Our development squad’s season started with an excellent victory in the EFL Trophy, Charlie Brown netting a second-half winner during a pulsating evening at the County Ground.
Tino Anjorin rewarded a lively Blues start with two goals inside the opening 16 minutes in Swindon, both calm, side-footed finishes.
The Robins reduced the arrears immediately with a header, and it was their physicality from set-pieces that was most threatening to Andy Myers’ youngsters. They might have equalised before half-time, Jamie Cumming making one especially good stop, but they did soon after the interval through a fine long-distance effort.
The crucial fifth goal, on the hour, went Chelsea’s way. Charlie Brown, who scored here last year, fired into the roof of the net from Billy Gilmour’s astute pass. Plenty more chances came and went in a helter-skelter encounter, but the Blues held firm to pick up three points at the beginning of their EFL Trophy campaign.
The league season starts at Derby next Monday.
Myers named the same XI that featured from the off in the final pre-season friendly at Rangers on Friday, six of whom were in the team when the sides met almost exactly a year ago. Cumming, third-choice keeper for the senior team, was between the posts, and Brown led the line having scored twice here in August 2018.
It was the young man supporting him in attack who had two goals to his name early on this evening. Indeed Anjorin might have opened the scoring before he did: Tariqs Uwakwe and Lamptey combined superbly down the right and the latter’s inviting centre missed Brown but not Anjorin, who could only prod wide.
He made no such mistake a couple of minutes later. This time Billy Gilmour provided the supply line, curling a lovely pass behind the Robins’ centre-backs. Brown latched on to it and though his attempt was saved, the rebound fell to Anjorin. From 18 yards, and with the goalkeeper out of position, he kept his composure, firmly passing the ball into the net beyond a couple of defenders who had retreated onto the line.
He repeated the trick on 16 minutes, from much closer in. It was neat combination play between Ian Maatsen and Juan Castillo down our left that created the opening, and the former cut the ball back to Anjorin, who gobbled up the chance from six yards out.
The goals were just reward for an excellent Chelsea start full of poise and passing, but our advantage was almost immediately halved.
Michael Doughty, Swindon’s captain, swung over a free-kick which imposing centre-back Daniel Ballard powered home with his head.
We were further disrupted when George McEachran suffered an injury. He was replaced by Marcel Lavinier. Myers had to reshuffle his pack, moving Anjorin into central midfield, pushing Uwakwe up front, and playing the new man Lavinier wide right.
It didn’t initially disrupt our rhythm, though. A succession of promising counter-attacks followed, and only the final pass or touch stopped us creating further clear chances.
Towards the end of the half, Swindon grew into the game and should have levelled. Cumming had already kept out a fierce Lloyd Isgrove effort when Toumani Diagouraga headed over from close range. Again a set-piece had troubled us.
In the 41st minute, Cumming magnificently denied Isgrove who had skipped beyond our backline only to be thwarted at the last. Most of the ground thought the ball was in the net, and from the resulting corner it nearly was again, but somehow a low centre evaded everyone in the six-yard box.
So half-time came at a good time for Myers and his team. But when play restarted, the Robins soon did get back on level terms. A deep free-kick was headed away as far as Adam May, who drilled a superb volley into the bottom left-hand corner from a good 20 yards out.
Chelsea responded well and nearly went back in front through Anjorin, who was kept out by Luke McCormick at his near post. As play continued to bounce from end to end, Swindon's Keshi Anderson headed over.
On 55 minutes, Anjorin was replaced by Jack Wakely. Mola moved into midfield. Five minutes later, the Blues were back in front! Brown collected Gilmour’s clever pass inside the box, and thrashed his finish high past McCormick into the roof of the net.
The keeper did have an answer to Uwakwe’s left-footed shot on the turn following good work down the right by Lavinier.
There was no let up! Back Swindon came, with Anderson bending goalwards from distance, and Cumming somehow matching the shot with a fine fingertip save.
Gilmour curled a free-kick into McCormick’s arms and Kaiyne Woolery did similar down the other end as Swindon went for broke.
Their sub Jermaine McGlashan had looked lively since his introduction, and he wriggled into the box with 10 minutes left but again Cumming was well placed to save. The Blues were digging deep and battling hard against their more experienced opponents.
Seventeen-year-old Marcel Lewis was introduced for his debut at this level with not long left on the clock. We had to deal with a couple more corners but, aside from those, managed to close the game out with no more scares, securing an impressive three points in the process.
Chelsea (4-4-1-1): Jamie Cumming; Tariq Lamptey, Marc Guehi (c), Clinton Mola, Ian Maatsen; Tariq Uwakwe (Marcel Lewis 83), Billy Gilmour, George McEachran (Marcel Lavinier 22), Juan Castillo; Tino Anjorin (Jack Wakely 55); Charlie Brown.
Unused subs Karlo Ziger, Armando Broja, Henry Lawrence.
Scorers Anjorin 12, 16, C. Brown 60
Booked Uwakwe 76
Swindon: Luke McCormick, Tyler Reid, Dan Ballard, Tom Broadbent, Rob Hunt, Ellis Iandolo (Jerry Yates h/t), Adam May, Michael Doughty (c), Toumani Diagouraga, Keshi Anderson (Kaiyne Woolery 68), Lloyd Isgrove (Jermaine McGlashan 68).
Unused subs Will Henry, Taylor Curran, Ralph Graham, Scott Twine.
Scorers Ballard 18, May 47
Booked Hunt 29, Reid 64, Diagouraga 90+3
Referee Alan Young