By Rob Kelly at Motspur Park

Arsenal slipped to a narrow 1-0 defeat against Fulham on a disappointing Tuesday evening in south-west London.

Following an open first half in which Craig Eastmond, Sanchez Watt and Jernade Meade all went close, Neil Banfield's side fell behind at the start of the second half through Alex Kacaniklic's strike.

Much as the Gunners' second string tried to prise open the Fulham defence, they could find no way through and left Motspur Park frustrated.

Banfield made a raft of changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Aston Villa two weeks ago, the most notable change the return from injury of Lukasz Fabianski, who replaced James Shea in goal.

With Sead Hajrovic and Danny Boateng now on loan at Barnet and Swindon respectively, Elton Monteiro and Ignasi Miquel returned to the starting XI, with Oguzhan Ozyakup and Serge Gnabry coming into the midfield.

Watt - who returned from a loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday last week - replaced Ju-Young Park up front, while Jernade Meade also came back into Banfield's team.

Fulham, meanwhile, fielded a strong side, with internationals Simon Davies, Rafik Halliche and Bjorn Helge Riise all starting.

The match got off to a low-key start as both sides battled to assert themselves, the only real chance coming when Fulham winger Kacaniklic fired a dangerous shot across the Arsenal six-yard box.

Gradually Banfield's side started to grow in confidence, with Gnabry proving a particular handful for the hosts. The German winger produced one delightful bit of skill to beat his marker by the left byline, but his cross was cleared.

That chance seemed to boost the Arsenal second string and moments later Eastmond and Ozyakup combined nicely to create a chance for the former, but he crashed his shot just wide.

Arsenal were a real threat at this juncture and they nearly claimed the lead in the 24th minute when Ryo burst away down the left and arrowed in a cross for Watt. The young forward did well to open his body and try to direct the ball into the far corner, but Csaba Somogyi saved well.

Meade tested the Fulham keeper with a stinging shot seconds later, but suddenly Fulham found their feet and went close through Marcello Trotta and the dangerous Patjim Kasami, who curled a free kick just over.

Fabianski was soon called into action to make a flying stop to keep out Kasami's spectacular overhead kick, and then raced out of his goal to sweep up after Gavin Hoyte's slip almost let Trotta through on goal.

On the stroke of half time Watt pounced on a loose ball to go one-on-one with Somogyi, but his shot from eight yards was stopped by the sprawling keeper. Then Kasami then fired just wide for the hosts.

Banfield's side made a nightmare start to the second half as Kacaniklic collected a ball on the left of the box and fired a curling shot under the diving Fabianski in the 49th minute.

Fabianski was called into action in the 60th minute when Trotta's shot from just inside the box seemed to be creeping into the corner, but the Pole palmed it wide.

Arsenal were on the back foot but Ozyakup went close with a curling effort in the 68th minute, before Davies shot wastefully wide for the Cottagers moments later.

Banfield's side pushed on in search of an equaliser and nearly grabbed one when Watt got his head to Angha's deflected cross, but his effort looped over the bar.

Despite their best efforts, Arsenal's second string could find no way past a stubborn Fulham backline and left south-west London empty-handed.

Arsenal U21

1
Fabianski
2
Hoyte
3
Monteiro
4
Angha
5
Miquel (C)
6
Eastmond
7
Miyaichi 67
8
Ozyakup
9
Meade 67
10
Watt
11
Gnabry 55

Substitutes

12
Martinez
13
Ebecilio 67
14
Rees 67
15
Wynter
16
Ansah 55

Fulham Res

1
Somogyi
2
Rafik Halliche
3
Dan Burn
4
Courtney Harris
5
Riise
6
Briggs
7
Simon Davies
8
Gecov
9
Kasami
10
Kacaniklic 76 Goal!
11
Trotta

Substitutes

12
Grant Smith
13
Alex Smith 76
14
Tom Donegan
15
Josh Pritchard
16
Omri Altman
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 24 Jan 2012