PL2 report: Chelsea 1 Leicester City 0

It was a night of celebration at Aldershot as Daishawn Redan netted a birthday goal to secure three precious league points for our development squad.

It was tough for long periods for our youngsters as Leicester hit the post twice in the first half before Redan found the top corner seven minutes after the restart. There were opportunities on the break to finish the contest but they were squandered, ensuring a nervy finale for Joe Edwards’s side. However, they defended bravely with last-ditch blocks and significant saves from the goalkeeper to collect the points and move eight points clear of danger.

There were four changes from Monday’s narrow defeat at Everton and a switch in system to 3-4-2-1 as goalkeeper Marcin Bulka and defenders Richard Nartey, Dujon Sterling and Juan Castillo all returned. The latter pair lined up as wing-backs either side of Trevoh Chalobah, Reece James and Nartey in the back three.

Redan scored on Merseyside and retained his spot up front supported once again by Jacob Maddox and Harvey St Clair, while skipper Ruben Sammut partnered Luke McCormick in midfield.

Leicester travelled south with title aspirations firmly in mind, second in the table and unbeaten since September, though it was the hosts who threatened an opener inside 60 seconds. McCormick anticipated and intercepted in midfield before Redan laid the ball off invitingly for St Clair to run at the back four. The centre-backs retreated inside their penalty area but St Clair’s poked shot lacked the purchase to trouble Foxes keeper Daniel Iversen.

Down the other end, Bulka watched Josh Gordon’s floated effort from distance fly over the bar before Maddox’s cries for a penalty fell on deaf ears, the midfielder going down following a wayward challenge from Josh Knight.

Harvey Barnes was one of the few on the field with first team experience, having represented Claude Puel’s side in the FA Cup this term as well as spending the first part of the campaign on loan in the Championship with Barnsley. The 20-year-old had a promising opportunity to test Bulka with a free-kick from 20 yards out but his scuffed shot was comfortable in the end for our Polish stopper to gather.

The visitors were gradually growing into the ascendancy as their high press cut the supply lines out of our defence. Barnes’s deflected header from Connor Wood’s inswinging set-piece delivery bounced inches wide of the far post before Darnell Johnson went even closer from the following corner with a header that flew narrowly over.

There was a slight desperation to some of our defending as the half-hour mark approached, with the ball quick to return into our half whenever we regained possession. A goalmouth scramble forced Nartey then Chalobah into last-ditch blocks before the ball fell kindly for Gordon, though the striker’s effort into the ground thumped back off the post.

The Blues threatened only fleetingly but Castillo and St Clair held much of our attacking impetus on the break. The Dutchman stole possession midway through the Chelsea half before leading the charge forward and feeding St Clair but the forward’s powerful shot swerved away from goal and wide.

Castillo then delivered an inviting cross from an advanced position on the left flank and Maddox was able to divert it towards goal after making a late run into the box, though he could only force a simple save from Iversen.

This was a contest that tested the patience and defensive resilience of our young development team, who were missing regulars Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ethan Ampadu. The woodwork was rattling again before the break as Hamza Choudhury went for goal from the halfway line but Bulka watched it well and intervened to push the dropping ball on to the crossbar.

The score remained level at the interval, though the home side had their goalkeeper to thank for keeping the parity. Barnes found Callum Wright with a driven pass from the right and the debutant hit the ball cleanly but Bulka produced an excellent flying save.

Edwards made a tactical tweak at the break, switching to a back four and moving Sterling higher on the right. The changes paid instant dividends as the Blues restarted on the front foot and forced Iversen into a first save of note. James took a high ball on his chest and drifted infield before firing straight at the Leicester keeper, with Sam Hughes turning the loose ball away from the lurking Redan.

Our striker from Amsterdam was celebrating his 17th birthday and marked the occasion by gifting himself the perfect present, his third goal in three games. He controlled the ball well to trap McCormick’s strike at goal, showed strength to turn in tight space and then rifled a finish into the top corner.

It was a perfect start to the second half for the hosts, who had battled hard throughout a difficult first 45 minutes. Hughes rose highest in the box as Leicester looked to respond but the defender’s header was straight at Bulka, while Barnes threatened from the right wing but couldn’t keep his drive down.

The Foxes were having to take risks as they pushed for an equaliser and the spaces left in behind their defence were inviting for our forward players. James moved dangerously down the right but couldn’t quite manage to pick out Redan in the box with a teasing low cross before Redan was similarly off-key as he tried to find St Clair in the middle following another break forward.

Isaac Christie-Davies and Kyle Scott were introduced for the final 20 minutes and the pair soon combined to set up a sight at goal. Scott cut the ball back from the byline and his fellow midfielder took a touch before hitting a shot just over.

As time ticked towards 90 minutes, Leicester’s efforts became more desperate. Our biggest scare came in the dying stages as a long throw from Choudhury caused chaos in the 18-yard box but Bulka saved and Nartey cleared off the line, much to the relief of the home supporters.

The points move us up a place to seventh and provide a timely confidence boost ahead of next week’s Checkatrade Trophy semi-final away at Lincoln City. Supporters wishing to attend at Sincil Bank can purchase tickets on the night.

 

Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Marcin Bulka; Reece James, Richard Nartey, Trevoh Chalobah; Dujon Sterling, Ruben Sammut (c), Luke McCormick (Isaac Christie-Davies 73), Juan Castillo; Jacob Maddox (Kyle Scott 73), Harvey St Clair; Daishawn Redan
Unused subs
Josh Grant, Jamie Cumming, Kylian Hazard
Scorer Redan 52
Booked Sterling 63

Leicester City Daniel Iversen, Darnell Johnson, Connor Wood, Lamine Sherriff (Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall 85), Josh Knight, Sam Hughes, Josh Eppiah, Hamza Choudhury (c), Josh Gordon (Layton Ndukwu 70), Harvey Barnes, Callum Wright (Liandro Martis 78)
Unused subs
Max Bramley, Momodou Touray
Booked Gordon 66

Referee Christopher Pollard