A great few days, on and off the pitch, for Colchester United boss Kevin Keen
- Credit: Archant
Kevin Keen has suffered, more than most new managers, during the first three months of his rein as Colchester United boss.
But Keen has just enjoyed the best few days of his managerial career so far.
Back-to-back wins over Doncaster and at Coventry have allowed the U’s to dream, and even believe, that they can escape relegation into League Two, although the odds are still stacked against them.
And sandwiched in between these two wins, Keen donned his football boots to roll back the years by turning out for West Ham All-Stars in Mark Noble’s Testimonial match, in front of a sell-out crowd at Upton Park on Easter Monday.
The 49-year-old made an appearance as a second-half substitute for the All-Stars, who lost a thriller 6-5 to a current West Ham United side.
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Also in action for the Hammers’ All-Stars were Teddy Sheringham, who ended his playing career with one season at the U’s in 2007-08, and current U’s midfielder George Moncur’s Dad, John Moncur, plus former U’s keeper Jimmy Walker.
A crowd of 35,036 watched Noble’s Testimonial goal feast – he has been at the Hammers for 12 years – but Keen was back doing his day-job just 24 hours later, masterminding the U’s superb 1-0 win at Coventry in front of a smaller, more subdued gate of 10,027.
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This win has elevated the U’s to seven points adrift of safety, with seven games remaining.
It is still likely that they will have to win six of their final seven games to stay up, or perhaps win five and draw one, but the U’s showed enough fighting spirit to suggest that there is a hope of a miraculous escape.
“I think this win showed two sides to us,” enthused Keen.
“I thought for the first 25 minutes, up until the goal (Gavin Massey), that was some of the best football we have seen all season. We were fantastic.
“Then we showed another side to our game – resilience, organisation and a real desire to see out the game to get the result, so I can’t be happier.
“It was important that we got the goal when we were on top.
“George (Moncur) and Alex (Gilbey) made little holes for us, and Elliot Lee has been fantastic for us for the last month, playing in a position to do work for the team and then do some damage when he gets on the ball.
“I’m so happy for the lads, and for the supporters who made the trip up here,” added Keen.
The U’s boss also gave a special mention to keeper Elliott Parish, who saved Jacob Murphy’s 44th-minute penalty to protect the U’s 1-0 advantage at the Ricoh Stadium.,
“I feel so pleased for Elliot,” confirmed Keen.
“He has been in the team and out of it, and he took a back seat when I brought Jake (Kean) in on loan (from Norwich).
“All the time, he’s been in the changing room with a fantastic spirit. He wants us to do well and he wants the club to do well.
“Elliott played a massive part in this victory.
“All the way through we defended well. The two centre-backs (Tom Eastman and Frankie Kent) – there’ a good partnership there.
“They are two good footballers, and if I can just make sure that they eat a little bit more raw meat, then I think we have got two top players.”
The U’s return to action this weekend, with a home game against Millwall. Full-backs Joe Edwards and Nicky Shorey both took knocks at Coventry, so could be doubtful.