Crowley’s efforts in vain as Arsenal U21s suffer frustrating defeat to Boreham Wood

Pre-season friendly

Boreham Wood 3 Arsenal 0

By Jeorge Bird @ Meadow Park

Arsenal U21s preparations for the new campaign suffered a considerable setback this afternoon as Steve Gatting’s side lost 3-0 to a vastly superior Boreham Wood outfit. Summer acquisition Dan Crowley was again lively during his time on the field, but the majority of his team-mates struggled to perform to their usual levels, with goals from Graeme Montgomery, Mario Noto and Calum Willock propelling the hosts to a fully-deserved victory.

Gatting named an identical starting line-up to the side that edged past Sutton United last week, with the only alteration in his squad being the inclusion of the fit-again Nico Yennaris on the bench. Yennaris, who has appeared four times competitively for the first-team, missed out on the tour of Asia due to injury, but, despite demonstrating some expected rustiness, will have been pleased to have completed 45 minutes on his return.

Other than that, there were precious few positives for Arsenal to take from this fixture. The defensive frailties that were hinted at last week against Sutton were brutally pounced upon here by a determined Boreham Wood side who closed down the young Gunners at every opportunity and prevented them from playing their usual free-flowing, passing game.




Maitland Niles-Crowley-Jeffrey


subs: Wellington (for Matiland-Niles, 46), Yennaris (for Hayden, 46), Boateng (for Jebb, 46), Vickers (for Iliev, 59), Iwobi (for Lipman, 59), Kamara (for Crowley, 59), O’Connor (for Dallison, 74), Moore (for Uade, 74), Wright (for Siemann, 74), Raage (for Jeffrey, 75).

Arsenal had actually started the game on the front foot, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who will link up with the England U17 side next month, doing well to cut inside only to curl his shot well wide. Striker Austin Lipman then fired over following good work outside the area by Crowley, but it wasn’t long until Boreham Wood took the lead, with Montgomery doing well to finish past Deyan Iliev after a long, searching ball had been knocked down invitingly into his path.

Arsenal were visibly frustrated by their concession and sought an instant reprieve through Jack Jebb, but the midfielder could only shoot wide after a swift interchange with Anthony Jeffrey. Boreham Wood then doubled their advantage in controversial circumstances after Zach Fagan was harshly penalised for a challenge just outside the area.

Noto struck an expert free-kick beyond the reach of Iliev, but only after a Boreham Wood player had appeared to move the ball to accommodate a better striking angle after the referee had blown his whistle. The Arsenal players and coaching staff complained incessantly, but only in vain, and they were somewhat fortunate not fall further behind shortly afterwards when Iliev did well to punch a corner but was almost caught out by the subsequent shot.

Tom Dallison

Tom Dallison

Boreham Wood continued to pile on the pressure, with Noto again coming close, but Arsenal had to rely on Crowley as their sole source of inspiration, with the former Aston Villa player delightfully tricking his way past several opponents before coming close with a shot.

Crowley then had another shot saved after he was found by Leander Siemann, but Arsenal went into the break incensed after a fracas had erupted between both sets of players. The contretemps stemmed from a late challenge from Isaac Hayden, and the midfielder was one of three players removed at the interval as he made way for Yennaris, whilst Daniel Boateng and Wellington also entered the fray.

The Brazilian almost made an instant impact after seizing possession as he did well to find space behind the Boreham Wood defenders but shot just wide. Any remaining hopes that Arsenal had of mounting a comeback were laid to rest, however, when Willock headed home after his team-mate had struck the crossbar with another headed effort.

Arsenal then made further changes, with second-years Josh Vickers, Alex Iwobi and Glen Kamara receiving useful run-outs. Arsenal’s ability to retain possession appeared to improve following Kamara’s introduction, but, with three defensive midfield players on the pitch and two wingers who are not used to playing in this side in Wellington and Jamaal Raage, there was a real lack of fluency in their play.

Yennaris and Kamara both shot just wide and Boreham Wood could have snatched another goal at the end, but the three goals that they did score had already inflicted enough damage upon Arsenal.

This was certainly a day to forget for the youngsters, with many players appearing fatigued, perhaps as a consequence of the U18 friendly with Queen’s Park Rangers that took place last week. Nonetheless, they will learn from the experience and tomorrow represents a fresh challenge for some members of the squad, with an Arsenal U19 side flying out to Germany to participate in a tournament.

It is hoped that when they return they will be revitalised ahead of their final two pre-season games against Leyton Orient and Luton, and, more importantly, their opening fixture of the new campaign at home to Manchester United next month.



  1. Personally i feel Gattling is not really capable to handle Arsenal’s U-21 side, Arsenal need to get an ex-player with a legendary status to head the team. The quality is going down down !

