It’s back to business for Norwich City’s Under-23s as they face West Ham United at Chigwell Construction Stadium on Monday evening (7pm kick-off).
This tie will be the U23s first since facing Manchester United at the end of January, due to the postponed game against West Brom earlier in February.
A win will be vital to the Canaries promotion campaign, as they sit nine points behind Middlesbrough, who occupy the closest play-off spot. Nine points sounds like a big gap, but the Canaries have a game in hand to aid them in their pursuit.
The last five games have been mainly progressive for the U23s side, winning three and losing two, taking a respectable nine points from a possible 15 to take.
West Ham are undoubtedly the toughest opponent in the league for the Canaries, sitting top with 43 points from 17 games. What’s even more impressive, the Hammers haven’t lost a single league game this season, winning 13 and drawing four.
The one saving grace for the Canaries is the January transfer window which recently saw players such as Dan Kemp and Nathan Holland depart on loan deals, leaving the Hammers without some of their top players from earlier in the season.
The Canaries last met the Londoners back in October of the current 2019-20 season, the game ending in West Ham’s favour as they won 4-1.
With just five games remaining of the season, the Canaries are going to have to be in top form if they want to keep play-off hopes alive.
U23s centre-half Andrew Omobamidele is showing an optimistic outlook on the upcoming game, saying they're physically ready for the test.
“I’m feeling confident, training has been really good in the build-up. Jay [Eastoe-Smith, Head of Academy Athletic Performance] says that our stats have been going through the roof since Christmas.
"Physically we’re all feeling good, we just need to mentally be ready for it now. We’ve come together knowing our goal is to make the play-offs, we need back-to-back wins, but we think we can do it.”
With the game against West Brom being postponed earlier in the month, the tie against West Ham will be their first game in a month. Omobamidele is looking forward to the first game back, saying the whole team are desparate to get playing again.
“Travelling to West Brom and getting the news that the game was postponed was a massive disappointment, but our focus shifted straight to West Ham. We’re just looking forward to it and we’re rearing to get out playing again.”
Despite West Ham's unbeaten season, Omobamidele remains confident going into the game, insisting if the team play their own way the victory won't be a problem for them.
“We can definitely beat them, when we’re on our game and play the Norwich way and the way we’re asked to play, we can cut through any team in the league.
"We’ve shown it earlier in the season. If we can just turn up and play the way we usually play, we know we can get the win and give them their first loss of the season.”
Throughout the season Omobamidele has played with several different centre-back partners such as Akin Famewo, Louis Lomas, Timi Odusina and most recently Jon Tomkinson (pictured below, left).
“Centre-back is one of the positions where you need a familiar face. You need to know your partner, their strengths and their weaknesses, so you can help them out as much as they help you.
"I think playing with different centre-backs through the season makes me improve my game. Akin [Famewo] had strengths that complimented my weaknesses, and I had strengths that complimented his, it’s that sort of thing.
"Now with Jon [Tomkinson] coming in and Zach [Dronfield] too, because he can play centre-back, it helps me learn different ways of play. I might have to change my game to help them out as they would to help me.”
Addressing the play-off mission, Omobamidele says not one person thinks it isn't possible in the team, knowing if they remain on top form then the wins will find their way to the side and hand them the play-off spot they're aiming for.
“100% it’s possible to make the play-offs. We all sat down in the analysis room and had an open conversation. We all said it’s achievable, everyone knows it’s possible.
"The way we play can get the wins, like I said earlier, we can cut through any team when we play our way. We feel like we were unlucky to be beaten by United, but that is just our consistency.
"It’s up to us to be consistent and right now we don’t do it enough. We need to be doing it for 90 minutes. But since Christmas we’ve been going up and up.
"Before, we were inconsistent, we couldn’t do it for weeks in a row, now we just need to keep it up and we know we can make the play-offs."
You can follow all the action of the game on our dedicated Academy Twitter account.