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PL2 preview: Stronger spirit

Our development squad return to Aldershot for the final time this year when they take on West Ham in Premier League 2 this evening (Friday).

The Blues are currently fourth in the table at the midway point of the campaign, five points behind the leaders Derby County and six ahead of tonight’s visitors. The league derby comes three days after the team were victorious over AFC Wimbledon in the Checkatrade Trophy, booking a place in the last-16 of the senior competition for the second year running.

Goalkeeper Jamie Cumming started in that win at Stamford Bridge, earning praise from onlookers and his manager for a commanding presence in the penalty area and a string of crucial saves. The 19-year-old feels it has been a positive first half of the campaign for the youngsters, though admits they are targeting a return to winning ways at home in the league before the festive break.

‘We’ve done well so far this season, especially compared to last year when we were scrapping around near the bottom and worrying about relegation,’ the Winchester-born shot-stopper tells the official Chelsea website as we look ahead to the visit of the Hammers.

‘Our team spirit and work ethic as a team is a lot stronger, which has helped us quite a lot, and now we’re up the top looking to fight for the title.

‘If we can fix our home form then that will be a big step forward because the fact we haven’t won yet this season at Aldershot is a big frustration for everybody. We just need to forget about where we’re playing and focus only on the game because we know if we play at our best for 90 minutes against West Ham, we’ll get the result we want.’

The Checkatrade Trophy has been crucial to the development of our young players over the past three years, particularly goalkeepers faced with an almost unrecognisable style of play compared to the academy games programme. With many of his peers on loan in the Football League as they climb the pyramid gaining invaluable experiences, Cumming recognises how important the competition can be to bridge the gap.

‘Dealing with all the balls coming into the box and the physicality of playing against men is a real proper experience of senior football,’ he continues. ‘It’s tough but I enjoy the challenge because I don’t have much of that to do in a lot of games.

‘I came for eight crosses against AFC Wimbledon, which is probably more than the rest of the PL2 season combined, so it’s great for my development. You get a lot more of that side of the game in men’s football and people might try to target you as a young keeper so it’s good I can prove I can deal with that threat.’

The teenager was recently added to our Europa League squad from the B List and has trained often with the first team this season.

‘It’s a great experience to be training with some of the best players in the world. It can only make you better.’

photo of Jamie Cumming Jamie Cumming

The Blues edged a tight contest between the two sides in Dagenham back in September and Cumming expects another tough test against their London rivals at Aldershot this evening.

‘It’s always a tough game against West Ham,’ he adds. ‘They’re a strong, physical team but they also have good technical players and a lot of pace and power up front so we need to be aware of that. If we focus on our game and play the way we can play our football, we should be able to get a good result.’

Supporters wishing to attend can purchase tickets on the gate priced at just £3 for adults and £1 for concessions, while Chelsea season ticket holders can gain entry for free. There will also be updates on our official @chelseafc Twitter.

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