Under-18s: Norwich City 5-4 Chelsea

Chelsea’s Under-18s allowed a 3-1 half-time lead slip to a 5-4 defeat away to Norwich City on Saturday morning as their early season form on the road continued to disappoint.

A brace from Martell Taylor-Crossdale – with one more arguably his – appeared to have put the Blues in a commanding position but a poor start to the second half allowed Norwich to score four quickfire goals from which they were unable to recover, despite substitute Charlie Brown giving them late hope with an opportunist effort.

It had all started so well on a wet morning at the Canaries’ Colney Training Centre, with plenty of early possession and Harvey St Clair going close with a shot from the edge of the area. They didn’t have to wait long for a goal either, Taylor-Crossdale latching onto Conor Gallagher’s perfectly-weighted pass to round Jake Hallett and score for the fourth time this season.

That lead was however not to last long as the first signs of what was to come began to appear. Norwich built their play down the right and Louis McIntosh finished well at the near post despite Jared Thompson getting a touch to the ball.

Undeterred, Chelsea simply continued about their business and the impressive St Clair was proving a constant menace. He couldn’t quite find the target with a free kick but proved far more adept in supplying the ammunition here, laying on the second with a fine cross from the left which was turned into the back of the net by a combination of Taylor-Crossdale and defender Timi Odusina.

The Chelsea forward didn’t claim the goal as his own particularly vociferously but he might have wished that he had when he made it 3-1 minutes later. St Clair was at the heart of things again, spraying the ball out to the right for Reece James to gallop on to; the full back in turn producing the perfect cross for Taylor-Crossdale to slide home at the far post.

That really should have been that, with Norwich’s sole first half threat consisting of a goal and an effort just wide by McIntosh, but within a minute of second half action getting underway they were back in with a shout when defender Max Aarons glided his way through before picking out the bottom corner for a lovely solo goal.

With the rain picking up again, Chelsea failed to weather the storm. Thompson could only punch a corner halfway clear and was unable to stop captain Owen Wallis from beating him with a snapshot on the turn for the equaliser, and McIntosh gave them the lead for the first time when he did grab his second goal with a cultured finish with the outside of his right foot.

By the time Alan Fleming had beaten the offside trap to make it 5-3 it was game over for a shell-shocked Blues side who hadn’t shipped that many goals in a single match for two years. Desperately trying to resurrect hopes of taking something back to Cobham with them, manager Jody Morris introduced Tariq Uwakwe, Brown and Zech Medley from the bench, with the latter – normally a defender – deployed as an emergency centre-forward.

His arrival had the desired effect; he could have scored with his first touch and saw another try find the side netting before Uwakwe had a goal-bound volley well blocked, but Brown did get one back three minutes from time when he was the fastest to react to St Clair’s stinging shot only parried by Hallett. Some late desperation caused one or two goalmouth flurries but Chelsea wound up empty-handed and have work to do ahead of the visit of Arsenal to Cobham next Saturday, live on Chelsea TV.

Norwich City: Hallett, Aarons, Syme, Pollock (Oddy), Wallis (c), Odusina, Higgs, Aransibia, Fleming (Ellesley), McIntosh, Spyrou (Kamal)
Subs not Used: Hale-Brown, Payne

Goals: McIntosh (2), Aarons, Wallis, Fleming
Booked: Fleming

Chelsea: Thompson, James, Guehi, Nartey, C.Dasilva (c) (Medley), McCormick (C.Brown), Hudson-Odoi, Gallagher, Taylor-Crossdale, McEachran (Uwakwe), St Clair
Subs not Used: Bulka, Panzo

Goals: Taylor-Crossdale (2), Odusina og
Booked: James