By Adam Clark
On a freezing night at the Bescot Stadium, Arsenal Reserves were
frozen out by the ice-cool finishing of an experienced Aston Villa
Luke Moore, who scored the winner when these two sides met at
Barnet FC just three weeks ago, was again the main tormentor. The
striker hit a brace either side of Craig Gardner's emphatic
penalty to ensure a comfortable victory over Arsenal's
The Gunners, who included nine of the side that defeated
Manchester United in the FA Youth Cup Semi-Final first leg last
Wednesday, also finished the game with 10 men after Armand Traore
received his marching orders late on.
Coach Neil Banfield had first-team experience at his disposal in
defensive duo of Traore and Matthew Connolly. The Arsenal teamsheet
was eclipsed however by that of their hosts. Goalkeeper Stuart
Taylor, who made 30 appearances for Arsenal as a youngster, started
alongside defender JLloyd Samuel, midfielders Isaiah Osbourne and
Craig Gardner and striker Luke Moore who have all featured in the
Premiership this term. The latter also has two top-flight goals to
As the game kicked off the pitch was still showing signs of the
earlier sleet storms that had torn through the Midlands skies. In
places it was more ice rink than football pitch.
Villa were by far the brighter side early on. Both Gardner and
Marc Albrighton had chances in the opening stages but failed to
test Arsenal keeper Vito Mannone.
Then on 10 minutes a mistake from Mannone gifted the hosts the
lead. James Dunne played the ball back to the Italian keeper who
botched his attempt to control under pressure from Moore. The ball
rolled away from the keeper's clutches and gave the Villa
striker the simple task of stroking into an empty net.
Four minutes later Stephen O'Halloran crashed a header
against the post and a Villa walkover appeared to be on the
Jay Simpson had Arsenal's first meaningful effort soon after
though and, on 25 minutes, a powerful drive from Randall deflected
Yet Villa tightened their grip on the game on 27 minutes when
Gavin Hoyte brought down Moore, seemingly on the edge of the box.
Referee Mr Evans deemed the challenge had taken place inside and
awarded a penalty. Gardner dispatched it confidently into the roof
of the net.
Arsenal's best chance came on 37 minutes and it spawned a
succession of chances before the break. The young Gunners were
awarded a free-kick 20 yards out which Randall touched to Traore.
The 17-year-old Frenchman drilled through a crowded box but with
Taylor beaten his effort thumped off the post. Taylor then saw a
clearance ricochet over off Simpson's shin and Connolly looped
a header over from the resulting corner.
Simpson and Cypriot midfielder Giorgos Efrem had further chances
and although the half-time whistle brought a respite from the cold
Arsenal would have been happier to continue.
Two minutes after the break Hungarian striker Zoltan Stieber
headed over for Villa and from there the hosts went about bossing
the game as they had for much of the first half.
Therefore it was little surprise when Albrighton's
55th-minute cut-back provided Moore with the opportunity to wrap up
the game from eight yards. Mannone got an outstretched palm to the
ball but had little chance of keeping it out.
O'Halloran sent another header over for Villa and Moore
fluffed a gilt-edged chance for his hat-trick. But a game that had
been so open in its infancy was closing out with a whimper.
In fairness to Arsenal's youngsters they continued to work
hard despite the inevitability of defeat. There were no clear
chances to speak of but their insistence on closing down and
full-hearted commitment to keeping the scoreline respectable was
Unfortunately their work ethic earned them little. And in the
dying seconds the Gunners were reduced to 10 men when Traore's
reaction to a fierce challenge from David Bevan earned him a second
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