By Adam Clark
Arsenal Under-18s may have come away from Humberside this evening with a 2-1 win and a place in the FA Youth Cup Fifth Round but nine-man Hull City made them work for it.
On a bitterly cold night Jay Simpson's penalty and a measured drive from Mark Randall proved enough to overcome the resilient hosts who had captain Matthew Plummer and Frank Belt dismissed. The disadvantage did not prevent a spectacular equaliser from Nicky Featherstone and a late surge that so nearly forced extra-time.
Steve Bould made three changes to the side that struggled to overcome Wycombe in the last round with keeper Wojciech Szczesny coming in for the injured Lee Butcher while Mark Randall and Nacer Barazite replaced Giorgos Efrem and Kieran Gibbs.
Arsenal took the game to their opponents from the off and within three minutes Simpson had tested keeper Tom Woodhead from range. Four minutes Belt's weak header gifted the ball to Rui Fonte only for the Hull defender to make amends for his error with a last-ditch sliding challenge.
On 16 minutes Simpson threatened again and this time found Barazite inside the six-yard box. The Dutchman side footed goalwards but Belt was there to deny Arsenal again - only this time with his hand.
Referee Mr Joyce consulted his assistant before awarding Arsenal a penalty, leaving him with little choice but to show Belt a red card. Simpson ignored the jeers of the vocal Hull support to slot calmly to Woodhead's right.
Armand Traore came within inches of doubling Arsenal's lead soon after. The left back skipped forward before unleashing a rasping drive from a near-impossible angle that caught Woodhead off guard at his near post. The keeper palmed the ball onto the crossbar but was spared as the ball bounced down on the line and back into play.
The misfortune did not deter Bould's side and they got their reward for supplying constant pressure on the half hour mark. A free-flowing move down the left allowed Traore to cut back for Fonte and when the Portuguese striker sold a dummy to his marker, Randall emerged to lash low to Woodhead's right from 18-yards.
The hosts sprang to life after a quiet start to the second half and looked threatening for the first time. On 55 minutes Szczesny steamed out of his box and knocked Ryan Kendall to the ground in his attempt to clear the ball. The Polish stopper received a booking for the challenge but paid a greater penalty just seconds later when Hull's top scorer Featherstone took just one step before confidently curling the ball high into the corner.
The deficit may have been cut to one but Arsenal's man advantage soon doubled. On 63 minutes midfielder Plummer appeared to plant a kick on Szczesny during a scramble in the box and when the dust settled Mr Joyce was there waving his red card once again.
In true Arsenal style the emphasis of Bould's youngsters was now on passing their way through to goal.
Barazite stung Woodhead's palms from 25-yards on 67 minutes but unfortunately there was no one on hand to convert when the keeper parried.
In fairness Hull made the most of their remaining outfield players and mustered three half chances of their own. In the main, the defensive pairing of Gavin Hoyte and Paul Rodgers excelled in neutralising the threat but left Nicky McNamara unmarked to head inches over Szczesny's bar with 10 minutes remaining.
At the other end the visitors restricted the service to Simpson and Fonte and the latter looked understandably frustrated when another chance went begging soon after.
Deep in to injury time Hull were awarded a free-kick on the right. Defender Joe Lamplough's effort swirled viciously in the thrashing wind but Szczesny produced a superb fingertip save to turn the ball away.
It was to be the last chance before the full-time whistle, one Arsenal's youngsters must have been relieved to hear.
Law slides in on Gibbs
Randall battles with Featherstone
Randall heads clear
Fonte passes Lamplough
Jamie Devitt climbs on Jay Simpson
Simpson scores from the spot
Jay celebrates his spot-kick
Mark Randall puts us 2-0 up
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