Swindon Town put in an impressive performance to beat Arsenal U21's 2-1 in the Papa John's Trophy at The County Ground this evening.
Mohammad Dabre's debut goal in his first professional start broke the deadlock just shy of the 20-minute mark, although a superb strike from Arsenal's Joel Ideho ensured the game was level at the break.
It was an explosive start to the second-half as Town peppered the Arsenal goal with a flurry of efforts, and they were eventually rewarded as Dion Conroy came off the bench to restore his team's lead - one they never never gave up to get their 2021-22 Papa John's Trophy campaign off to a winning start.
Town Head Coach Ben Garner opted to use tonight's game as a chance to give valuable minutes to certain members of the first-team squad, with the likes of Jayden Mitchell-Lawson, Alex Gilbert and Ricky Aguiar making their full debuts for the club.
There was a Swindon debut for talented midfielder Mohammad Dabre, while longest-serving player Ellis Iandolo wore the Captain's armband for the Reds.
And it was an encouraging start for Town as Iandolo forced a save from Arsenal goalkeeper Ovie Ejeheri with less than five minutes played, while both teams were playing their preferred brand of football on what was a lush playing surface.
As expected, the young Gunners were very good with the ball at their feet and they were keeping possession well while moving the ball around nicely.
It led to a golden opportunity as Mika Biereth saw his shot hit the post before going wide, but Town would quickly respond emphatically.
Alex Gilbert was able to whip in a cross which took a couple of deflections on its way into the box, and Mohammad Dabre showed good instincts to stick a leg out and stab the ball home for a goal on his debut for the club.
It was a hell of a moment for Dabre who was equipping himself well in his first professional start, although the visitors nearly drew level soon after as Biereth saw his effort deflected over the crossbar.
There was then a lull in action before Town threatened again as the impressive Gilbert cut in before stinging the palms of Ejeheri, with Dabre unable to get to the rebound.
The Reds continued to press past the half-hour mark and they nearly doubled their lead from a corner as, after Ricky Aguiar saw his initial shot blocked, Gilbert tried his luck with a fierce drive which was kept out by Ejeheri.
However, that missed chance came back to haunt the hosts as Arsenal U21s struck back with 33 minutes played, with Joel Ideho cutting in on his left and unleashing an unstoppable strike past Lewis Ward to restore parity.
Town were playing some really nice football and they carved out a couple of beautiful passing moves, but there was to be no change to the scoreline with the two teams going in level at the break.
HALF-TIME: SWINDON TOWN 1-1 ARSENAL U21S
It was an electric start to the second-half for Swindon as they came out swinging and carved out some clear-cut chances early on.
First, Ryan East saw his strike from distance deflected over the bar before, from the resulting corner, Romoney Crichlow turned his man well and proceeded to sting the palms of Ejeheri with a good effort.
The pressure kept on coming from Town as Mitchell-Lawson embarked on a fine solo run before stabbing a shot inches wide, and he came close again moments later as he fired an effort at Ejeheri who parried the ball to safety.
Lewis Ward, who hadn’t been too busy up to this point, then had to spring into action in order to tip Ideho's glancing header over the bar and keep the scores level.
Mitchell-Lawson then had another shot on goal before he was taken off along with Crichlow and Gilbert, with Tyreece Simpson, Jack Payne and Dion Conroy all entering the fray.
Payne wasted no time in introducing himself to the game as he fired a tame effort at Ejeheri, but his next contribution was more meaningful as his corner was flicked in at the near post by Conroy to give Town the lead again.
With time ticking away, Swindon were controlling the game well and they nearly added to their lead as Simpson tried his luck from a tight angle, only for Ejeheri to make another save on what was a busy night for the Arsenal goalkeeper.
East sent a shot straight down the throat of Ejeheri following impressive work by Simpson to win a corner, and that was that as Town managed to open their Papa John's Trophy campaign with an impressive win at SN1 against a talented Arsenal U21s team.
FINAL SCORE: SWINDON TOWN 2-1 ARSENAL U21S
TEAMS AND STATS
SWINDON TOWN - Ward; Odimayo, Iandolo (C), Crichlow (Dion Conroy 63), Mitchell-Lawson (Tyreece Simpson 63), Gilbert (Jack Payne 63), Hunt, East, Aguiar, Parsons, Dabre.
SUBS NOT USED - Wollacott, Gordon, Cowmeadow, Francis.
SCORERS - Mohammad Dabre (16), Dion Conroy (69).
BOOKED - Rob Hunt.
ARSENAL U21S - Ejeheri; Ideho, Kirk, Lopez, Biereth, Ogungbo, Taylor-Hart, Walters, Henry-Francis (Salah Oulad M'Hand 45), Monlouis, Patino.
SUBS NOT USED - Butler-Oyedeji, Graczyk, Bandeira, Edwards, Foran, Cozier-Duberry.
SCORERS - Joel Ideho (33).
Referee - Lee Swabey
Attendance - 2,452.