By Tom Easterby
At Newcastle United Training Centre
Newcastle United Under-21s 1 (Satka)
Arsenal Under-21s 3 (Akpom 2 (1 pen), Toral)
Goalkeeper Freddie Woodman had a busy afternoon on his second-string debut as Newcastle United Under-21s slipped to a 3-1 defeat to Arsenal on Friday.
The 17-year-old custodian, who has been selected by England for the upcoming European Under-17 Championships in Malta, was kept busy all afternoon by the young Gunners' frontline, but it was United who enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges, taking the lead after just two minutes.
Winger Rolando Aarons made a bright start after impressing as a substitute against Blyth Spartans on Tuesday night and, having been handed a starting berth against Terry Burton's side, immediately created the opener. The Jamaican's surging run forced a corner which Michael Richardson swung onto the head of Lubo Satka, whose towering header gave Matt Macey in the visitors' goal no chance.
It was the Slovakian's second goal in as many games, having netted his first for the Club in the 4-0 Northumberland FA Senior Cup win over Blyth three days earlier.
However, Woodman was soon called into action as Arsenal's youngsters pushed forward in search of a leveller. Gedion Zalelem tried his luck, forcing Woodman to repel, before getting down well to deny Stefan O'Connor seconds later.
After quarter of an hour, powerful striker Chuba Akpom - whose pace and physicality posed the Magpies' defence a number of problems - saw his shot saved by Woodman after some neat interplay between Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Zelalem.
At the other end, with the Gunners full-back Hector Bellerin enduring a torrid afternoon at the hands of the speedy Aarons, Richardson was provided with a sight of goal. His rising drive was tipped over by Macey as Peter Beardsley's young prodigies kept the pressure on the Londoners, zipping the ball around with confidence borne of a 4-0 midweek win.
After Woodman again denied Akpom, the keeper then had to be alert to deal with Jon Toral's cross-shot and turn it behind for a corner just before the half hour mark. Newcastle had the ball in the net shortly before the half-time whistle, but Richardson's tap-in from a Callum Williams cut-back was chalked off for offside.
Richardson, who lifted the cup after the convincing Spartans victory, was again involved as United went even closer to extending their advantage. His touch from Jonathyn Quinn's cross fell kindly for the onrushing Gael Bigirimana, whose strike rebounded off the inside of the post with Macey beaten.
The Toon's profligacy in front of goal, though, was to be punished just before the break. A burst of pace from Toral allowed the winger to thread a pass through for the big forward, who ran clear and rolled past Woodman for the equaliser.
In a fairly nondescript second period, Arsenal's comfort on the ball was evident. They went ahead just after the hour when Maitland-Niles sent Akpom through, only for the 18-year-old to be felled by Kevin Mbabu. After dispatching the penalty himself, Akpom almost secured his hat-trick not long after when his header was cleared off the line by Alex Gilliead.
Gilliead tested Macey with a snapshot from just inside the box after O'Connor had failed to clear, but apart from a Richardson free kick that was tipped over in the dying minutes, Newcastle couldn't carve out any clear-cut opportunities to get themselves back on level footing. Woodman smothered another Akpom effort with five minutes left and, in stoppage time, Arsenal made the game safe. Maitland-Niles was again the provider, but this time Toral was the beneficiary, firing low beyond Woodman to condemn United's young charges to an end-of-season defeat.
Newcastle United Under-21s: Freddie Woodman, Callum Williams, Lubo Satka, Kevin Mbabu, Liam Gibson (Macaulay Gillesphey 74), Alex Gilliead, Greg Olley (Daniel Barlaser 59), Gael Bigirimana, Rolando Aarons, Michael Richardson, Jonathyn Quinn
Subs not used: Paul Woolston, Ryan McKinnon
Arsenal Under-21s: Matt Macey, Hector Bellerin (Tafari Moore 72), Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, Glen Kamara, Semi Ajayi, Stefan O'Connor, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Kris Olsson, Chuba Akpom, Gedion Zalelem (Jack Jebb 74), Jon Toral
Subs not used: Zak Ansah, Ryan Huddart, Alex Iwobi