Academy football returned in earnest after the international break and provided a thoroughly entertaining London derby as Chelsea and West Ham United shared a 2-2 draw at Cobham on Saturday morning.
Kyle Scott’s third-minute opener gave the Blues a lead they held until the early stages of the second period, when Marcus Browne restored parity in spectacular fashion. The visitors then looked the most likely winner but Tammy Abraham’s late strike appeared to have clinched all three points for Chelsea. Jordan Brown, however, was on hand at the death to see a share of the spoils head back to East London.
For the third outing in succession, Joe Edwards named an all-English starting eleven, although with the Under-21s also in action against Everton this weekend he was without some of his more senior players. Brad Collins continued in goal behind a back four comprised of schoolboy Josh Grant, Fikayo Tomori, captain Jake Clarke-Salter and Jay Dasilva.
Ruben Sammut and Mukhtar Ali have built up a strong understanding in central midfield and ahead of them Edwards deployed three narrow playmakers in Scott, Isaac Christie-Davies and Kasey Palmer, with Abraham wearing the number nine in attack.
The approach paid immediate dividends as Abraham squared for Scott to convert from close range before some people had taken their seats. The early advantage allowed Chelsea to build their play more comfortably and confidently, and they might have been two to the good had Christie-Davies not strayed a fraction offside before rifling the ball past Clark Bogard.
Ali and Palmer each dragged efforts off target in search of further reward but it was far from one-way traffic as Collins saved well from Brown ans Joe Powell threatened to race clear onto a loose ball before finding himself unable to compete with the quicker Dasilva.
Brown, a former Arsenal apprentice who has started the season in fine form, proved a real handful for the Chelsea defenders and Steve Potts’ boys used his considerable assets more often in the second half in a bid to find an equaliser. The goal was deserved when it arrived and Browne showed excellent technique in volleying into the top corner, with the assistance of the crossbar, after picking up a poor clearance from the home defence.
Both managers made changes as they sought the late ascendancy, with Edwards introducing the lively Charlie Wakefield and the Swiss youngster Miro Muheim in attack, but West Ham came on strong; Brown went close twice more, Bailey steered wide when well set and Grady Diangana had a vociferous shout for a penalty fall on the deaf ears of referee Federico Ardiles.
It was a controversial moment and proved to be even more so when, less than sixty seconds later, Chelsea secured their second lead of the day. A fine team move culminated in Wakefield playing Abraham in, and the big forward swept home from eight yards out to surely win the match.
Brown had other ideas though and took full advantage of a powerful West Ham counter attack with time running out. He held off the robust attentions of Tomori before settling himself and stuffing a left-footed effort under Collins from the edge of the box to make it 2-2 and give his team no less than they deserved.
Chelsea: Collins, Grant, Tomori, Clarke-Salter (c), J. Dasilva, Sammut, Ali, Christie-Davies (Wakefield), Scott, Palmer (Muheim), Abraham
Subs not Used: Thompson, C. Dasilva, Mount
West Ham: Bogard, Knoyle, Neufville (Linley), Sylvestre, Pask, Onariase, Powell (Bailey), Browne, Brown, Diangana (Sheriff), Parfitt-Williams
Subs not Used: Boness, Adebayo