Ashley Cole completed another 90 minutes as Arsenal Reserves ended their season in style at West Ham on Thursday.

The left back was watched by England assistant coach Tord Grip as he played his second full game after long-term injury.

Nicklas Bendtner was again the star of the show for Neil Banfield's men as his brace, either side of a stunning long-range strike by Sebastian Larsson, secured all three points for the Gunners.

Bendtner may even have had a hat-trick but Stephen Bywater saved his 85th minute spot-kick.

Banfield made four changes from the side that beat Coventry 4-0 last week. Johan Djourou replaced Matthew Connolly at the heart of Arsenal's defence and the Barnet-born defender dropped to the bench. In addition, Abou Diaby, Alexandre Song and  Theo Walcott all started as Gael Clichy, Giorgos Efrem and Anthony Stokes made way.

Arsenal produced their first effort on goal as early as the second minute when Walcott let fly from the edge of the penalty area but the former Southampton star scuffed his attempt and Bywater saved with ease.

Fifteen minutes later, Walcott was replaced by Stokes due to injury and his replacement made the most of his team-mate's misfortune by laying on all three of Arsenal's goals and winning the penalty.

The first of those goals arrived on the half-hour. Sebastian Larsson found Diaby who in turn fed Bendtner. The Dane then exchanged passes with Stokes before finishing coolly past Bywater in the Hammers' goal.

The long, leggy bursts from midfield Diaby were having increasing influence as the half wore on so it was no surprise to see him involved in the opening goal.

The second half saw the Gunners far more dominant, and just 10 minutes after the restart, they doubled their lead. Larsson played a neat one-two with Stokes at the edge of the area and with the hosts' slow to close down the space, accepted the invitation to shoot, finding the far corner with a superb strike.

Bendtner then went close to adding a third before Hogan Ephriam's free-kick halved West Ham's deficit in the 73rd minute. But rather than signal a Hammers' onslaught, the goal simply gave Arsenal the incentive look for another goal of their own and they thought they would get it with five minutes remaining.

Stokes was clipped inside the area as he looked to shoot having turned smartly away from his marker. The referee pointed to the spot and Bendtner stepped up only to see Bywtaer pull off a fine stop, low-down to his left.

But Bendtner was not to be denied. He had come of the bench on the opening day of the season at Underhill to grab a last-minute winner against the Hammers and he had the final say in this encounter as well.

He exchanged passes with Stokes, dummied the keeper' and took his time before blasting it into the roof of the net from close range. That took the former Copenhagen striker's tally to 18 from just 22 starts this term - just enough to edge him front of Arturo Lupoli as the Reserves' top-scorer.

Arsenal U23

Gilbert 45
Muamba 77
Walcott 17


Connolly 45
Randall 77
Stokes 17
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28 Apr 2006