A trip away to Bristol City in the second round of an under-21 competition may not sound like the most enticing fixture of the calender but for young Watford striker Uche Ikpeazu, "it felt like a cup final".

Ikpeazu arrived at Vicarage Road in 2013 as the country's top scorer at youth level but his transition into life as a professional has not been as seamless as he would have hoped.

Having not featured for the Hornets' during the first five months of last season, he was loaned out to Crewe Alexandra. And after public criticisms from the League One club about his level of fitness, things appeared to be on the up as he impressed on his way to helping them avoid relegation.

However, ankle surgery beckoned for the 19-year-old in the summer and after nearing a return following eight weeks out, he suffered another set-back, which kept him sidelined for a further two months.

The 6ft 3ins striker is back now though and after a slow start against Bristol City on Monday night, the former Reading striker created the first goal and won the extra-time penalty, before converting it to secure Watford's progression into the third round of the Under-21 Premier League Cup with a 2-1 win.

Ikpeazu admitted: "It has been a long three or four months and it has been emotional. There have been times where I have been quite down about the whole situation because I came back and got injured again.

"I was doing well out on loan and I wanted to come back and kick on but everything happens for a reason.

"To get the goal and the win was a relief after all the hard work I put in.

"Even though there were set backs, I worked ever so hard in the gym with the staff who have helped me get back fit."

He added: "It was very frustrating because after all the work I put in [during rehabilitation from surgery], I had to start all over again.

"It was difficult for me but I am 19 so I will face these challenges in my career and there will be many more. It was about working hard and conducting yourself in the right manner.

"When games like this come up, it is like a cup final for me. I play every game like it is my last because you don't know what is around the corner."

Ikpeazu admitted it took him a while to "get to grips" with the game at Ashton Gate on Monday night, which is understandable after six months without competitive action.

The religious striker, who was born in Harrow and is of Nigerian descent, mentioned on more than one occasion his belief that you receive rewards in life if you work hard - highlighting winning and converting Monday's penalty as an example.

He would have been forgiven for tiring as the match headed into extra-time but he was still chasing down City defenders until the 120th minute.

"I don't know where I found those legs from to be honest," Ikpeazu joked.

"You just have to put a shift in. Everywhere I have been so far and anywhere I will go, I will always work hard because it is the minimum requirement.

"I worked hard for the team and the whole team worked hard for each other. My team-mates encouraged me to work hard so full credit to the team."

He praised the fantastic attitude shown by first team players like Tommie Hoban and Sean Murray.

And Ikpeazu's character was also highlighted after the game, by the academy's head of coaching, Barry Quin.

Quin said: "Uche showed great mental strength because he must have been dead on his feet. But he kept putting the effort in and working hard. He followed the plan today because we wanted to preserve him a little bit. So we didn't have him coming backwards and forwards all the time.

"And it is fair to say he enjoyed the goal (referencing the player's passionate celebration)."

Ikpeazu scored four goals in ten starts during the second half of last season for Crewe and made another four substitute outings.

But his time at The Alexandra Stadium was almost ended after just six weeks.

Crewe complained to Watford about Ikpeazu's level of fitness and contemplated cancelling his loan spell.

Double sessions helped improve his fitness and he subsequently helped the club avoid relegation to the fourth tier of English football.

Ikpeazu said: "It was hard because I had been training for six months and didn't play a first team game, which was difficult.

"I went on loan and I wasn't 100 per cent match fit because I hadn't played any competitive games.

"But when I did play, I thought I did quite well and we stayed up. That was the most important thing. I scored goals and that was all I could do."

With four experienced forwards ahead of him, not to mention fellow young professionals Bernard Mensah and Alex Jakubiak to compete with, Ikpeazu accepts he may have to seek first team football elsewhere once again.

"We have exceptional strikers at Watford," Ikpeazu acknowledged. "The likes of Matej Vydra and Troy Deeney have done it [at Championship level] and will continue to do it. Training with them is fantastic because I learn from them.

"Personally I might have to go out on loan because of the size of the squad and the people in my position. But if the manager (Slavisa Jokanovic) decides I should stay then it is up to him. I just want to play games and hopefully I will get my opportunity. I will keep working hard."

You can read Quin's views on the 2-1 win here.