Ovie Ejeheri made a late penalty save to earn a weakened Arsenal u23 side a point on the road against Derby County on Friday.

Derby u23s open the scoring against Arsenal (Photo via DCFC.co.uk)
Derby u23s open the scoring against Arsenal (Photo via DCFC.co.uk)

Arsenal’s long list of recent first-team call-ups for their academy players has left the u23s turning to their squad options to fill out the team on matchdays.

On Thursday, Mikel Arteta called up Karl Hein, Ryan Alebiosu, Charlie Patino, Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand, and Mika Biereth to the squad to face Liverpool, whilst also using Omari Hutchinson in training ahead of the game.

As a result, none of the above players were available in Derby on Friday, a significant list of absentees. On the other team, Derby gave a start to former Gunner Krystian Bielik, as he builds his fitness.

But the good news was that long-term injury sufferers George Lewis and Jordan McEneff both made the Arsenal bench for the first time in a long time.

Derby took an early lead, with an element of fortune about it. A relatively poor free-kick attempt just happened to deflect to the feet of Isaac Hutchinson to poke home.

Arsenal responded pretty well, with Ben Cottrell and Joel Ideho forcing good saves around the half-hour mark. Ideho’s shot was closest, tipped onto the post by fingertips.

Nathan Butler-Oyedeji was also thwarted well by the Derby keeper moments before the half-time whistle. Mazeed Ogungbo hit the bar with a header from the resulting corner.

Nathan Butler-Oyedeji sees his effort saved by the Derby goalkeeper (Photo via DCFC.co.uk)
Nathan Butler-Oyedeji sees his effort saved by the Derby goalkeeper (Photo via DCFC.co.uk)

15 minutes into the second-half, Arsenal finally got their equaliser. Max Bardell clumsily brought down Zach Awe in the penalty area, and Cottrell stepped up to score straight down the middle from the spot.

Unfortunately, Cottrell appeared to injure himself in the process, and he had to come off for Jordan McEneff.

The midfielder hadn’t played for over a year, and he almost made an instant impact, dragging a shot narrowly wide. Awe then saw a header cleared off the line as Arsenal pushed for a go-ahead goal.

Lewis also came on for Butler-Oyedeji in the latter stages, but it was Derby who had the chance to find a late winner.

Joel Lopez bundled over Kornell McDonald in the penalty area somewhat needlessly, giving Louie Watson the chance to score an 88th-minute penalty.

Arsenal goalkeeper Ejeheri stayed patient and guessed correctly to make the initial save, before Zak Swanson raced back to block the follow-up and keep the final score at 1-1.

Arsenal u23 lineup vs Derby County

Ejeheri, Walters, Swanson, Awe, Ogungbo, Lopez, Henry-Francis, Flores, Cottrell, Ideho, Butler-Oyedeji


Graczyk, Davies, Green, Lewis (for Butler-Oyedeji, 79), McEneff (for Cottrell, 64)

What’s next?

Arsenal won’t play again in the Premier League 2 until February 4th, when they face another matchup against Chelsea at Meadow Park.

In the meantime, full focus turns to the EFL Trophy, with the Arsenal u21s taking on Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium on Tuesday, January 25th at 19:00 GMT.