Report – Ben Cottrell scores as Arsenal U23s survive late scare to draw with Derby County

Premier League 2

Derby County 1 (Hutchinson 17) Arsenal 1 Cottrell 63 (pen.)

An Arsenal U23 side deprived of the services of a host of key players managed to survive a late scare to secure a point in a 1-1 draw away to their Derby County counterparts tonight.

After Derby had taken the lead through Isaac Hutchinson in the 17th minute, Ben Cottrell equalised for Arsenal from the penalty spot in the second half with his first goal in almost a year.

However, Derby were awarded a late penalty following a challenge from Joel Lopez. Louie Watson stepped up to take it and Arsenal goalkeeper Ovie Ejeheri managed to make a save, with Zak Swanson blocking the rebound.

The result means that Arsenal remain in fourth place in Premier League 2.

Arsenal were without Charlie Patino, Salah-Eddine, Ryan Alebiosu, Mika Biereth and Karl Hein, who were on the bench for the first-team yesterday, as well as Arthur Okonkwo and Omari Hutchinson, who were back-up players for the clash against Liverpool.

Alex Kirk was also absent, but there was some positive news on the injury front, with Jordan McEneff returning to the squad for the first time since October 2020, while George Lewis was involved for the first time this season. Talented young forwards Kaleel Green and Henry Timi Davies received their maiden call-ups at this level despite neither player having featured for the U18s so far this season. Nathan Butler-Oyedeji received a rare chance to impress up front.

Ejeheri

Walters-Awe-Ogungbo

Swanson-Henry Francis-Cottrell-Lopez

Flores-Ideho

Butler Oyedeji

Subs: McEneff (for Cottrell, 64), Lewis (for Butler-Oyedeji, 79). Not used: Graczyk, Davies, Green.

Former Gunner Krystian Bielik started for Derby on his return from injury, while Malcolm Ebiowei was named on the bench.

Derby caused problems for Arsenal early on, with Harrison Solomon and Osazee Aghatise both trying their luck without success.

Ejeheri was then called into action as he made an impressive stop to thwart Max Bardell.

Eventually Derby managed to take the lead, with Hutchinson finishing well after Arsenal struggled to clear a free-kick from Watson.

Cottrell had an effort saved as Arsenal looked to get back into the game, and then Ideho showed good skill to create an opening but was thwarted by Derby goalkeeper Harrison Foulkes.

Arsenal had another notable chance before the break, with Butler-Oyedeji looking for his first goal at this level, but Foulkes made another impressive stop and Derby went into the break in the ascendancy.

Bielik was substituted at half-time in a pre-planned change, and Derby then had to make some well-timed blocks to continue to keep Arsenal at bay.

Substitute Courtney Clarke shot over for Derby, but Arsenal were given a route back into the game when Bardell jumped into the back of Zach Awe in the area.

Cottrell stepped up to convert from the spot, with the midfielder relishing his recent return to action.

That proved to be Cottrell’s last involvement before he was replaced by McEneff, with the latter ending his injury nightmare as he made his first appearance in 448 days.

Derby then sent on Ebiowei, who left Arsenal as a schoolboy.

Arsenal withdrew Butler-Oyedeji and sent on Lewis, who is another player who has had much misfortune with injuries.

Ebiowei was eager to make an impact against his former club and went for goal, but Ejeheri responded by making an impressive save.

McEneff shot just wide for Arsenal as he looked to mark his comeback in style.

Derby’s Kornell McDonald cleared the ball off the line as Arsenal increased the pressure.

Bardell headed over and then there were some hugely concerning moments for Arsenal, with Lopez bringing down McDonald in the area.

Watson took the penalty but Ejeheri, who has developed a habit of saving spot-kicks, managed to keep it out, with Swanson responding well thereafter.

Neither side could score in three added minutes, with the game finishing level.

Considering they were without some key names, Arsenal will take this result.

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