By Connor Armstrong at Meadow Park
Carl Jenkinson played just over an hour on his comeback as Arsenal Under-23s had to settle for a point against Southampton.
The England international had been out since January with a knee injury, but stepped up his rehabilitation at Meadow Park.
The Gunners had the better of goalscoring opportunities but couldn’t find the net in an intriguing encounter.
Stephy Mavididi flashed a powerful drive wide of the far post inside the opening half hour, as the hosts looked to seize the initiative.
Ismael Bennacer went even closer for Steve Gatting's side when his rasping drive cannoned back off the upright just moments before half-time.
Souhampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy was repeatedly tested by Eddie Nketiah and Chris Willock, but Tyreke Johnson spurned a late chance for the visitors by sending a flicked effort wide.
SETTING THE SCENE
As expected, Jenkinson made his return by starting at right-back for Gatting’s side.
Krystian Bielik took the captain’s armband in central defence, where he was joined by Ben Sheaf.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles partnered Gedion Zelalem in midfield, with Mavididi leading the line in attack.
Vlad Dragomir was named among the substitutes, having scored last time out as the Under-19s went down 2-1 to FC Basel in the Uefa Youth League.
Both sides set out to play attacking, passing football, contributing to an opening 45 minutes that was easy on the eye, even if it was lacking in goals.
It looked as if the Gunners would storm into the lead when a counter-attack led to a four on one situation, but Jake Hesketh’s challenge halted the Arsenal advance.
Jenkinson then overlapped Ismael Bennacer before lifting a cross perfectly for Willock, but the 18-year-old winger saw his attempt held by McCarthy.
Next to try his luck was Mavididi, taking one touch just outside the area before blasting a fizzing effort just wide of the far post.
Arsenal went closer still as the first half went into added time, with Bennacer setting his sights and thumping an effort against the upright.
The second half followed the pattern established in the first, with Southampton put on the back foot as Nketiah stung the palms of McCarthy early on.
Mavididi looked set to score when his expert touch and run inside saw him find space, but the Saints goalkeeper recovered to claw the ball away from goal.
McCarthy was tested once more soon after, when Nketiah’s quick thinking saw him spin away from his marker before sending a low effort towards goal.
With the game still goalless, Maitland-Niles threatened to make the breakthrough but his attempt from the halfway line dropped wide of the left-hand post.
The visitors had a chance to win the game in the final minutes, but Johnson’s lifted effort failed to find the net after clearing the head of Macey.
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