By Adam Clark
Arsenal Reserves slipped to their fifth league defeat in
succession as they were outmuscled by a powerful Watford at Boreham
Wood FC on Monday.
Much like last Monday's 3-0 defeat against Tottenham, the
Gunners second string combined good touches with probing forward
play but came unstuck against physically superior opponents.
Vito Mannone had already saved an Albert Jarrett penalty when
his fumble allowed Liam Henderson to convert and although,
Arsenal's young side endeavoured, they were denied by some
resilient Watford defending.
With Wednesday's Carling Cup Semi-Final second leg in mind,
Reserve team coach Neil Banfield once again invested his faith in
the bulk of Steve Bould's Under-18s side, and made just three
changes. In came Fran Merida. Vincent van den Berg and Kieran Gibbs
for Giorgos Efrem, Nacer Barazite and Henri Lansbury.
Arsenal set about dictating the pace of play and looked eager to
impress with Arsene Wenger sat watching in the stands.
Nevertheless, it was Watford who created first, on 14 minutes, only
for Jarrett to head wide when unmarked at the back post.
Arsenal's response was instant and Watford keeper Scott
Loach had to be alert to turn Jay Simpson's low drive around
On 18 minutes, the hosts were awarded a penalty after Paul
Rodgers chopped down the tricky Dominic Blizzard but Mannone was
the saviour, diving low to his left and grabbing hold of
The chance to make amends for the penalty miss arrived on 21
minutes but somehow Henderson headed wide with Mannone stranded.
The striker made no mistake just three minutes later however,
stroking in from six-yards after the Arsenal keeper spilt
Six minutes before the break Blizzard's close-range volley
nearly made it two but Rodgers was in the right place to block, and
Gavin Hoyte swept up the danger.
The near miss brought Arsenal to life and they enjoyed easily
there best spell of the game.
Merida's rasping drive from the edge of the box whistled
past the post and James Dunne provided two inviting crosses but the
half-time whistle ended Arsenal's assault.
The second half proved a similar tale as substitute Rui Fonte,
on for Dunne, became the latest player to struggle against
Watford's sturdy spine. It resulted in more Watford pressure
and Robinson had another chance to extend the lead on the hour.
This time Rene Steer was on hand to clear away.
On 64 minutes Randall's searching ball found Simpson on the
right but the striker's cross whistled past Fonte's
forehead. Soon after Giorgos Efrem's trickery earned him a
snapshot on goal and with the next attack Randall clattered the
crossbar from 25-yards.
Van den Berg and Fonte had further efforts for the
Gunners and Mannone pushed away a fierce Blizzard drive on 75
minutes to keep the deficit at one.
The impressive Efrem looked the most likely to provide for the
visitors and with 13 minutes remaining he centred a cross which Van
den Berg headed over.
It was Arsenal's last chance of note as the hosts looked to
play out the dying minutes. It was another battle that went in
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