Chelsea ended their 2010-11 home academy campaign with their youngest team of the season, and despite a spirited performance went down to an older, stronger and better West Ham team 4-1 at Cobham.
Elliott Lee grabbed a hat-trick for the Hammers whilst Robert Hall added a first half penalty. Walter Figueira scored a late consolation for the Blues, who had chances throughout.
Dermot Drummy named eight schoolboys in his starting team, giving a full debut at this level to goalkeeper Mitchell Beeney and another start to promising midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Ben Sampayo and Mesca were the sole second years on show, whilst three more Under-16s came on as substitutes.
The visitors, on the other hand, included England Under-19 international Robert Hall in a dangerous front three including Dominic Vose on the other flank. Former Chelsea schoolboy Jake Larkins kept goal.
Much of the early action was scrappy and frenetic, perhaps reflecting the youthful nature of the home team. Drummy’s boys did, however, have much of the ball, and their play was orchestrated by Lewis Baker, who had an excellent outing.
Adam Nditi had the first sight of goal but Larkins dealt easily with his effort, before Beeney was asked to do the same at the other end from centre forward Lee.
Sharp thinking from Affane saw Figueira get in behind the Hammers’ back line following a quickly taken free kick, but the diminutive forward was unable to capitalise on the opening.
As captain John Terry sat down to take in some of the action, Chelsea enjoyed an impressive spell in the ascendancy, but still struggled to find a way through.
Mesca saw an opening on the right close just as quickly as it became available as his shot was deflected away for a corner.
Just before the half hour, though, West Ham took the lead entirely against the run of play. Vose did well down the left, working his way into the box against Sampayo, before settling himself and teeing up Lee, who could barely miss from a few yards out.
Creator then almost became scorer as Beeney was fully extended for the first time to acrobatically tip a Vose effort over the bar.
Chelsea had further efforts from both Figueira and Loftus-Cheek but in the closing stages of the half, West Ham doubled their lead.
Hall’s bullish run through the heart of the Chelsea defence looked to have come to an end when Nditi did enough to slow him down, but as both tangled the Blues defender tripped his opponent in the box, and the referee awarded a penalty.
Hall dusted himself off to send Beeney the wrong way and ensure his side went in at the interval two goals to the good.
Reece Mitchell was introduced at half time in relief of Anjur Osmanovic, and in doing so made his Under-18 bow. He also became the seventeenth schoolboy to turn out at this level this season, a remarkable tally.
Beeney was quickly back in action after the restart, smartly denying first Kenzer Lee then namesake Elliott, who was hungry for further goalscoring action.
At the other end Baker sent a shot in from distance which was closer than Larkins made it look, before Jordan Houghton replaced midfielder Loftus-Cheek, who is still on the road back to full fitness after injury.
A third and final sub followed on the hour as Tom Howard came on for Affane, meaning nine schoolboys were now on the pitch, and a total of eleven had been used on the day.
Beeney made another smart save to keep his team in it, but he merely delayed the formalities as seconds later Lee robbed Alex Davey of possession and slotted home to make it 3-0.
Two mazy runs by Nditi ended with a shot wide and saved apiece, but the Tanzanian looked like he could make things happen.
Houghton and Howard then combined well to carve out a chance for Figueira, but he snatched at the opportunity and allowed Larkins to save easily.
Lee was able to complete his predatory hat-trick in the final ten minutes when he closed down Beeney and won the ball before slamming home, but Chelsea were able to get a deserved consolation two minutes later.
Mitchell and Figueira capitalised on a lapse of concentration at the back and the latter was able to advance and curl into the far corner to score a goal which his hard work deserved.
On another day, the home team would have had at least one, maybe two more goals in the closing stages, as the effervescent Baker twice went agonisingly close, whilst Mesca slammed an effort into the side netting.
At this stage of the season and with this sort of line-up in particular, the development of individuals themselves and as part of this team going forward was the most interesting aspect of the match, and they played the right way, with patience and intelligence, and will be rewarded for that going forward into next season.
Chelsea finish their academy season on Thursday, when they travel to South London to face Charlton.
Team: Beeney, Sampayo (c), Davey, Gordon, Nditi, Loftus-Cheek (Houghton 55), Affane (Howard 60), Baker, Mesca, Osmanovic (Mitchell 45), Figueira
Subs not Used: Blackman, Seremba
Goal: Figueira ‘83