A tidy finish from Tottenham’s Jack Roles midway through the first half seemed destined to condemn our development squad to a home defeat in Premier League 2 this evening (Friday), though Charlie Brown’s late strike ensured a share of the spoils at Aldershot.
Joe Edwards’s side shaded much of the contest but for long periods their attacking endeavours were undermined by some wasteful finishing and impressive Tottenham defensive work. Juan Castillo went closest to a leveller before the break but saw his header cleared off the line before Billy Gilmour was denied from the penalty spot by Brandon Austin, the Spurs keeper who was responsible for keeping his side in front for so long.
Their resistance was finally broken with seconds left on the clock as Brown found the bottom corner and gave us a deserved league point. The result keeps the Blues third in the table.
Edwards made four changes from our 5-4 win at Arsenal last time out, a performance that left him with mixed emotions given the three points accumulated but four goals conceded. Richard Nartey came into the back three alongside Josh Grant and Marc Guehi, while George McEachran returned at the base of three central midfielders.
Gilmour and Conor Gallagher flanked McEachran in Edwards’s preferred 3-5-2 system, with Castillo and Tariq Lamptey lining up at left wing-back and right wing-back respectively. Jamie Cumming kept his place in goal, while Martell Taylor-Crossdale started up front alongside Daishawn Redan.
With the majority of his group having spent the past fortnight away with their various national teams, Edwards admitted beforehand that it would be challenging to prepare for a game so soon after their return to Cobham. However, it was close to being the perfect start for the hosts as Lamptey advanced from the right wing inside two minutes and his deflected strike whistled just past the near post.
The Blues were positive in their probing early on, with both Gallagher and McEachran threading forward intelligent passes to find runs in behind. The former soon pushed on into dangerous territory himself and attempted to test Austin with an effort that spun across the face of goal and away from danger.
Spurs soon settled into the contest and started to pose problems of their own. A possible penalty decision went against them after 10 minutes as Kazaiah Sterling’s pace took him into space and the forward fell down under the challenge of Nartey. The appeals were vocal but the referee waved play on.
Our development squad have endured contrasting fortunes as hosts and visitors so far this term, collecting maximum league points on the road but failing to win at home in five attempts. In fact, their last PL2 victory on home soil came way back in February and such form had naturally become a recent cause for concern.
Wayne Burnett’s side had won only three times all season but they gradually began to take control of proceedings as the half went on. Paris Maghoma forced Cumming into a routine stop, the midfielder dribbling forward dangerously but failing to find the requisite accuracy with his effort on goal. Sterling then turned provider to slide in Tashan Oakley-Boothe down the right but the wideman’s fizzing delivery eluded any teammate in the box.
The visitors soon found the right combination though, to ensure they drew first blood in the London derby. Jaden Brown created an overload from left-back before allowing Roles to take over the move and the Cyprus Under-21 international did the rest, sweeping a lovely finish beyond Cumming’s dive and into the bottom far corner.
It meant Edwards’s boys were faced with a familiar feeling and another daunting task to come from behind, the fourth occasion in five home matches this season they had conceded first. Guehi went close to restoring parity within minutes, rising high at the near post to flick a header across goal after a corner from the left, though the ball dropped both wide of the upright and away from a colleague in blue waiting to pounce.
Redan saw a shot blocked before an amazing passage of play threatened a Chelsea equaliser with five minutes of the half remaining. Lamptey and Redan combined down the right, the wing-back overlapping and angling an effort towards the far corner which brought an impressive low save from Austin.
The ball looped up though and presented itself invitingly for Castillo, who appeared to be heading into an unguarded goal before Tariq Hinds’s intervention. The full-back had recovered well and dropped back on to the goal-line, from where he headed away our Dutch wideman’s effort despite the close proximity between attacker and goal.
Edwards will know his team ought to have been on level terms going into the interval and Taylor-Crossdale perhaps should have been the man to bring us level. The striker was found with an intelligent reverse pass from Gallagher but failed to hit the target from a good central position just inside the box.
Patience and purpose were required after the restart. Sterling and Roles threatened to add to Tottenham’s lead but the striker’s overhead kick was weak and straight at Cumming, while the goalscorer was thwarted by a perfectly-timed challenge as he lined up to shoot.
At the other end of the field, Lamptey’s influence started to grow. The 18-year-old’s pace, trickery and direct running were proving a menace to Brown and Roles, Spurs’s guardians down the left flank. His best delivery produced a sight at goal for Redan but the striker was unable to turn the ball towards goal under pressure.
McEachran was next to cause problems at the heart of the Tottenham defence, driving forward from midfield and into space on the edge of the 18-yard box, though the midfielder’s strike on his weaker right foot crashed against Redan and bounced away to safety. Yet such persistent pressure from the home side was soon to be rewarded.
Substitute Brown made an instant impact to win a 65th-minute spot-kick for his side, the striker’s low cross adjudged to have been handled by defender Japhet Tanganga. Gilmour stepped up, aiming to add to his two converted penalties this campaign, but the young Scotsman was denied by Austin, who flung himself low to his right and clawed the ball away.
The clock was ticking against the hosts and time was running out but their hope stayed intact. Edwards introduced Tino Anjorin and Tariq Uwakwe to add fresh legs and fresh thinking to the final third. It was clever thought from a short corner routine that fashioned the next opportunity for Gallagher, though his shot was too high to trouble the visitors.
Spurs managed the final period well, using all three changes to eat up valuable time and steal any momentum the Blues were trying to build. Their pace on the counter-attack gave Edwards’s side doubts about over-committing, while their comfort in possession made it hard for a tiring team to keep battling. However, keep battling they did and it paid dividends with a late leveller in the final minute of normal time.
Gallagher epitomised the fighting spirit, carrying a knock but carrying on to supply the crucial pass into Brown from midfield. The substitute striker did the rest, taking a touch to set himself before burying a clinical finish beyond Austin for his 13th goal of the season.
It was pretty much all either side had left in the tank and an entertaining encounter finished with both teams adding a point to their tally at the midway stage of the PL2 season.
Chelsea (3-5-2) Jamie Cumming; Josh Grant (c), Richard Nartey, Marc Guehi; Tariq Lamptey, Conor Gallagher, George McEachran (Tariq Uwakwe 76), Billy Gilmour, Juan Castillo; Martell Taylor-Crossdale (Charlie Brown 61), Daishawn Redan (Tino Anjorin 65)
Unused subs Joseph Colley, Karlo Ziger
Scorer Brown 89
Booked Brown, Gallagher
Tottenham Brandon Austin (c), Tariq Hinds, Jaden Brown, Jamie Bowden (Dylan Duncan 75), Japhet Tanganga, Timothy Eyoma, Tashan Oakley-Boothe, George Marsh, Kazaiah Sterling, Paris Maghoma (Jamie Reynolds 88), Jack Roles (Rodel Richards 83)
Unused subs Tom Glover
Scorer Roles 26
Booked Bowden, Oakley-Boothe
Referee Alan Dale