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The opening few games of a season are always hard on teams that are undergoing transition and today's match would prove to be a notable example. David Cartwright's young Arsenal team had picked up eight trophies in the past three seasons, three of those coming just last year, but this was the first time his club had fielded a side at U21's level and was both wary and optimistic concerning the challenges ahead.
With around half the squad remaining the same from their under 14 days there would be a lot of cohesion and unity and they seemed to have adapted quite well already to the highest level of youth football with their first two games resulting in 5-0 and 4-1 victories.
Eastwood on the other hand were going through changes of their own having only moved into the West of Scotland setup this year from East Renfrewshire and that, coupled with ongoing personnel changes meant that their squad had yet to gel as well as they might have liked. A decent performance saw them lose their opening league game 4-2 but shortages in playing staff meant a debut for goalie Callum MacAskill, regular central midfielder Nathan Glyn slotting in at left back and only 11 available players to choose from were not the ideal circumstances in which to be taking on an in form Arsenal.
Nevertheless they took to the park in their all blue strips looking as fit as their opponents who had donned the traditional red and white of their namesakes and just after two o'clock the referee signalled for the game to get underway. High winds and dark skies were the order of the day and both sides looked to keep the ball down early on and this looked to suit Arsenals Alexander White as two superb early pieces of skill saw him ghost past opposition players from his central position but was unable to deliver the killer final ball.
The famous flat back four of the early 1990's seemed to be in evidence today as well and good interplay from Eastwood's Chris Armstrong and Connor Gallagher was quickly shut down by Nicholas Hughes who was showing all the signs of having an excellent game. Nevertheless their goal wasn't impervious to attack and the first real chance of the match came when Eastwood's David O'Brien was able to shrug off his marker on the edge of the box but his right footed effort was straight at Darren McNeil who held it comfortably.
It was Arsenal who were proving to be the more incisive though and a scintillating through pass from Chris McCormick to Ian Auld saw the winger through on goal, his driven shot was blocked but fell again to McCormick who this time played in Paul McCamley and the striker made no mistake from six yards as he side footed past MacAskill to give his side the lead.
McCormick himself had the next chance as the ball broke to him from a corner but his snapshot was just wide before Auld treated us all to an audacious piece of skill. The ball was played out towards him on the edge of the box and he let the ball drift perfectly into position before thumping it first time to send it arcing and dipping over the outstretched MacAskill and glancing in off the crossbar to double his sides advantage.
Flying full-back Chris Armstrong almost added a third soon after as he met a well placed cross with a beautiful diving header only to see his effort hit the side netting but Eastwood were far from finished and another shot by O'Brien followed by a free kick from Andrew Kyle just missed the target as they pressed to get back into the game.
McCamley then attempted to show that lightning can strike twice as he almost recreated the magic of Auld's goal with another scorching drive from outside the box but his effort crashed off the underside of the bar and was cleared but they weren't to be denied for long and McCalmley would have a hand in it as Connor Clarke's well struck shot could only be parried to him and he played the ball back in for the striker to score at the second attempt and give the score a rather on sided look as we headed into the break.
Eastwood needed to regroup quickly if they were to have any hope of getting back into this game and they seemed to catch their opponents cold. Nathan Glyn surged up the park for the first time only to be caught in the box by Hughes giving the referee no choice but to award a penalty. Gallagher stepped up and calmly stroked the ball home to reduce deficit to two.
Arsenal though were beginning to show the benefit of having a fuller squad and second half substitutes Anthony Maher and Ross Clift were causing the boys in blue no end of trouble at the back whilst Auld showed no signs of slowing down despite his constant high work rate. It would be two of these players who would put the icing on the cake as Auld received the ball from a clearance to send a beautiful 45 yard pass down the wing for Clift who tore past his marker and shimmied shaped and shot past MacAskill to make it 4-1.
There would be other chances for the Gunners to add to their lead but a combination of poor finishing and superb goalkeeping would keep the score this way until the death as Eastwood were even able to survive a penalty against them as Clift failed to add to his tally.
Arsenal were worthy winners no doubt and will certainly be in the mix for the big prizes come the end of the season but if Eastwood can dig up a few more of the calibre of stand out debutant MacAskill then they will not go too far wrong themselves.
Full Time: Arsenal BC 4-1 Eastwood AFC