A FINAL HOME WIN FOR THE WOOD 

Boreham Wood v Arsenal XI
Friday 6th August 2021, 7.30pm
Meadow Park, Pre-Season Friendly

Pre-season fixtures against Arsenal are rarely a dull watch and the first one for over two years was no different.

Four goals from the Wood courtesy of Tyrone Marsh, Gus Mafuta and a double from Kabongo Tshimanga won the contest with a real five star performance. The Gunners came to Meadow Park with a side consisting of academy players, and the difference in experience was on show. The visitors came out of the blocks quickly with two chances during the early stages; Omari Hutchinson putting in a low ball into the path of the striker and Kido Taylor-Hart going on a mazy run to create an opening, with an eventual shot being blocked. Wood soon grew into the game. A quick free kick sent Mark Ricketts away down the right, but Ovie Ejeheri got down well and showed good handling to keep the danger at bay. This was just a sign of things to come, however.

As the heavens opened up and the rain poured, the hosts began to dominate with an onslaught of chances. Marsh really should have opened the scoring after 15 minutes when he found himself through on goal after the ball was won by Connor Smith just outside the penalty area, with the ex-Stevenage man firing wide. This preceded two more opportunities in the space of a minute, with Smith floating a free kick from the left wing towards the far post that was tipped over by Ejeheri, before the Arsenal number one fumbled a catch to present Tshimanga with a chance to fire home, only to see Alex Kirk clear if off the line.

Just before the half-hour mark, Miguel Azeez lead a counter attack on the right before switching play to Ogungbo. His cross was met by Taylor-Hart who’s tame effort was easily caught by Nathan Ashmore. The Gunners would soon rue this missed opportunity as Wood finally broke the deadlock. Two successive corners saw the initial one find David Stephen at the back post, who’s neat footwork forced the defender to step in and concede a second. The subsequent second from Smith met the head of Marsh who put it beyond Ejeheri.

Five half-time changes by the Gunners began an exciting second period, with Wood taking their form through the break. A fantastic outside of the foot through pass from Kane Smith put Marsh through on goal, but he ran into traffic and Arsenal were able to clear. An even better chance saw Wood waste a wonderful opening just a few minutes later. A quick throw-in from Connor Smith went straight into the path of Tshimanga who rounded the keeper but dwelled on the ball, before laying it off for Marsh who’s shot went well over. Wood soon did manage to double their lead though, doing so in spectacular fashion. Some good work down the right from the two Smith’s saw an overhit cross fall to Illesamni on the other side, who lay it off to Mafuta to fire an unbelievable strike into the top right-hand corner.

Brooke Norton-Cuffy had the Gunners’ first real chance of the second half after driving into the box, but Ashmore got down well to get in the way of his low shot. The goals then started to flow for Luke Garrard’s men. Tshimanga’s darting run into the box saw the defender get in the way with Tom Bishop awarding the penalty. Tshimanga dusted himself off to make no mistake from the spot.

As the game progressed and Wood settled chances began to slow down. A free kick from Azeez failed to trouble Ashmore as Arsenal continued their attempt at making it an uncomfortable finish, before Tshimanga put the game beyond doubt ten minutes from the end with his second of the evening. The 24-year old received the ball just outside the six yard box and turned brilliantly, taking the ball under control and firing past substitute keeper Hubert Graczyk to make it 4-0.

Arsenal’s evening was summed up with one final opening; a good break ended with a cross from the right towards Jack Henry-Francis, but the youngster miskicked the ball which bounced away and the chance fell apart. It was a complete performance from the Wood, with the players looking fitter and sharper as the games continue to come. Tshimanga and Marsh impressed up front while Ricketts, Mafuta and Connor Smith worked tirelessly in midfield,. Evans was resolute at the back and looks to be a real coup along with Mendy Mendy at left-wing back, who continued his fine form in pre-season. As Bishop called time on a wonderful display in their final home game of pre-season, there is a reason to feel optimistic ahead of the new National League campaign, with the opener at Weymouth just two weeks away.

Boreham Wood: Ashmore, Ilesamni, Ricketts, Evans, Stephens, Marsh, C.Smith, Mafuta, Mendy Mendy, K Smith, Tshimanga.

Subs: Green, Munns, Rees, Raymond, Fyfield, McKenna.

Arsenal XI: Ejeheri, Swanson, Ogungbo, Kirk, Rekik, Patino, Hutchinson, Azeez, Butler-Oyedeji, Cottrell, Taylor-Hart.

Subs: Graczyk, Lopez, Norton-Cuffy, Oulad M’Hand, Henry-Francis,Ideho, Flores.

Match report written by Aaron Bennis (Media Assistant).

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