Our development squad signed off the season with three points in Premier League 2 after a spirited win away at Brighton.
Richard Nartey’s second goal of the season put us in front as the defender headed in Billy Gilmour’s corner midway through the first half, though our Achilles heel of conceding quickly after scoring returned as Ryan Longman made it 1-1 three minutes later.
Yet Joe Edwards’s side persevered against a team who have spent much of the campaign fighting for the title and our lead was restored moments before half-time when Billy Gilmour’s corner was turned in by a defender.
The second period swung both ways and Chelsea had chances to extend their lead when Gilmour fired over from close range. There was also work for Jamie Cumming before the end as our keeper made a top-class save to keep out a point-blank header and preserve the points.
There were five changes from our defeat in the UEFA Youth League final four days previously as Ian Maatsen headed to the Under-17 European Championship with Netherlands and Conor Gallagher missed out with injury, while Karlo Ziger and Joseph Colley dropped to the bench.
Cumming returned in goal as Edwards started with a 4-4-2 system, with Daishawn Redan and Charlie Brown spearheading the attack. In defence, it was Tariq Lamptey, Nartey, Marc Guehi and Juan Castillo from right to left. Further forward, Gilmour partnered captain Luke McCormick in central midfield, while Tariq Uwakwe and trialist Darius Johnston started out wide.
It was the Seagulls who started quickest on a pleasant evening in Sussex, settling early and threatening inside 10 minutes with a header from Jordan Davies that dropped just wide. However the visitors, decked out all in yellow, grew into the contest and created the best chances of the opening quarter of the game.
Max Sanders defended well to thwart the advance of Johnson down the Chelsea left before McCormick fired a left-footed strike narrowly off-target. There was little defensive work Brighton could do moments later when Guehi stepped in to steal possession and played a quick forward pass to Redan in space. The Dutch striker drove forward and unleashed a cracking shot from 25 yards that smacked against the crossbar.
The woodwork was unable to save the Seagulls after 24 minutes though as Nartey’s second goal of the season put Edwards’s boys ahead. It was a simple set-piece that did the damage, Gilmour’s inswinging corner from the left headed beyond Robert Sanchez, the stranded goalkeeper, by our 20-year-old centre-half.
Yet just like in Switzerland at the start of the week, the Blues conceded swiftly after scoring. Soufyan Ahannach made progress down the right channel and delivered a low cross that trickled all the way through to Longman, who found the back of the net via the inside of the post.
Chelsea were looking for three points that would secure them a fifth-place finish in the PL2 table but Guehi had to be brave to keep us level after half hour, blocking a fierce effort from Davies on the edge of the box.
The latter part of the first period was an even affair with clear-cut opportunities at a premium until the visitors restored their advantage two minutes before the break. Another set-piece proved Brighton’s undoing as Gilmour delivered again from a corner and the ball ended up flying past Sanchez, this time off the head of defender Ben Hall.
Our attempt to hold on to the lead for longer than a few minutes was almost undone instantly as Archie Davies took aim at Cumming’s goal, though the full-back’s shot was too high to trouble our keeper.
It was a bright restart from the young Blues and they were unlucky not to extend their lead in the 10 minutes at the start of the second period. Brown was kept out from close range after good work from Uwakwe before Gilmour was handed a chance to add a goal to his pair of first-half assists.
The Scotland Under-21 international latched on to Redan’s cutback after Brighton lost possession playing out but he was unable to keep his shot down from 10 yards out.
Down the other end, Cumming was made to work with increasing severity as Brighton pushed forward for a second leveller. Our young keeper first denied Longman with a smart low stop at the near post before he pulled off an unbelievable reaction save to tip substitute Danny Cashman’s point-blank header over the bar. From the resulting corner, the visitors somehow kept the ball out with a series of goal-line blocks following an almighty scramble in the six-yard box.
That proved to be the final action of note as Edwards’s side defended with grit and maturity in holding on to the points and ending the season with a positive result.
Chelsea (4-4-2) Jamie Cumming; Tariq Lamptey (Joseph Colley 85), Richard Nartey, Marc Guehi, Juan Castillo; Tariq Uwakwe, Luke McCormick (c) (Tino Anjorin 67), Billy Gilmour, Darius Johnson (Marcel Lavinier 67); Charlie Brown, Daishawn Redan
Unused sub Karlo Ziger
Scorers Nartey 23; Hall (og) 43
Brighton Robert Sanchez, Archie Davies, Alex Cochrane, Max Sanders (c), Ben Hall, Warren O’Hora, Soufyan Ahannach, Jayson Molumby, Viktor Gyokeres, Jordan Davies (Danny Cashman 77), Ryan Longman (Bojan Radulovic 73)
Unused subs Joe Tomlinson, Billy Collings, Kipras Kazukolovas
Scorer Longman 26
Referee Sam Purkiss