Report: Albion under-23s outgunned at Arsenal

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Second half goals from Nathan Tormey and under-17 World Cup winner Emile Smith-Rowe gave Arsenal a 2-1 win at Borehamwood tonight.

By Paul Camillin • 16 August 2019

By Paul Hazlewood
Jordan Davies in action against Arsenal on Friday night.

Albion’s under-23s more than matched their hosts in the opening 45 minutes, but were undone by two moments of quality in the second half — before Ryan Longman headed a late consolation, which saw a late rally from the Seagulls.

Simon Rusk was without striker Aaron Connolly — whose brace on Monday night proved the difference — and midfielder Steven Alzate. The pair, along with Tudor Baluta, have all been on the fringes of the first-team, and having featured on Monday night, were not risked.

The rainfall throughout the day provided a slick surface, which suited both sides passing style and the pace was frenetic from the off. Arsenal enjoyed a good opening spell, creating a couple of early openings for New-York-born striker Folarin Balogun. He fired too high, and drilled a shot wide of the left post, either side of a tame penalty appeal. 

As the minutes passed by, Albion grew into the game, and found their stride. George Cox got forward to good effect on the left, drifted in field and tried his luck from range. His powerful shot, rising all the way, was too high to trouble Gunners keeper James Hillson. 

Some nice build-up play from Albion led to a couple of corners for Simon Rusk’s side; as Anders Dreyer looked the main threat. He provided a good outlet on the left, and was at the heart of much of Albion’s attacking play.

Peter Gwargis provided opportunities for Alex Cochrane and Cox in quick succession, but Arsenal’s defence held firm, as the former saw a low drive blocked and the latter was too high again, firing in an effort from the edge of the penalty area.

By Paul Hazlewood
George Cox gets set to cross into the area against the Gunners.

Rusk was forced into a change at the break, as Warren O’Hora — putting in another impressive shift at centre-half — was forced off, possibly from the effects of a mistimed tackle by Tyreece John-Jules, just before the break.

Former Peterborough United defender Lewis Freestone, picked up after impressing during a pre-season trial, came on for his Albion debut, and slotted in alongside Haydon Roberts in the centre of Albion’s defence. There was a change in the weather too, as the rain returned, and Albion found themselves playing into it for the second half.   

Arsenal took the lead just before the hour, as England under-18 international Balogun got free on the right, and cleverly picked out Tormey in space. The midfielder picked his spot, drilling a low shot past Tom McGill and into the bottom right corner of the net.    

Smith-Rowe — who spent the second half of last season on loan with RB Leipzig —  doubled the home side’s lead a few moments later, as he ran from deep, into Albion’s box, and the arrowed in a shot past McGill. That was his last involvement as he was immediately replaced by Jordan McEneff. 

In the closing stages James Tilley, back with Albion after a loan spell in the Republic of Ireland with Cork City, replaced Gwargis; and Longman came on for Bojan Radulovic. 

Tilley went close late on with an effort which whistled just over the bar, after Jordan Davies had won possession on the edge of the Arsenal box. 

McGill kept Albion in the game with three good saves; before Longman headed in from Max Sanders’s corner to halve the deficit.

By Paul Hazlewood
Ryan Longman in action against Arsenal on Friday evening.

Albion laid siege to the Arsenal goal for the four minutes of added time, and were denied an unlikely comeback when Dreyer cut in from the left, and fired in a low shot, but saw it saved by Hillson. 

Albion line-up: McGill; A.Davies, O’Hora (Freestone 45), Roberts, Cox; Sanders, Cochrane; Gwargis (Tilley 72), J.Davies, Dreyer, Radulovic (Longman 79).