A goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time rescued a 2-2 draw for Chelsea’s Under-18s away to Fulham on Saturday morning.
Richard Nartey’s composed strike at the death found its way through a crowded penalty box to ensure the Blues took a deserved share of the spoils, having taken a first half lead from a Harvey St Clair penalty, only to watch Fulham turn the game around thereafter.
Both sides struggled to play their ideal football on a heavy Motspur Park pitch and in blustery conditions and the opening stages were cagey at best. The Blues, under the guidance of Jody Morris with Joe Edwards away with the England Under-17 World Cup squad, featured two midfielders in Ruben Sammut and Isaac Christie-Davies that had featured in the previous night’s Under-21 fixture, but started slowly and had Jared Thompson to thank for keeping out a volley from Stephen Humphrys.
They did however take the lead midway through the first half when Jacob Maddox won a penalty after a foul by Fulham midfielder Cassian Thomas brought an end to a good Chelsea attack. St Clair stepped up to beat Josh Lukwata from twelve yards.
It allowed Morris’ side to settle down and play their best football of the game, with Christie-Davies typically involved in much of the attractive product. Trevoh Chalobah once again showed off his penchant for spectacular long-distance efforts only for Lukwata to intervene, and although both Harrison Paton and Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson kept Thompson interested before the break, Chelsea went into half time deservedly ahead.
That changed when play resumed; Fulham using more of their considerably physical presence to assert themselves, whilst the arrival of substitute Josh Walker gave them an attacking potency they had otherwise been missing. He twice went close not long after his arrival, the latter of the attempts drawing a very good save indeed from Thompson.
The hosts were deservedly back on terms with twenty minutes remaining when a contentiously awarded free kick on the right allowed them to load up the penalty area, whereupon German centre-back Moritz Jenz got a head onto the ball to divert it into the top corner.
With momentum firmly on their side, the hosts took full control in tricky conditions for both sides and looked the most likely to find what would surely be the game’s decisive third goal. They pushed higher, worked harder, and drew inevitable reward when Dennis Adeniran went down in the box for the second penalty of the day. He dusted himself down before making it 2-1 in collected fashion.
Morris threw on the tenacity of Luke McCormick for the injured Chalobah and the tiring St Clair made way for Hubert Adamczyk as Chelsea chased an unlikely equaliser. Colley almost got on the end of a corner whilst Josh Grant, ever-impressive at both ends of the pitch, led the charge from right back.
The moment looked to have come and gone when Charlie Wakefield slipped Maddox in behind only for Lukwata to deny him, but a lengthy additional period facilitated by an unfortunate injury to Humphrys gave Chelsea a glimmer of hope. They remained patient, playing the ball around rather than look long into Fulham’s substantial back line, and in the 95th minute it paid off.
Maddox showed remarkable composure and guile to work the ball to Nartey from a tight position on the left, and the young defender – not a regular goalscorer by any means – found the far bottom corner with the aid of a deflection. It was fair reward for their efforts on the day and ensures they stay top of the table.
Fulham: Lukwata, Fossey, Opoku, Jenz, Adebayo, Thomas, Paton (Walker), Adeniran, Humphrys (Dolan), Kwietniewski, Thorsteinsson
Subs not Used: Ashby-Hammond, Nabay
Goals: Jenz, Adeniran (pen)
Booked: Adeniran, Adebayo, Opoku
Chelsea: Thompson, Grant (c), Colley, Nartey, C. Dasilva, Chalobah (McCormick), Wakefield, Sammut, Maddox, Christie-Davies (Mount), St Clair (Adamczyk)
Subs not Used: Cumming, Kemp
Goals: St Clair (pen), Nartey