Our youngsters recorded their biggest win of season this afternoon at Cobham to keep in touch with the leaders in the Under-18 Premier League.
An eventful encounter saw three red cards and half-a-dozen goals as the Blues returned to winning ways, with George Nunn opening the scoring midway through the first half and then adding a second after the break.
In between the striker’s brace, Thierno Ballo and Pierre Ekwah Elimby also netted, while an own goal with half hour remaining effectively ended the contest. Substitute Armando Broja completed the scoring late on, though the hosts finished with nine men after both Ekwah Elimby and Clinton Mola were sent off in the second half. The result keeps us third in the southern league, six points behind the leaders Arsenal with a game in hand and a trip to the Gunners to come next month.
This was the first competitive match action for our youngsters since the second week of January, a quiet period compounded by cup exits and postponements, and there were six changes from the side that lined up to start that 2-2 draw against Southampton.
There were midfield starts for schoolboys Lewis Bate and Peart-Harris, with the latter and Ballo supporting Nunn up front leading the line up front. Karlo Ziger replaced Jake Askew in goal behind a back three of Dynel Simeu, Sam McClelland and Ekwah Elimby. Marcel Lavinier and Henry Lawrence started at wing-back to provide width, while Mola partnered Bate in central midfield.
The Swans came to Aldershot and beat our development squad last week so Andy Myers and his coaching staff were not likely to underestimate an opponent eight places below them in the league table. It was almost a perfect start for the visitors as Josh Thomas capitalised on a short back pass and advanced towards goal, though Ziger did well to fling out a foot and divert the ball from danger.
Spring was in the air on a balmy afternoon at Cobham and we soon settled into control after the opening 10 minutes, passing the ball through midfield and searching for the advanced attackers in pockets of space. Ballo saw a shot blocked from the edge of the box before Lavinier started to threaten down the right flank, supplying a cross that Mola headed just over.
Our right-sided endeavours were rewarded after 20 minutes as Lavinier provided the pass and Nunn notched his fourth goal of the season. The wing-back’s galloping run took him into a crossing position and his low centre was perfectly placed, ensuring Nunn had the simplest of finishes from close range.
Swansea had suffered 5-1, 5-0, 5-0 and 6-0 defeats on their last four visits to take on our youngsters but their spirit was not broken at conceding an early goal. Will Richard almost found the space to test Ziger from 25 yards out but the midfielder was thwarted by an excellent block from Lavinier, who threw himself in front of the strike.
However, it was Chelsea looking likeliest to add to their lead as the half progressed. Ballo fired a warning shot narrowly over the crossbar at the end of a lovely move involving Lawrence and Nunn, before the Austrian was more clinical moments later to make it 2-0. Mola, proving too precise and strong in midfield, drove forward and found Ballo with a smart pass, leaving the forward time to compose himself before rolling the ball beyond Nathan Shepperd, the Welsh keeper.
The Welshmen’s best chance of a comeback was to exploit set-piece opportunities and they came close to reducing the deficit through several free-kicks before the break. The most promising was a low delivery from the left that flashed through the box but just evaded former Blues schoolboy Charlie Clancy at the back post.
An afternoon kick-off for Myers’s men meant they started the game knowing that both Arsenal and Tottenham had won their morning fixtures, extending the gap at the top of the Under-18 Premier League southern section to nine points. However, the Blues were playing with a freedom that belied any pressure or nerves. Their passing football was free-flowing from back to front and one such move almost ended in another goal as Ballo fired narrowly over from another Lavinier cross.
Any hopes Swansea maintained of a route back into the contest were extinguished within two minutes of the restart as Peart-Harris swung in a corner and Ekwah Elimby ghosted into space at the back post to nod in a simple header. However, the Frenchman’s celebrations were short-lived as he headed for an early exit five minutes later, dismissed for a mistimed tackle on Jayden Reid as the winger ran through on goal.
Yet the numerical disadvantage failed to prevent us adding further goals in the second half. An own goal after an hour made it 4-0, with Mola taking much of the credit for a powerful forward run and dangerous drive across goal that was diverted in by an unfortunate defender.
Peart-Harris was lively and effective on his first youth team start of the season and the 16-year-old almost netted a goal of his own with a fierce free-kick that flew through the air and whistled just past the post. The teenager collected another assist within minutes though, delivering from the left for Nunn, who showed neat footwork before finishing past Shepperd.
The hosts managed the game intelligently with 10 men, keeping possession and frustrating their opponents. Their sixth and final goal came courtesy of such patient build-up play as Lavinier, Russell and Mola all combined before Broja turned the ball in for his first goal since September.
Swansea did hit the post in the second half, the closest the visitors came to threatening our clean sheet, while a late confrontation between players from both sides resulted in the dismissal of Mola and defender Jake Thomas in the final minute of the game.
Nevertheless, the points were well-earned and the performance particularly satisfying. The team return to league action next weekend with a trip to Aston Villa.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Karlo Ziger; Dynel Simeu, Sam McClelland, Pierre Ekwah Elimby; Marcel Lavinier, Lewis Bate (Jon Russell 67), Clinton Mola (c), Henry Lawrence; Thierno Ballo (Marcel Lewis 83), Myles Peart-Harris; George Nunn (Armando Broja 73)
Unused subs Nicolas Tie, Jordan Aina
Scorers Nunn 19, 65; Ballo 32; Ekwah Elimby 47, OG 59; Broja 79
Sent off Ekwah Elimby 53; Mola 89
Swansea City Nathan Shepperd, Jacob Jones, Owen Evans, Daniel Williams, Cameron Evans (c), Jake Thomas, Morgan Clarke (Bradley Gibbings 71), Will Richard, Josh Thomas, Charlie Clancy (Ali Al-Hamadi 59), Jayden Reid
Unused subs Luke McKendry, Josh Hutchings, Josh Edwards
Sent off Thomas 89
-Pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom