A Max Watters debut goal was not enough for the Reds as they suffered a narrow defeat to Arsenal U21 in the EFL Trophy this evening.
It was the visitors who created the first chance of the fixture when Kido Taylor-Hart broke away with speed and was able to slide the ball through to Jordan McEneff, but the pass was just behind the striker and therefore he could do no better than fire straight at McGill after taking a touch.
Max Watters made a bright start to his Reds debut and was almost gifted a goal after just five minutes. Sam Matthews who returned to the starting eleven, did well to make room on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area and fire at goal. Okonkwo in the Arsenal net almost spilled straight into the path of Watters, but was quick to gather at a second attempt.
After the Reds started to take a strong foothold in the game, it was the visitors who took the lead in the 15th minute. Miguel Azeez who looked to be in an offside position, was neatly fed through the heart of the Reds defense, as he took it round an on-rushing Tom McGill and squared to a grateful McEneff who tapped into an empty net.
The Reds came back with an instant response and almost got an equaliser through Max Watters, Max found himself in space inside the box following a tidy Brian Galach pass. Watters took one touch to steady himself before unleashing a fearsome strike at goal which Okonkwo dealt with brilliantly to parry to safety.
The equaliser eventually came in the 36th minute as Max Watters got a deserved goal on his Reds debut. The ball broke free in the middle of the pitch where Max made full advantage of the high Arsenal defensive line. Taking the ball in his stride virtually unchallenged into the Arsenal penalty area before eventually firing underneath a helpless Okonkwo to level the scoring.
The Reds continued to dominate the first half but were unable to create a clear cut chance to take the lead before the half-time break.
The second half started much like the first ended, sustained Reds pressure with Arsenal looking dangerous on the counter attack which proved costly for the Reds as the visitors took the lead ten minutes into the second half. Miguel Azeez found himself in space 20 yards from goal as he hit a sweet strike which flew into the bottom left corner leaving Tom McGill with no chance.
The visitors then looked to calm down the tempo of the tie with the Reds searching for an equaliser with Brian Galach almost finding the net, if it wasn’t for a very clever save from Okonkwo. Galach appeared to be one-on-one with the Arsenal shot stopper but Okonkwo rushed out quickly to smother Galach’s strike. McNerney went close minutes later following a corner but his header just brushed past the post.
The Reds continued to press, in search for an equaliser, as McNerney was again involved. McNerney skillfully chopped the ball inside the Arsenal box, sending a defender flying as his cross was almost turned in by a Gunners defender before eventually being cleared for a corner.
Much like the first half the Reds continued to press after going behind. Rafiq Khaleel had space to shoot with five minutes remaining but unselfishly attempted to square to Sam Ashford as the cross was poked away by an Arsenal defender.
The Reds had one final chance with a free kick in the dying embers but Jack Powell’s lofted ball was well dealt with by Okonkwo again in the Arsenal goal to secure the visitors all three points.
The Reds are back in action on Saturday October 17th as they face league leaders Morcembe at The People’s Pension Stadium.
Crawley XI: McGill, Davies (Hussaini 76’), Dallison, McNerney, Adebowale, Sesay, Powell, Fergsuon, Matthews (Khaleel 66’), Galach, Watters (Ashford 58’)