By Isaac Moore at The New Lawn Stadium
An Arsenal XI came from behind three times before eventually beating Conference side Forest Green Rovers 6-4 at The New Lawn Stadium on Tuesday.
Goals from Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Jon Toral and Daniel Crowley put Arsenal back on level terms before a late double from Isaac Hayden and a Semi Ajayi volley sealed a thoroughly entertaining victory for the young Gunners.
This was Arsenal's third win against non-league opposition this pre-season, a demonstration of their progress after struggling last summer against the physical challenge of semi-professional clubs.
SETTING THE SCENE
Steve Gatting made five changes from Friday's draw at Boreham Wood. Matt Macey returned in goal to make his first appearance of pre-season, Glen Kamara was preferred to Tafari Moore while Chuba Akpom and Gedion Zelalem started after their Emirates Cup exploits at the weekend. Hayden also returned to captain the side.
The young Gunners came into this game on the back of two impressive showings against non-league opposition and, with the start of their league season fast-approaching, tonight was another chance for the players to impress before the competitive action begins.
Forest Green, who took on Crystal Palace on Saturday, were playing their last friendly before beginning their Conference campaign in four days' time.
The Green Devils pressed Arsenal from the off and took the lead after seven minutes when Norwood, who was left unmarked inside the six-yard box, headed past Macey from Marcus Kelly's corner.
Just as they did at Boreham Wood, Arsenal responded strongly and were level before the 20-minute mark. Akpom had too much pace for Luke Oliver and the forward's low cross from the left was met by Maitland-Niles, who slotted under Sam Russell with a first-time finish.
Arsenal were in the ascendancy now and controlled the remainder of the half with some free-flowing football. Hayden tested Russell with a low effort from distance before seeing a skidding shot deflected narrowly wide.
But it was Forest Green who went in at half-time ahead. In the 38th minute, James Guthrie broke free down the right and his low cross found Norwood, who fired in his second from close range.
The hosts began the second period on the front foot with Luke Rodgers and Marcus Kelly both missing the target from distance.
In the 57th minute, Arsenal had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down when Akpom was hauled over in the box after Hayden and Zelalem had combined.
The Gunners were back on terms two minutes later though. After a spell of pressure, Toral found Zelalem on the edge of box and the midfielder lifted a deft pass back to the overlapping Spaniard, who lobbed the keeper.
Rovers regained the lead four minutes later when Deyan Iliev's punch fell to Sinclair on the edge of the box. His shot took a deflection before finding its way into the bottom corner.
But a determined Arsenal side were level again within a minute. Crowley found a pocket of space 25 yards from goal and took two touches before burying an unstoppable strike into the corner.
With seven minutes to go, Hayden swivelled inside the box before keeping his composure to fire past White into the far corner and give Arsenal the lead for the first time.
Gatting's side made the game safe when Crowley picked out Hayden's well-timed run and the captain found the bottom corner.
Neither team was finished though. Kris Olsson's cross from the right found Ajayi unmarked and the defender volleyed home at the near post.
In front of a crowd of over 1,000, the hosts netted a consolation in stoppage time when Sinclair lashed in a first-time shot from 18 yards.
- Macey 59
- Ajayi Goal!
- Hayden Goal! Goal!
- Maitland-Niles 55 Goal!
- Toral Goal!
- Iliev 59
- Crowley 55 Goal!
Forest Green Rovers
- Norwood 62 Goal! Goal!
- Aden Baldwin
- Marcus Kelly
- Sinclair 62 Goal! Goal!
- Ady Pennock