Pre Season Friendly.
Boreham Wood 0 Arsenal 2, by John Mead.
The Elite of football paid homage to grass roots in front of over 3000 fans at Meadow Park. That Wood Chairman Danny Hunter managed to persuade Arsene Wenger to fit this tie onto his pre season schedule, whilst officially opening the fabulous 890 seater West Stand was a coup de grace for the Town and the Club.
Never before has the Stadium looked so good and felt so appealing and the performance of Wood’s part timers added to the occasion.
Mr Wenger played two different sides in each half , blending household names with fringe first teamers. Mr Allinson went for his strongest eleven from the off, replacing them slowly as they buckled under the thirty degree sun whilst being given the biggest physical and mental test of their part time careers in some cases.
The outcome was pleasantly surprising for the home side, who frustrated the mighty Gunners for 68 minutes before conceding. Thereafter the perceived goal rush never came, with just one more goal added from the penalty spot.
Aaron Ramsey provided the first chance for Yaya Sanogo but his shot on the turn lacked conviction. The pair combined again after 9 minutes, this time Sanogo was denied by James Russell who rushed out to pull of the first of many outstanding saves on the afternoon.
Wood then went on the attack with a ball from Graeme Montgomery releasing Lee Angol. With the Arsenal defence caught off guard he picked out Ricky Shakes whose effort was charged down by Semi Ajayi, with Matty Whichelow firing just wide from the resultant loose ball.
A competitive game unravelled with Wood playing with confidence after getting used to the phenomenal opposition they faced. Angol controlled well releasing Whichelow but the Arsenal defence dealt with the threat.
Nacho Monreal then found Ramsey in acres of space but the combination of Callum Reynolds and Russell stamped out the threat. Ramsey tried his luck with a grass cutter from twenty five yards but it failed to trouble the Wood shot stopper.
Wood were at this stage in the game until a weak back header by Greg Morgan allowed Sanogo a run at goal. However Russell was again equal to the effort from the French Youth International, making a fine point blank save.
As expected Wojchiech Szczesny was rarely called upon, yet Arsenal were sometimes guilty of wayward passes and were well tested by a determined Wood side.
The second half saw the introduction of Kieran Gibbs, Tomas Rosicky, Mathieu Flamini and Abou Diaby amongst others.
A quick interchange of passes between Kristoffer Olssen, Flamini and Hector Bellerin needed a clearance over the bar from Josh Hill.
Diaby unleashed a thunderbolt of a drive that saw Russell rise majestically to tip over the bar, before the Gunners main strike threat Chuba Akpom made a perfect connection forcing another superb stop from Russell.
Arsenal drove forward looking for an opener but were foiled time and time again by some excellent defensive work.
The breakthrough came courtesy of a superbly weighted ball from Rosicky picking out the run of Olssen whose flick past Russell saw the Wood keeper finally beaten.
The perceived goal rush did not materialise, instead superb blocks from Hill and then Luke Garrard denied Akpom from a scoring position.
Akpom then drove past Cameron Mawer unleashing a swerving shot that somehow Russell tracked before acrobatically tipping over, to the chant of “ Sign him up!” from the hoardes of Arsenal fans behind his goal.
Arsenals best player on the afternoon then produced a piece of magic that led to the penalty with five minutes remaining. Forced wide by Ben Nunn, who was then joined by Mario Noto, a sublime flick from Akpom set him free to cross to the far post where Garrard could only bundle Benik Afobe into the net. Afobe dusted him self down to double the scoreline in a game which Boreham Wood did themselves extremely proud.
Teams: Arsenal First Half: Szczesny, Toral, Willock, Hayden, Ramsey, Monreal, Sanogo, Jenkinson, Ajayi, Zelalem, Coquelin.
Second Half. Martinez, Gibbs, Bellerin, Miquel, Rosicky, Pleguezuelo, Afobe, Akpom, Olsson, Flamini, Diaby.
Wood: Russell, Nunn, Morgan ( Mawer 82), Garrard, Hill ( Hope 81), Reynolds, Whichelow, Thomas ( Donnelly 81), Angol ( Sterling-Parker 84), Shakes ( Cox 59), Montgomery ( Noto 65).
Subs not used: Day, Courtnage.