Boreham Wood 3 Arsenal XI 3
Arsenal U23s commenced their pre-season fixtures with a 3-3 draw against Boreham Wood today, with Tyreece John-Jules hitting a brace.
The striker, who finished last season in superb form, scored a penalty having earlier found the net from close range, while midfielder Matt Smith was also on the scoresheet in Steve Bould’s first game in charge.
Arsenal were without a host of players who were either with the first-team or not yet back in training, with Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah amongst the high-profile absentees.
That enabled Bould to give runouts to lots of other prospects, with Sam Greenwood, Alfie Matthews, Ryan Alebiosu, Miguel Azeez and Matthew Dennis all receiving their first runouts at this level.
Arsenal were woeful in the first half as they lacked cohesion and were frequently caught out defensively, while goalkeeper Karl Hein wasn’t at his best.
Zech Medley has featured in the first-team but was frequently caught out on this occasion and his central-defensive partner Mark McGuinness didn’t fare much better.
Boreham Wood took an early lead and eventually added a second as they took advantage of some slack Arsenal defending.
Only Smith and winger Nathan Tormey, who frequently sought to cut in from the right flank, offered any real threat for Arsenal in the opening period, with the likes of Trae Coyle and Folarin Balogun looking off the pace.
Smith managed to steer the ball into the back of the net from close range to reduce the deficit, but Boreham Wood got a third goal as Arsenal conspired to lose the ball again.
Arsenal improved significantly in the second half following the introduction of many players including John-Jules and Xavier Amaechi.
The young Gunners were a much more cohesive and John-Jules got on the scoresheet with a neat finish before eventually making it 3-3 from the penalty spot, with the spot-kick having been awarded after McGuinness was fouled.
Arsenal pushed forwards in search of a winner, but couldn’t find it, despite a teasing cross from Ryan Alebiosu, which John-Jules narrowly failed to connect with.
This was a somewhat chaotic game, which was perhaps to be expected given that it is very early in pre-season.
Nonetheless, it was very useful for some of the U18 players to get experience of playing against senior opposition, something which should stand them in good stead for when they feature in the Checkatrade Trophy this season.
Arsenal have further U23 friendlies to come against Hitchin Town and Barnet, with Bould certainly having much work to do to improve the defence at this level. The attacking options, though, are very exciting, and John-Jules in particular is full of confidence at present.
Arsenal: Hein, Swanson, McGuinness, Medley, Thompson, M. Smith, Burton, Tormey, Olayinka, John-Jules
Subs: Hillson, Dennis, Clarke, Ogungbo, Olowu, Azeez, Cottrell, John-Jules, Greenwood, Alebiosu, Ogungbo, Matthews.