By Declan Taylor
Arsenal Reserves crashed to their first away defeat of the season against West Ham on Tuesday night.
Despite seeing much of the play in the second half, the visitors were unable to recover from a 24th minute Junior Stanislas volley against an experienced Hammers side.
Rhys Murphy and Jay Simpson went closest for Arsenal while Fran Merida had a goal disallowed for offside. Ultimately though, poor finishing cost Neil Banfield’s side the point they perhaps deserved.
The manager made seven changes to the team that beat Stoke a fortnight ago, replacing the whole back five. Returning trialists Abu Ogogo, Rene Steer and Paul Rodgers slotted in alongside captain Gavin Hoyte while Vito Mannone kept goal.
Amaury Bischoff started his second consecutive Arsenal game at the business-end of a diamond quartet with Simpson paired with Murphy in attack.
It was the visitors who started much the brightest and could have been in front within 50 seconds. Murphy managed to latch onto a low through-ball but, slightly off balance, he could not quite steer his effort beyond Jan Lastuka in the West Ham goal.
Both sides seemed content to play their football and they steadily traded corners throughout the early stages. The Gunners were largely restricted to long-range attempts and Randall and Bischoff both tried their luck.
Arsenal had a Merida goal ruled out after 19 minutes but the hosts, who grew in stature as the half wore on, converted one that counted five minutes later. Walter Lopez, fed by Kyel Reid floated a long, cross-field ball to the unmarked Junior Stanislas who was lurking with intent at the back post. The England Under-19 international rifled his first-time volley into Mannone’s bottom right-hand corner.
It could have easily been two moments later as Mannone brilliantly stopped a thunderous Calum Davenport header. The rebound fell at the feet of the lively Freddie Sears three yards from goal but he couldn’t prod the ball beyond the amassed Arsenal bodies on the line.
The let-off seemed to galvanise the visitors and they pushed for an equaliser for the rest of the half. First Simpson, released down the right, could only crash his drive into the stands when well placed before Murphy squandered another good opportunity.
The 17-year-old received the ball after a mazy Coquelin run but his shot lacked the conviction needed to beat Lastuvka. Murphy could have made amends three minutes later but he could not stretch far enough to turn in a low Simpson cross-shot.
West Ham came out after the interval with renewed vigour and Arsenal spent the opening 15 minutes of the second half under near-constant pressure. A flurry of West Ham corners and free-kicks threatened to extend their lead but Banfield’s boys managed to emerge from the spell unscathed.
Merida and Simpson both had half-chances to restore parity but the Spaniard dragged his effort just wide while Simpson‘s lifted shot was easily held by the keeper.
Banfield made three changes in quick succession mid-way through the second half in an attempt to force the issue. Gilles Sunu, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Rui Fonte, who scored a late winner against Stoke a fortnight ago, came on for the visitors but it was not to be.
There was no repeat of Arsenal’s late heroics as West Ham managed to hold on for the three points.
Referee: D Sheldrake
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