Chelsea’s bid to finish the Premier League 2 season well got off to a strong start on Saturday as Daishawn Redan’s hat-trick led the Development Squad to a 3-0 win over Derby County at St George’s Park.
With only three fixtures left on their schedule after the final international break of the season, Joe Edwards’ boys will have set their sights on going into the summer full of confidence, and the performance from a young team at England’s headquarters will have given them plenty of reason for optimism.
Ross Barkley’s inclusion headlined Chelsea’s team selection, as the midfielder continued his attempts to return to match fitness, but there were also first starts at this level for Under-18 standouts Conor Gallagher and Marc Guehi. They were thrust into the spotlight with Edwards keen to explore his options for the forthcoming UEFA Youth League Semi Final, when he’ll be without the suspended Jacob Maddox, and the injured Ethan Ampadu.
He would have also been keen to see an appetite for competition amongst the squad, and a strong start against the Rams was both asked for and received. The Blues were very quickly into their stride, despite the last-minute withdrawal of Callum Hudson-Odoi, and were two goals to the good inside a quarter of an hour.
Both came about in similar circumstances and owed plenty to the drive of Reece James and the ruthless efficiency of Redan. The first came via a slight deflection but was just reward for a fine move that had seen Luke McCormick free James down the right, and his delivery was duly finished, before the same combination unlocked the door again minutes later. This time Redan confidently controlled the ball on the edge of the six yard box before lashing confidently beyond the helpless Jonathan Mitchell.
McCormick and Gallagher struck up a strong partnership in midfield, never allowing Derby to get into the contest, whilst the back three behind them swept up any loose balls and ensured a quiet afternoon for Jamie Cumming in goal. That provided the platform for the rest of the team to add to the scoresheet, something Barkley, Juan Castillo and James all went close to doing before half time, but none of them came as close Harvey St Clair did when the winger saw his shot cannon back off the crossbar from ten yards out.
The hosts improved in the second half, having been somewhat anonymous until then, but Alex Babos’ off-target free kick was as close as they came to troubling Cumming whatsoever. The Blues’ stopper watched the ball safely over his crossbar, and his team-mates set about re-asserting complete control.
Barkley made way after a planned hour, in which he looked confident and relaxed without ever needing to fully exert himself, and allowed for George McEachran to make his second appearance of the season for the Under-23 squad in his place.
St Clair and Castillo forced a pair of saves from Mitchell in quick succession before Redan capped his day with his hat-trick goal, glancing home a header from St Clair’s corner to make it sixteen in all competitions for the Blues, and almost 25 for club and country overall.
He was immediately replaced by another Development Squad debutant in Charlie Brown, who has been equally as prolific for Jody Morris’ youth team, and he looked lively and sharp as Chelsea played out the remaining moments of a very pleasing win. They return to action at Stamford Bridge on Friday 13th April against Tottenham Hotspur, with tickets on sale now.
Derby County: Mitchell, Cover, Karic (Sibley 45), Bird, Wassall, Buchanan, Cresswell, Bateman, Walker, Babos (Whittaker 76), Mitchell-Lawson (Knight 45)
Subs not Used: Barnes, Taylor
Booked: Cresswell, Bateman, Sibley
Chelsea: Cumming, James, Grant (c), Nartey, Guehi, Gallagher (Sammut 78), St Clair, McCormick, Redan (Brown 78), Barkley (McEachran 62), Castillo
Sub not Used: Žiger
Goals: Redan 9, 16, 70