By Declan Taylor

Arsenal Reserves take on Fulham at Underhill tonight in the last second-string fixture before next week’s Carling Cup tie against Wigan.

It is likely that Arsène Wenger will dip into Neil Banfield’s squad for the visit of the Latics and a good performance against Fulham tonight could be the difference between a start and a place on the bench next Tuesday.

Fulham go into tonight’s game off the back of a consummate 4-1 victory against West Ham in their last outing and Banfield is aware of the threat that the Cottagers can pose.

“We always have good games against Fulham,” the manager told “Billy McKinlay and Roy Hodgson over there have the right principles about how the game should be played. It will be a tough game and hopefully they will have a few senior players to test our youngsters but we always get a competitive game over there.

“They have always played good football, put the ball on the floor and been competitive. We are under no illusions about what we will face tonight; they have a good young side.”

Banfield makes three changes to the side that lost 1-0 at West Ham two weeks ago. Luke Ayling and Rui Fonte, who started on the bench against the Hammers, will both start tonight as well as Henri Lansbury who missed the trip to Bishops Stortford because of international duty. It is a young side that will face Fulham but the injuries sustained by the first team on Saturday somewhat forced Banfield’s hand.

“We have lost Mark Randall to a groin strain picked up last Thursday,” he said. “Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere have been pulled today because of the first team picking up a few injuries over the weekend. It is not ideal but it does give others a chance.

“Gavin [Hoyte] will start at right back tonight and Luke [Ayling] will come in at centre half. Luke has done really well for Steve Bould in the Under-18s and the opportunity has arisen. We will give him a chance tonight and hopefully he will take it and continue that good work.”

Arsenal Reserves have lost three games already this term, only one less than they suffered in the whole of last season. Banfield insists that results are not the raison d’etre at this level but is still aware of the importance of victories.

“Anyone will tell you that to play at the top level, winning is part of being a top class player,” he said. “You have got to want to win and you have got to hate losing. I think we have that but it cannot be the be-all and end-all at this level. Within that development your players must have the hunger to be successful and win games, it is all part of becoming a top-class player at Arsenal.”

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31 Oct 2008