Our development squad produced an impressive performance in Lancashire to claim their first victory of the Premier League 2 season, scoring early in both halves to take maximum points home to Cobham.
Boosted by the inclusion from the start of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ethan Ampadu, Joe Edwards’s side were precise in possession and persistent in exploiting the width provided by their 3-5-2 system. They were in front for all but 90 seconds of the contest, striking the opener with their first attack courtesy of a goal from Billy Gilmour, before Daishawn Redan doubled the lead 11 minutes into the second half with a well-struck finish and Luke McCormick rounded off the scoring late on.
The scoreline could have been even more rewarding for the visitors as Andrew Fisher, the Blackburn goalkeeper, made a string of saves throughout and the woodwork denied both Redan and Tariq Lamptey in the second half. The win takes the young Blues second in the early PL2 standings.
Hudson-Odoi and Ampadu were two of five changes from last weekend’s draw against Everton. Wales international Ampadu lined up alongside Joseph Colley and Marc Guehi in a back three protecting goalkeeper Jamie Cumming, while wing-backs Lamptey and Juan Castillo retained their places on the flanks.
Hudson-Odoi operated just behind striker Daishawn Redan and the trio of George McEachran, McCormick and Gilmour provided the midfield energy and enterprise.
Rovers were crowned Division 2 champions last term and started life in the top tier with a positive point earned on the road at Derby County, though their home campaign began in less favourable fashion at Leyland County Ground.
The visitors took less than 90 seconds to break the deadlock on an overcast evening in Lancashire and it was a brilliant passing move that opened the door early on. Almost every outfield player was involved before Lamptey picked up possession on the right and found the overlapping run of the skipper McCormick, whose low cross was rolled perfectly into the path of Gilmour to turn in from close range.
It was the first start and first goal at this age group for the Scotland Under-21 midfielder and provided a strong platform to build from for Edwards’s young side, though their lead almost evaporated as soon as it had been established.
Blackburn responded to their early disappointment by launching an immediate return attack, Lewis Hardcastle exchanging passes with Joe Nuttall before rolling the ball towards the corner of the goal and forcing an excellent save with the left boot by Cumming. From the resulting corner, Nuttall found space to head for the target but his effort was blocked.
Both sides threatened with differing approaches, the visitors exploiting wide areas to good effect and Rovers opting for a more direct route of attack, which made for an entertaining and absorbing contest.
Willem Tomlinson forced a routine save from Cumming with a drive from distance before Hudson-Odoi’s dangerous dribbling caused problems for the home defence. However, Castillo’s shot at the end of the move was blocked and Andy Fisher in the home goal comfortably caught McCormick’s volley on the rebound.
Edwards expressed enthusiasm and pleasure at his team’s performance from the dugout but he will have hoped for a second goal to provide the buffer the Blues deserved. Fisher kept the deficit at one with a smart double save midway through the half, diving low to keep out McCormick’s strike and then reacting quickly to deny Redan as the ball squirmed loose in the six-yard box.
Wearing our all-new yellow away strip for the first time, our youngsters swarmed all over Blackburn like angered wasps and their fluidity across the field was particularly difficult for the home side to keep tabs on. Castillo shifted infield, allowing Hudson-Odoi the freedom of our left wing to maraud down, though it was the 17-year-old’s perfect passing that fashioned our next chance as he found McCormick, who was thwarted again by Fisher.
Rounding off the half firmly in control, Ampadu latched on to the end of McEachran’s left-sided free-kick but failed to find the net as a combination of the goalkeeper and Hayden Carter smothered the ball from danger.
The second period started in similar fashion as Hudson-Odoi’s mazy run and shot forced another intervention from the busy Fisher, who then got caught moments later after retrieving possession almost 40 yards from goal, though Castillo’s speculative effort at the unguarded goal sailed harmlessly off-target.
The Rovers reprieve didn’t last long as Edwards’s boys deservedly doubled their advantage 11 minutes after the restart with another well-crafted goal. Gilmour threaded a fantastic pass forward, initially aimed for McCormick but dummied intelligently by the midfielder into the path of Redan, and the Dutchman buried a devastating finish into the bottom corner from 15 yards out.
It could have been 3-0 shortly afterwards as Redan advanced with purpose from the right touchline but his close-range effort rebounded away off the near post, having deflected towards goal via the keeper.
Charlie Brown soon replaced Redan up front and didn’t take long to benefit from an incisive attacking team performance, latching on to the end of a neat move but rolling the ball inches wide of the far post. Lamptey then hammered the crossbar with a brilliant bending effort from 25 yards before McCormick netted the goal his individual performance merited, sweeping home from inside the box after another flowing move.
Fisher prevented the visitors further adding to their tally, diving low to his right to keep out Castillo’s fierce strike, but three goals and three points on the road represented an excellent night’s work for our development squad in the north-west. They return to PL2 action later in the week with a Stamford Bridge date against Derby County on Friday 24 August, tickets for which can be purchased online now.
Chelsea (3-5-1-1) Jamie Cumming; Joseph Colley, Ethan Ampadu, Marc Guehi; Tariq Lamptey, Luke McCormick (c) (Clinton Mola 86), George McEachran, Billy Gilmour (Tariq Uwakwe 68), Juan Castillo; Callum Hudson-Odoi; Daishawn Redan (Charlie Brown 68)
Unused subs Karlo Ziger, Martell Taylor-Crossdale
Scorers Gilmour 2; Redan 56; McCormick 83
Blackburn Rovers Andy Fisher, John Buckley, Jack Evans, Willem Tomlinson, Hayden Carter, Joe Grayson, Stefan Mols (Jack Vale 70), Lewis Hardcastle (c), Joe Nuttall, Dan Butterworth (Lewis Mansell 82), Ben Paton (Okera Simmonds 67)
Unused subs Lewis Thompson, Ollie Byrne
Booked Buckley, Carter, Grayson, Tomlinson
Referee Rebecca Welch