By Andy Verspeak

Arsenal Reserves suffered their first defeat of the season after dominating a game where both sides struggled to finish off the many chances they created.

Graham Barrett struck with 11 minutes to go after latching onto a long hopeful ball from the back. The ex-Gunner lifted the ball over Manuel Almunia as he came out and it agonisingly rolled into the net.

Neil Banfield's side were all over the Sky Blues in the first half, but in a mirror of last week's game at Barnet they found it difficult to hit the back of the net.

The second half was a far less gracious spectacle as Coventry battled hard just to stay in the game, but they were rewarded when Barrett put away one of their few chances and stole the points.

Alexandre Song made his Reserve team debut in central midfield, partnering Fabrice Muamba in the absence of Sebastian

Larsson. Kerrea Gilbert and Mitchell Murphy came in as the two full-backs in place of Gael Clichy and Emmanuel Eboue and Almunia also replaced Howard in goal.

David Bentley was back in the side after his late withdrawal last week and started up front with Lupoli.

Ady Williams and Andy Impy provided Coventry's experience in a side which included former Gunner Barrett up front who scored twice in this fixture last year. Luke Webb, another former Gunner, was also on the bench.

Arsenal took the initiative from the off, dominating the possession and creating chances, but they failed to make anything count in the first half. 

Ryan Smith and Anthony Stokes on the wings always looked threatening when running with the ball and Song settled in immediately bossing the midfield and putting in some hefty challenges.

After only two minutes Stokes got away down the right wing in space but his cross was just too high for Lupoli in the box. Moments later the little Italian was scampering after a clearance but Clayton Ince in the Coventry goal just got there first.

Arsenal continued to show their dominance and Muamba forced the first real save from Ince when he went one-on-one with him but couldn't make it count.

Coventry's first opportunity arose after 17 minutes. Craig Reed was allowed enough room in Arsenal's box to square to Liam Davis but the winger dragged his shot across Almunia's goal and wide.

The Sky Blues did start to find their feet as the first half wore on. Neil Wood headed wide from a Davis cross and moments later Reid burst through was just wasn't quick enough to beat Almunia to the ball.

The Spanish keeper was forced to punch away after a perfect cross from the left back Paul Watson but Arsenal counter-attacked through the pace of Smith. The England Under-19 international released Stokes who in turn forced Ince into a save.

The feat was nearly repeated three minutes before half-time. Andy Morrell played Reid in but Almunia got down quickly and saved with his feet. The ball then broke kindly for Smith who raced down the left before cutting the ball back to Bentley. He played it on once more to Stokes whose left-footed shot whistled just wide of the post.

Just before the break Wood, Reid, Stokes and Lupoli all went close but still neither side could force a breakthrough.

Nicklas Bendtner came on to replace Johan Djourou who had pulled up injured just before half-time and Sean Kelly replaced Gilbert at the interval.

Early in the second period Morrell had claims for a penalty turned down and Barrett forced Almunia to parry a wicked shot as Coventry came at Arsenal.

Bentley sent Lupoli through in the 62nd minute but last season's top scorer still couldn't find the magic touch, dragging another shot wide.

An Almunia blunder nearly let the Sky Blues in, but he recovered well after initially dropping the ball from a cross.

During the second half the game developed very much into an end-to-end encounter. Still Arsenal pressed for that elusive goal but chances became fewer as the Coventry defence tightened up.

Then, most undeservedly, ex-Gunner Barrett raced through on goal and this time made no mistake, coolly lifting the ball over the diving Almunia and into the net.

Jay Simpson was brought on for Stokes shortly afterwards as Banfield's side aimed to get back into the game but they were unable to create anything further as the match petered out.

Arsenal U21

1
Almunia
2
Gilbert 46
3
Djourou 45
4
Connolly
5
Smith
6
Murphy
7
Muamba
8
Song
9
Stokes 80
10
Bentley
11
Lupoli

Substitutes

12
Jordan
13
Kelly 46
14
Simpson 80
15
Tracy
16
Bendtner 45
Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 16 Aug 2005