By Rob Kelly at Whitley Park
Thomas Eisfeld’s first-half strike helped Arsenal Reserves seal their sixth win in seven matches in a hard-fought clash against Newcastle on Tuesday night.
Neil Banfield’s side dominated the first half and scored the only goal of the game when German midfielder Eisfeld slotted home in the 17th minute.
But the hosts delivered a much-improved performance after the interval and put the Gunners under real pressure, hitting the bar late on. But the visitors held on and stretched their unbeaten run to seven games thanks to a solid display in the North East.
Banfield made a host of changes to the side that drew 1-1 at Liverpool three weeks ago, with the most notable inclusion being that of Conor Henderson. The Ireland Under-21 international was making his first start for more than eight months after recovering from a cruciate knee ligament injury.
Elsewhere, Eisfeld was included for his second reserve-team appearance since joining the Club from Borussia Dortmund in January, while Danny Boateng was named in the starting XI for the first time since returning from his loan spell at Swindon Town.
Arsenal were the first to settle and came close to an early goal when Oguzhan Ozyakup fired inches wide of the far post from the right-hand side of the area in the third minute.
With Henderson and Ozyakup bossing the midfield, Banfield’s side stamped their authority on the game quickly and after Martin Angha just failed to connect with an inswinging corner, they took the lead.
It was a lovely move too and it started when Ozyakup whipped a delightful ball out to Josh Rees on the right flank. The teenager kept his composure and slipped a good ball in for Eisfeld, who rolled his marker and slotted past Jak Alnwick.
On the half hour the Gunners were inches away from doubling their advantage as Ignasi Miquel charged onto an Ozyakup corner, but his header rattled the crossbar and was eventually cleared.
Moments later Henderson collected the ball on the right and delivered an inviting cross into the six-yard box, but a stretching Jernade Meade volleyed over from close range.
It was encouraging opening period for the second string and Eisfeld nearly claimed his second of the night in the 43rd minute, but his chipped effort was palmed away by Alnwick.
Newcastle started the second half intent on a revival, and within three minutes Michael Richardson fired a firm shot just wide from 20 yards before Ryan Donaldson struck one just over.
The hosts were a completely different prospect after a flat first-half showing and they put Arsenal under sustained pressure, with Phil Airey a particular menace. The striker curled a free kick just wide, then saw a low shot saved by Shea as Newcastle pressed on in search on an equaliser.
Ozyakup - who enjoyed another outstanding game - had to be alert to clear two shots off the line in the 80th minute after a Newcastle corner had caused chaos, while Richardson hit the bar during a late scramble.
But Arsenal held on to secure yet another victory in what has been an encouraging season.
- Eisfeld 78 Goal!
- Rees 83
- Henderson 66
- Wynter 78
- Neita 83
- Roberts 66
- Logan 80
- Moyo 46
- Miele 80
- Maddison 46