Ademipo Odubeko: Academy players have worked hard for this

Mipo Odubeku

West Ham United U21s began their EFL Trophy campaign with a 3-1 victory over Southend United at Roots Hall on Tuesday night, helped largely by two spectacular Ademipo Odubeko strikes.

The tie looked to be heading to penalties after Odubeko's low 25-yard shot had been cancelled out by the hosts, but the youngster wasn’t finished and with six minutes to go put the U21s back in front with a thunderous finish from the edge of the area.

As time waned, skipper Conor Coventry sealed victory with a glorious first-time volleyed lob in injury-time. 

Odubeko, 17, was making his first start for the development squad having excelled for the West Ham United U18s last term, and the Ireland youth international was delighted to begin the 2020/21 campaign with such a well-taken brace.

“I feel great," he told after the match. “We’ve worked really hard for this. It was a tough pre-season, but we’ve played really well tonight and to score two goals, I’m really pleased. It wouldn’t be possible without my teammates.” 

Lead coach Dmitri Halajko was pleased with what he saw from his frontman, who may have already ensured he has a hand in the Goal of the Season voting with his two efforts.

The former Manchester United youth forward pointed to the team’s high-pressure style as the key to his fast goal-scoring start.

“With the first one, we always look to press high, and that meant we won it high up the pitch. I thought to myself, ‘let me just get a shot off’, and it ended up going in. Then, with the second one, it’s 1-1 in the last ten minutes, you’re just thinking, ‘if I get a chance, I have to score, I have to score’. It dropped to my left foot and I just hit it.”

The 17-year-old is just a year into his fledgling Hammers career but he led the line imperiously against experienced League Two opposition.

“It’s really tough physically out there because they’re grown men,” he continued. “We try to make the game about what we can do. We try to play, try to press hard and put our best foot forward.”

"I’ve just got to take it game-by-game - you can’t get too low, and you can’t get too high. I’ve just got to concentrate on the next game and take every challenge as it comes.”

The striker’s attention now turns to the league opener next Monday, when Dmitri Halajko’s side travel to Kingsmeadow to take on reigning Premier League 2 Division 1 champions Chelsea.

“I think we can do anything. Chelsea are going to be a top side and we know that, but we won the league last year and we’ve played and beaten teams from the top division and that makes us a top side. I think it’ll be a really good game and I can’t wait for it.

West Ham United U23s kick-off their Premier League 2 Division 1 season on Monday 14 September against Chelsea at Kingsmeadow. Kick-off is at 1pm and the game is being held strictly behind closed doors.