  2. Worst midfield display I’ve seen from this crop of players in a long time. Jebb was unbelievably poor, which made Crowley look so much better than he was. Constantly running with his head down and rarely connecting with the few creative passes he attempted. It was like there were a team & one extra player on the pitch, the reason we looked better in the second half is because there were 11 players who were working for one-another. The rest of the players couldn’t get a good touch on the ball & we didn’t look like we could match a physical side in any way.

    The coaches need to recognise these problems and do something about them because it’s a massive shame to see such talented players with such large potential play so badly.

    1. Jebb being poor made Crowley look better? If GB was impressed with Crowley I don’t think it’s because jebb was bad mate. But thats an interesting theory, “he only looks good” lol

      About running with his head down, every time I’ve seen him suggests the exact opposite, he usually seems to know where his teammates are.

      1. Don’t get me wrong. He is a talented player with a lot of potential but going forward he doesn’t make the right decisions. He holds onto the ball too long, which is probably a side effect of coming from an outside team where he was idolised into a team which have always been brought up to play for eachother

  3. Who are Boreham Wood? Never heard of them. And they beat our U21s. Oh well, none of this current U21 will make into the first team.

  4. I don’t want to make excuses, but is it possible borehamwood were more motivated? Sounds like they were getting stuck in to our players, closing them down quickly, maybe motivated by taking a big name scalp. For us it’s just a pre season friendly, I’m not commenting on the deficiency of the team but it seems like this might have been a factor

  5. I support Arsenal and Boreham wood and any Arsenal fan that underestimates Conferance south football has had a real eye opener. Wood are no mugs and were physically far too strong for Arsenal on the day.I think Arsenal under 21’s have some very promising players and will hopefully use today as a learning curve.Good luck to them.

  6. Pre-season is more about fitness and getting ready for the new season rather than getting results. I’m still not convinced by Gatting but it’s not his fault. The comments about an Ex-player should be the U21 coach are way off the mark. We know Gatting isn’t going any where but if the U21 job became available it should go to the best coach suitable for the job. Some one who knows how to develop young players and with a similar philosophy to how Arsenal play the game.

    Fullback is a problem at the moment for the U21s and the defense in general.

    Iliev; Uade, Hayden, Dallison, Moore; Yennaris, Kamara/Jebb; Jeffrey, Crowley, Wellington/Niles/Iwobi; Lipman.

  7. Iliev was tragic, Siemann is absolutely incapable to make the extra step, there was no energy and dangers created from the wings…Hayden played well till that moment with the challenge and the fight – I have to bring up also the behaviour of Crowley at this moment, some of his acts and the way he addresses his team-mates after a misplaced pass is worrying! Oade can be singed out for his performance, and probably also Wellington and Yennaris for their cameos, but we are well familiar with their qualities already. Jeffrey has to improve his final ball, and he might turn into something good.
    For the result of the game,has to be considered that the best part of this group of players are with the first team in Asia, and Bellerin is on international duty, and I suppose Jon Toral is injured, and Julio Plezeguezelo doesn’t have the right documentation yet.

    1. Finally someone who is honest on here. Siemann should never have got a pro deal already, he’s proved nothing but just because he came from abroad he automatically get’s a pro deal. It’s ridiculous.

  8. I feel our youth players keep thinking they are better than they are and things will be easy. Liam Beady is right. How about saying they need to improve all the time even when they win easy and great? I follow many Arsenal youngsters on twitter and instagram. A lot of them said “I played well though” or “team played well” even when they lose a game. Thats just ridiculous. Its not about the win or lose ratio all the time but when you lose 50%-60% of the games play at Arsenal then thats just bad. really bad to be honest.

    Top class performance and exceptional youngsters win with ease. We need to be above the rest just like Barca is at their youth academies. Class is quite easy to spot at football the higher level you play. Those who are not on par will be pointed out quite fast. I don’t see our U18 to be really good even when they win sometimes easy. I want to see the quality in everything first and foremost.

    Have been quite disappointed lately.

  9. i think people need to calm down a little here, lets not forget that this IS NOT arsenal under 21s, in fact only the 3 subs brought on at half time, boateng, yennaris and wellington are over 18. This is primarily an under 18 squad playing against a team of semi pro men. Apart from the 3 subs there are only 4 others who are actually 18. The rest are aged between 15 and 17

    1. I don’t think thats a good excuse really. Age doesn’t really matter here. Jebb, Lipman, Fagan, Jeffrey, Hayden all will be aiming for U21s games this season. Lipman needs to score goals or do more assist regularly. Thats what a successful striker do at Arsenal. Jebb needs to be that top class talent he used to be when he was younger.

      At this point the second years scholars needs to show the quality unless they want to sit on the bench or lose games. I think the demands for first year scholars should be very very high too but I see a lot of comments like “its only their first year”… doesn’t really matter for me. U16 to U18 is a big step but not that huge for the real quality players. You can tell whose got the quality to make a good second year and eventually push further from the first year performance quite easy.

      Those who are good in their second year have probably been good in their first year too and that goes for 90% of the players who are doing well. Thats why I think first year scholars vs second years scholars in another team is an bad excuse.

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