U18 Premier League- Game 31
West Ham United 1 (Bywater 6 (pen)) Arsenal 1 (Maitland-Niles 74)
Arsenal U18s ended what has been a challenging season in terms of results with a 1-1 draw away to West Ham United this afternoon. The hosts took the lead when captain Kevin Bywater converted from the penalty spot after former Arsenal youngster Jordan Brown was fouled in the area. Arsenal, however, equalised courtesy of a strike from the in-form Ainsley Mailtand-Niles in the second half.
This match represented the end of a short era in some ways, with Carl Laraman coaching at this level for the final time before stepping up to the U21s next season, whilst several players also featured for the U18s for the final time. With most of the U16 players having just returned from the Ferroli Cup in Italy, Laraman named one of his strongest sides of recent months, with seven second-years involved from the offset.
subs: Huddart, Moore (for Mugabo, 46), Dawkins (for Lipman, 59), Smith.
West Ham started well, with Jeremiah Amoo and Djair Parfitt-Williams both coming close. Arsenal didn’t heed the warning, with Parfitt-Williams then sending a precise through-ball into the path of Brown, who was brought down in the area.
Bywater stepped up to take the spot-kick and converted emphatically. with Arsenal conceding for the 47th time at this level this season. The young Gunners looked to muster a response through lone striker Austin Lipman, whose shot was saved.
West Ham then had another claim for a penalty turned down, with Stefan O’Connor again struggling to cope with the pace of Brown, but on this occasion the referee waved play on.
The skilful Parfitt-Williams continued to threaten at the other end when presented with the opportunity. Arsenal, in contrast, struggled to create much in an attacking sense and were thankful for the interventions of O’Connor and goalkeeper Josh Vickers to deny Brown the chance to extend West Ham’s lead.
Arsenal introduced Tafari Moore at the start of the second-half in place of Alfred Mugabo, but West Ham continued to dominate, with O’Connor doing well to cut out Bywater’s cross before it could reach Moses Makasi.
Arsenal then created a rare chance, with Dan Crowley doing well to work space for himself only for Leander Siemann to shoot over after he was found by the former Aston Villa midfielder.
The game then developed into a somewhat scrappy affair, with Glen Kamara and Bywater both being cautioned following an off-the-ball confrontation. The same fate later befell O’Connor and Janaai Gordon, who clashed following a challenge.
Gordon then sought to make amends by making it 2-0, but the striker couldn’t get the better of Vickers, who made an excellent save to keep Arsenal in the game.
Arsenal took full advantage of that stop as they equalised just a minute later when Maitland-Niles, who has been superb at all levels he has played at this season, found the top left hand corner of the goal with a well-struck effort.
With some teams still to play their final games, Arsenal are currently ninth out of the 11 teams in their section. It’s been a far from positive campaign in terms of results, although the development of Maitland-Niles in particular will be one of the few plus points taken from this season.
West Ham, who are on course to finish second in the group, evidently tired late on, but Arsenal couldn’t take advantage. The Hammers mustered one last opportunity, with Gordon then striking a shot into the side-netting at the other end after a well-worked move, but both sides eventually had to settle for a point.
Updates via Tommy Wathen