Goals from Marcel Lewis, George Nunn and Thierno Ballo ensured our youngsters signed off for the season at Cobham with three points in the Under-18 Premier League.
The Blues raced into a 3-0 lead inside half an hour with some excellent play. Lewis opened the scoring with an expert penalty before Nunn doubled the lead from close range after lovely work in the box from Ballo. The midfielder then scored himself with a tidy finish from the edge of the box at the end of a flowing team move.
Fulham reduced the arrears swiftly after our third when Timmy Abraham, younger brother of our on-loan striker, poked in from eight yards out, and there were chances for the visitors to score again in the second period. Terry Ablade headed over from close range and Nicolas Tie saved expertly from Sonny Hilton before Nunn secured the points with a precise finish from 12 yards. Abraham’s second of the afternoon and a stoppage-time free-kick from Fabio Carvalho gave the scoreline a more even look but the hosts were worthy winners on the balance of play.
The victory brings to an end our longest winless run in eight years before the youngsters play their final game of the season away at Reading in a fortnight. Before then, our development squad are in action at Stamford Bridge this Monday night for a PL2 London derby against Arsenal. Tickets are still available to purchase online.
Myers made six changes from the midweek defeat to Tottenham, including the inclusion of two schoolboys in the starting 11 – Lewis Bate and Dion Rankine - and a further two on the bench. Bate lined up in central midfield alongside Ballo as the Blues opted for a 4-2-3-1 system, with Armando Broja and Rankine providing the team’s width.
Nunn led the line up front supported from behind by Lewis, while a back four of Henry Lawrence, Dynel Simeu, Pierre Ekwah Elimby and Jordan Aina protected Nicolas Tie in goal.
Five places and 14 points separated the west London neighbours at the start of play in the southern section, with the hosts aware that a point would secure a third-place league finish.
Tie did well to claim Fabio Carvalho’s rising shot in the early exchanges before Myers’s men took an early lead with just eight minutes on the clock. The opportunity presented itself for Lewis to take aim from 12 yards after Nunn was pushed in an aerial challenge with Luca Murphy and the referee duly pointed to the spot. Lewis stepped up and fired confidently into the bottom corner, leaving keeper Luca Ashby-Hammond with no chance.
It was a goal that breathed confidence throughout a side who were enduring the unusual experience of five games without a win, though Fulham might have quickly restored parity had Sonny Hilton taken Sylvester Jasper’s clever forward pass into his path more carefully.
Down the other end, Broja cut inside from the left and fired narrowly wide before Nunn’s eighth goal of the season established a nice cushion for the Blues. It was a goal that owed much to the technical quality of captain Ballo, who set himself with a perfect first touch in the box and then rolled the ball across the face of goal for Nunn to sweep home from a few yards out.
Chelsea took control in the aftermath of the second goal, dominating possession and moving the ball neatly across the field. Rankine and Lawrence were proving a lively and productive outlet down the right, with the Under-16 wideman forcing a smart save from Ashby-Hammond after advancing dangerously from the byline.
On the opposite flank, Broja was combining hard work in defensive duties with an effective threat in transition. A powerful burst forward from halfway fashioned an inviting sight at goal for the Albanian Under-17 international but his final finish was skewed wide of the near post.
Yet the Blues were soon celebrating a deserved third with less than half hour of the contest played. Rankine’s back-heel flick set Lawrence running into space down the right and the full-back’s cutback was eventually steered into the top corner from just outside the box by Ballo. The Austrian took the plaudits for his 10th goal of the campaign but this was a true team move, executed and finished in style.
With a comfortable advantage secured, Fulham had to dig deep to search for a route back into the contest. They were helped by a fortunate ricochet in the Blues box following a free-kick swung in from the right and Abraham stabbed past Tie to reduce the deficit 12 minutes before the break. Hilton then spurned a good chance to make it 3-2 after jinking into the box from the left, his shot misjudged and sliced off-target.
The visitors were improved after the restart and ought to have brought themselves back into the contest, particularly when substitute Ablade headed over from an unmarked position six yards out. Tie was called into action shortly afterwards as Hilton’s fierce strike on the half-volley flew through the air, the Frenchman tipping it brilliantly over the bar.
However, the points were secured with 15 minutes remaining as more good work from Rankine down the right paid dividends. The 16-year-old’s running, both with and without the ball, was a constant source of danger throughout and his latest foray forward earned him a deserved assist as Nunn latched on to the low cross and squeezed a finish inside the post.
There was still time remaining for the Cottagers to score twice again to ensure a slightly more nervy finale. Abraham secured his brace with another predatory finish before Carvalho curled a free-kick beyond Tie’s despairing dive in the fourth minute of added time. Yet that proved to be the final action as the Blues secured their 12th victory of the campaign.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Nicolas Tie; Henry Lawrence, Dynel Simeu, Pierre Ekwah Elimby, Jordan Aina; Lewis Bate (Sam McClelland 79), Thierno Ballo (c); Dion Rankine (James Clark 87), Marcel Lewis (Xavier Simons 71), Armando Broja; George Nunn
Unused subs Jake Askew, Joe Haigh
Scorers Lewis (pen) 8; Nunn 15, 74; Ballo 28
Booked Lawrence, Tie
Fulham Luca Ashby-Hammond, Zico Asare, Idris Odutayo, Jonathan Page (Terry Ablade h-t), Luca Murphy (Stefan Parkes 79), Connor McAvoy (c), Fabio Carvalho, Ryan De Havilland, Timmy Abraham, Sonny Hilton, Sylvester Jasper
Unused subs Harley Earle, Xavier Benjamin, Jean Pierre Tiehi
Scorers Abraham 33, 83; Carvalho 90+4
-Additional pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom