Scowcroft exploits Arsenal's inexperience

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The Independent Online

Arsenal drew their Premiership game in September at Portman Road with a full-strength side, which helped to explain why, with a vastly weakened line-up, the Gunners lost this game.

Arsenal drew their Premiership game in September at Portman Road with a full-strength side, which helped to explain why, with a vastly weakened line-up, the Gunners lost this game.

Ipswich left it late, though, Jamie Scowcroft scoring the winning goal with just 55 seconds remaining, as it appeared both teams were conspiring, with a series of horrendous misses, to send this third-round Worthington Cup tie into extra time. But that fate was avoided as Scowcroft, who came on at half-time, dragged the ball away from a cluster of bodies in front of him after Jamie Clapham's cross to shoot low past Stuart Taylor.

Not that there were too many tears shed by Arsÿne Wenger at Arsenal's exit, despite this defeat signifying the end of a 15-match unbeaten run stretching back to the opening week of the season. He simply said: "We were a bit too nervous and technically we can do better."

Wenger's team may be joint top of the Premiership with Manchester United but, as is usual for the Frenchman in this competition, his selection bore absolutely no resemblance to that fielded for League games. He chose five debutants and five teenagers in his line-up, which compared unfavourably with George Burley's hard-working, dogged Ipswich, who were virtually at full strength.

But Burley argued afterwards that Wenger's policy could have worked against the Suffolk side, saying: "It put Ipswich under pressure with that line-up. It made it more difficult for us. We take this very seriously because it is a route into Europe for us."

The sombre mood before kick-off in the light of the news of the sudden death of the reserve-team coach and Highbury legend George Armstrong was not given much time to linger as Ipswich scored after 100 seconds. A Fabian Wilnis cross was flicked on and Clapham was there at the far post to score with ease.

It should not have come as much of a surprise, as the home side's team-sheet included the inexperience of Moritz Volz, Igors Stepanovs and Rhys Weston. The more familiar name of Sylvain Wiltord came close to levelling matters after 18 minutes when he hit the crossbar from 25 yards and the Frenchman was a constant threat all night. But it was Stepanovs, one of the debutants, who made it a night to remember for himself at least, the Latvian centre-back nodding in Nelson Vivas's corner just before the break.

It was then a case of thrust and counter-thrust as both teams sought to break the deadlock, with Ashley Cole clearing off the line from Herman Hreidarsson's header before Matthew Upson, back after 11 months out injured, also saw his header cleared by Jermaine Wright.

Then Wiltord, put through by Christopher Wreh, lobbed both Richard Wright and the crossbar just after Ipswich's Martijn Reuser had scooped his shot wide with just Taylor to beat, before Scowcroft settled the issue.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Taylor; Cole, Stepanovs, Upson, Vivas; Weston (Canoville, 74), Volz (Wreh, 59), Vernazza, Pennant (Mendez, 56); Wiltord, Barrett. Substitutes not used: Lukic (gk), Osei-Kuffour.

Ipswich Town (3-5-2): R Wright; Bramble (Reuser, h-t; Karic, 90), Hreidarsson, McGreal; Clapham, Magilton, Holland, J Wright, Wilnis; Johnson, Stewart (Scowcroft, h-t). Substitutes not used: Salmon (gk), Scales.

Referee: J Winter (Stockton).

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