Reserves: Crawley 3-0 Chelsea

For some, it was a second outing in less than twenty-four hours.

For others, it was a return to action after a summer break.

For everyone, however, it was the start of another reserve campaign at Chelsea. In hot, dry conditions at the smart Broadfield Stadium, Steve Holland’s young charges impressed in spells but fell to a 3-0 defeat to Conference Premier hopefuls Crawley Town.

The hosts have spent big money over the last few weeks in acquiring talent to take a shot at promotion, with the marquee name being Sergio Torres, acquired from Peterborough for £100,000.

Another newcomer, prolific forward Matt Tubbs, scored the second goal, an effort sandwiched by an own goal from Josh McEachran and a late third from sub Mikey Malcolm to give the Red Devils a deserved win, even if the scoreline was a tad unreflective of what had gone before it.

Whilst Crawley played a strong team with their season starting soon, Holland called upon Conor Clifford, Rohan Ince, Nathaniel Chalobah, Josh McEachran and Milan Lalkovic, all of whom had played some part in the Amsterdam ArenA on Friday.

They were joined by Sam Walker, Ben Gordon, Aziz-Deen Conteh, Daniel Philliskirk, Gokhan Tore, and Kaby, who made the trip to Holland but was an unused substitute.

With injuries and internationals affecting the squad depth, Michael Woods returned from injury as a sub alongside a host of first and second years from the youth team.

From the off, the home team had the better energy levels and pounced on a weary-looking McEachran within seconds, seizing possession. It was indicative of the early moments, Chelsea unsure of their touch and position, and as a result on the back foot.

They were able to prevent much by way of goalmouth action, however, and with the influence of Clifford in the middle of the park, grew into the game. Good work from Chalobah and Ince at the back saw the ball move fluidly, and Deen-Conteh got forward to good effect on the other flank.

In fact, it was the Blues who had the first real sight of goal, and when it arrived, Gokhan Tore was able to beat Michel Kuipers, but saw his effort come back off the post before it was cleared to safety.

Otherwise, it was a case of speculative strikes from distance courtesy of captain Clifford and half chances for Philliskirk, who got forward well but wasted one shot and two headers which went tamely straight to Kuipers.

It looked as if the young Blues would be more likely to break the deadlock but shortly after the half hour mark, it was Crawley who grabbed the first goal, albeit in slightly fortuitous circumstances. A corner was always likely to pose a threat due to the difference in height and strength, and centre-back Hall duly met the cross firmly.

His header beat Walker, hit the crossbar and hit McEachran on the back before crossing the line. The England Under-17 international was helpless and could do nothing to stop the situation from occurring.

Unfortunaltely, 1-0 quickly became 2-0, as a cross from the right was afforded far too much time and space, and the same was given to Tubbs inside the area. He glanced his header goalwards, comfortably out of the reach of Walker, and into the top corner.

There was even a chance for a third before the break but the move broke down, and at the other end Philliskirk once more wasted a gilt-edged chance, but it remained 2-0 at the break.

McEachran and Chalobah were withdrawn after their 45 minutes at Ajax, which looked to have affected the former far more than the 15 year-old. In relief came Woods and Ben Sampayo.

The majority of the 813 attendance (of which 145 were Chelsea) started the second half in what was almost silence, but it reflected the football, which had dropped a gear and was far less energetic than what had preceded it.

Chelsea were suffering for the lack of a real attacking outlet, with Lalkovic the lone frontman supported by Gokhan and Kaby. The Slovakian had carved out a glorious first-half moment but sent his shot straight at the goalkeeper again, but he was largely starved of service and appeared isolated.

Midway through the half,however, and things came alive again. Substitute McAllister had been involved since coming on and his long range effort fizzed back off the post. Tubbs was alive to the rebound, but Walker made up ground to smother the attempt superbly.

Chelsea broke to the other end and fashioned an opportunity for Clifford to shoot. He got hold of it well, and it deflected off Lalkovic and into the back of the net. It wasn’t to stand though, with the referee deeming that it had hit the hand of the number nine.

Protests followed, but they were to no avail, and it seemed to break the spirit. Time and again they came bursting through the middle – often through Gokhan – but when it came to playing the ball wide to continue the move, it was easily intercepted.

McAllister had further sights of goal but was unable to add to the scoreline, whilst further substitutions saw Todd Kane, Amin Affane, and George Saville replace Ince, Gokhan and Clifford.

Ben Gordon struck a superbly-hit effort late on which had Kuipers scampering but the final word went to the deserved winners, as sub Mikey Malcolm tucked a third into the empty net after Walker had parried a shot from an angle. The teenage stopper followed it with a neat save to prevent a fourth, but Chelsea were second best on this occasion.

Like the first team matches to date, the matches are more important than the performances or the results at this stage, and it was admirable to see furthered involvement from many who had played just the day before.

Ince had some shaky moments but by and large played impressively, as did Chalobah, showing no sign of any nerves as a schoolboy playing against adults. Clifford led a leggy midfield well, whilst Gokhan and Lalkovic were lively without a cutting edge.

More will be expected on Thursday night at Wycombe, but for a depleted reserve unit with an average age well in the teens, this wasn’t a bad performance by any stretch of the imagination.

Team: Walker, Chalobah (Sampayo 45), Ince (Kane 75), Gordon, Deen-Conteh, McEachran (Woods 45), C.Clifford (c) (Saville 87), Philliskirk, Kaby, Gokhan Tore (Affane 84), Lalkovic

Subs not used: Blackman, Nkumu, Stenning, Prosenik, Rodgers, Devyne

Booked: Deen-Conteh ‘71