Checkatrade Trophy reaction: A stage for statements

Our development squad enjoyed a brilliant night in Buckinghamshire as they scored four past the senior side of League One MK Dons without reply and booked a place in the Checkatrade Trophy last-16.

The Blues were boosted by the availability of several players who form part of Antonio Conte’s first team squad, although eight of the starting team were Chelsea Academy graduates, including goalscorers Callum Hudson-Odoi and Charly Musonda. Michy Batshuayi had netted twice in 20 first-half minutes to open the scoring and the Belgian striker completed 90 minutes as part of his continued comeback from injury.

After the game, manager Joe Edwards provided an insight into his thinking as he tried to blend players from different training programmes and with different aims into a motivated, competitive team.

‘We spoke a lot before the game about this being an opportunity for players to make a statement,’ he told the official Chelsea website. ‘For our younger boys, it’s a chance to show they can compete with older players because they’ll be coming to us soon saying they think they’re ready to go on loan for the first time. For the senior players, they just want to remind people that they’re ready and waiting to play.

‘Of course we have to organise and play as a team but this is also about individuals trying to make their statement and they did exactly that. We’ve seen how many of the academy teams have gone out of the competition already so for us to come away to a decent League One side and win so convincingly is really pleasing.’

Edwards admitted he was reluctant to overload his players with tactical information, preferring instead to brief them on a select few requirements and allow them to express themselves both individually and as a collective. The clean sheet was our first in seven games in the competition, while the team nature of our goals demonstrated the creative quality in attack.

‘The only thing we spoke about regarding tactics was our organisation without the ball,’ continued the manager. ‘You can’t piece a team together perfectly in the space of 24 hours but I thought the boys took on those instructions really well in terms of how compact we wanted to be out of possession. When we had the ball, we just said it’s over to you as players to do the stuff you practise every day and show that quality.

‘We were comfortable with what MK Dons had to offer going forward early on and then we looked good in possession as well. We were able to dominate the game and the pace we had up front really hurt them, particularly with the second goal.’

The Blues are now into unchartered territory in the competition as they take their place in the hat for Friday’s round-of-16 draw, with Leicester City the only other development side to have advanced to the second knockout round.

Edwards has seen his players grow throughout the competition and believes they will relish whatever challenge presents itself in the next round. He was pleased with how his side managed the game in the second half and the enjoyment they took from being out on the field.

‘There is always a bit of danger when you’re 3-0 up but what we saw was the lads enjoying themselves and what they were doing. When you bring a lot of good players together, I think they just enjoy being out there. It became comfortable because we did our jobs well and professionally in the early stages.

‘We’ve not got much history in this competition but the boys have grown more and more fond of it as the games have gone by. We saw that particularly in the dressing room at Exeter last week after we realised we’d qualified and everyone is looking forward to another knockout game. The boys just want to keep playing in big games and keep being given a stage to prove to everyone what they’re capable of.’