St Albans 0 Arsenal 1 (Ideho)
By Jeorge Bird @ Clarence Park
Arsenal U21s concluded their pre-season preparations with a hard-fought 1-0 victory away to St Albans City tonight as Joel Ideho’s superb goal proved to be the difference between the two sides.
In the second half Ideho found the net with a lofted effort from 40 yards out, with Arsenal managing to hold on to their lead thereafter as substitute goalkeeper Tom Smith made some impressive stops.
Arsenal’s victory was all the more commendable given that it was achieved without the involvement of a host of U21 regulars including Charlie Patino, Zach Awe, Charles Sagoe Jr, Miguel Azeez, Matt Smith and James Olayinka. Khayon Edwards was also missing after sustaining an injury against Boreham Wood last week.
Coach Mehmet Ali named a rather rotated side, with James Hillson starting in goal, while there was a debut at this level for first-year scholar Michal Rosiak, who was called upon at right-back.
With no recognised striker in the team, Kido Taylor-Hart was deployed up front, with George Lewis and Ideho on the flanks. There was a return from injury for Tim Akinola in midfield.
The St Albans team included Arsenal academy product Tafari Moore, with two more former Gunners, David Noble and Alex Lankskhear, named on the bench.
Subs: Cirjan (for Cottrell), T. Smith (for Hillson), Sweet (for Akinola), Quamina (for Ibrahim). Not used: Monlouis, Butler-Oyedeji, Cozier-Duberry.
The game was rather slow to get going with regards to clear cut chances, but Ben Cottrell looked the most likely to make something happen for Arsenal.
St Albans then started to grow in confidence, with the hosts putting the ball in the back of the net only for the offside flag to be raised. Taylor Foran then had to make an important defensive intervention.
The hosts continued to threaten, with Hillson making an important stop.
Cottrell then had to be substituted, with his terrible luck with injuries continuing. The midfielder was replaced by Catalin Cirjan and it is hoped that this latest setback won’t prevent him from going on loan before the end of the month.
Arsenal eventually had their first chance of the game as Mauro Bandeira’s powerful effort was pushed away.
Cirjan seemed determined to make an impact following his introduction and had a shot saved after exchanging passes with Lewis.
Lewis then sent a cross in towards the Romanian midfielder, who sent his effort off target from close range.
Tom Smith and James Sweet entered the fray in the second half, with the versatile Rosiak moving into midfield after Akinola was withdrawn.
Sweet has a penchant for sending in dangerous crosses from the right flank and he did so again on this occasion, with his delivery finding Lewis, who headed the ball although the offside flag went up.
Cirjan then struck the woodwork with a free-kick as Arsenal edged closer to taking the lead.
The goal finally came for Arsenal and it was certainly worth waiting for as Ideho spotted the goalkeeper of his line and looped the ball into the net from around 40 yards out. It definitely wasn’t a fluke, with the Dutchman having scored goals of a similar ilk in the past.
Bandeira, Taylor-Hart and Lewis then all had chances but as the game headed towards its conclusion it was St Albans who were the more dominant attacking force.
Smith found his goal under frequent pressure, but the goalkeeper, who has had several non-league loan spells, was able to deal with everything that was asked of him.
St Albans tried their utmost to get an equaliser but Arsenal stood firm and end pre-season with a win, although it remains to be seen how different the starting lineup will be for the clash against Manchester United on Saturday.