By Declan Taylor
Arsenal Reserves suffered their first defeat since October at the hands of a strong Fulham outfit at Motspur Park on Tuesday night.
After a goalless, and rather dull, first half, the hosts struck three times within 15 minutes of the restart to wrap up three points that take the Cottagers above Arsenal in the Reserve League South.
First Adam Watts stabbed home a Wayne Brown corner after 49 minutes before Diomansy Kamara turned in Julian Gray’s cutback moments later.
On the hour mark loan-signing Giles Barnes produced a lofted finish of pure quality to put the result beyond doubt.
It was a deserved victory for Billy McKinlay’s side who won the battle of size and strength in almost every area of the pitch.
Banfield had kept faith in the back four that dealt so admirably with Aston Villa last Monday but he did make a change between the sticks. Seventeen-year-old James Shea replaced Vito Mannone for his Reserve team debut.
There were further changes in midfield with Jack Wilshere and Mark Randall coming in for Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong while Amaury Bischoff replaced Fran Merida just behind lone frontman Gilles Sunu.
It was Arsenal’s defence which would be the busier in the early stages but in truth both sides struggled to create in a rather forgettable first half-hour.
Ex-Gunner Gray was full of early running and his clipped cross from the left almost opened the door for Brown. However, the central midfielder could only steer his side-foot volley wide of Shea’s far post.
Despite the presence of first-team figures Kamara and Barnes in the home side’s attack, Brown was the fulcrum for most of Fulham’s forward thinking in the first half.
The 20-year-old’s dead-ball delivery proved a constant threat throughout and he also saw a 25-yard effort, midway through the first half, smothered well at the second attempt by Shea.
Bischoff had Arsenal’s only real sight of goal in the first half and even then he could only coax a routine save from David Stockdale in the Fulham goal, after a neat one-two with Sunu on the edge of the area.
After such a turgid first half, the second period started with a bang.
Within four minutes of the restart, after Arsenal had failed to deal with a deep Brown corner, Adam Watts was on hand to stab home from four yards. One hundred seconds later, it was two.
Gray scampered down the left wing before pulling a low cross back to the onrushing Kamara. The ex-West Brom striker did not need to break his stride to finish neatly past Shea from 10 yards.
And things would get worse before they got better for the visitors.
On the hour-mark, the lively Barnes beat Nordtveit in the air on the edge of the area and as Shea ventured off his line to meet him, the on-loan striker delicately lifted the ball over the keeper and into the net.
It was a finish that typified the sort of class that has seen Barnes draw admiring glances from the Premier League’s big guns.
Even three second-half changes from Arsenal could not rejuvenate them and, in truth, Fulham looked most likely to score next.
Shea, who was probably Arsenal’s best player on the night, dived bravely at the feet of Kamara when the Senegalese international tried to round him. The 17-year-old then saved well from a long-range Brown strike 10 minutes later.
Arsenal finished the match the stronger but they were unable to fashion any real openings. After only one goalless display in the whole season, Banfield’s boys now have two in a row.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.