Chelsea made it five matches unbeaten at Under-18 level on Saturday with a hugely impressive 4-1 victory over a handy Bolton Wanderers team at Cobham.
Kasey Palmer’s first half goal was all that separated the teams for the first hour of what was a close match but Chelsea ran away with things from there on in with further strikes from Charlie Colkett, Iké Ugbo and Mukhtar Ali, whilst Sam Bailey notched a consolation for the visitors.
On a weekend sandwiched between Under-21 fixtures and with an important FA Youth Cup meeting against Arsenal on the horizon, Adi Viveash’s team sheet reflected the need to find a balance and included no fewer than four schoolboys, with two of them – Ugbo and Trevoh Chalobah – making their first starts at this level.
Chalobah featured at right-back in a defence which has been very strong of late and saw George Brady paired with Jordan Houghton, with Ola Aina on the left and Brad Collins in goal as usual. Colkett captained the team from his usual midfield spot and was joined there by Isaac Christie-Davies and Ruben Sammut, whilst Ugbo and Palmer, who was making his first appearance following a spell out injured, flanked Chike Kandi up front.
Bolton have picked up a series of impressive results of late, notably a victory at Manchester United, and although they were without the talismanic services of Jamie Thomas, they looked a capable outfit early on and have as good as they got for long spells. Goalmouth incident was hard to come by for most of the first half, with Palmer and Colkett going closest for Chelsea and both Chris Cvetko and Will Abbotts off target for the Trotters at the other end.
Palmer made the breakthrough shortly before the half hour mark with a goal that owed much to an excellent individual effort by Aina. He roared along the left wing in typical buccaneering fashion before reaching the touchline and flicking a cross into the six yard box, where Palmer stooped to bravely nod home his seventh goal of the season.
Bolton responded well and would have been level were it not for a very good save by Collins low to his right to repel Cvetko’s fierce shot on the turn, and just before the break right-back Jordan Hendale strode forward imperiously before dragging his shot just wide of the post.
Considering how closely-matched the sides had been over the first forty-five minutes, it came as something of a surprise that Chelsea surged clear with a spell of clinical counter-attacking around the hour mark. Viveash made two changes at the interval with Palmer not quite being ready for more just yet and Aina rested for Arsenal, and it saw Ali and Faiq Bolkiah come on in their place. Both would play big roles in their team’s victory.
The substitutions had meant a few positional adjustments were required, with one of those to move Ugbo into the centre forward spot with Kandi shifted out wide. The young forward had two good chances shortly after the restart but in keeping with an occasionally nervous display, he struck them both at goalkeeper Harry Campbell.
Chelsea began to turn the screw and clinched the win with the all-important second goal. Bolkiah found his path to goal blocked down the left buy Colkett received the loose ball and, after exchanging a smart one-two with Ali, found the perfect finish to flick the ball past Campbell for 2-0.
It sucked the air out of Bolton and they found themselves out of reach two minutes later as Ugbo made it 3-0 with a fabulous curling effort to round off a swift break launched by a brave Ali tackle and carried forward by Bolkiah and then Kandi. It was the young striker’s first goal at this level and he grew in stature and experience throughout as he worked out what was required to play at a higher level.
Chelsea slowed things down for ten minutes or so after that, keeping possession and moving the ball around at their own tempo, and also found the opportunity to hand a youth team debut to Jacob Maddox from the bench. Bolton harnessed some of their frustration to enjoy a few good attacking moments and whilst Abbotts, Kennedy and Bailey were all kept out by the impressive Collins, they did manage to reduce the arrears five minutes from time when winger Bailey rattled one in off the bar following a layoff by substitute Saul Hamer.
Fittingly though, the last word went to Chelsea as they exploited tired Wanderers legs again for a fourth goal. Kandi charged clear after a Bolton attack broke down and whilst orange shirts did catch up with him, he had the wherewithal to play in Ali, who did the rest by rifling home from the edge of the area. It capped a fine individual performance on his part and rounded off a very good afternoon of work by a Chelsea team finishing the campaign just as strongly as they started it.
Chelsea: Collins, T. Chalobah, Brady, Houghton, Aina (Bolkiah 45), Christie-Davies, Colkett (c) Sammut, Palmer (Ali 45), Ugbo (Maddox 80), Kandi
Subs not Used: Thompson
Bolton: Campbell, Hendale, Garratt, Honeyball, Perry, Kennedy (c), Bailey, Cvetko, Abbotts, Newby, Hinchcliffe (Hamer 70)
Subs not Used: Jaaskelainen, Torres, Spooner, Griffiths