U18 Premier League
Arsenal 1 (Gnabry) Newcastle 0
He was the goalscoring hero against Fulham in the FA Youth Cup just four days previously, but on Saturday Austin Lipman had the unusual experience of going in goal following an injury to Josh Vickers during the 1-0 victory over Newcastle United in the U18 League.
Arsenal had named Macedonian shot-stopper Deyan Iliev on the bench, but were unable to use him as coach Steve Gatting had already made all three of his substitutions by the time Vickers picked up a knock late on. Thankfully, Lipman had just one relatively straightforward stop to make in the dying stages, meaning that Arsenal secured three points courtesy of Serge Gnabry’s stunning strike nine minutes in.
Following good build-up play in which the steadily improving Alex Iwobi was involved heavily, Gnabry took a touch to steady himself before finding the top corner of the Newcastle goal with an unstoppable drive. Arsenal’s victory was largely deserved, although the tempo of their passing did drop considerably in the second half, and they were fortunate not to be punished when Isaac Hayden dwelled on the ball for too long.
Despite the fact that Anthony Jeffrey was missing through injury and Chuba Akpom and Kristoffer Olsson were rested, this was still a strong Arsenal line-up, containing the likes of Gnabry, Hector Bellerin, Hayden and Zach Fagan. Substitute Jordan Brown, making his first appearance at this level since the turn of the year, was a lively presence following his introduction, striking the crossbar with an acrobatic effort having previously come close to doubling his side’s advantage with an effort from distance.
Arsenal also gave playing time to Renny Smith, a trialist from Chelsea, who came on right-back in the second-half, although the youngster didn’t provide the best showcase of his ability. It is expected that several further players will trial with the club at this level in the near future in order to boost the number of players signed on scholarship deals next summer.
subs: Iliev, Dawkins, Brown, Smith, Moore.
* Arsenal U21s goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook has joined Blue Square Bet South side Chelmsford City on loan for a month. Charles-Cook, who has impressed on his fleeting outings for the club at second-string level thus far, currently finds himself behind Damian Martinez, James Shea and Deyan Iliev in the goalkeeping hierarchy at Arsenal. With Arsenal’s next action in the NextGen Series, a competition Charles-Cook has featured in regularly this season, not until March 9th, away to Inter Milan, this move seems the perfect opportunity for Charles-Cook to receive some much-needed experience of professional football.