Report – Taylor-Hart scores late equaliser to ensure Arsenal U23s stay up with draw versus West Ham United

Premier League 2

West Ham United 2 (Odubeko 56, Ekwah 87) Arsenal 2 (Moller 75 (pen.), Taylor-Hart 90)

After being involved in a relegation battle for the majority of the season, Arsenal U23s finally preserved their status in the top tier of Premier League 2 with a dramatic 2-2 draw away to West Ham United tonight.

Arsenal needed a point to guarantee safety without having to rely on other results and there was huge frustration in the 87th minute when Pierre Ekwah put West Ham ahead.

However, Kido Taylor-Hart struck in the second minute of stoppage time to secure an extremely valuable point for Arsenal.

In some ways it was fitting that Taylor-Hart was the hero as he is perhaps the player who has progressed the most at U23 level this season having not even featured on this stage prior to this campaign.

It hasn’t been a great season for Arsenal but at least next season’s side, which should include some of the talented current U18 players, will be able to test themselves against the best U23 teams in the country.

Marcelo Flores was given his debut at this level, while Omar Rekik was named in a matchday squad for the first time having finally recovered from the injury that had prevented him from featuring since he joined in January. Winger Nathan Butler-Oyedeji also received his maiden callup.

There were starts for Brooke Norton-Cuffy and Jack Henry-Francis, who will both hope to feature more prominently at this level next campaign.

West Ham, meanwhile, called upon 32-year-old Andriy Yarmolenko.

T. Smith

Norton Cuffy-Kirk-Monlouis-Bola

Henry Francis-Azeez

Taylor Hart-Flores-Balogun

Moller

Subs: Butler-Oyedeji (for Flores, 61), Rekik (for Monlouis, 76). Not used: Ejeheri, Dinzeyi, Lewis.

Arsenal had an opportunity to open the scoring midway through the first half when Folarin Balogun found Moller, but the latter’s header was off target.

The two sides went into the break level, with Arsenal knowing that if the result stayed the same then they would be staying up.

West Ham started the second half brightly, however, with Yarmolneko and Ademipo Odubeko both being presented with inviting opportunities which they squandered.

In the 56th minute West Ham took the lead, with Odubeko’s effort getting the better of Arsenal goalkeeper Tom Smith.

Arsenal responded by bringing on Butler-Oyedeji, who is set to sign professional terms this season, on for his debut in place of Flores.

With 15 minutes left Arsenal equalised. Balogun was fouled in the area, and, as he did in the previous meeting between these two sides last weekend, Moller stepped up and converted the spot kick.

Immediately afterwards Arsenal gave out their third U23 debut of the night, with Rekik coming on for Zane Monlouis.

However, there was to be late drama, with trialist Ekwah putting West Ham in the lead with just three minutes remaining.

Arsenal refused to give up and they were eventually rewarded for their persistence, as, after being found by Alex Kirk, Taylor-Hart got the goal that keeps Arsenal U23s in the top flight.

It hasn’t been an impressive season at all for the U23s but at least it ended in a somewhat positive manner and Taylor-Hart was a fitting goalscorer. The hope will be that it isn’t his final kick in an Arsenal shirt, with his scholarship deal expiring at the end of next month.

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