It was a successful Saturday on the academy front as the Development Squad and Under-18s each secured results that put them top of the table approaching the winter break.
Ed Brand’s youth team got things started in style with an 8-0 win away to bottom-of-the-table Swansea City in South Wales, extending their season-long unbeaten run, and leapfrogging Fulham to go top outright and on their own for the first time this campaign.
George Nunn got them off to a flying start, but it was in the second half that things really started to click, as a Myles Peart-Harris brace was followed by a Joe Haigh hat-trick. Swansea had succumbed to an 8-2 defeat to West Ham in their previous home match, shipping a number of goals late on there, and the same happened again here as Dion Rankine and Lewis Bate got in on the act.
It was a fantastic way for the team to sign off their league commitments for 2019, having dropped just four points all term, but they do still have an FA Youth Cup Third Round clash with Huddersfield to look forward to before they’re done for the holidays. That’s on Wednesday 18th December at Kingsmeadow, and tickets are on sale now priced at £3 for adults, and £1 for concessions.
The Development Squad, meanwhile, hosted Derby County in a clash of the PL2’s top two teams coming into the weekend. Arsenal had leapfrogged them both ahead of kickoff by virtue of playing a day earlier, but both teams knew a win would see them take over at the summit.
Derby certainly started as if they wanted it more, and deservedly took the lead midway through the first half when Josh Shonibare worked just enough space to find a way to get a shot past Nicolas Tié and into the bottom corner. Jon Russell replied with a fine glancing header from Marcel Lavinier’s cross, but the Rams took a lead into the break as Louie Sibley capitalised on some questionable defending to reestablish their lead.
When Jahmal Hector-Ingram extended it to 3-1 early on the second half, the game looked up, but Andy Myers urged his young charges forward, and they took up the challenge. The half time introduction of Armando Broja in a wide right role gave them an outlet to play off, and Clinton Mola’s close-range strike gave them something to work with on the hour mark. The goal was officially credited to Russell, who made sure the ball had crossed the line, but Mola’s initial effort was good enough and the linesman flagged for it accordingly.
Derby came back with as good as they got, but Tié was both good and lucky in the Chelsea goal, which is more than could be said for his opposite number Henrich Ravas. He quite literally handed the Blues a point when Henry Lawrence’s cross squirted out of his hands and onto the head of Charlie Brown, who will scarcely have an easier finish in his career.
The Derby stopper did redeem himself at the very end, saving Broja’s goal-bound header in the fifth minute of added time, but the result sees Chelsea return to the top of the league on goal difference. They now face Lille in their final UEFA Youth League group stage match on Tuesday, and round off the calendar year with a trip to Liverpool next weekend.
Askew, Humphreys (Wiggett 60), McClelland (c), Colwill (Brooking 82), Iling-Junior, Bate, Rankine, Simons, Nunn, Peart-Harris (Clark 71), Haigh
Subs not Used: Wady, Vale
Goals: Nunn 5, Peart-Harris 48, 55, Haigh 52, 79, 84, Rankine 82, Bate 88 (pen)
Tié, Lavinier (Lewis 76), Guehi (c), Mola, Maatsen, Gilmour, Lawrence, McEachran, Brown, Russell, Ballo) Broja 45)
Subs not Used: Wakely, Žiger
Goals: Russell 33, Mola 60, Brown 78