A first home defeat of the season was inflicted on our youngsters this morning as a late winner from Brighton’s Ben Wilson settled a tight league contest at Cobham.
A game of few chances played out between two sides separated by six league places in the Under-18 Premier League southern section at the start of the day. Armando Broja had the best opportunity for the Blues late in the first half but was expertly denied by Carl Rushworth, the Brighton keeper, before Wilson won it for the Seagulls in stoppage time. It was only our second loss at Cobham since April 2015 and leaves Andy Myers’s side third in the table.
There were five changes from our disappointing derby defeat at Arsenal last time out, with Jake Askew returning in goal protected by a back three of James Clark, Sam McClelland and Dynel Simeu.
Marcel Lavinier and Jordan Aina started at wing-back in Myers’s 3-4-2-1 system, while captain Clinton Mola returned from suspension to start in central midfield alongside Jon Russell. Thierno Ballo and Marcel Lewis operated just behind central striker Broja as the hosts looked to bounce back from their second defeat of the season last weekend.
The blustery conditions at Cobham were a constant factor in this contest, impacting the play of both sides and restricting the game’s flow throughout. Julian Carre fired the first shot of the morning high over Askew’s crossbar following an inswinging free-kick headed clear to the edge of the box, though it took until the 15-minute mark before we threatened for the first time.
A move down the right briefly unlocked the Brighton door as Lavinier advanced into space on the touchline, fashioning enough room to deliver an inviting cross into the six-yard box. It was the ideal height for Lewis, whose darting run towards the near post was a clever one, but the forward failed to keep the aerial effort on target.
While neither side managed to seize control of the game in the first half, it was the visitors who carried the greater goal threat before the break. Wilson shot narrowly wide from the right before Jack Spong curled a free-kick just beyond the upright.
Askew was finally called into action after half hour when a promising Brighton move saw the ball swung in from the right towards Spong. The midfielder was picked out in space and his header from 12 yards out carried enough power to force the keeper into a flying save to the left.
The Blues found it difficult to settle into their typical flowing football but managed to push forward more effectively in the final third as the half-time whistle approached. Broja spun in behind down the inside-left channel and latched on to Lewis’s forward pass but opted to strike for the near post at an uncompromising angle and could only trouble the side-netting.
Lewis proved our most threatening attacking force and teed up another opportunity with three minutes of the half remaining, his cross picking out Ballo in the centre, though the Austrian’s connection on the volley was fired straight at goalkeeper Rushworth.
The best chance of the half fell to Broja in added time as the striker dashed across the box to meet a right-sided delivery but Rushworth came to Brighton’s rescue with an excellent reaction save down low to his left, collecting the loose ball before it spilled back towards danger.
High winds continued to impact the encounter in the second period but there was a big let-off for the hosts soon after the restart as a quick counter-attack almost earned the breakthrough for Mark Beard’s side. Stefan Vukoje sped away down the right and found the supporting run of Danny Cashman in the middle, however Askew was alert to the threat and charged off his goal-line to make a good save.
Introductions from the bench made a difference for the Blues as George Nunn fired narrowly over with his first action after an hour, while Pierre Ekwah Elimby added a physical presence and effectiveness on the ball.
Much of our good work continued to come down the right flank through Lavinier, though the final ball lacked quality and precision. Broja saw a brief glimpse of goal after 70 minutes as the ball dropped at his feet after Nunn had challenged the goalkeeper in the air but his shot on the spin lacked the accuracy to threaten a breakthrough.
With time running out, it looked like the points were set to be shared. Rushworth saved well from Ekwah Elimby’s instinctive effort and launched one final attack for the visitors, who advanced down the left through Ryan Longman. The winger skipped away from a series of challenges before reaching the byline and cutting the ball back into the path of Wilson, who converted from a few yards out to snatch all three points.
It was revenge for the Seagulls after an added-time winner from Henry Lawrence had won the reverse fixture on the south coast in October and leaves Myers’s men 12 points off the pace at the top of the southern table.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Jake Askew; James Clark, Sam McClelland, Dynel Simeu; Marcel Lavinier, Jon Russell, Clinton Mola (c), Jordan Aina (Henry Lawrence 65); Thierno Ballo, Marcel Lewis (George Nunn 60); Armando Broja (Pierre Ekwah Elimby 81)
Unused subs Ethan Wady
Brighton & Hove Albion Carl Rushworth, Ayo Tanimowo, Ed Turns, Julian Carre, Luca Cocoracchio, Ben Clark-Eden, Ben Wilson, Jack Spong, Danny Cashman, Stefan Vukoje (Matt Everitt 78), Ryan Longman (c)
Unused subs Cameron Tutt, Piotr Zalewski, Lorent Tolaj, Kasper Lopata
Scorer Wilson 90+3
Booked Carre, Turns
-Pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom