By Richard Clarke
Arsenal Reserves recorded their fourth successive victory with a 4-0 win over Derby on Monday night.
The East Midlands side had started the day joint top of the table but they were no match for Eddie Niedzwiecki's resurgent youngsters, who are rapidly making up for a wretched run around the turn of the year.
Michal Papadopulos rammed home the first in the 13th minute. Then Derby keeper Liam Richardson denied Arsenal striker Jeremie Aliadiere on at least four occasions before, ironically, making the error that allowed Olafur-Ingi Skulason the simplest of headers with 20 minutes remaining.
That killed Derby's spirit and Aliadiere got his just rewards for a swashbuckling performance with two goals in the dying minutes.
Despite his heroics later on, the visiting No 1 started the game by nearly gifting Niedzwiecki's side the lead.
Rami Shaaban, his opposite number, launched a long ball forward. It was flicked on for Aliadiere but Richardson easily beat the French striker to the ball. However his attempted clearance hit nothing but fresh air. Aliadiere leapt onto the chance but, with two defenders covering and the angle narrowing, he blazed wide.
Shaaban denied Derby striker Fahrudin Kuduzovic immediately after that and then produced an agile save from Christopher Palmer's drive in the 10th minute. However title-chasing Derby, second only on goal difference, were depleted because of the first team's game at Sheffield United on Tuesday. It had sapped the strength in their squad and the youngsters buckled after Arsenal took the lead in the 13th minute.
Papadopulos swapped passes with Bentley on the edge of the area before beating Richardson with a rasping low shot into the corner. A fine finish.
Then, after Aliadiere's deflected shot had forced Richardson into a smart save at his near post, the Czech Republic striker rose unmarked to nod over from Justin Hoyte's deep, tantalising cross.
As the minutes ticked by to half time, Richardson rushed out to block Aliadiere on three occasions. He also made one twisting, mid-air save after the French striker had controlled Bentley's clipped though ball and, with his back to goal, produced a fizzing, dipping shot from distance. From the corner, Hoyte slammed a rising shot over the bar.
Arsenal had produced pretty patterns for 45 minutes but they need a second goal to secure the points.
It seemed like more of the same at the start of the second half. Richardson again denied Aliadiere as he scuttled through. He the ball spilled to Papadopulos, who steadied himself, chipped the keeper but found Derby captain Pablo Mills mopping up the danger.
The visitors brought on Junior on the hour. The Brazilian striker, out for approaching six months with a knee ligament injury, was immediately in the thick of things. He adroitly controlled Martin Palmer's cross and spun well but his shot was tamely poked at Shaaban.
Nine minutes later, Arsenal got the second they had deserved. Bentley curled over a corner from the right, Richardson spilled his catch and centre back Skulason pounced to nod home from five yards out.
A minute from time, Aliadiere broke clear on the left and tucked away his shot just inside the post. He added another with almost the final kick of the game. Richardson thrust out a hand and got a touch but the ball still managed to find its way in.
The keeper did not deserve that but the striker probably did.
- Our next reserve game is against Watford at Vicarage Road on Wednesday, April 7. Click here for a full list of Arsenal's Reserve League fixtures.