Checkatrade Trophy preview: Bridging the gap

George McEachran has called on his team-mates to step up to the challenge as they prepare to face League One Peterborough United at Stamford Bridge tomorrow evening (Wednesday).

Seats remain on sale for the last-16 contest, which kicks off at 7pm, and tickets can be bought online or at the ticket office now priced at just £5 for adults and £3 for juniors (under-20) and seniors (65 and over).

McEachran has featured in every game throughout this season’s run in the Checkatrade Trophy, including group victories at Plymouth Argyle and Swindon Town, as well as the 2-1 win over AFC Wimbledon in the last round at Stamford Bridge.

‘We always like playing at Stamford Bridge,’ the midfielder told the official website as we look ahead to the encounter. ‘It’s obviously our home and our fans come down to watch us, which is great. It’s a bigger pitch and a good surface so it’s a nice place for us to play football.’

Our development squad are currently fifth in Premier League 2 with six wins, three draws and five defeats from their 14 matches played to date. The league competition provides varied challenges but it is the Checkatrade Trophy up against senior opponents that gives our young players their biggest test of league football.

‘It’s been a good season for us so far,’ continued McEachran. ‘We’re not in the best form at the moment but I’m sure we’ll get through it and end the season well. This is a good competition to bridge the gap between academy and senior football because there is a big difference.

‘Under-18s football is much different to Premier League 2 and that’s much different to the first team so it’s about working up the levels. We’ve found it difficult at times but it’s great for our development.’

The 18-year-old believes the key to overcoming the challenge of League One and League Two opposition is to compete in the physical battles and then assert a technical superiority when in possession.

‘They’re different to our league games,’ he went on. ‘The teams are more physical and more tactically aware with a lot of long balls played forward and second balls to compete for.

'We work in training on balls coming into the box, making it scrappy and just preparing for the different aspects of these games.'

photo of George McEachran George McEachran

‘I think we’ve dealt with it well off the ball and then with the ball we’ve been able to play around opponents quickly to cause them problems. It’s about knowing when you’ve got time and when to play it quicker with one and two touches because if you let them get tight against you, they’re probably going to be stronger.’

No player has featured more for our academy sides this term than the left-footed playmaker, who has mostly operated from a deeper controlling role in Joe Edwards’s development squad. His progress was rewarded last month with a place on the bench for our Europa League trip to MOL Vidi and, although he didn’t appear for his senior debut on that occasion, the experience has reassured him that his development is progressing nicely and so attention now turns to taking on the Posh in SW6.

‘It gives you confidence that you’re going in the right direction,’ he reflected on the involvement. ‘I just need to keep on working hard and hopefully more opportunities like that will come.’

‘We’ve watched footage of Peterborough and they have some good individual players. They’re seventh in League One so they’re a good side and we expect a tough test.'

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