Bristol Rovers v West Ham United U21s
EFL Trophy, Memorial Stadium, Tuesday 19 September, 7.45pm BST
West Ham United U21s kickstart their EFL Trophy campaign for 2023/24 with a trip to Bristol Rovers on Tuesday evening.
The young Hammers have recorded five wins on the bounce in all competition but know a stern test awaits in Bristol.
Read on for our preview below:
Forbes: Bristol is a great opportunity to show what we can do!
One player hoping to feature against Bristol Rovers is Michael Forbes, who shook off a small knock to return to action in the Irons’ win over Celtic last time out.
And it was a pretty decent game to return for, with the Hammers running out 5-0 victors in East London.
“I am really happy to be back out there,” he stated. “I played in the first game of the season but then picked up a hamstring injury in training, which set me back a few weeks.
“It is a tough one to take but I have been away in the international break – and it is great to be back involved and winning. It was nice coming on when you’re 4-0 up!”
Of course, a fifth win on the bounce means there is plenty of momentum going into the U21s’ first EFL Trophy fixture of the campaign.
And Forbes is under no illusion to the task the Hammers face on Tuesday evening.
“It is going to be a tough game,” he added, “but the boys are up for it. We have got good momentum going there – but it will be a different test.
“It’s a men’s team and an EFL League One side as well so it will be a different type of opposition.
“I think all the boys are looking forward to it because it is one of those games you want to impress in.
“To prove you can play at that level so all the boys will be up for it and are really excited for it. It’s a great opportunity for everyone!”
Prenderville: A busy fixture list is important for U21s
U21s assistant coach Gerard Prenderville expects another ‘tough’ game as West Ham embark on their second game of a taxing week.
A 5-0 win over Celtic will be followed by a trip to Bristol Rovers on Tuesday, before the Hammers welcome Southampton to East London next Friday.
Three games in seven days is a challenge yes, but one that will only hold the U21s in good stead, according to Prenderville.
He stated: “We have got two really different games but two really tough games this week.
“But if we are going to get the boys through to the level, we believe they can play at they have got to get used to playing two or three games a week.
“It will be about making sure we are prepared on the training pitch and in the analysis room for Bristol Rovers so that the boys can go and deliver on Tuesday night.”
How did we do in the competition last year?
Since entering for the first time in 2016/17, when a 17-year-old Declan Rice started our inaugural tie at Coventry City, the furthest the U21s have gone in the competition was the Southern section round of 16, which the young Irons reached in 2017/18 and 2020/21.
Last season, West Ham United U21s finished on six points alongside the top two in Group C but, even after memorable wins over Cheltenham Town and Walsall, were eliminated from the 2022/23 edition on goal difference.
Who else will we play in the EFL trophy in 2023/24?
After Bristol Rovers, the U21s will then face League One outfit Newport County on Tuesday 31 October, before the group-stage finale at League One Cheltenham Town on Tuesday 7 November.
As per competition rules, West Ham will play all three group matches away from home, with the top two in each of the 16 groups going through to the knockout stages.
Tuesday 19 September - Bristol Rovers (A), 7.45pm
Tuesday 31 October - Newport County (A), 7.30pm
Tuesday 7 November - Cheltenham Town (A), 7.30pm
Last Time Out
West Ham United U21s put on a comprehensive attacking display to comfortably beat Celtic B 5-0 in the Premier League International Cup.
The comprehensive win means the development team have won two games out of two in the Premier League International Cup this campaign, having also beaten Valencia at Chigwell Construction Stadium last month by a 1-0 score-line.
Bristol Rovers currently sit 13th in EFL League One, with nine points from their first seven league outings of 2023/24.
Coached by former Premier League stalwart Joey Barton, Bristol Rovers won their first fixture of the EFL Trophy 4-1 against Cheltenham Town earlier this month.
They are unbeaten in their last three matches in all competitions.
Tickets can be brought at turnstiles or from Bristol Rovers' website.
You can purchase tickets ahead of the day of the game here.
How to Follow:
We will have a live blog on the Club’s website, with report, reaction, and highlights to follow shortly after the full-time whistle.