By Adam Clark
Arsenal Reserves earned the plaudits of the Underhill crowd on Monday despite suffering defeat at the hands of London rivals West Ham United.
The visitor's teamsheet eclipsed that of the Gunners as they started with five full internationals in Roy Carroll, John Pantsil, Christian Dailly, Nigel Quashie and ex-Gunner Luis Boa Morte, a £5 million signing in January.
A further three players on show tonight - Hayden Mullins, Callum Davenport and Carlton Cole - had joined Boa Morte on the bench for the first team's 1-0 win over Everton on Saturday. Arsenal's most experienced player was Joe O'Cearuill, who spent three months on loan at Brighton; their eldest 19-year-old goalkeeper Vito Mannone.
But despite their advantage early goals from Mullins and another Premiership regular Marlon Harewood were all Arsenal's teenagers allowed them.
It may not have been the prettiest of games but Neil Banfield's second string dug deep and earned the applause brought by the full-time whistle.
It took West Ham less than three minutes to show their experience though as Harewood, afforded too much space in the box, drilled an unstoppable shot low to Mannone's right.
Physically, it was a gruelling test for Arsenal's youngsters but they were not disheartened by West Ham's early breakthrough. A Mark Randall free-kick looked to be their first promising opening but Carroll claimed comfortably.
West Ham could have extended their lead on 16 minutes but Mullins blazed over from the right on the box. Two minutes later he made no such mistake, rifling the ball into the roof of the net from 10-yards.
With little to lose Banfield's youngsters suddenly appeared to be relishing the challenge, even if the best the visitors allowed them was a long-range O'Cearuill header which Carroll allowed to trickle wide. The young Gunners broke forward with endeavour and threw themselves whole-heartedly into every challenge.
It was to Arsenal's credit that another chance did not fall West Ham's way until the seventh minute of the second half when Mullins played in Boa Morte. The Portuguese winger cut his teeth at this level with the Gunners but was denied the chance to score against his former club, losing out to the tenacious Paul Rodgers.
Seconds later Harewood rounded Mannone but chipped the ball into the side netting as his angle deteriorated.
Banfield's side continued to battle away and substitutes Jay Thomas and Giorgos Efrem added to Arsenal's threat. Debutant Craig Eastmond also looked lively and contributed to the cause.
But for all their effort the Gunners got little joy against Dailly and Davenport. On the one occasion Thomas found himself in room to cross Carroll plucked the ball from the air.
Having made all their substitutions West Ham were reduced to 10
men for the final six minutes after Jack Collison was stretchered
off. Arsenal almost made the most of their numerical advantage but
Thomas sent his shot wide while O'Cearuill's adventurous
long-range volley dipped the wrong side of the crossbar.
- Ogogo 60
- Dunne 70
- Fonte 70
- Eastmond 70
- Emmanuel-Thomas 70
- Efrem 60