EFL Trophy – Group stages
Crawley Town 1 (Watters 37) Arsenal U21 (McEneff 15, Azeez 55)
Miguel Azeez scored an impressive winner as Arsenal U21s continued their winning start to their EFL Trophy campaign with a 2-1 victory away to Crawley Town.
Although Steve Bould’s side have struggled in the league at U23 level, they have shown impressive resilience to overcome senior opponents, firstly against Ipswich Town and then again tonight.
With this game coming in the middle of an international break, Bould was deprived of the services of Karl Hein, Folarin Balogun and Daniel Oyegoke. George Lewis also missed out due to injury, with a host of younger players being called up.
Kido Taylor-Hart, who has impressed for the U18s, was drafted into the starting lineup, while goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo made his first competitive appearance in over a year. Joel Lopez, meanwhile, returned from injury to feature at left-back.
There were places on the bench for scholars Luke Plange, Khayon Edwards, Marcelo Flores, Levi Laing and Alex Kirk.
It was clear from the outset that this would be a hard-fought encounter, although Arsenal demonstrated that they were capable of carving out opportunities, with Azeez shooting wide with one effort.
Crawley defender Tom Dallison, who was previously at Arsenal, was then booked for a rash challenge.
Arsenal took the lead in the 15th minute, with McEneff scoring his first ever goal at this level after he was teed up by Taylor-Hart.
Crawley managed to pull level before half time, with Max Watters scoring on his debut.
However, Arsenal restored their lead ten minutes into the second half, with the highly regarded Azeez scoring with a fine strike into the bottom corner.
Arsenal brought on Alex Kirk and Levi Laing for their U21 debuts as the game dragged on, with Lopez and Jonathan Dinzeyi being replaced.
Okonkwo was called upon to make an impressive save, and Arsenal managed to hold on to take all three points.
Bould will be pleased with the determination shown by his team and will hope that they will be able to take that form into their league games, starting with the clash against Manchester United this weekend.
Azeez, meanwhile, is edging closer to first-team involvement and will certainly have done his chances of being called up for the Europa League no harm at all.
Arsenal: Okonkwo; Alebiosu, Clarke, Dinzeyi (Laing, 81), Lopez (Kirk, 70); Olayinka, Akinola; McEneff, Azeez, Taylor-Hart; Cottrell. Subs not used: T. Smith, Flores, Cirjan, Plange, Edwards.