Nolan strike not enough as Blues lose Group B opener
Town fell to a narrow defeat in the opening game of their EFL Trophy campaign as Arsenal U21 came from behind to claim the points.
Jon Nolan netted midway through a first half that Town had dominated but George Lewis and Flo Balogun turned the game on it's head either side of half-time.
Emyr Huws and Aaron Drinan were denied by the woodwork while James Norwood saw an effort cleared off the line but Blues couldn't capitalise on a string of second half chances.
Town made three changes to the team that beat Bristol Rovers 3-0 on Saturday.
Myles Kenlock replaced Stephen Ward while David Cornell was awarded his Blues debut in goal.
Corrie Ndaba, fresh from making his Blues bow in the first round of the Carabao Cup, was promoted from the bench to the starting line up after Toto Nsiala was withdrawn as a precaution.
Ndaba himself was forced off through injury in the closing stages.
The young centre back had Town’s first effort on goal just before the 10-minute mark, heading straight at Tom Smith in the Arsenal goal after Kenlock had won a corner down the left hand side.
Drinan, another of Saturday’s debutants, was inches away from giving Paul Lambert’s side the lead five minutes later, hitting the post from a tight angle after being played through by Freddie Sears.
Nolan went one better with just under half an hour played, his close range volley being too strong for Smith after Alan Judge had headed back across goal.
Drinan looked like he might double the lead after racing onto a ball over the top from Teddy Bishop but a perfectly timed tackle from Gunners captain Mark McGuinness saw the chance go amiss.
Arsenal carved out their first real opportunity of the game just before half-time, Balogun having a shot blocked behind from just inside the box.
The young Gunners equalised from the resulting corner as Town couldn’t fully clear the danger and Lewis stroked the ball into the bottom corner of Cornell’s goal.
Steve Bould’s visitors moved in front after the restart, Balogun beating Cornell from inside the box after being played in behind.
Following on from the half-time introduction of Gwion Edwards, Huws and Norwood were also brought on early in the second period, the latter heading wide from inside the box.
Miguel Azeez wasn’t too far away from putting the game to bed midway through the half for the visitors, firing just over the bar from 25 yards.
Balogun once again proved to be a thorn in Town’s side a few moments later, having a shot blocked before his second effort was scuppered by Cornell.
Town came agonisingly close to equalising twice in the following two minutes.
First Judge’s header from six yards was turned around the post by Smith before Huws’ curled effort cannoned back off the underside of the bar.
Nolan could - and perhaps should - have netted his and Town’s second with five minutes remaining but he was denied by Smith when he was left in space inside the box.
Luke Chambers was frustrated by the in-form Arsenal ‘keeper from the resulting corner before Norwood had a shot blocked.
A Norwood flick was cleared off the line in stoppage time as Town couldn’t find the all-important equaliser, Ndaba being forced off in the closing stages to add to Blues' woes.
Town: Cornell, Chambers (C), Ndaba, Woolfenden, Kenlock, Nolan, Dozzell, Bishop (Huws 53), Judge, Drinan (Norwood 55), Sears (Edwards, 46).
Subs: Holy, Lankester, Wilson, Hawkins.
Arsenal U21: Smith, Alebiosy, Balogun (Cirjan 73), Bola, Cottrell, Lewis, McEneef (Azeez 46), McGuinness (C), Olayinka, M'Hand (Akinola 65), Oyegoke.
Subs: Hillson, Cirjan, Kirk, Ogungbo.