Chelsea development squad came from behind on two occasions to secure a precious point in an eventful clash at Aldershot.
We had three different goal scorers at Aldershot this afternoon, Jon Russell clawed the Blues back into the game on 33 minutes after falling behind following the opening quarter of an hour.
However Chelsea were trailing at the break by a one goal deficit which was stretched further by a third on 55 minutes. Despite being 3-1 down, the Blues never looked out of the game completely and Clinton Mola made sure of that on the hour mark striking home following a corner-kick.
Finally, Charlie Brown was on hand to head us level after 78 minutes and suddenly it looked as though Chelsea were going to find the winner and snatch the three points. It wasn't to be however as substitue Armando Broja was twice denied by Henrich Ravas.
Andy Myers named a slightly changed development squad for this afternoon’s PL2 fixture. Nicolas Tie was between the sticks which Marcel Lavinier just in front of him at left-back. Jon Russell started in midfield just behind Charlie Brown in attack.
Derby got the game underway in perfect conditions at Aldershot Town’s EBB Stadium and it was the hosts with the first meaningful chance. Jahmal Hector-Ingram managed to fathom an attempt on goal from Kornell McDonald’s low centre. Tie gathered the danger.
The opening 10 minutes were played out in the Blues’ half, a succession of corners was well defended by Chelsea. Our first chance was shortly before the quarter of an hour mark, Marc Guehi’s clearance found the run of Charlie Brown – his right-footed strike from 18-yards was just inches too high to hit the target.
A Derby counter-attack moments later almost inadvertently gifted the visitors the lead. Hector-Ingram’s attempt was deflected towards goal by Lavinier’s well timed challenge before Tie got two hands to the ball.
The visitors found the net with their next attack however, Josh Shonibare evaded challenges in the box after receiving the ball from a throw-in and then fired low into the bottom corner for the opener.
We did have our own spell of pressure and it almost ended in a goal. The move started with Clinton Mola, he switched play to Lavinier who excellently controlled the ball and found Henry Lawrence on the wing - his cross dropped nicely for Jon Russell but the header landed on the roof of the net. It was good, patient play by Chelsea.
Just moments later, Brown was threaded through on goal by Russell – Brown's touch set him well but goalkeeper Ravas closed the angle quickly and made the save.
The constant attacking intent paid off after 33 minutes and Russell was involved yet again. Lavinier’s early cross found the number 10’s head and this time it beat Ravas and landed in the bottom corner for the equaliser. Chelsea were back in the game at 1-1.
Lavinier’s crossing seemed a threat every time the Blues attacked and this time the ball found an unlikely source in Thierno Ballo at the back post – Ravas just about made the save to keep the scores level.
There was a blow for the Blues just before the interval as Derby undeservedly took the lead. Guehi did well to make the initial block from Jayden Mitchell-Lawson’s shot but the rebound fell kindly for Louie Sibley who slotted home unmarked. We were narrowly behind at the break.
There was a switch at the half-time - Armando Broja replaced Ballo as the Blues looked to find a way back into the game. However, it was Derby who found the net first on 55 minutes. After a quick counter, Hector-Ingram was through on goal and did very well to finish past Tie at an angle. 3-1 Derby.
Despite the score line Chelsea weren’t completely out of the game and gave supporters even more hope of a revival when Clinton Mola thumped home our second of the afternoon from close range.
Guehi headed on a corner-kick which found the defender deep in the box, his shot – which initially looked over the line - was blocked back into the danger area before Russell made sure of it. The official on the near-side had his flag up to signal Mola's shot was indeed a goal. Game on at 2-3.
It was easy to see why this was a battle between the top two sides in PL2 – it was relentless end-to-end football with both teams desperately aiming to add to their tally. Marcel Lewis came on for the last 15 minutes in place of Lavinier who had clearly run himself into the ground.
Chelsea made their opportunity count and pulled level for the second time this afternoon. Lawrence - who moved to right-back following the departure of Lavinier – made the by-line and got a cross in. It looked a routine catch for Ravas but he dropped the ball allowing Brown to nod over the line from a yard out. We were level again at 3-3.
Youngster, Broja, had the chance to put the Blues in the lead for the first time today but he could only fire over from Brown’s cross on the right. Just four minutes remained at Aldershot and Broja went close again deep into injury time. Billy Gilmour’s swinging cross was headed into the hands of Ravas and that proved to be the final chance of the game.
With the blow of the final whistle it’s as we were at the top of PL2 with Chelsea top, a point clear of Derby who had dropped to third place after Arsenal’s victory over Blackburn Rovers on Friday night.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Nicolas Tie; Marcel Lavinier (Marcel Lewis 75), Marc Guehi (c), Clinton Mola, Ian Maatsen; Billy Gilmour, George McEachran; Lawrence, Jon Russell, Thierno Ballo (Armando Broja HT); Charlie Brown
Unused subs: Jack Wakely, Karlo Ziger
Scorers Russell (33) Mola (60) Brown (78)
Derby: Henrich Ravas, Kornell McDonald, Jordan Brown, Max Bird (c), Callum Minkley, Ethan Wassall, Jayden Mitchell-Lawson (Archie Brown 90), Louie Sibley (Cameron Cresswell 64), Jahmal Hector-Ingram, Alex Babos, Josh Shonibare (Festy Ebosele 82)
Unused subs: Josh Barnes
Scorers Shonibare (19), Sibley (44), Hector-Ingram (55)
Referee: Alan Day
- Additional pictures by Mark Sandom