Scunthorpe winger Hakeeb Adelakun looks ahead to their FA Cup derby
FOR those unaware of the skills of Scunthorpe winger Hakeeb Adelakun, his FA Cup goal against Northampton Town was an eye-opener.
The 21-year-old went on a run towards the Cobblers’ penalty area and then, from the right hand side, rifled a bullet of a shot into the top corner from the edge of the box.
Fittingly, it proved the only goal of the first-round replay, earning in-form Iron their second round derby date at Doncaster this afternoon.
It also proved a turning point for Adelakun.
It was his first goal of the season and his second, a 20yard free-kick which gave Scunthorpe a 2-1 win at fellow promotion-chasers Bradford, soon followed.
In between those two games, he set up all three goals in a virtuoso display in which the Iron despatched Northampton in League One.
“I don’t think I’ve hit a ball as well as that,” said Adelakun of his Cup strike. “It was my first goal of the season and I was getting a bit anxious.
“Now I’m getting more opportunities and I’m trying to express myself and play more freely, things are coming off.”
Like Adelakun, Scunthorpe are in good form at present, though they won’t take Doncaster for granted this afternoon.
In mid-September, Lee Novak’s goal earned Graham Alexander’s men a hardfought 1-0 victory in League One, though Donny got a measure of revenge with a 3-2 penalty shoot-out win in a Checkatrade Trophy group game after a 1-1 draw at the end of October.
a strong team, it’s a derby and there will be a crazy atmosphere,” said Adelakun. “It’s probably best for us to see it as just another game and put no pressure on it.”
However, that might be difficult, given that winning through to the third round could earn a plum tie against one of the nation’s giants.
If successful, Adelakun knows who he wants. The Hackney-born flyer said: “Growing up, I always supported Arsenal and Thierry Henry was my favourite player. That’s somewhere I want to play one day.
“We played at Chelsea a couple of years ago (Scunthorpe lost 2-0) and the whole day and just going there was something special. Coming on as a sub was great and you want to have those days as often as you can. “If we can get through and get a big draw, it would be great for everyone.” After spending time with both Crys“They’re
tal Palace and West Ham as a youngster, Adelakun had to head north to Scunthorpe to make his breakthrough.
He made his debut as a 16year-old and has now racked up almost 150 appearances for the Iron, albeit with more than half off the bench.
For someone just 21, he’s already got bags of experience. Perhaps now he’s ready to move to the next level.
“The first couple of years went so quickly,” he said. “Looking back, I’m thinking ‘where did it go?’. I didn’t really take it in at 17-18. Time flew by.
“Now I’m getting to grips with things. The last year has been full-on and I’ve started to take on a lot of information and learn more about the game on and off the pitch.
“There’s still lots more to learn, but I’m enjoying it more now.” Adelakun has a League Two promowere tion under his belt from 201314 and came close to reaching the Championship last term.
Scunthorpe were in the thick of the promotion battle for much of the season and, ultimately, lost in the League One play-off semi-finals to Millwall, who went on to win promotion at Wembley.
Some thought they might struggle to match those achievements this term, but six straight league wins – the latter a 2-0 success against Charlton – have lifted them to third and put them in the hunt again. Not that it’s surprised Adelakun, who would love to test himself in English football’s second tier next term.
“I always thought we would do well,” he said. “With the players we brought in, I could see we had a good squad and I had high expectations.
“We had a little run when we struggling, but we stayed together and it’s amazing how quickly things turn around.
“I want to help the team achieve the target we set – promotion. It would be great if we could get into the Championship. Everyone wants to play as high as they can.
“I would like to hit the heights, maybe the Premier League one day. Now I need to work hard, give it my all and take it a step at a time.”
And he believes highly-rated manager Alexander can help him to keep improving his game.
“He’s strict, but he’s fun,” added Adelakun. “The whole team know what we are trying to do. On the sidelines, he’s on us all the time and it helps so much.
“Every week he’s making sure I have clips to watch and he’s always trying to work with me. His door is always open.”
HOT-SHOT: Scunthorpe’s Hakeeb Adelakun tussles with Bristol Rovers’ Ellis Harrison and, inset, his wonder goal against Northampton
PERSONAL FAVOURITE: Thierry Henry and, inset, Graham Alexander