By Nick Teale
FA Youth Cup holders Arsenal are out of the competition after a 2-0 Fourth Round defeat at home to Ipswich.
Two goals within a minute early in the game ditched the Gunners out of the tournament at Underhill. The side battled hard to cut the deficit but Ipswich's backline proved too difficult to breach on the night.
Manager Steve Bould fielded a strong side with left back Cedric Evina wearing the captain's armband. Ignasi Miquel partnered Daniel Boateng at centre-half with Saed Hajrovic taking up the right-back slot.
Emmanuel Frimpong, Oguzhan Ozyakup and Chuks Aneke made up the midfield three while Roarie Deacon joined joint-top youth team goalscorers Luke Freeman and Benik Afobe in attack.
Leading the line for the visitors was hotly-rated striker Connor Wickham. The 16-year-old has already made 17 first-team appearances for Ipswich and has reportedly attracted the interest of a number of Premier League clubs.
And the youngster was quick to impact on the Gunners, scoring the second of two goals crafted in similar fashion that put Arsenal 2-0 behind after 11 minutes.
First Ronan Murray was clean through on goal after a long ball over the top beat the hosts' backline in the 10th minute.
Murray slotted into James Dunn's bottom-right corner and a minute later the Arsenal keeper had to retrieve the ball from the back of his net again. Wickham was the man who got away from the Gunners' defence on this occasion and he converted across goal from the left edge of the six-yard box.
Despite the goals Arsenal remained settled and after a couple of set pieces worked their first real chance of the game.
Freeman cut inside from the left and played the ball central to Frimpong. The midfielder's shot from 20 yards was blocked but fell to Deacon on the right. He crossed back towards Freeman. The Dartford-born striker made a good connection but the Ipswich keeper jumped to his left to catch the ball.
With nine minutes of the first-half remaining Arsenal had another good chance. Evina crossed from the left and though Afobe was beaten to the header the ball fell for Freeman. However his shot from close range flashed wide across the face of goal.
A string of Arsenal corners saw the game to half time but after the break the Gunners visibly upped their tempo.
They knew that two goals were required just to take the game to extra time and they were clearly eager to build momentum from the start of the half.
However it was Ipswich who had the first major opportunity after the interval. Luke Hyam found Wickham onside and unmarked just six yards out. However, the 16-year-put his shot wide of the keeper's right post.
Two minutes later Hajrovic impressed the crowd with a flick past Ipswich substitute Jamie Griffith. He then delivered a testing cross, and Mirko Ranieri had to dive acrobatically to punch clear.
Just after the hour mark Evina's cross rattled the bar before Aneke hit a shot into Ranieri's hands from the edge of the area.
Time was running out for the Gunners and with 17 minutes left to play Bould made his first substitution, bringing Jernade Meade on for Deacon.
Aneke and Freeman each tried their luck shortly afterwards but both efforts were saved, the latter's forcing a corner.
In the 79th minute Ozyakup rolled a free kick central to Frimpong who struck the ball from 25 yards out, only to see his shot crash wide. Then came Arsenal's best chance of the half.
Afobe picked up the ball on the halfway line and counter-attacking he surged forwards down the left. He cut inside to enter the area but had his shot blocked.
It was to be the Gunners last clear-cut opportunity of the game, and of the tournament.
Meade and Frimpong both attempted shots in stoppage time, but after the former missed his connection, the latter saw his effort blocked.
One minute later the referee called time on Arsenal's Youth Cup campaign for the season.
As the teams shook hands at the final whistle disappointment was etched on the faces of Arsenal's youngsters. They fought hard in trying to claw back their deficit but Steve Bould's side are left to concentrate on the Academy League.
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