Pre-season: Hornchurch 0 Arsenal U23s 3
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
Arsenal’s academy youngsters showed their class to claim a comfortable victory over Bostik Premier Division Urchins in front of an appreciative Bridge Avenue crowd.
Gunners legend and under-23s head coach Freddie Ljungberg made a special presentation to Jimmy McFarlane ahead of kick-off, acknowledging his Bostik North manager of the year award from the 2017/18 season.
But that was the only gift for the home side on the night as Arsenal dominated possession throughout.
Ljungberg had a few words before kick-off for Xavier Amaechi, who looked lively on the right for the visitors in the opening minutes.
And Joe Willock, who had spent his Saturday playing with the Arsenal first team against Paris Saint-Germain in Singapore, while Urchins were taking on Canvey Island, looked to pull some strings early on with Stephy Mavididi looking to get onto a long ball down the right, but muscled out of it by home captain Nathan Cooper.
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Willock was caught by a lunging tackle from Theo Fairweather-Johnson, who nearly sprung Arsenal’s offside trap when George Purcell played a curved pass upfield in the 10th minute.
And Cooper then brought Willock down with a mistimed challenge, but was soon back on his feet, looking to prompt more passing movements through midfield.
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Urchins almost opened the scoring on the quarter-hour mark, en Brad Warner’s inswinging corner from the right fell at the feet of Cooper, whose scuffed effort was smothered by Deyan Ilyev.
But Arsenal replied with a dipping left foot shot from Amaechi, which narrowly cleared the crossbar from around 20 yards on 19 minutes.
Willock whipped another effort from outside the box into the midrift of Callum Chafer soon after, before Charlie Gilmour and Robbie Burton got in each other’s way as a half chance developed and allowed the ball to run safely through to the Hornchurch keeper.
Ilyev was almost caught out by Jamie Hursit’s speculative ball in from the right, pawing it over his crossbar, then missed an attempted punch as Warner swung another wicked delivery into the six-yard box.
Ljungberg had a quick word with Julio Pleguezuelo and Jordi Osei-Tutu by the touchline, before Willock’s left-footed strike was deflected and tipped wide by Chafer midway through the first half.
And Arsenal took the lead from the set-piece as Burton combined with Mavididi at a well-worked short corner routine and clipped the ball towards the far post for Gilmour to volley home left-footed from 12 yards.
Referee Dean Skipper had a word with captain Cooper following Fairweather-Johnson’s late tackle on Gilmour, as Urchins remained largely starved of the ball, and Cohen Bramall – signed by the Gunners from non-league Hednesford – called Chafer into action to save a free-kick a few minutes later.
Mavididi then tested Chafer after a quick Arsenal break, with Burton sending the rebound against the foot of the right post before the keeper fell on the loose ball.
And the Hornchurch custodian had to be alert to grab a header from team-mate Cooper, after he had cut out a cross from Willock intended for Mavididi shortly before the interval.
The second half was barely three minutes old when Gilmour saw a full-blooded drive deflect wide off Cooper and Willock fizzed another attempt over, after Zech Medley’s cheeky backheel pass inside his own half had set up the attack.
Dominic Thompson’s acute-angled effort was tipped over by Chafer as the Gunners continued to pose questions, but then Urchins won a penalty when Connor Hogan lifted the ball past Ilyev, who caught him.
Arsenal fan Purcell was unable to profit, though, as his well-struck spot-kick was kicked away by the outstretched leg of Ilyev.
The hosts sent on the fresh legs of Jordan Clark and Nathan Livings for Hogan and Lewwis Spence before the hour mark and had shouts for another penalty ignored, when the ball appeared to hit the arm of a defender.
And the Gunners then made six changes on 62 minutes, which was some effort considering there were only four more substitutes listed on their team sheet!
Krystian Bielik teed up Amaechi for an angled shot which Chafer held midway through the second half, while Nathan Tormey’s low left-footed shot was also fielded by the Urchins keeper, who saved well with his legs when one of Arsenal’s unnamed substitutes found space on the left.
But Arsenal doubled their lead with just under a quarter of an hour remaining when more neat passing set up a chance for Tyreece John-Jules, one of their nine replacements, and he slotted past Chafer.
And a third goal arrived on 80 minutes when a corner from the right was bundled home at close range by Danny Ballard, another of their substitutes.
Livings saw a low shot gathered by Arsenal’s substitute goalkeeper, who had only just replaced Ilyev with seven minutes remaining, as home hopes of a consolation goal were frustrated, with George Saunders playing a last-gasp ball right across the face of goal from the right.
Horrnchurch: Chafer, Hursit, Porter (Peter 62), Lee, Cooper, Warner, Hogan (Clark 55), Spence (Livings 57), Fairweather-Johnson (Coker 69), Purcell (McKenzie 75), Saunders. Unused sub: Collis.
Arsenal: Deyan Ilyev (13 xx 83), Jordi Osei-Tutu (Joseph Olowu 62), Dominic Thompson (15 xx 62), Charlie Gilmour (Krystian Bielik 62), Julio Pleguezuelo (Danny Ballard 46), Zech Medley (14 xx 62), Xavier Amaechi (Nathan Tormey 69), Joe Willock, Stephy Mavididi (Tyreece John-Jules 69), Robbie Burton (James Olayinka 62), Cohen Bramall (12 xx 62).
Referee: Dean Skipper.