By Nik Brumsack at Borough Sports Ground
An Arsenal XI side began pre-season with a 4-3 victory away at Sutton United on Friday night.
On a pleasant summer evening in Greater London, a highly-impressive first-half performance yielding four goals laid the foundations for a victory that will have pleased coach Steve Gatting.
Strikes from Anthony Jeffrey, Jack Jebb and Isaac Hayden gave the young Gunners a commanding early lead and though Sutton reduced the deficit just before the half-hour, Jebb’s second of the game effectively sealed the win.
The hosts came back strongly in a second half that was disrupted by a raft of changes, with Jamie Slabber and Ben Kudjodi finding the net to ensure a tight final five minutes.
Arsenal held on though and will go into next Saturday’s friendly against Boreham Wood with a win under their belts.
The performance of Dan Crowley, making his debut after signing from Aston Villa, was a particular highlight.
The 15-year-old was composed in possession, clever on the ball and always seemed to find a yard of space.
The visitors may only have been back in training for a little over a week but they raced out of the blocks and quickly set about taking control of proceedings.
Less than 10 minutes in, they had the lead.
Lipman was released down the right flank and, after advancing on goal, the striker unselfishly squared for Jeffrey to slide home from inside the six-yard box.
Five minutes later, the advantage was doubled.
Crowley was felled just outside the area. Jebb stepped up and delightfully curled the resulting free kick into the top corner.
Tommy Dallison then hacked against his own crossbar before Dejan Iliev brilliantly blocked Marvin Williams’ close-range rebound.
That scare aside, Arsenal were by far the superior side. They were largely intelligent in possession and caused plenty of problems with a mixture of direct speed and movement that the hosts struggled to contain.
Midway through the first half, Hayden made it 3-0, waltzing into the penalty area and slotting the ball under Tom Lovelock after Jeffrey’s initial cross was not cleared sufficiently.
The hosts pulled one back when James Stuart headed home a corner but Gatting’s side restored their three-goal cushion when Jebb stroked home after more good work by Crowley.
Each side made changes at the break, with Arinse Uade and Hayden the only two players not to be replaced.
The game became scrappy after half time, with much of it down to the amount of substitutions.
Swedish winger Jamaal Raage came on for his debut and looked a lively presence throughout.
Slabber scored Sutton’s second just after the hour, heading home from 12 yards before Arsenal reintroduced Jebb and Ainsley Maitland-Niles after the pair were replaced at the break.
Wellington Silva then thought he had set up Alex Iwobi for Arsenal’s fifth, but the assistant referee ruled the ball had gone out of play before the latter stroked home.
Kudjodi volleyed in late on to set up a grandstand finish but Gatting’s team held out to seal the win.
Referee: Ryan O'Sullivan
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