Oladapo Afolayan completes long journey to West Ham first team with debut goal

PA

Oladapo Afolayan was delighted to mark his West Ham debut with a goal in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Doncaster in the FA Cup.

The 23-year-old forward capped a great day for the Hammers with a late effort to help them into the fifth round of the competition.

Boss David Moyes handed debuts to Afolayan, Nathan Trott and Jamal Baptiste after first-half strikes by Pablo Fornals and Andriy Yarmolenko put the hosts in control.

Afolayan said: “The gaffer told to me to get forward and get in the box and when Ryan (Fredericks) had the ball, I knew he was either going to shoot or cross it, so I just wanted to get in the box and I’m just happy I was in the right place.”

It was a memorable 24 hours for the one-time Chelsea trainee after he featured in an under-23s clash with Tottenham at Rush Green on Friday.

An early exit in the second half may have raised eyebrows, but the words of manager Dmitri Halajko provided him comfort.

“With the 23s, we’ve had a few games cancelled and some time off because of Covid things, so I was just preparing for that game as normal, but I was obviously aware the game (against Doncaster) was on,” Afolayan told the club’s website.

“I went into Friday night hoping to help win the game for the team, but after 60 minutes I came off and Dmitri told me I was on the bench today so I was a bit ‘OK cool!’ and I came here and tried to be ready really.”

Once Doncaster’s Andy Butler put through his own net to make it 3-0, West Ham were all but assured of a spot in the last 16 and Moyes turned to youth for the final exchanges.

When Afolayan was summoned to replace Tomas Soucek in the 70th minute it concluded a long journey to making a senior appearances for the Hammers.

After leaving Chelsea as a teenager, the Harrow-born forward moved to Canada with his family and spent time in Toronto’s academy. On his return to the UK, he went to Loughborough University and it was there that Solihull Moors gave him an opportunity in the National League.

Even since a 2018 move to West Ham there has been adversity for Afolayan, with injuries affecting his development, but he is now eager to kick on.

He added: “It’s been a long time coming. I’ve worked my socks off for the last three years, had a few serious injuries and just worked to get back to full fitness and full sharpness.

“I’ve been able to do that this season and I’m just happy it’s paid off.”

Doncaster will turn their focus back to promotion from Sky Bet League One after they were outclassed at the London Stadium.

Ex-West Brom manager Darren Moore has guided the club to fifth in the table, but knows they need new additions to help them get over the line.

“The players grew into the game but by the time they had it was already away from us,” he said.

“We’re really hopeful that we can add a couple because we need to try to get them in quicker to get them integrated into the squad.”

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