By Joe Brewin at Meadow Park
Terry Burton enjoyed a winning start in his new role at Arsenal as his young side fought from a goal behind to beat Boreham Wood.
Former Gunner Omer Riza headed the hosts ahead in a difficult first half but a brace of second-half penalties from Sanchez Watt and academy hopeful Chuba Akpom turned the game on its head.
Swedish midfielder Kristoffer Olsson added a delicate late third to secure victory in Hertfordshire.
The young Gunners were not allowed things all their own way against the Blue Square South team but this battling display from Burton’s youngsters provides them with a winning start to their pre-season preparations.
Burton included a handful of the Club’s rising stars as Olsson and Akpom were both given chances to impress.
While Akpom will begin his academy career this season, Olsson signed his first professional contract this summer and played for the first team in last weekend’s draw against Southampton.
More experienced duo Conor Henderson and Watt were also included in Hertfordshire.
Last season’s corresponding fixture finished in a convincing 7-1 victory to the young Gunners but this was not such plain sailing.
Henderson fired the game’s first effort narrowly wide from a deflected free-kick - but it was the hosts who took the lead two minutes later.
Former academy graduate Riza - who played once for Arsenal in November 1998 - glanced a header home from Graeme Montgomery’s excellent cross.
Burton's youngsters responded well, however, and almost drew level shortly after when Jernade Meade flashed a dangerous cross narrowly wide.
Arsenal began to enjoy the lion’s share of possession after a disjointed opening and the lively Watt was heavily involved as they searched for an equaliser.
The striker was almost let loose after picking up possession from full back Ben Nunn but was denied by a fine challenge from Luke Garrard before he could trouble goalkeeper James Russell.
Moments later they went close again when Josh Rees’ inviting cross evaded Watt before Henderson saw a venomous shot held well by Russell.
Nunn flashed a teasing ball across goal moments later before Angha denied Riza with a superb close-range block.
Burton's side ended the half strongly, however, and were inches away from an equaliser when the 16-year-old Akpom crashed a dangerous effort wide after neat link-up play from Watt and Henderson.
Arsenal came close to an equaliser inside four minutes of the restart when Henderson’s accurate free-kick was tipped over well by Russell - but ultimately, second-half opportunities proved sparse.
Angha was on hand to deny substitute Inih Effiong with a fine challenge as Arsenal got to grips with the second-half reshuffle, which saw James Shea, Daniel Boateng and Jordan Wynter introduced at the break.
Philip Roberts and Anthony Jeffrey both enjoyed action as the half wore on but within a minute the hosts should have doubled their advantage when Garrard stabbed wide after a defensive mix-up inside the area.
But eventually Burton's side did draw level from the penalty spot after Akpom was hauled down by Russell. Watt stepped up confidently and slotted home.
Five minutes later it was two courtesy of Arsenal’s second spot-kick of the afternoon. Wonderful link-up play from last season’s academy trio Jeffrey, Olsson and Roberts saw the latter fouled. This time the industrious Akpom took over and converted.
By this point the impressive hosts had little left in the tank and the younger legs of Arsenal took advantage. With five minutes remaining they added a third when Olsson skipped through the heart of midfield and planted a neat lob over Russell into the back of the net.
A similar Arsenal XI side will face Stevenage at Broadhall Way next Saturday.
- Martinez 46
- Ebecilio 61
- Meade 70
- Angha (C) 70
- Monteiro 46
- Rees 46
- Olsson Goal!
- Henderson 61
- Watt Goal!
- Akpom Goal!
- Shea 46
- Bellerin 70
- Boateng 46
- Wynter 46
- Bihmoutine 70
- Roberts 61
- Jeffrey 61
- Nunn 70
- Noto (C)
- Hutton 70
- Riza 78 Goal!
- Buchanan 46
- Close 70
- Effiong 46
- Hastings 70
- Scott-Morris 78