Chelsea’s Development Squad recorded their first win of the new season on Friday night as they defeated Derby County 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Second-half goals from Reece James and Luke McCormick secured all three points for Joe Edwards’ youngsters, who remain unbeaten from their first three outings in 2017-18 after draws away to Manchester City and Plymouth Argyle.
Dan Davies’ must-see match gallery is available HERE.
This fixture represented their third outing in eight days and, although there was some rotation, the majority of the starting eleven were in place for all three fixtures. James, Joseph Colley and Ethan Ampadu all reprised their roles in defence, although Polish goalkeeper Marcin Bułka was handed his first start of the season behind them, whilst Dujon Sterling and Cole Dasilva manned the wing-back positions.
McCormick and captain Ruben Sammut continued in central midfield, and there were again starts for Isaac Christie-Davies and Jacob Maddox – a substitute at Plymouth – in a fluid front three spearheaded by 16 year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi. With nobody older than 19 in the starting eleven, the Blues were once again significantly younger than their opponents, who included first-team squad members George Thorne and Jason Shackell as they returned from injuries.
The visitors had the first chance and should have taken it, when defender Ethan Wassall was presented with a clear sight of goal at the far post following a corner, but Colley put his body on the line and threw himself in the way of his shot to keep the scoreline 0-0. Chelsea’s response came through Sterling, who bulldozed his way down the right wing in inimitable style, being fouled twice along the way without a free kick being awarded.
Derby settled the quicker but found Chelsea’s rearguard in uncompromising form, with James and Ampadu impressive in the air, whilst the hosts were unable to get into the final third as Thorne patrolled his area of the pitch imperiously for the Rams. In a first half short on clear-cut chances, it was Kellan Gordon who had perhaps the best of them when he collected James’ loose pass and struck a well-hit effort that Bułka was equal to.
The longer the contest went on, though, the more Chelsea looked a threat. Hudson-Odoi began the second half in sparkling form and almost created a chance for Christie-Davies, whilst the welcome return of Jordan Houghton from a six-month injury lay-off brought experience and stability to the midfield.
The opening goal arrived shortly after the hour mark and, although it was rather fortuitous, it was deserved. McCormick’s corner dropped low towards the near post, where James reacted sharpest and saw his effort fly past Kelle Roos in the Derby goal with the aid of a substantial deflection. It was enough to open things and, before long, the two teams were exchanging blows in an entertaining final quarter of the match.
Derby skipper Timi-Max Elsnik tried his luck at the end of a powerful run through the middle of the pitch only to be denied by Bułka, who then got up and spread himself well to also deny substitute Luke Thomas. Christie-Davies was then within inches of putting a goal on a plate for Hudson-Odoi only for Wassall to clear, and then Bułka was called upon again to turn Emil Riis Jakobsen’s shot onto the crossbar, with McCormick bravely heading clear from underneath his own crossbar from the rebound.
The young midfielder, making just his second start at this level, had been at the heart of everything good produced by Chelsea and, late on – after Derby’s Calum MacDonald had been sent off for a pair of entirely avoidable yellow cards – he was duly rewarded. Sterling and Miro Muheim patiently held onto possession on a counter attack deep into stoppage time and, rather than head for the corner, they carried on in search of a goal.
There was McCormick, making a run from deep right at the death, to collect Christie-Davies’ probing pass and hook past Roos to make it 2-0 before embarking upon a most joyous celebration in front of the 1,000 or so fans in attendance. It was an appropriate ending to a good night for the Development Squad, who return to action next Friday at home to Everton down at Aldershot.
Chelsea: Bułka, Sterling, James, Colley, Ampadu, Sammut © (Houghton 61), Christie-Davies, McCormick, Hudson-Odoi, Maddox (Muheim 61), C.Dasilva (Grant 75)
Subs not Used: Russell, C.Brown
Goals: James ’63, McCormick ‘90
Derby County: Roos, Stabana, MacDonald, Thorne (Bateman 45), Wassall, Shackell (Cover 61), Gordon, Elsnik ©, Jakobsen, Babos, Zanzala (Thomas 73)
Subs not Used: Barnes, Karic
Sent off: MacDonald