By Nick Teale
An Arsenal XI came away from Crawley Town with a 2-2 draw after an entertaining match on Tuesday evening.
The Conference side provided Arsenal's youngsters with a stern test in Sussex as over 1,000 fans enjoyed the young Gunners' first pre-season workout of the summer.
A Rhys Murphy double had Arsenal ahead after just seven minutes - even though they conceded in the opening sixty seconds.
With Neil Banfield in Austria, Liam Brady took charge of the visitors' XI. Among his charges was Jay Simpson, fresh from a brace at Barnet on Saturday, and Gavin Hoyte. The defender spent most of last season on loan at Brighton and was handed the captain's armband at Broadfield Stadium.
He started in defence along with Ignasi Miquel, Daniel Boateng and Cedric Evina. James Shea was in goal.
Mark Randall and Oguzhan Ozyakup were joined in the midfield by Nacer Barazite, while Sanchez Watt was with Simpson and Murphy in the front three of Arsenal's familiar formation.
The Gunners suffered an early setback when a first-minute Crawley corner was whipped in from the left. Glenn Wilson was first onto the bounce and half-volleyed into the back of the net.
But Brady's youngsters were quick to turn things around.
First Watt collected the ball on the left, took a couple of touches and threaded a low ball to Murphy. The striker took a touch and hit the ball low to the keeper's right.
Then Murphy latched onto a through ball and sped away from the Crawley defence to nestle the ball past keeper Nick Jordan. Two-one and only seven minutes played.
Unsurprisingly the game was more settled from there on in, however it remained an entertaining spectacle.
Barazite came close with a low drive 19 minutes in, but Jordan held his effort. Simpson should have tested the keeper again shortly after, but he dragged wide after being picked out by Murphy.
Hoyte then had the crowd gasping.
He paced forward to deliver a cross from the left. It looked to be drifting out but dropped onto the top of the back post, rebounding towards Simpson. Jordan, lying on the floor having attempted to claim the initial delivery, managed to clip the ball away from Arsenal's No 10.
Barazite tested the keeper again midway through the opening period. The Dutch youth international ploughed through the middle but Jordan made a comfortable save.
The hosts weren't out of it but, despite playing some testing balls into the area, they failed to cause James Shea too many problems, though Adam Quinn's header on 40 minutes was well-directed and forced a save.
But Matt Tubbs, one of six half-time substitutes for the hosts, found Crawley's equaliser in the 52nd minute.
He received the ball inside the area and used the outside of his boot to guide the ball into the bottom corner.
With 60 minutes played the Conference side were awarded a free kick inside the 'D' on the edge of the area after Hoyte, now playing at centre back, had bundled over his man. Steve Masterton struck it and Shea palmed away the powerful effort. The Arsenal keeper then tipped the subsequent corner away.
Crawley were now attacking with confidence and moments later Craig McAlllister had his head in his hands after side-footing Dean Howell's cross over the bar from six yards out.
Barazite, who had been lively in the first half, troubled the hosts again in the 68th minute. He worked himself an opening with some clever footwork on the edge of the area before forcing substitute keeper Michel Kuipers into a low finger-tip save. He got up quickly to deny the Dutchman on the follow-up.
But that didn't frighten the Sussex outfit. Moments later they were back down the other end, McAllister heading narrowly wide on this occasion.
Substitute Chuks Aneke got the crowd excited with some classy play. He charged forward through the midfield and unleashed a powerful, swerving effort which had Kuipers at full stretch to deny him.
Clearly confident, the midfielder went close with a delicate attempted chip moments later. Both sides continued to search for the winner, but a draw was a fair reflection of an enjoyable and at times end-to-end pre-season match.
- Boateng 81
- Hoyte (C)
- Randall 76
- Ozyakup 50
- Murphy 50 Goal! Goal!
- Meade 76
- Angha 81
- Aneke 50
- Afobe 50
- Jordan 46
- Wilson 46 Goal!
- Malcolm 46
- Quinn (C)
- Smith 46
- Hutchinson 46
- Howell 87
- Cook 46 Goal!
- Kuipers 46
- Mills 46
- Torres 46
- Masterton 46
- Enver-Marum 73
- Rusk 46
- Tubbs 46
- Dunford 87