A strong-looking Chelsea reserve side fell to a second consecutive defeat on Monday afternoon as visitors Wolverhampton Wanderers came away from Cobham with a 3-2 victory.
First half goals from Jamie Reckord, Sam Vokes and Ashley Hemmings proved enough to seal the points for Steve Weaver’s side, who took advantage of some poor Chelsea defending, and despite goals from Milan Lalkovic and Romelu Lukaku, they were good value for their win.
Lukaku spearheaded a line-up which also included first-team squad members Josh McEachran and Ryan Bertrand. With experienced hands in Rhys Taylor, Conor Clifford and Milan Lalkovic – all of whom have spent time out on loan during 2011 – and Sam Hutchinson captaining the team from central defence, Dermot Drummy’s side appeared to have a strong chance.
However, they shot themselves in the foot at the back and displayed a largely laconic attitude throughout and allowed Wolves time and space to create goalscoring opportunities.
The visitors themselves included old hands in Ronald Zubar and Jody Craddock and first team midfielder Adlene Guedioura and started well, keeping Chelsea pinned into their own defensive third and asked questions of their progressive football.
Attempting to play their way out of defence caused their downfall away to Aston Villa last time out and it was to prove their undoing again today, as a questionable pass by Nathaniel Chalobah was seized upon and as Wolves flooded the penalty area with old gold shirts, left-back Reckord rattled past Taylor to give the visitors a lead midway through the first half.
At the other end, Lukaku had stung goalkeeper Aaron McCarey’s palms with a fiercely-struck effort from long range but was otherwise reduced to trying to beat two experienced central defenders to through balls provided by the lively Kaby.
Both sides thought they had the game’s second goal as Hemmings curled just wide before Conor Clifford missed the target with a free kick, but Wolves doubled their lead when Vokes was on hand to tap in from close range after tidy play by Hemmings out on the left.
The tricky forward got the better of Chalobah out wide and his cross eluded the despairing Hutchinson, leaving frontman Vokes with the task of beating his former Wales Under-21 compatriot Taylor from six yards out.
Chelsea found a way back into affairs shortly before the break when Lalkovic twisted and turned to find space on the left side of the penalty area and saw his effort elude the attentions of McCarey en route to the back of the net.
However, the two-goal lead was to be restored moments later as Wolves again made gains down the left flank; Reckord overlapped Gorman unmarked and found time and space to cut the ball back across goal to allow Hemmings a simple finish.
3-1 down at the break, Drummy replaced Chalobah with George Saville at centre-back, the former having a rare off-day. Saville’s composure and ease on the ball immediately helped at the start of the second half.
Wolves had admittedly tempered their approach with a lead and were now looking to secure their position, allowing Chelsea much more possession but making it hard for them to do something with it.
Shortly before the hour they were handed a way back into affairs with McCarey once again less than convincing. Good endeavour by Billy Clifford down the right saw the ball fall somewhat fortuitously to Lukaku, who rifled home from the edge of the box.
McCarey saw the ball slip through his grasp for the second time, and he will surely not look forward to his next match against the Blues, having made a similiar error at Stamford Bridge last April to allow Adam Phillip to score.
Arrears now reduced to one, observers would have thought Chelsea the side to kick on and find a way back into things but there was a clear lack of urgency and nobody in blue seemed up for taking charge of the game.
Instead Wolves sub Liam McAlinden was most impressive in the late stages, rattling the woodwork twice and drawing a smart save from Taylor as his pace in behind countered Chelsea’s high line to great effect.
Bar a tamely struck effort from Irishman Clifford though, the home team were unable to test the shaky McCarey in the closing stages and even at the very end it was Taylor who was worked harder, getting down well to palm Price’s shot away for a corner.
Defeats will always be a part of the game and of development but on a day where Andre Villas-Boas, his coaching staff and many of his players were watching on with Carling Cup opportunities to be had next week at Everton, Chelsea played within themselves.
The team at times simply went through the motions and whilst the majority of the side could do with far more regular football than they were getting, they won’t have impressed the watching scouts with their mental approach on this occasion.
Kaby was the standout performer in a blue shirt, with lively movement and probing play in the final third, whilst Billy Clifford’s approach was positive and he played with his head up at all times.
Team: Taylor, Kane, Hutchinson (c) (Gordon 78), Chalobah (Saville 45), Bertrand, C.Clifford, B.Clifford, McEachran, Kaby (Mitrovic 85), Lalkovic, Lukaku
Subs not Used: Blackman, Deen-Conteh
Goals: Lalkovic ’40