By Joe Brewin at the Lancashire County Ground
Arsenal Reserves battled from behind to take home their share of the spoils thanks to Luke Freeman’s late equaliser.
The substitute finished off late in the game to give Neil Banfield’s side a point, after David Ngog’s brace looked to have handed Bolton victory.
Sanchez Watt and Oguzhan Ozyakup had twice given Arsenal the lead before they were pegged back both times by an experienced Bolton side. But Freeman struck late to hand the Gunners a hard-earned draw.
Bolton fielded an experienced and eye-catching line-up, with familiar Premier League faces in the likes of Stuart Holden, Ngog and Tuncay among the names on John Henry’s team sheet.
On a wet and blustery evening in Lancashire it was the Gunners who carved out the match’s first meaningful opportunity early on.
Watt’s delicate ball through the middle found the onrushing Ozyakup, whose eventual effort was saved well by Bolton goalkeeper Adam Bogdan.
Banfield’s youngsters went close to finding the breakthrough on 11 minutes when Ryo’s fierce drive on the angle flashed narrowly wide of the far post.
The young Gunners were beginning to come into their own, but at the other end Damian Martinez had to be alert to beat away Gael Kakuta’s dangerous cross.
Arsenal continued to hold their more established opponents at bay, and duly got their reward in the 19th minute through the excellent Watt. The forward latched onto Ryo’s neat back-heel and shrugged off a challenge inside the area before applying the required finish into the bottom corner.
Summer signing Oxlade-Chamberlain began to show just why Wenger was persuaded to capture his signature from Southampton, catching the eye with an energetic display on the right flank.
Despite the goal the hosts began to take a foothold on the match as the half wore on, and the Gunners twice had goalkeeper Martinez to thank for keeping the scoreline level.
The Argentine was on hand to first tip away Tuncay’s curling effort with a stunning save before arriving to the rescue once more from Robbie Blake’s venomous free-kick.
But Bolton did soon draw level through former Liverpool man Ngog. The striker latched onto a ball through the middle before finishing neatly past Martinez.
The goal should have sparked the home side into life, but instead it was Banfield’s youngsters who took the initiative to regain the lead before half time.
Watt was involved once more to capitalise on some slack defending and tee up Ozyakup, who made no mistake of firing the ball home past the helpless hand of Bogdan.
As the players emerged for the second period the wet conditions persisted, and it took just two minutes before Bolton levelled things up once more when Tuncay hammered home from close range.
The goal may have dampened the mood in the Arsenal camp, but there was at the least the continued battle between Miquel and Ngog to keep the spectacle interesting.
But Ngog, who had largely lost the duel for much of the evening, managed to pounce once more for his second - and the Trotters’ third - goal of the evening.
Banfield’s young team battled to find a route back into the match after losing their lead, and eventually reaped their rewards late on when Freeman struck in the 85th minute.
Carl Jenkinson's run down the right side resulted in a fine cross into the penalty area, allowing Freeman the opportunity to finish off for the Gunners.
The point sees the Gunners rise to the top of the Reserve League South. Next up is a home clash against Blackburn Rovers in just under two weeks’ time.
- Miquel 83
- Ozyakup 81 Goal!
- Miyaichi 61
- Watt Goal!
- Yennaris 81
- Angha 83
- Freeman 61 Goal!
- Blakeman 16
- Sanli 69 Goal!
- Pratley 61
- Ngog Goal! Goal!
- O'Halloran 69
- Vela 61
- McQuade 16