U18 Premier League- Development Group 2
Newcastle United 4 Arsenal 5 (Dawkins, Lipman, Jeffrey (2), Jebb)
It has been a rather tumultuous season for Arsenal U18s in terms of results, changes in the coaching staff and the sheer number of players used at this level throughout the course of the campaign, but the young Gunners ended 2012/13 on a high on Saturday afternoon, with Anthony Jeffrey’s stoppage time winner settling a remarkable 5-4 victory over Newcastle United.
The win was not enough to secure access for Carl Laraman’s side into the end-of-season play-offs, but, in truth, their form has only really picked up in the last few weeks, with the success on Tyneside coming off the back of wins over Aston Villa and Middlesbrough. It may just be co-incidence, but Arsenal’s excellent form in the final few fixtures of the campaign has come following Jeffrey’s return from a loan spell with League One side Stevenage.
The rapid winger may have featured just once for the League One side, but he has played with confidence since his return, even if his future at the club beyond this season remains unresolved. Jeffrey scored twice in the dispatch of Newcastle, with his first goal of particularly admirable quality, and also played a role in Tarum Dawkins’ excellent effort which set the ball rolling for the Gunners.
Austin Lipman and Jack Jebb, the latter with what is now a trademark free-kick, were also on the scoresheet, meaning that Arsenal prevailed despite some poor defending providing Newcastle with a foothold to get back into the game. There was one strike which goalkeeper Josh Vickers could do little about, but many of the other goals scored by the hosts were largely preventable.
Still, any negative aspects of the game were forgotten, temporarily at least, when Dawkins returned the favour for Jeffrey in the 91st minute, with the latter firing home with aplomb to make it 5-4, with Newcastle having seemingly snatched a point just moments earlier.
Despite their topsy-turvy form this season, Arsenal can still take some positives from the campaign, particularly given that Serge Gnabry, Hector Bellerin, Kristoffer Olsson, Chuba Akpom and Isaac Hayden have now stepped up to the U21s on a regular basis. Many of this current U18 side will seek to follow suit next campaign, with the likes of Jebb, Alex Iwobi and Lipman in particular hoping to be more frequently involved with the elder age-group.
There are plenty of schoolboys ready to fill their places at U18 level, and it is likely that Arsenal will field a rather inexperienced side at this level again next campaign. For now, the current season is over for Arsenal’s youngsters, bar a benefit match away to Wimborne Town tomorrow evening.
Arsenal: Vickers; Moore, O’Connor, Uade, Ormonde-Ottewill; Jebb, Kamara; Jeffrey, Iwobi, Dawkins; Lipman. Subs: Maitland-Niles, Siemann, Smith.