By Joe Brewin at the Greene King Stadium
Arsenal Reserves suffered their second defeat of the campaign with a frustrating 2-0 loss at the hands of Aston Villa.
Samir Carruthers’ early strike sent the hosts on their way before Daniel Johnson converted late to seal all three points.
Arsenal enjoyed more than their fair share of possession but they could not make it count.
Banfield selected his most youthful team of the season with Serge Gnabry handed a Reserves debut on the left side of Arsenal’s front three.
Zak Ansah and the returning Rhys Murphy joined the Germany youth international in attack, while Under-18s captain Elton Monteiro partnered 17-year-old Martin Angha at the heart of defence.
Aston Villa, meanwhile, included striker Nathan Delfouneso and centre-back Ciaran Clark - scorer of two goals against Arsenal’s first team last season.
On a wet evening in the East Midlands it was Arsenal who carved out the game’s first opportunity inside the first minute. Gnabry linked up well with Oguzhan Ozyakup and the ball eventually broke loose for Nico Yennaris to strike just wide.
The first 10 minutes proved a game of cat and mouse as both sides looked for a foothold.
The exciting Gnabry came closest to breaking the deadlock soon afterwards when his swivel and volley produced a powerful effort narrowly past the post.
But the home side soon began to take a hold on proceedings and took full advantage with their first attack of the game.
Young midfielder Carruthers picked up the ball just inside the box before curling an effort past a helpless Damian Martinez in the Arsenal goal.
It was the catalyst for a period of domination from Villa. The home side were quicker, sharper and ultimately reaping the rewards for their work.
Although Martinez was rarely tested for the majority of the half, the well-organised hosts were looking good value for the lead.
But Arsenal were not deterred and began to show flashes of their own ability. Ozyakup fired just over following a sweet move from Banfield’s side before Gnabry threatened with a dangerous ball into the box.
The final 15 minutes of the half were all Arsenal - but a final ball was distinctly lacking.
As the rain tumbled down it was the visitors who flew out of the traps in the second half. Murphy’s lay-off teed up Gnabry and he forced a strong save from Benjamin Siegrist with a rasping strike.
Banfield’s youngsters battled through the second period with much the same guile they had shown towards the end of the first.
Eastmond saw a dangerous effort blocked by his own man Ansah before Jernade Meade tested Siegrist once more.
But however hard Arsenal pushed for an equaliser, Villa’s resistance proved just as strong.
The hosts were seemingly happy to invite pressure and ensure their own defensive spine remained organised.
Villa substitute Jordan Graham forced a useful save from Martinez with just over 10 minutes remaining before Ozyakup raced up the other end to fire narrowly wide after fine work from Meade.
But the home side secured all three points with seven minutes left on the clock.
Joshua Webb’s excellent cross was headed away only as far as Johnson, who fired past Martinez.
The result sees Villa leapfrog Arsenal into second spot in the Reserve League South. Next up for Banfield’s men is a home clash against Chelsea in three weeks’ time.
- Ozyakup Yellow Card
- Eastmond Yellow Card
- Gnabry 71
- Ansah 71
- Murphy 77 Yellow Card
- Bihmoutine 71 Yellow Card
- Rees 77
- Toral 71
Aston Villa Res
- Clark Yellow Card
- Carruthers Goal!
- Johnson Goal!
- Robinson 73
- Burke 87 Yellow Card
- Delfouneso 88
- Drennan 87
- Kinsella 88
- Graham 73