Under-18s and Development Squad win to remain unbeaten

It was a successful Saturday for the academy as both the Under-18s and Development Squad maintained their unbeaten records this season, each recording a win to stay top of their respective league tables.

Ed Brand’s youngsters saw off Reading at Cobham, courtesy of goals from Dion Rankine and George Nunn, before Andy Myers’ Under-23s returned to the Premier League 2 summit after the returning Callum Hudson-Odoi opened the scoring, before Clinton Mola made the points safe late on.

The youth team share top spot with both Fulham and Brighton, with each team recording five wins and a draw from their first six matches, but the Blues sit behind their two upstart rivals on goal difference. They were made to work hard for their rewards against a typically tough and aggressive Reading team that might have had something to show for their work had they possessed a little sharper cutting edge.

Lynford Sackey and Claudio Osorio might have done more early on to put them in the ascendancy, but then Chelsea will argue that they looked the more likely through Nunn or Sam Iling Jr, and then did just about deservedly eke out an advantage when Rankine finished confidently after collecting an incisive through ball from Joe Haigh and galloping clear on goal.

Josh Hewitt was denied by the woodwork in response and, in a game of fine margins, the Royals probably lacked a little bit of luck in all fairness. They found the going a lot tougher after half time, and when Nunn headed Charlie Wiggett’s volley past goalkeeper Harvey Collins to make it 2-0 midway through the second period, the game looked well and truly up.

Pedro Neves reduced the deficit with a very well-taken goal ten minutes later to set up a grandstand finish but, despite increasing pressure, they couldn’t find the equaliser. Chelsea held on and continue to set the pace as the league campaign takes a break for the start of this season’s Under-18 Premier League Cup.

Two hours and a few miles later, the Development Squad kicked off at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium hoping to keep their own good run going. Hudson-Odoi and Reece James were included from the off once again, as they continue to work towards full fitness, and Billy Gilmour was back from a minor hamstring worry, but Tariq Lamptey was absent with a groin problem.

A first half interrupted several times through injury was a mostly forgettable affair until the latter stages, when Hudson-Odoi came to life and missed three chances of varying quality, while Alex Jankewitz struck the foot of the post for the hosts deep into time added on. Jamie Cumming, beaten by that one, had earlier made a brave save at the feet of Dan N’Lundulu, and kept his clean sheet intact at the start of the second period, keeping out his former academy team-mate after Harlem Hale – also formerly of the Chelsea parish – had created the chance down the right.

The game needed a spark, and got it just shy of the hour, as Gilmour and Hudson-Odoi combined for the opening goal. The former’s deftly-weighted through-ball set the latter away, and the finish had the confidence of a man who recently penned a new five-year contract.

Both scorer and creator would later depart with Wednesday’s League Cup tie against Grimsby in mind, but not before the points were made safe. The second also involved James, who having earlier hit the crossbar, collected Hudson-Odoi’s corner and returned it to Mola. His towering header appeared to have been cleared off the line but, after much discussion, a goal was awarded.

They rode their luck on occasion, as the home team also hit the crossbar themselves, but they found a better balance with Ian Maatsen in midfield later in the game, and saw the win out professionally and diligently. As the club’s Under-16s also won three out of three in their Premier League Tournament qualifiers, it was a good day all round for an academy very much in rude health right now.


Chelsea: Askew, Wiggett, McClelland (c), Brooking, Iling Jr, Bate, Livramento (Aina 82), Lewis, Nunn (Broja 75), Rankine, Haigh (Humphreys 70)
Subs not Used: Bergström, Clark

Goals: Rankine 33, Nunn 67

Reading: Collins, Hamilton (Abbey 37), Samuels, Tetek, Hewitt, Dorsett (c), Talent-Aryeety (Anderson 82), Pendlebury, Sackey (Melvin-Lambert 67), Neves
Sub not Used: Holden

Goal: Neves 76
Bookes: Talent-Aryeety, Pendlebury

Development Squad:

Southampton: Lewis, Ramsay, Vokins (Norton 84), Kpohomouh (Ledwidge 23), Klarer, O’Driscoll, Slattery (c), Jankewitz, N’Lundulu, Defise, Hale (Hansen 72)
Subs not Used: Bycroft, Turner

Booked: Vokins

Chelsea: Cumming, James (Lawrence 76), Guehi (c), Mola, Maatsen, Gilmour (Russell 66), Lavinier, McEachran, Brown, Ballo, Hudson-Odoi (Anjorin 76)
Subs not Used: Wakely, Žiger

Goals: Hudson-Odoi 56, Mola 71
Booked: Maatsen