Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was once again the catalyst for an impressive victory for Arsenal Reserves as Neil Banfield’s side returned to winning ways with a 4-1 victory over their Everton counterparts at London Colney this afternoon.
Having severely missed his presence in last week’s defeat to Aston Villa, Emmanuel-Thomas was to the fore against the Toffees, scoring a goal in either half to take his tally for the season into double figures. Emboldening the fact that he is a cut above this level, Emmanuel-Thomas, who now has four first-team appearances to his name, was joined on the scoresheet by Chuks Aneke and, more surprisingly, defender Havard Nordtveit in the victory.
Banfield’s team selection made for interesting reading. Contrary to pre-match reports, Aaron Ramsey wasn’t quite ready to make his long-awaited recovery from injury, whilst Thomas Cruise’s loan move and the absence of Jernade Meade meant that captain Ignasi Miquel shifted to left-back, with Daniel Boateng partnering Sead Hajrovic at centre-back. Emmanuel-Thomas, meanwhile, started in the central striker role.
subs: McDermott, Deacon (for Ozyakup, 65) , Yennaris (for Lansbury, 85) , Roberts (for Emmanuel-Thomas, 73) , Monakana.
Given the final result, it is somewhat bewildering to consider that Arsenal found themselves a goal down within five minutes but, when Shkodran Mustafi headed in Jose Baxter’s free-kick, that is exactly the predicament that they encountered.
Banfield was evidently disappointed at his side’s concession of yet another headed goal, but, from there on in, it was, more or less, total Arsenal dominance. First Aneke should have done better than to fire straight at Iain Turner when well placed, then Emmanuel-Thomas rattled the post after being found expertly by Craig Eastmond.
If that was a surefire warning that a goal was in the essence, then Everton did not heed it. Seconds later a similar cross from Henri Lansbury found Emmanuel-Thomas and the 19-year-old simply slotted home to equalise.
Arsenal could, and probably should, have taken the lead before the interval. Shane Duffy and Luke Garbutt made crucial interventions at key moments and Gilles Sunu had no excuse for firing well over the bar from Emmanuel-Thomas’ centre. The final effort of the first period was a spectacular one, with Aneke looking to curl the ball past Turner. Thankfully, for Everton’s sake, the veteran goalkeeper did well to tip it over.
Aneke did get the better of him, however, just two minutes after the break. Oguzhan Ozyakup, who was chosen in midfield instead of Nico Yennaris, found Aneke with a lofted ball and the England youth international rose to head home majestically to put Arsenal in front.
The game was all but over on 52 minutes, thanks to an early candidate for Reserve goal of the season. Emmanuel-Thomas is likely to have plenty of entries in that category, but this particular one was breathtaking, with a superb piece of skill to wrong-foot Garbutt preceding another consummate finish.
If that wasn’t enough misery piled on Everton, then Nordtveit rubbed even more salt in their wounds when he powered home a header from a corner to make it 4-1.
Everton, to their credit, still battled on in search of a consolation, with Baxter hitting a post, before the highly-rated striker Philip Roberts replaced Emmanuel-Thomas for his Reserve debut. The latter would have gone off to a standing ovation, except for the fact that there were barely any spectators present to witness his feat.
Everton had cause to be aggrieved when Kieran Agard, a product of the Hale End academy system, thought that his effort had crossed the line but it wasn’t awarded by the referee. Even if given, it would have made little difference to the overall game and Arsenal sought to emphasise that concept with two good efforts from Aneke that were repelled by Turner.
The day though, as it has done on so many occasions in the past, belonged to Emmanuel-Thomas.