Joe Edwards was left sitting frustrated and puzzled in the Aldershot dressing room once again as our development squad failed to win at home for the fifth time this season.
The Blues have won each of their four league games on the road but have picked up just two of a possible 15 points as hosts, a contrast in fortunes that the manager is struggling to explain. Brighton were the latest victors in Hampshire as a second-half Chelsea fightback proved too little, too late to overturn the Seagulls’ 3-0 advantage.
Viktor Gyokeres broke the deadlock from the penalty spot midway through the first half, though it was two goals in 11 minutes either side of the break that damaged the home side most. Billy Gilmour and Tino Anjorin then netted to inspire some late hope but it was not enough to snatch a point and Edwards was left rueing another afternoon where the performance failed to tally with the result.
‘It’s another really frustrating outcome to a home game for us because our overall performance was fine and we dominated the game really,’ he told the official Chelsea website after the final whistle. ‘We weren’t brilliant but we had far more of the ball in Brighton’s half than they had in ours.
‘We know goals change the whole shape and feel of a game. If you concede three goals then you have to know you’ve not defended well enough and we know we have to improve. However, there’s certainly a feeling among the players and myself that, for all the effort we’re putting in particularly at home, we’re definitely not getting what we deserve at the moment.’
The disparity between our home and away form is startling but Edwards cannot see any logical reasoning to explain the difference in fortune. An away-only league table would have the Blues top and four points clear of any nearest challenger; on home form alone, we would be second-bottom.
‘We do a lot of analysis on our matches and there’s naturally a lot of detail about our game but it is literally a mystery to all of us,’ explained Edwards. ‘I don’t see anything in the dressing room in the build-up that makes me think the lads are nervous about playing at home – that wouldn’t make sense at all.
‘In the win at Man City last weekend, we had to endure a lot more spells where we were under pressure. We didn’t have so much of the ball but we then got in and around their box on a few occasions and we were clinical. It seems to be the polar opposite at home and we have to create a hatful of chances just to score one goal.’
Nevertheless, as ever in development football, there were positives to be found beyond the final score, including a goalscoring debut for a 16-year-old.
‘There’s a lot to be pleased with in the performance, the biggest plus being the mentality we showed in the second half because when you go 3-0 down to a clinical, counter-attacking team like Brighton it can be easy to let your heads drop and the game fizzles out,’ continued the manager.
‘We showed great mentality to take it all the way to the wire and we felt if the game had gone on for a couple of minutes longer then we might have got the equaliser but unfortunately we just ran out of time.
‘Some standout positives were Conor Gallagher coming on and having a really positive impact from the bench, and also that a player of Tino Anjorin’s age has got his development squad debut and capped it off with a goal. He came on and really showed his quality so that’s a big plus for a player still only 16-years-old.’
There is little time to dwell on the disappointment of defeat as Edwards’s side return to action on Tuesday evening in the Checkatrade Trophy. They travel to Home Park to take on Plymouth Argyle knowing only a victory will ensure a place in the knockout round.