keeping their composure.
“We know that football is about fighting, and that the team that fights the best will get the win. We fought the hardest in North London, so we’re looking forward to the next game.
“If we fight as well as we did on Saturday, I believe we’ll get the three points. We look forward to the game on Friday to find out where we’ll finish.”
Anang enjoyed a relatively quiet afternoon at Meadow Park, with only one of Arsenal’s six efforts being on target – Nikolaj Moller’s 33rd-minute penalty.
We’ve gone back to the training ground and we'll keep working hard to try to get three points in the return game
The Gunners’ line-up is likely to be bolstered by the return of a number of players from FA Youth Cup duty, so their head coach, Steve Bould, may possess alternative options for the fixture.
Nevertheless, Anang feels he and his teammates can draw confidence from the overall team performance on Saturday, having had 24 efforts on goal, 13 on targets, and 58 per cent of the possession.
Defending rigorously and attacking incisively, Anang hopes for a repeat at Rush Green come Friday.
He confirmed: “It was a very good win against a very tough Arsenal side. Obviously for us, we are trying our best to stay in the league and not go down next season.
“It was a good three points for us. We’ve gone back to the training ground and we'll keep working hard to try to get three points in the return game.
“That’s the thing about the boys – it’s always in our mind to only ever give one hundred per cent. I think everyone did that last time – and will do again on Friday.”
West Ham United U23s take on Arsenal U23s on Friday 7 May 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.