Chelsea’s Development Squad suffered an away defeat on Monday night as they went down 2-1 to Everton at Southport’s Merseyrail Stadium.
Fresh off the back of beating Oxford United in the last eight of the Checkatrade Trophy, a result that set up a Semi Final trip to Lincoln City next week, the buoyant Blues were brought back to earth with a bump as a robust and battle-hardened Everton team struck early in either half to take all three points. Fraser Hornby and Bassala Sambou each found the back of the net, with Daishawn Redan notching Chelsea’s effort, but not even a cameo appearance from Kasey Palmer could help complete a second turnaround.
Joe Edwards was without the services of Dujon Sterling, Ethan Ampadu and new first-team debutant Callum Hudson-Odoi, and so shuffled his pack whilst adopting a 4-diamond-2 formation. Joseph Colley returned in defence to partner Trevoh Chalobah, whilst Luke McCormick and Jacob Maddox both came in to man the middle of a diamond anchored by Ruben Sammut and spearheaded by Kyle Scott. Redan joined Harvey St Clair in attack.
Everton, the defending PL2 champions, had won their previous two matches after a patchy run of form before Christmas, and carried on their good momentum by opening the scoring inside the first ten minutes. Conor Grant’s cross from the left was ably flicked on by Bassala Sambou, and Hornby was on hand to flick home a volley from six yards out.
A sub-par pitch at the stadium formerly known as Haig Avenue prevented Chelsea from getting into their usual stride until the quarter-hour mark, but they would slowly get to grips with conditions. Reece James produced a smart cross from the right that just eluded St Clair in the middle, whilst a patiently-built move on the edge of the area culminated with a disappointing shot wide by Maddox, and the same player would then have a fairly strong shout for a penalty fall on deaf ears as he was pulled down by Everton’s Grant.
They deservedly equalised after half an hour when James, with another typically threatening cross, found Redan in the middle, and his close-range finish had enough on it to defy Mateusz Hewelt’s best efforts en route to finding the back of the net. Scott and Antony Evans exchanged unconvincing attempts to wrestle back an advantage for either side respectively before the break, but neither were able to break the newly-restored parity.
Palmer arrived on schedule ahead of the restart, but it was St Clair who was causing the Everton problems again soon enough, and Redan should have given Chelsea the lead from his cross from the right. The Dutchman, who turns 17 this Friday, was in confident form and soon drew the first real save of the night from Hewelt when he thundered a snap-shot in his direction after Sammut had worked his way into the Everton penalty area.
It was all the more frustrating, therefore, that Everton were allowed to re-take the lead after an hour in the most rudimentary manner. A long ball forward was this time flicked on by an unchallenged Hornby, collected by Sambou, and despatched into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
James, pushing further forward down the right, took the responsibility of mounting another comeback upon himself, first firing wide from distance before then picking out St Clair, who couldn’t finish, but Everton looked content to sit with a midfield newly-bolstered by substitutes Alex Denny and Jose Baxter and defend their lead.
St Clair thought he’d unlocked the door fifteen minutes from time when he wriggled his way through, with assistance from Scott, but Morgan Feeney’s brave block slammed it back in his face; it was that sort of evening for the visitors. Unable to conjure up a leveller, they will return south frustrated at the way in which they lost, but have the opportunity to quickly make amends when welcoming Leicester City to Aldershot on Friday night.
Everton: Hewelt, Markelo (Bowler 83), Foulds, Adeniran (Baxter 51), Feeney, Gibson, Evans, Grant, Hornby, Sambou, Broadhead (Denny 56)
Subs not Used: Hilton, Lavery
Goals: Hornby ‘7, Sambou ‘60
Booked: Foulds, Sambou, Bowler, Hornby
Chelsea: Cumming James, Colley, Chalobah, Grant, Sammut, Maddox (Christie-Davies 80), McCormick (Palmer 45), Redan, Scott, St Clair
Subs not Used: Bulka, C.Dasilva, Nartey
Goals: Redan ‘30