An Arsenal XI suffered their first defeat of the season against Boreham Wood on Saturday, going down 3-0 on a humid afternoon in Hertfordshire.

First-half Graeme Montgomery and Mario Noto goals gave the hosts a two-goal lead at the break before Calum Willock made the game safe just after half-time.

While pre-season is primarily about building up match fitness, Steve Gatting may be slightly disappointed by his side’s performance. But the test offered to his young team by an experienced Boreham Wood side is one that could have long-term benefits.

Gatting named the same side that had impressed during the opening 45 minutes against Sutton United last Friday.

Dan Crowley had showcased his undoubted potential in that game with his vast array of passing and clever movement. The 15-year-old again operated as part of an attacking triumvirate at Meadow Park, lining up behind lone striker Austin Lipman alongside wingers Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Anthony Jeffrey.

Isaac Hayden and Jack Jebb formed the shield in front of a defence including Zac Fagan and Tom Dallison, who were given another chance to enhance their central-defensive partnership.

Arsenal started with tempo and almost took the lead within 50 seconds.

Maitland-Niles gained possession on the right-hand side before drifting in and curling a left-footed effort just off target.

One of the highlights of the young Gunners’ victory at Sutton had been the understanding formed between Jebb and Crowley.

The pair combined to great effect 10 minutes in and, after Jebb found Lipman inside the area, the striker fired just over.

But despite a solid start, Gatting’s side were soon behind.

Willock nodded down a long ball into the path of Montgomery, whose sumptuous first-time volley flew into the top corner.

It got worse five minutes later.

After the hosts were awarded a free-kick 20 yards out, Luke Garrard quickly repositioned the ball and Mario Noto took full advantage, stroking a low effort around the wall and in. The goal stood despite Lipman’s protestations.

Trialists Liam Enver-Marum and Willock then both went close to extending the lead yet further but were denied by a mixture of Deyan Iliev and slack finishing.

Arsenal were becoming increasingly frustrated but they almost pulled one back when Crowley charged down Garrard’s clearance before bending a shot narrowly off target.

Gatting made a triple substitution at the break, introducing Nico Yennaris, Daniel Boateng and Wellington Silva.

And Silva almost made an instant impression, embarking on a slaloming run and shooting just wide.

Typically for pre-season, both sides continued to make changes throughout the second half. The game became somewhat disjointed as a result but the hosts added a third when Willock nodded home from close range after Charlie Moone rattled the crossbar.

Yennaris almost pulled one back midway through the half but saw his shot tipped over by the largely untroubled James Russell.

The game petered out in the closing stages, brightened up only by the occasional flash of skill by Silva.

Arsenal pressed until the end but for all their possession, could not find a way past the hosts’ stubborn and well-organised defence.

Arsenal U21

1
Iliev 59
2
Siemann 74
3
Fagan
4
Uade 74
5
Dallison 74
6
Hayden 46
7
Maitland-Niles 46
8
Crowley 59
9
Jebb 46
10
Lipman 59
11
Jeffrey 76

Substitutes

12
Vickers 59
13
Raage 76
14
Moore 74
15
Wright 74
16
O'Connor 74
17
Iwobi 59
18
Boateng 46
19
Yennaris 46
20
Silva 46
21
Kamara 59

Boreham Wood

1
Russell 82
2
Jones 69
3
Garrard
4
Bentley
5
Nunn 52
6
Reynolds 46
7
Willock 64 Goal!
8
Simmonds
9
Montgomery 78 Goal!
10
Noto Goal!
11
Enver-Marum 64

Substitutes

12
Morgan 64
13
Brown 78
14
Sterling-Parker 64
15
Moone 46
16
Thompson 52
17
Knight 82
18
Doolan 69
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 Nik Brumsack 20 Jul 2013