FA Youth Cup Fourth Round
Peterborough United 1 (Duggan 90) Arsenal 6 (Maitland-Niles 28, Akpom 37, 49, 62, Crowley 72, 75)
Another FA Youth Cup fixture and another victory by a heavy scoreline. Arsenal U18s may be enduring their worst ever league season but an admittedly much stronger Youth Cup side continues to enthral, with Dan Crowley and Chuba Akpom in scintillating form as the young Gunners swatted aside Peterborough United with a 6-1 victory at London Road this evening.
Akpom, having struggled for goals during the first half of the campaign, scored a hat-trick in just under an hour, whilst Crowley, having earlier laid on two goals for his team-mates, found the net twice himself in the second-half as he continued to underline his vast potential.
With Julio Pleguezuelo still recovering from injury, coach Carl Laraman named the same starting line-up that dispatched of Torquay United in the last round, with the only change to his squad seeing winger Tarum Dawkins replace Arinse Uade amongst the substitutes.
subs: Lipman (for Maitland-Niles 70), Jebb (for Kamara, 75), Mugabo (for O’Connor, 82). Not used: Huddart, Dawkins
Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who was impressive against Torquay, was heavily involved from the offset here and the winger was presented with an early opportunity after he was found by Glen Kamara, but his shot lacked conviction and was deflected wide.
Peterborough responded imminently with Robert Duggan shooting just over, but it was evident that the hosts were missing the firepower of Janaai Gordon, the 18 year old striker who helped them dispatch of Hull City in the last round and who has subsequently earned a move to West Ham United.
Crowley, by this point, was beginning to grow into the game and the midfielder played an excellent pass into the path of Maitland-Niles, whose effort rattled the far post. Crowley then threaded a beautifully weighted pass through to Alex Iwobi, who saw his shot saved, before the former Aston Villa player found Maitland-Niles again, with the latter this time making no mistake in finishing well to open the scoring.
Crowley then came close to finding the net himself and capped off a virtuoso first-half display by claiming another assist before the interval, this time crossing for Akpom to head home and double Arsenal’s advantage.
Akpom would add another just four minutes after the re-start, with the powerful striker embarking on a solo run, rounding the stranded goalkeeper and tucking the ball into the empty net.
After squandering so many opportunities against Torquay, it was a welcome sight to witness Akpom rediscover the goalscoring touch that he has been lacking at times this season. He missed an inviting chance to complete his hat-trick as he instead directed the ball just wide of the target when well placed, before Maitland-Niles and Leander Siemann wasted further efforts.
Akpom’s moment would come, however, with the England U19 international taking his tally for the season to seven after he applied the finishing touch to a slick, multi-pass move.
Arsenal were rampant at this stage and seemed determined to inflict as much misery as possible on the forlorn Peterborough youngsters. Crowley was unrelenting even as the game edged towards its conclusion and, in the closing stages, would add two goals to the two assists that he claimed in the first-half.
His first goal was a thing of beauty as he effortlessly curled the ball into the back of the net before making it 6-0 after linking up well with Akpom and finishing from close range.
Peterborough scored a late consolation through Duggan, but, after enduring some difficult results at various levels earlier this season, tonight’s events will no doubt provide a huge morale boost for the Arsenal youngsters.
As for Crowley, the fact that he hasn’t even featured competitively for Arsenal’s U21 side yet speaks volumes of the amount of talent currently at the club, but it will surely not be too long until he is a fixture in Steve Gatting’s side.
Arsenal would have expected to dispatch of both Torquay and Peterborough with the minimum of fuss, but the manner in which they did so has been hugely encouraging, with there being no signs of the youngsters underestimating the opposition.
Hopes will be high for a lengthy run in this competition as Arsenal seek to regain the trophy that they last won in 2009, when Jack Wilshere, a player not dissimilar in style to Crowley, was the fulcrum of the team.