Little more than twelve hours after booking their place in a fifth consecutive FA Youth Cup Final, Chelsea’s Under-18s ensured they remained in the hunt for a national league title too as they won 2-0 away to West London rivals Fulham.
Joe Edwards took charge of an almost entirely different Blues side for the trip to Motspur Park but his even younger charges, with four schoolboys involved, emerged with three points courtesy of Charlie Wakefield and Iké Ugbo, that keep them up at the top of the league along with Manchester City.
Only Wakefield and Isaac Christie-Davies, who each came off the bench at Stamford Bridge, played for the second day running, but it was a strong side that took to action on Saturday morning with leading scorer Ugbo joined by the likes of Kyle Scott and the in-form Luke McCormick, representing the depth and breadth of talent that exists within the academy.
Fulham looked sharper early on and Jared Thompson, returning after illness, was on hand to save a low bobbling effort from Luca De La Torre before watching Mikki Kwietniewski lash over when well placed.
In response, Wakefield provided dangerous ammunition from the right that caused problems for Taye Ashby-Hammond in the home goal, and Christie-Davies missed narrowly with a long-range ball hit strong and true.
Shots from distance were the order of the day in a struggle of a first half and Dennis Adeniran was wasteful with a pair of his own for Fulham as the first 45 minutes petered out rather uneventfully. It was Chelsea’s turn to do the same when action resumes but, whilst Scott and Christie-Davies couldn’t hit the target, their chances did come as part of a much better passage of play by the visitors.
They made their improvement count too, taking the lead before the hour when Wakefield steered a fine left-footed finish into the far corner after picking up the ball on the right. That lead was doubled in double quick time when Ugbo collected possession, found a yard of space and thundered an unstoppable shot below Ashby-Hammond for his league-leading 20th goal of the season.
McCormick then went within inches of putting the cherry on top with a floating curler from just outside the box that had the keeper beaten all ends up but missed by no more than a coat of paint. At 2-0 ahead and well on top though, Edwards used the opportunity to give Under-16 midfielders Tariq Uwakwe and George McEachran important minutes on the pitch, joining starting schoolboy defenders Reece James and Marc Guehi in an increasingly younger side.
Harvey St Clair also came on to good effect, twice testing Ashby-Hammond in search of another goal, whilst Fulham sub Steven Humphrys ensured Thompson was kept busy at the death with two good saves to keep his clean sheet intact.
Chelsea will need Man City to drop points in their remaining elite stage fixtures if they are to realise their dream of adding the national league title to their bulging trophy case but that they are still in contention on multiple fronts is another reason to be proud in a season that is, again, shaping up to provide a spectacular finale.
Fulham: Ashby-Hammond, Fossey, Sessegnon, Jenz, Davies, Thomas (Kait), De La Torre (Humphrys), Adeniran, Walker, Kwietniewski, Thorsteinsson
Subs not Used: Soutter, Pearce, Opoku
Chelsea: Thompson, James, Guehi, Nartey, C. Dasilva, McCormick (c) (McEachran), Wakefield, Ugbo, Scott (Uwakwe), Muheim (St Clair)
Subs not Used: Cumming, Hinckson-Mars
Goals: Wakefield, Ugbo