It was unlucky number 13 for Brighton as our Under-18s recorded a rout without reply at Cobham.
Charlie Brown bagged four despite only coming off the bench for the final half-hour, while Martell Taylor-Crossdale and Luke McCormick netted hat-tricks of their own. Conor Gallagher had opened the scoring after 15 minutes, while Cole Dasilva and Harvey St Clair also found the back of the net on an incredible morning for our youngsters.
Morris made five changes from our last league outing, a 3-0 win away at Leicester last weekend that sealed the Under-18 Premier League south section title. Marcin Bulka came in between the sticks behind a back three of Marc Guehi, Richard Nartey and captain Josh Grant.
Dasilva and Juan Castillo lined up at right wing-back and left wing-back respectively, while McCormick partnered Gallagher in central midfield. Taylor-Crossdale led the line up front supported by Tariq Uwakwe and St Clair.
The Blues were rampant in the first half, orchestrating relentless one-way traffic that suffocated the visitors from the first whistle. Bulka’s only concern in the early stages was a deep cross from the right by Archie Davies that clipped the top of the crossbar. In truth, the Polish keeper had it covered, although it proved to be the most concerned he was all morning.
Uwakwe came close to breaking the deadlock after 13 minutes, receiving a clever pass from St Clair but firing straight at Tom McGill in the Seagulls goal from the right. However, it didn’t take long for the Blues to open the scoring and Gallagher was both creator and finisher at the end of a lovely move. The midfielder exchanged one-twos with both Taylor-Crossdale and then St Clair before placing his low finish perfectly inside the far post.
McGill was at his best to keep the deficit at one, expertly denying Uwakwe and then Castillo as the hosts carved out opportunities freely. Yet he was helpless to prevent the league’s top scorer Taylor-Crossdale adding to his tally for the campaign with a brace inside eight minutes.
His first was a poacher’s finish at the near post (pictured below), poking in St Clair’s low cross after the Scottish youth international had been afforded plenty of space to deliver from the right byline. St Clair was the architect again moments later, threading a neat pass forward in between the Brighton centre-backs for the striker to race on to before a smart finish underneath the onrushing goalkeeper.
It was quickly becoming a damage limitation exercise for the visitors but the southern section champions added two more goals before the break. McCormick grabbed our fourth with 36 minutes on the clock, taking a hit from a wild kick in the box before stepping up to smash the penalty past McGill.
St Clair made it 5-0 three minutes later, firing a powerful low drive beyond the keeper’s dive and into the bottom left corner. The winger then fired against the post and forced another save from the goalkeeper as a one-sided half ended with an emphatic scoreline.
Schoolboy defender Jon Panzo was introduced at the break but there was no sign of letting up from the hosts as they grabbed another two goals within 10 minutes of the restart.
Dasilva got in on the act after 48 minutes, firing past McGill with the aid of a deflection after Taylor-Crossdale had seen his pursuit for a hat-trick thwarted with a good block. Uwakwe should have scored when he fired over from close range and McGill made a good stop from Castillo before Taylor-Crossdale completed his treble with another close-range finish from a St Clair cross, taking his tally for the season to 19.
The intensity for goals did not relent despite the heavy scoreline and Brighton’s confidence had long been destroyed. McCormick added another from the spot after Panzo was bundled over in the box before another substitute, Charlie Brown, grabbed two of his own in five minutes.
Dasilva claimed the assist for the striker’s first, fizzing a ball in from the right that Brown nudged over the line with his chest, before the 17-year-old fired into the back of the net from 10 yards out after advancing easily through the middle.
Every attack resulted in a clear-cut chance at goal for the hosts and Brighton could barely put two passes together as the ball returned into their 18-yard box with alarming regularity. McCormick and Brown completed the rout by rounding off hat-tricks of their own late on, the former finding the back of the net with a simple finish following a goalmouth scramble and the latter steering home from close range before adding a fourth by rounding the keeper and slotting in.
The win represented our biggest in recent memory and completes our home fixtures in the regional programme. The final game is next weekend away at West Ham before the start of the elite play-off round to determine the national league champions.
Chelsea (3-4-3) Marcin Bulka; Marc Guehi, Richard Nartey, Josh Grant (c) (Jon Panzo h/t); Cole Dasilva, Luke McCormick, Conor Gallagher, Juan Castillo; Tariq Uwakwe (Callum Hudson-Odoi 64), Martell Taylor-Crossdale (Charlie Brown 61), Harvey St Clair
Unused subs Reece James, George McEachran
Scorers Gallagher 15; Taylor-Crossdale 20, 28, 55; McCormick (pen) 36, (pen) 69, 81; St Clair 39; Dasilva 48; Brown 71, 76, 83, 89
Brighton Tom McGill, Hamish Morrison (Tariq Shihab 56), Rian O’Sullivan, Tyrese Fornah, Danny Barker (c), Sam Rolph, Archie Davies (Alex Cochrane 57), Charlie Ferguson, Stefan Ljubicic, Isaac Hutchinson, Luis Garcia
Unused subs Owen Moore, George Bentley, Alex Cochrane, Columbus Ibeh
-Pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom