Post-Match Report

Friendly: Lewes 0-4 Arsenal - Report

Lewes v Arsenal Reserves

By Matt Fortune

Arsenal Reserves were the guests as Lewes FC unveiled their new
Terry Parris Terrace at the Dripping Pan on Wednesday night.
Arsenal legend and now Head of Youth Development Liam Brady was on
ceremonial duty while the Arsenal players were professional from
start to finish as they dismantled the home side 4-0.

Three goals in 11 devastating first-half minutes from Fran
Merida, James Dunne and Rui Fonte all but killed the game off as a
contest, but to Lewes' credit they didn't stop hustling and
harrying Arsenal at any stage. The scoring was completed after 67
minutes when Jay Thomas chipped home casually from eight yards out
after some good build-up play.

Neil Banfield included all four of the youngsters that, just one
night earlier, had been involved with Arsene Wenger's Carling
Cup squad. Merida and Henri Lansbury lined up in midfield while
Gavin Hoyte, the returning captain, came in at centre back with
Vito Mannone in goal.

On a bitterly-cold evening near the Sussex coast, the Gunners
struggled to assert themselves in the early exchanges. In fact the
Blue Square South side posed the first threat. Jamie Cade pounced
on a loose ball and, showing an excellent turn of pace, forced a
foul from the recovering Paul Rodgers right on the corner of the
box. A low ball in from the resulting free-kick caused momentary
panic but Abu Ogogo was on hand to launch the ball clear.

With 20 minutes gone the visitors began to move up through the
gears, and with some patient approach-play got the breakthrough.
Nacer Barazite was given space to cut in from the right before
threading a pass through to Dunne. The midfielder had little time
to squeeze a shot away but, as he did, the ball ricocheted off the
goalkeeper to Ogogo who in turn rolled it to an unmarked Merida six
yards out. The Spaniard was making his first start of the season
for the Reserves since returning from international duty with Spain
at the Under-17 World Cup.

The goal did well to settle their nerves and Arsenal were now
playing some exciting football.

The second came five minutes later. Another excellent collection
of short, sharp passes left the Lewes defence all at sea, and when
Lansbury picked out the intelligent run of Dunne the midfielder
expertly fired home across Aaron France in goal.

On 32 minutes the Gunners had their third. Merida and Lansbury
were again at the centre of a fine move and, when the latter
unleashed a ferocious drive from 25 yards, the net seemed destined
to bulge. However France got a strong hand to it and pawed it wide.
The corner that followed was taken by Merida and met in acrobatic
style by an unmarked Fonte six yards out.  

At half time Jay Emmanuel-Thomas replaced Lansbury who Banfield
later revealed had slight discomfort in his hamstring. Lewes
manager Steve King also made seven changes of his own in a bid to
salvage something from the game.

Even with the three-goal margin seemingly unassailable, Lewes
started the second half with intent and nearly pulled one back five
minutes in. Fortunately for Arsenal Mannone was alert and smothered
well at the feet of Matt Groves.

Arsenal soon found their rhythm and nearly scored what might
have been goal of the season. Fonte was the eventual recipient of
an exquisite passage of one-touch passing around the box. The
Portuguese youngster danced through a couple of challenges and was
unlucky to see his shot trickle narrowly wide.

Dunne was then withdrawn in favour of the attacking prowess of
Rhys Murphy - the Under-17 international though came off on 85
minutes with a groin problem.

The influence of Barazite grew as the game went on and it was
thanks to the good vision of the Dutchman that the scoring was
completed on 67 minutes. A cross-field pass to Fonte was perfect in
its timing and accuracy and when the striker in turn fed
Emmanuel-Thomas, he evaded two tackles before lifting the ball over
the keeper with the coolest of finishes.

The remainder of the game passed largely without incident, but
with the intensity falling Banfield made a string of changes.
Mannone was replaced by Wojciech Szczesny, Hoyte by Thomas Cruise,
and Fonte by Craig Eastmond.

The performance, although against lesser opposition, was
impressive from Arsenal, and much will have been learned. The
second-string now turn their attention to next Tuesday's visit
to Tottenham, where they will look to get their league campaign
back on track after defeat last time out against Birmingham

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