A stellar display from the Steve Gatting’s Gunners was enough to see off Terry Westley’s U23s in style on Friday night, as the young Hammers slipped to a third defeat on the spin at Meadow Park.
The hosts were a class above the away side mainly thanks to a terrific brace from young Romanian talent Vlad Dragomir, struck just at the right times to put the game beyond us.
Eddie Nketiah weighed in with the other goal for The Gunners in the wintry conditions, just months after netting two goals for Arsenal’s first-team in a Carabao Cup comeback win over Norwich City.
The three points takes the North London side up to fourth in The Premier League Two Division One Standings, above Westley’s boys who now sit in fifth amidst a very poor run of form indeed.
From the start at the home of National League team Boreham Wood, Gatting decided on six changes to the side that were bested in Wales by Swansea City last Monday night.
Coming into the side were Matt Macey, Jordi Osei-Tutu, former Hammer Ben Sheaf, England U19 star Josh Dasilva, Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock, they replaced Hugo Keto, Tafari Moore, Tobi Omole, Aaron Eyoma, Charlie Gilmour and Tyreece John-Jules.
Meanwhile, Westley made eight alterations to the very youthful starting Xl that was defeated in The Premier League International Cup by Benfica B earlier in the week.
England U20 man Nathan Trott, Ben Johnson, Tunji Akinola, Emanuel Longelo, Moses Makasi, Martin Samuelsen, Sead Haksabanovic and star striker Antonio Martinez took the places of Rihards Matrevics, Will Greenidge, Joe Powell, Josh Okotcha, injured Dan Kemp, Bernardo Rosa, Jahmal Hector-Ingram and Anthony Scully.
On a sub-zero night in Hertfordshire, the home side would get off to a dream start, forcing Trott to pick the ball out of his net after just six minutes of action.
This came when Dragomir rose the highest to send a looping header flying into the top corner from a quite superb free-kick delivery, but things were about to get a lot better for The Gunners, or were they?
Presented with a magnificent opportunity to double their advantage from the penalty spot, Nketiah stepped up and Trott denied him with an excellent low save.
However, the young Hammers couldn’t take full advantage of this, Martinez and Haksabanovic both going close to levelling, but not close enough.
And they were made to pay for this not too long after as a delighted long ball from Willock picked out Dragomir to run clear of Ben Wells and finish precisely beyond Trott, finally beating the Bermudan-born keeper.
The finish came just ten minutes before the break, a vital time for Arsenal to extend their cushion and it could have been three before half-time but Trott got the better of Nketiah in a one-on-one, a very busy night indeed for the shot-stopper.
Just as the first-team were getting their Premier League clash with Leicester City at The London Stadium underway, the second period would bring better chances for the Hammer starlets.
Grady Diangana, one of only three to keep their place from Tuesday night, forced a super save out of Macey with a shot that was destined for the top corner.
Then, from the resulting corner, Conor Coventry’s deflected stabbed effort was somehow not turned in by Samuelsen before Skipper Makasi could only manage to volley over at the far post, a huge opportunity.
Like in the first period, the hosts would be waiting to punish any mistakes once again as Nketiah finally got the better of Trott, when pouncing to finish the rebound of Osei-Tutu’s low effort that he had kept out.
The strike sealed the deal for the home side and made sure of a second consecutive Friday night to forget for Westley’s boys who are now fading away after a promising start to The PL2 campaign.
Meanwhile, The Gunners are enduring no such problems and will be tasked with their next assignment in three days, a home PL International Cup tie with Reading.
Whilst next up for the young Irons the Checkatrade Trophy trip to face off with Wycombe Wanderers, having already sealed Qualification to the Knockout Stages.