PL2 reaction: Prepared for pressure

Our development squad recorded back-to-back home league wins for the first time this season and collected three important Premier League 2 points as they dug deep and battled hard to beat Leicester City at Aldershot on Friday night.

Joe Edwards’s side were under pressure for long periods, particularly in the first half and then again after taking the lead, though a solitary goal from Daishawn Redan proved the difference between the sides and inflicted a first PL2 defeat on the Foxes since September.

HIGHLIGHTS: Leicester PL2 (H) 17/18

After the game, Edwards reflected on an improved defensive display and encouraging signs ahead of our Checkatrade Trophy semi-final next week.

‘It’s a hard-fought win and a win we needed,’ he told the official Chelsea website. ‘We got what we knew was coming early in the game. Having played Leicester back in September away from home, we knew they would be very direct and very aggressive, both physically and in the way they attack.

‘We knew we were going to be under a lot of pressure so a lot of the work we put in during the week, and with Tuesday’s trip to Lincoln City in mind as well, was dealing with that aerial play and defending our box well.

‘We played Everton away on Monday and completed dominated the game but were cost the points by poor defending so we had to address that. Although Leicester controlled the first half and we didn’t play as much football or get as much attacking play going as we would have liked, the big plus was we withstood the pressure and went in 0-0 at half-time, as opposed to many games this season where we’ve conceded and been chasing our way back.’

The Blues switched their shape at the break, altering from a 3-4-2-1 to a 4-2-3-1, and it paid immediate dividends as Redan netted a birthday goal just seven minutes after the restart. While the tactical change was a calculated risk that paid off, Edwards was more impressed with the dogged defensive performance of his side.

‘We tweaked the system at half-time, which I thought would have a slight impact but didn’t realise would have that much impact on the game,’ he continued. ‘The brief swing in momentum in the early stages of the second half gave us confidence and then we scored but from there we came under a barrage of attacks.

‘We haven’t had that privilege of defending a lead very often this season but we defended really well and also had that bit of luck that you need. There were some brilliant last-ditch blocks and clearances, they hit the woodwork a couple of times but we defended well and that’s a big positive for us. A clean sheet going into a big game on Tuesday is important, especially because it will probably look quite similar there with us under a lot of pressure in our box.’

The seamless switch in system is a valued tool for any coach and Edwards admitted the flexibility offered by the tactical maturity of his players can often be understated.

‘We probably don’t give our players enough credit for that,’ he added. ‘Elsewhere, coaches change systems and want days on the training field to work on it but we’re very fortunate here that the boys coming through the age groups playing under several different coaches are exposed to playing in different systems because it’s part of our programme.

‘It’s happened a few times in our games this season. We’re quickly able to make adjustments and the boys know what’s expected of them. I thought it was a gamble because of how powerful and direct Leicester are. My worry was that by taking someone out of the back five, it would leave us open but by doing that it gave us some more attacking options at the other end of the pitch and thankfully it paid off.’

Our development squad are next in action at Sincil Bank on Tuesday evening when they take on Lincoln City in the Checkatrade Trophy semi-finals. A place at Wembley is up for grabs and supporters wishing to attend can purchase tickets at the Lincoln ticket office on the night of the game priced at £10 for adults, £5 for concessions (over-60s, students or disabled) and £2 for under-18s.