It was a pleasing night for our development squad on Friday as they signed off the season at Aldershot with three points following an eventful contest with Manchester City.
The victory was only our second at home all season and helped the Blues jump up to fifth in the Premier League 2 table with three games remaining. Luke McCormick’s brilliant strike set us on our way after 25 minutes before Daishawn Redan came off the bench to seal the win in stoppage time. City were reduced to nine men and then saw a third red card dished out after the final whistle as they lost their discipline in the second half.
After the game, manager Joe Edwards reflected on the performance and cited his team’s work out of possession as particularly important in them securing the points.
‘It was the type of performance from us that you know you have to put in against Man City,’ he told the official Chelsea website. ‘They’re definitely the best team in the league in terms of being able to keep the ball so if you don’t look after it then you’re going to be doing a lot of defending and work deep in your own half.
‘We obviously planned for that and the lads executed it really well. They were all in position, doing it with discipline and putting in a lot of physical work as well so that was really pleasing. We were a bit inconsistent in possession but we grew in confidence after the first 10 minutes and fortunately we were able to get the first goal, which hasn’t happened a lot this season at Aldershot.
‘It was a bit of great quality from Luke McCormick and he showed tonight just how much we’ve missed him in that sense. He adds a bit of experience to our team, a lot of leadership and also that quality in the final third.’
McCormick has endured a stop-start season since suffering a stress fracture in his back in the autumn and the midfielder admitted to Chelsea TV that it was emotional to be back out on the pitch.
Edwards also reserved words of praise for his debutant goalkeeper and 16-year-old Dutch defender Ian Maatsen, both of whom excelled in the face of City pressure.
‘Karlo should be really pleased with his performance on his debut at this age group,’ continued Edwards. ‘He made some fantastic saves, particularly from the free-kick in the first half, which was outstanding work. Not far behind him was Ian Maatsen, the youngest player in our team. He was very good again. It’s a big step up for him to be playing in a game of this level and I thought he did really well.’
A second clean sheet since September was also well-received and Edwards cited both collective and individual efforts as key in keeping the visitors at bay.
‘The goal gave us a lot of confidence and we felt we were deserving of the lead because although City had a lot of the ball, they were finding it difficult to break us down,’ he added. ‘We would have liked more possession in the game but when you’re not putting in those high-quality performances then you have to find a way to play the game and get the result.
‘The boys at the back really dug in for the clean sheet – they put their bodies on the line with blocks and defended the box really well. When you’re playing against an attacking side as good as Man City, you know they’re always going to create chances but we dealt with that so well.’
Trips to Liverpool and Brighton along with a Stamford Bridge derby against Arsenal will conclude the PL2 season for Edwards’s boys. Their quest for silverware has shifted to the UEFA Youth League and the next challenge in that competition comes on Wednesday when Montpellier visit Cobham in the last-16.