Arsenal u23s fought back from 2-0 down to draw against Premier League 2 leaders Derby County on Friday, with substitutes playing a key role.
In a frantic first-half, Arsenal had most of the chances but Derby had the clear-cut opportunities. The Gunners had to deal with an early setback as Mark McGuinness went off with an injury, but they responded well by controlling the game, for the most part.
Folarin Balogun went closest, latching onto a through ball over the top of the defence from Matt Smith. Unfortunately, Jon Mitchell saved Balogun’s shot. Tyreece John-Jules had a few chances too, and right-back Joseph Olowu had an opportunity with a header.
For all that pressure, Derby were more threatening from their limited forays up the pitch. They hit the post once at either end of the half and ended up taking the lead from the penalty spot.
Jamal Hector-Ingram ran onto a ball over the top and Arsenal substitute Harry Clarke got the wrong side of him before bringing him down for a penalty.
In all honesty, it could have been a second yellow card as well. Hector-Ingram put the spot-kick away down the middle.
Nathan Tormey had an early chance to level the scores in the second half, forcing a goalline clearance. After that, Derby doubled their lead through Hector-Ingram again.
Clarke will be disappointed with his attempted control in the build-up. The ball was coming over his shoulder and he tried to take it down, but only deflected it to Hector-Ingram. Goalkeeper Karl Hein will also rue letting the shot in from such a tight angle.
The game seemed to die after that, with few chances for either side. Steve Bould gave 17-year-old Sam Greenwood a chance to get a run out for the u23s, 2-0 down with just over 10 minutes to go.
Far from just stretching his legs, Greenwood ended up scoring with his first touch.
Matt Smith put another great ball over the top for Balogun, and in his attempt to keep the ball away from the striker, the Derby defender unintentionally poked the ball straight to Greenwood for a tap-in.
Greenwood almost had the equaliser minutes later, forcing a great save from the Derby keeper’s legs. Then, an excellent team move ended in an own goal by the away side.
Smith and Ben Cottrell (another substitute) linked up on the edge of the box, before Smith faked a shot to make some space for himself. He then fired towards the bottom corner, and as the Derby defender frantically raced back to make a goalline clearance he ended up putting it into his own net after a bounce off the post.
Though it’s a shame Arsenal couldn’t get the win, a draw against a strong Derby side with one of the most dangerous strikers in the league right now is not a terrible result.
Starting Team: Hein, Olowu, McGuinness, Medley, Bola, Smith, Olayinka, McEneff, Tormey, John-Jules, Balogun
Substitutes: Omole, Hillson, Greenwood (for Tormey, 79), Cottrell (for John-Jules, 61), Clarke (for McGuinness, 10)