Chelsea’s Under-18s missed out on the chance to close the gap at the top of the Premier League South table on Saturday morning as they were held to a goalless draw by West London neighbours Fulham at Motspur Park.
With the top two in Tottenham and Arsenal playing in North London, the opportunity was at hand for Andy Myers’ boys to take advantage with a derby win of their own, but a combination of bad luck and bad finishing left them ruing the result. Sam McClelland and Marcel Lavinier both struck the woodwork in the first half, while Fulham goalkeeper George Wickens was by far the busier stopper from start to finish.
It was Lavinier, playing at wing back and seeking to add more goals to his game, that first went close with a curling and dipping effort off his left foot inside the opening quarter of an hour, before McClelland guided an unmarked header towards goal only to be denied by a combination of the post and Wickens.
The frame of the goal intervened again when Lavinier’s thunderous strike from the edge of the area smashed off the crossbar, leaving the frame of the goal reverberating, and the Chelsea man cursing his luck. Clinton Mola tried his best with a similar shot but found Wickens in his way, as the Blues’ bear one-way traffic failed to yield a first half breakthrough.
Ballo thought he’d unlocked the door within a minute of the restart, as he beat Riley Warland for pace and bore down on goal, but a terrific late tackle by Tristan Cover saved the day. Mola followed that with a run down the left and a shot from a tight angle, but couldn’t best Wickens yet again.
Fulham carried relatively little attacking threat themselves as Timmy Abraham was well-marshalled by McClelland, Jack Wakely and Dynel Simeu, and Jake Askew only had to clean up anything making its way into his area. Chelsea looked by far the more likely to score, consistently getting into position, but were far too wasteful once they got there.
Lavinier sliced wide when he should have done better and, at the very end, substitutes Henry Lawrence and Armando Broja linked up well for one final hurrah, but Broja missed the target with what was probably the best chance of the entire match.
The draw brought an end to a nine-game winning run, and Chelsea will look to get back on track next Saturday, when they welcome Reading to Cobham.
Fulham: Wickens, McAvoy, Cover, De Havilland, Asare, Warland, Carvalho, Davis, Abraham (Ablade), Hilton, Tahir (Jasper)
Subs not Used: Chisholm, Page, Tiehi
Chelsea: Askew, McClelland, Wakely (c), Simeu, Maatsen, Mola (Lawrence), Lavinier (Aina), Russell, Nunn (Broja), Ballo, Lewis
Subs not Used: Žiger, Ekwah Elimby