Three first-half goals courtesy of Kaylen Hinds, Marc Bola and Stephy Mavididi were enough for Steve Gatting’s youngsters to close the gap at the top of the Barclays U21 Premier League table to just two points – with two games in hand on current leaders Derby County.
Having started brightly, Arsenal forced Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli into action on a number of occasions to thwart the Young Gunners’ attempts on goal. Ben Sheaf had an effort saved and Reiss Nelson’s long-distance effort was tipped over the bar, but the recovering Englishman could do nothing to stop Kaylen Hinds breaking the deadlock after 19 minutes.
A free-kick was swung into the box from the right-hand side, and despite attempts to clear the ball, it fell into the path of Hinds, who was able to net his fourth league goal of the campaign.
The lead was doubled shortly afterwards, from an unlikely source. Left-back Marc Bola scored his first goal of the campaign, with a long-range effort which swerved past Bettinelli into the bottom corner.
We weren’t finished there, either. Hinds, a constant nuisance in spite of the tough conditions, turned provider to deliver a low cross with Stephy Mavididi in support. The Derby-born teenager, who scored the opener against Liverpool last Friday, opened his goalscoring account for the evening with a simple finish from close-range.
After the break, a sluggish start was nearly capitalised on by first-team striker Cauley Woodrow, on his return to action having sustained a broken metatarsal injury in January. He showed great control to bring the ball down and spin past his marker before watching his effort graze the post.
This was the first warning sign for the travelling Gunners to remain focused and avoid unnecessary risks where possible. Emerson Hyndman, Zakaria Labyad and substitute Dennis Adeniran were lively as the second-half continued. Goalkeeper Ryan Huddart was equal to the shots he contended with, whilst Krystian Bielik and captain Julio Pleguezuelo were both solid when prompted to deal with dangerous situations arising in their own half, earning a well-deserved clean sheet as a result.
Next up for the u21s is an away trip to face third-placed Aston Villa, looking to avenge their 2-1 defeat before Christmas. Based on tonight’s display, there’s no reason Arsenal cannot extend the unbeaten run further to eight consecutive league games.