Arsenal attacker Theo Walcott was on the mark for England U21 last night.

Walcott's goal against Republic of Ireland virtually assured Stuart Pearce's youngsters of a play-off to reach the 2009 European Championships in Sweden.

It took Walcott's under-21 tally to five goals, one more than he has managed for Arsenal - but he is determined to ignore suggestions he is not playing enough for the club he signed for two years ago.

"I don't pay any attention to the criticism about me," he said on Sky Sports. "The only ones I listen to are my family and close friends.

"I just try to get on with football and try to perform every game."

Walcott added the gloss on a hard-fought victory over the visitors, despite the 3-0 scoreline.

It was not until Aaron Lennon got into the game midway through the first half that England got any momentum going.

Even so, James Milner was the only one to force a save from Irish goalkeeper Darren Randolph, with Lennon, Walcott and David Wheater going off target.

In fact, it was the visitors who had the best chance before the scoring started but Andrew Keogh's shot was saved by Joe Hart when he raced through.

"Credit to our goalkeeper," said Pearce. "He says 'stand up and try to beat me'."

The deadlock was broken just before the hour mark when Milner's cross flew in off Stephen O'Halloran, who is on loan at Southampton.

Milner added the second himself with a precise finish off the post before Walcott cut in and added the third.

"The fans have been brilliant since I moved and when I was here they showed great support," Walcott added.

"The main thing was the result. We just wanted to keep a clean sheet we battled and got the result."