Chelsea’s Under-18s saw their 100% home record this season come to an end on Saturday after being held to a goalless draw by Aston Villa at Cobham.
On a bitterly cold January day, and with sleet pounding down for much of the contest, it took the Blues some time to warm up to their usual standard but, despite numerous chances coming and going, they were unable to make the breakthrough.
Ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Birmingham City in the FA Youth Cup, Jody Morris fielded a strong team in a 3-4-3 formation; Reece James and Cole Dasilva manning the flanks, whilst Callum Hudson-Odoi and George McEachran supported Martell Taylor-Crossdale in attack.
It was Hudson-Odoi who had the first real chance and that in itself came midway through a forgettable first half, his low shot easily parried away by Viktor Johansson. The Swedish goalkeeper was, at least, busier than his opposite number, with Jared Thompson only asked to gather a simple header from James Finnerty in a first half in which he spent standing around getting wetter by the minute.
James might have done better from close range when arriving to meet Dasilva’s cross from the left, but it was Taylor-Crossdale who was most wasteful in miscueing a header into the ground and over the bar from six yards out.
Things really sparked into life in the second half though. With Villa content to defend with ten – to the extent they eventually took off leading scorer Kelsey Mooney, such was his lack of involvement – Chelsea gambled by pushing more blue shirts forward in search of a goal.
That meant more involvement for Jacob Maddox, who spun a shot just wide in the first of several close shaves for the midfielder. Hudson-Odoi was cautioned for simulation after going down under what looked like a foul in the area, before Maddox again was off target and Luke McCormick stung Johansson’s hands from distance.
Harvey St Clair came off the bench to lend his direct running and shooting ability to proceedings, and was quickly into his stride. Hudson-Odoi headed over before Maddox clattered the crossbar with a 25-yard piledriver but, despite the pressure, it looked increasingly like it wasn’t to be Chelsea’s day.
Things were summed up late on when Charlie Brown, only on for a matter of moments, suffered a lower leg injury that forced the Blues to finish the game a man light. Even then, though, they remained on the front foot and could have won it twice at the death. St Clair steered one beyond that same, elusive, far corner, and James flicked a header agonisingly wide in stoppage time to ensure Villa returned home with a point.
Wednesday’s FA Youth Cup Fourth Round tie away to Birmingham kicks off at 7.05pm at, Solihull Moors FC, and it is also live on Chelsea TV. You can also follow along live on Twitter @chelseayouth, with a full report available here at full time.
Chelsea: Thompson, Guehi, Nartey, Grant (c), C.Dasilva (Castillo), McCormick (C.Brown), James, Maddox, Taylor-Crossdale (St Clair), McEachran, Hudson-Odoi
Subs not Used: Cumming, Gallagher
Aston Villa: Johansson, Clark, Williams, Prosser, Finnerty (Hall), Abdoul, Knibbs, Rowe, Mooney (M.Birch), Clarke (J.Birch), Cox
Subs not Used: Idem, Coates