Chelsea are two wins away from their fourth successive Under-18 Premier League South title after a 4-1 win at Brighton on Friday night saw them move twelve points clear of nearest challenger Arsenal.
Charlie Brown, Billy Gilmour and George McEachran struck in a devastating four-minute first-half spell to put the result beyond doubt there and then, whilst Clinton Mola thumped home a spectacular fourth to add emphasis in the second half. The only sour note came in stoppage time, when a mistake by Nicolas Tié allowed Dan Cashman to grab a consolation and end a run of more than 600 minutes without conceding a goal.
Jody Morris’ boys had beaten Leicester City 2-0 on Tuesday but the manager was far from satisfied with his team’s performance and, in heavy rain on the South coast, his young team started with much greater purpose here. Brighton carried an early threat through Ryan Longman but they were otherwise quickly outmatched by a Chelsea side moving the ball quickly and efficiently and looking to make their superiority count.
Tariq Uwakwe went close with a free kick clawed away by Tom McGill, and Marc Guehi headed wide from Marcel Lavinier’s cross, but the Seagulls couldn’t hold out forever, and were a goal down midway through the first half. Brown latched onto a through ball and, although his first shot was well blocked by Hayden Roberts, he collected the ball again and tucked past McGill for his tenth league goal of the campaign.
And he wasn’t done there. Picking up possession again, he made for the heart of the home defence before being felled in the area, and a penalty was duly awarded. Gilmour sent McGill the wrong way from the spot, and no sooner had they resumed play, two quickly became three. McEachran was the goalscorer this time, taking a bouncing ball and lashing it into the far corner with McGill nowhere, and that was effectively that.
Brighton, to their credit, gave a good account of themselves either side of half time, and will have felt they had done enough to score at least once during that spell. Longman again found Tié in good form, whilst Irish forward Matthew Everitt was denied by the post with a cracking first-time curling try, but it wasn’t their night at all.
Uwakwe came within inches of adding to the scoreline shortly after the break, but the fourth was certainly worth waiting for when it came. Mola unleashed a howitzer of a strike from fully 30 yards that kept on rising as it thundered into the top corner for 4-0, his second goal of the season, following a similarly unstoppable strike against West Ham back in November.
Jack Wakely, on the other hand, is yet to score for the Under-18s, but went close twice on the night here, whilst substitutes Renedi Masampu and Tushaun Walters both came on to good effect and could have added their names to the scoresheet had luck favoured them.
Tié’s late lapse of concentration cost him his second clean sheet of the week, and saw the Blues concede for the first time since Brandon Cooper headed home for Swansea a full month ago, as Cashman poked home from less than a yard out to give Brighton something to show for their endeavours, but the gulf in class was apparent from the very start. Chelsea can clinch the Southern title away to Arsenal on April 10th if both sides take maximum points from their fixtures before then, or earlier if the Gunners slip up.
Brighton: McGill, Morrison, Cochrane, Araujo (Eden-Clark 45), Weaire, Roberts, Longman, Fornah, Cashman, Onen (Kone 84), Everitt
Subs not Used: Bentley, Tutt
Goal: Cashman 90
Booked: Cochrane, Roberts, Weaire
Chelsea: Tié, Lamptey, Lavinier (Masampu 66), Wakely, Guehi, Mola, Uwakwe, Gilmour (Gallagher 66), Brown, McEachran, Castillo (Walters 73)
Sub not Used: Wady
Goals: Brown 24, Gilmour 27 (pen), McEachran 28, Mola 62