Chelsea’s Development Squad claimed a useful point in Premier League 2 action on Sunday at Aldershot as they shared an interesting but ultimately goalless draw at home to West Ham United.
Chances were at a premium for both sides in blustery Hampshire but, following a handful of disappointing performances in recent weeks, Chelsea will have found far more positives to take away from this experience against a good team that posed plenty of problems themselves.
Seeking to arrest a slump that had seen the Blues take just two points from the last fifteen on offer, Joe Edwards made just one change in personnel from the team that lost 3-1 at home to Swansea last time out in the league, with Miro Muheim replacing Luke McCormick. It meant another start in attack for trialist Victor Adeboyejo, whilst the formation was tweaked back to a 3-4-3 look with Trevoh Chalobah partnering captain Ruben Sammut in central midfield.
West Ham, with four former Chelsea players in tow, had enjoyed a far better start to the campaign than their West London rivals, and came into the contest off the back of a 4-2 win over Manchester United in which forward Toni Martínez netted a hat-trick. The Spaniard started the contest by smashing a shot high enough to clear the stadium and its surroundings into the road outside, before Adeboyejo responded with a low effort well wide of Nathan Trott’s right-hand post.
Harvey St Clair produced some lively moments in the first half, darting inside from the left to good effect on several occasions, but whilst Chelsea fed numerous crosses into the penalty area from useful wide positions, they were unable to apply the finishing touches to some impressive passages of play. Muheim’s devilishly-inswinging free-kick from the right was perhaps their best moment of the first 45 minutes, but neither Chelsea blue not West Ham black got a touch on the ball as it flew through the box.
The visitors looked dangerous whenever Swedish forward Sead Haksabanovic got involved; compatriot Joseph Colley had to clear his lines smartly before Dan Kemp, one of the aforementioned former Blues, sought to make inroads into the home defence too. He was the only Hammer to test Jamie Cumming before half time, with his left-footed effort tipped away to safety, but he also should have been awarded a penalty after being fouled by Trevoh Chalobah, only for referee Carl Brook to remain unmoved.
Dujon Sterling was withdrawn at half time, with Wednesday’s first-team fixture against Everton in the League Cup in mind, as Chelsea switched to a 4-2-3-1 shape, but West Ham came back out for the second half with a greater attacking purpose and twice went close to opening the scoring within five minutes of the restart. Martínez was slightly off-target with an improvised volley before Haksabanovic’s acrobatic volley was superbly pushed away by Cumming soon after.
Cole Dasilva’s arrival in place of Muheim saw Reece James pushed forward forward by Edwards and, soon enough, St Clair was back in business again from the left. His rising effort from 30 yards out might have been going over anyway, but Trott made sure with a good hand to guide it away for a corner anyway.
The impetus began to run away from Chelsea in the latter stages of the match and West Ham fashioned the better looks in the final quarter of an hour. Kemp and Nathan Holland linked up to useful effect on more than one occasion, only for Colley to intervene well each time, and the combination of Sammut and Chalobah did just enough to keep substitute Jahmal Hector-Ingram from poaching a late winner.
Chelsea: Cumming, James, Sterling (McCormick 45), Colley, Grant, Chalobah, St Clair, Sammut ©, Adeboyejo (K.Hazard 67), Maddox, Muheim (C.Dasilva 55)
Subs not Used: Bułka, Nartey
Booked: Maddox, Chalobah
West Ham United: Trott, Johnson (Pike 67), Neufville, Coventry, Pask, Rice ©, Haksabanovic, Quina (Powell 45), Martínez, Kemp (Hector-Ingram 86), Holland
Subs not Used: Matrevics, Scully