Youngsters end their domestic season with defeat at the hands of the Gunners
Wanderers’ Under-21s suffered a 3-1 defeat against Arsenal at Macron Stadium in the final game of their 2014/15 campaign.
With the Gunners having opened the scoring early on courtesy of Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill’s close range effort, the Whites were level almost immediately as Jordan Lussey thundered home through a crowded penalty area.
As the game progressed, both sides pushed for a winning goal but it was to be the visitors’ day as quick-fire goals from Alex Iwobi and Serge Gnabry secured all three points for the North Londoners.
Wanderers’ starting XI boasted two changes from the side who turned out against Blackburn Rovers in their last outing, with Alex Perry and Georg Iliev being replaced with Hayden White and Channing Campbell-Young.
There was also a place on the bench for Jamie Thomas fresh from his first strike for the Under-21s against Rovers on Thursday afternoon, with the frontman having also notched a brace against Southampton for the club’s Under-18s at the weekend.
The game began with a tentative approach from both sides, although Wanderers were evidently the team in the ascendancy from the off with Wilkinson making a nuisance of himself in and around the Arsenal backline.
Clear cut chances were few and far between however, with Sanmi Odelusi’s mazy run to the edge of the Gunners’ penalty area eventually being brought to a halt courtesy of a heavy challenge by three Arsenal men.
Against the run of play though, the visitors proceeded to take the lead with 11 minutes on the clock through an unmarked Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill who collected a loose ball in the area and was given the simple task of firing home into the far corner of the net past a stranded Harry Campbell.
No sooner had the game been restarted, Wanderers were back on level terms through Lussey who capitalised on a weak clearance, with the on-loan Liverpool man able to rifle home from the edge of the area to earn Bolton a deserved equaliser.
Odelusi, the orchestrator in the Whites’ leveller, almost completed the turnaround a minute later as he was afforded time and space in the middle of the park, but the academy graduate’s eventual effort was narrowly wide of Deyan Iliev’s upright.
Following the two quick-fire strikes, the game fell into an end-to-end encounter, albeit one with not too much action in front of goal as both goalkeepers were afforded a period of calmness.
Just short of the half hour mark, Arsenal were handed a glorious opportunity to retake the lead as Lussey misplaced a pass back into his own half which Ainsley Maitland-Niles gratefully collected, but as he rounded Campbell in the box, the youngster lost his footing and the chance was squandered.
Matija Boben almost inadvertedly put the ball into his own net with 34 minutes gone as he misjudged a lofted ball into the Bolton box, with the defender’s header bouncing off the underside of the crossbar and away from danger.
Wanderers were soon back on the attack themselves however as, following good work from Odelusi, the ball bounced around the Arsenal six-yard box before being cleared away with a number of Bolton bodies lurking.
As the clock ran down to the half time whistle, Serge Gnabry came close to an Arsenal second as he powered in on goal with only the keeper to beat only to fire wide of the post, but the first period ended all square.
With no changes for either side at the break, both sides began strongly although it was the Gunners who were enjoying the most notable action in front of goal early on.
With Campbell mostly untroubled however, Niall Maher almost put Wanderers ahead with the half just three minutes old as he powered towards the byline, only to see his eventual effort under pressure scooped away at the death.
Bolton’s pressure continued with the Whites visibly boosted by Maher’s close call, although the visitors were still looking dangerous on the counter attack with Gnabry and Alex Iwobi, nephew of former Wanderer Jay-Jay Okocha, both coming close.
Woolery meanwhile single-handedly forced his way into Arsenal’s penalty area, only to see his shot deflect away for a corner-kick as both sides rallied in a bid to break the deadlock once more.
As the game grew on, Wanderers threw Thomas into the mix with 20 minutes to go with the in-form striker seeing his thunderous strike from just outside the box take a deflection and fly inches wide of the mark.
Up the other end of the field meanwhile, Iwobi was able to capitalise on a loose ball in the area, with the Arsenal man given time and space to compose himself before firing home past a stranded Campbell from close range with 16 minutes left.
Visibly boosted by their goal, Arsenal proceeded to double their advantage in the 77th minute as Gnabry collected the ball before finding himself one-on-one with the Bolton keeper, being given the task of simply slotting the ball home.
Wanderers did push inside the closing stages in a bid to reduce the deficit with Thomas causing problems for the Gunners alongside Wilkinson who saw his shot fly just wide of the goalmouth, but it was ultimately in vain as Arsenal held out for victory.
Bolton: Campbell, Holding, Maher, Boben, Taylor, White (Thomas, 69), Odelusi (Iliev, 57), Campbell-Young, Woolery, Wilkinson, Lussey (Spooner, 83)
Subs not used: Fitzsimons, Perry
Arsenal: Iliev, Smith, O’Connor, Pleguezuelo, Ormonde-Ottewill, Bielik, Maitland-Niles, Gnabry, Crowley (Robinson, 50), Zelalem (Eyoma, 68), Iwobi (Lipman, 86)
Subs not used: Macey, Kamara