U21 Premier League
Derby County 1 (Vernam) Arsenal 2 (Mavididi, Hinds)
Kaylen Hinds emerged off the bench to score the winning goal for ten-man Arsenal U21s away to Derby County this evening to keep their hopes of securing the second division title alive.
Arsenal took the lead through Derby-born striker Stephy Mavididi, but the hosts equalised through Charles Vernam and were in the ascendancy following the dismissal of Ben Sheaf for two bookable offences.
However, Arsenal survived the Derby onslaught, with goalkeeper Matt Macey making several fine stops, before Hinds scored what could prove to be a crucial goal. Derby could have clinched the title themselves with a victory here, but instead the momentum is now with Arsenal.
Three points from their final two games- away to Swansea City and at home to West Bromwich Albion- will be sufficient to see Arsenal crowned champions of the second tier and earn promotion to the top flight of U21 football.
Coach Steve Gatting made several changes from the side that were so impressive against Newcastle United on Friday, with the first-team trio of Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Serge Gnabry not included. Chiori Johnson, Reiss Nelson and Chris Willock came into the starting line-up.
Subs: Hinds (for Mavididi, 46). Not used: Keto, Pileas, Robinson, DaSilva.
It was Derby who started the brightest, with Callum Guy and Kellan Gordon shooting wide, but Arsenal gradually started to assert themselves, with the lively Nelson doing well to find Mavididi, but the striker’s effort was saved.
Dan Crowley, who was hugely impressive against Newcastle United, was next to try his luck and he came close to finding the net, with his effort shooting just wide.
Shortly afterwards Arsenal took the lead and Mavididi was the scorer as he burst forwards, showcased his technical ability and then finished calmly for his 11th goal of the season at this level.
Arsenal quickly set about attempting to extend their lead, with Nelson seeing his shot saved before Sheaf’s effort from distance was blocked.
Matters soon started to take a turn for the worse for both Sheaf and Arsenal, however, with the midfielder receiving a needless yellow card for kicking the ball away.
Derby then equalised in somewhat controversial fashion, with Vernam, who had just entered the fray as a substitute, finding the net and the goal eventually being awarded despite initially being declared offside.
Arsenal’s immediate task was to attempt to see out the half without suffering any further damage but they were unable to achieve that aim as Sheaf was dismissed for arguing with the referee.
Arsenal made an alteration at the start of the second half, with Hinds entering the fray in place of Mavididi.
It was Derby, though, who started the second half more impressively, which didn’t come as too much of a surprise given their numerical advantage. Macey had to be alert to thwart Will Hughes, before Ivan Calero came close to scoring with a free-kick.
The winger then caused problems for Arsenal again, but his powerful effort only hit the side-netting on this occasion.
Arsenal then had Macey to thank for making a superb stop to keep out Farren Drawson’s header following a well-taken free-kick from Calero.
Derby continued to dominate, with Jake Buxton heading wide, and at that stage it appeared a near certainty that it would be the hosts who would score next.
Instead, rather improbably, and completely against the run of play, it was Arsenal who took the lead, with Crowley doing well to find Hinds, whose shot went in via the crossbar.
Derby continued to threaten thereafter, with Guy coming close and Macey then had to make another impressive stop.
Willock then shot wide in a rare Arsenal attack, and, despite Derby having a late free-kick with goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell going up, the young Gunners managed to hold on for a potentially vital win.