Forest Green Rovers 1 (Grubb 62) Arsenal 3 (Willock 41 (pen), 43, John-Jules 85)
Joe Willock hit a brace as Arsenal U21s made it through to the knockout stages of the Checkatrade Trophy with a 3-1 victory away to Forest Green Rovers.
Having been beaten 6-2 by Cheltenham Town last week, Arsenal were looking for a significant improvement and they achieved that objective, with Freddie Ljungberg’s side finishing their group games with six points out of a possible nine.
Ljungberg gave Gedion Zelalem his first start since returning from injury, while Cohen Bramall and Tolaji Bola also came into the side.
Arsenal: Iliev, Ballard, Bola, Bramall, Pleguezuelo, Willock, Zelalem (Gilmour 46), Coyle, John-Jules, Olayinka, Saka (Balogun 90). Subs not used: Hein, Thompson, M. Smith, Medley, Omole.
Forest Green put Arsenal under some early pressure, with Deyan Iliev being called into action.
However, the young Gunners did muster the game’s first attempt in the 17th minute as Tyreece John-Jules saw his effort saved.
The hosts then started to cause Arsenal further problems, but it was Ljungberg’s side who would go into the break in the ascendancy as Willock, who has impressed this season, hit a quickfire brace.
Bukayo Saka, who is always a threat, won a penalty and, with Charlie Gilmour only on the bench, Willock stepped up to open the scoring from the spot.
Just a couple of minutes later Willock found the net again and Saka was influential in the build-up once more before the midfielder finished confidently.
Arsenal made an alteration at the start of the second half, with Gilmour entering the fray in place of Zelalem.
John-Jules and James Olayinka threatened for Arsenal but Forest Green managed to reduce the deficit just after the hour mark when Dayle Grubb scored.
Saka and Gilmour were thwarted but Arsenal eventually made sure of their victory when John-Jules tucked home, with Bramall providing the assist.
Playing against experienced professionals has certainly been a beneficial experience for Arsenal’s youngsters so far and their journey in this competition will now continue.