Arsenal youngsters prove too good for Hendon in friendly

Hendon manager Lee Allinson in pensive mood (Pic: DBeechPhotography)

Hendon manager Lee Allinson in pensive mood (Pic: DBeechPhotography) - Credit: Archant

Hendon were given a clear idea of the difference between a great young one and a good older one.

Arsenal’s under-18s squad, many of whom were much younger, gave an object lesson in passing, brave defending, incisive running and ruthless counter-attacking as they ran out 3–1 winners. 

The Greens, it must be said, after the opening 20 or so minutes at least, did not play badly.

Quite simply, they could not cope with the skills of their opponents, most notably Amario Cozier-Duberry, who recorded two assists and danced rings around Hendon in a 60-minute masterclass of midfield mastery. 

Things might have been different if Lee Allinson’s team had opened the scoring after just a couple of minutes. Good work down the right wing from Shaun Lucien saw him make space for a cross.

His well-directed ball picked out Joe White, but the striker was put under enough pressure to ensure his header bounced just the wrong side of the post. 

Within three minutes, Arsenal were ahead. The ball was brought out of midfield and when Charles Sagoe found Cozier-Duberry the danger signs were clear.

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The midfielder, who has already trained with Mikel Arteta’s squad, played an inch-perfect pass into the path of Amani Richards, and he slipped the ball past Fred Burbidge. 

Arsenal were given far too much respect in the opening 20 minutes and they made hay, without creating many clear-cut goalscoring opportunities.

Defensively, the young Gunners were occasionally over-confident in their passing and Shaun Lucien whistled a shot wide of an upright and two Jayden Clarke runs and crosses were stopped with brave blocks. 

In the 25th minute, Cozier-Duberry struck again. His slide-rule pass released Sagoe, who rolled the ball past Burbidge and watched as it struck the inside of the far post before crossing the goal-line. 

Just before half-time, Arsenal were nearly undone by their hubris and when goalkeeper Remy Mitchell’s under hit pass put Henry Jeffcott in trouble.

Hendon won the ball back and Mitchell was grateful that Lucien’s lob from 20 yards hit the crossbar and bounced at the feet of a defender who cleared gratefully. 

Hendon suffered a blow when White limped off two minutes into the second half and Hamza Semakula replaced him.

This was the Greens’ second replacement, Toby Byron having taken over from skipper Tommy Brewer – the captain’s armband had been taken by Keiran Forbes. 

Despite the changes, Hendon had much the better of the second half.

Both teams made numerous changes, the Gunners sending on some of their younger squad-members and while they struggled going forward – Cozier-Duberry was one of those withdrawn – defensively they remained solid and brave. 

The Greens had a few half-chances, but there was always a yellow shirt there to make a tackle, block or clearing header.

Two or three goalmouth scrambles gave Hendon hope, but the decisive touch could not be made. 

Arsenal continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack and it paid dividends in the final 10 minutes. A challenge just outside the penalty area was ruled a foul and from this great position, Matty Roberts curled a stunning strike beyond the dive of Triallist B. 

Lucien’s night of misfortune continued when he struck the crossbar for a second occasion, this time with a delicious curling free-kick.

The rebound, however, went Arsenal’s way and they cleared the danger. 

In stoppage time, Hendon got the consolation their second half work deserved. Lucien made the break from midfield and, with the Arsenal defence retreating, he rolled a pass into the path of Semukala. 

As Arsenal appealed for an offside flag, probably with some justification, SEMUKALA took the ball on, dummied substitute goalkeeper Alex Kovacevic and rolled the ball into the net. 

With a Hendon-record of 947 in attendance at Silver Jubilee Park, it was a really good way for the game to end.

The aim now is to get many of those visiting SJP for the first time to become regulars and boost Hendon’s attendance in the games that matter in the upcoming season. 

Speaking after the game on the club’s YouTube channel, manager Lee Allinson said: “Joe White’s injury spoiled a great evening for us. We have enough in the tank to move forward. 

“I thought for the first 20 minutes we were woeful. We paid Arsenal too much respect. Then, I thought we really got amongst them and we won some big tackles. 

“I thought we were brilliant for the rest of the game. It was a feisty little game and I really enjoyed it in the end. I think we limited them to one shot in the second half and he stuck it in the top corner. 

“We have numerous entries in their box. I wouldn’t say they were chances but we had good possession in and around their box, and Arsenal defended really well. We didn’t use the ball well enough and it is something we need to work on. 

“As a whole for the last 70 minutes was really good.”