Our unbeaten development squad picked up a point in PL2 against Leicester City at Aldershot Town on Friday night.
Tino Anjorin's opener had us ahead at half-time and that lead was doubled by Henry Lawrence after 60 minutes but Leicester put up a fight and secured a point with almost the last kick of the game as the scores ended identical to our previous meeting in PL2 earlier this season.
Chelsea looked good after Anjorin and Lawrence gave us some breathing space but the visitors never looked completely out of the game and pushed for an equaliser after reducing the deficit with 15 minutes to play. The Blues will feel hard done by earning just a point after the Foxes captain headed in from a late corner.
Last season’s development squad captain Luke McCormick was named in Andy Myers’ midfield tonight between Tariq Uwakwe and Henry Lawrence and full-back Ian Maatsen was handed the armband. McCormick had been recalled from a loan spell at Shrewsbury Town earlier this month.
Levi Colwill made his second consecutive PL2 start in defence while Armando Broja led the line in the absence of Charlie Brown, who headed out on loan earlier in the day.
The windy conditions and wet surface provided an extra inch of pace to the match and evidently helped with our attack in the first minute. Broja squared to McCormick, whose first-time effort forced Viktor Johansson into an early save.
Leicester threated within the first 10 minutes as well when a looping cross almost fooled Karlo Ziger as Ali Reghba got contact with the ball at the back post. Luckily, the ball bounced on to the roof of the net for a Chelsea goal-kick.
There were strong calls for a penalty waved away by referee Matthew Russell when Josh Eppiah chased down a back-pass which Ziger closed down well. On challenging for the ball, Eppiah went down but the referee waved away appeals as the attacker was adjudged to have dived.
Uwakwe took matters into his own hands and forced a Chelsea attack on 20 minutes. After winning the ball back on the halfway line, he drove towards the box and let fly but the attempt whistled beyond the right upright - he would have been disappointed to have not hit the target.
After seeing our number 11 go close, Leicester’s decided he would do the same. Reghba won the ball back and raced into the area before striking at goal but this time Ziger had to make the save and it looked comfortable enough for the Croat.
Reghba’s runs were causing problems and he had the ball in the back of the net after 25 minutes but his celebrations were short-lived as the official on the near side had his flag up for offside. It was a let-off for the Blues, who had made a solid start to proceedings.
The earlier offside proved pivotal as Anjorin found the net first under the lights. His dancing feet on the left flank allowed space for a low strike into the bottom corner to open the scoring. It was an excellent finish across the face of goal which had the Blues ahead after 28 minutes and was Anjorin’s 10th goal of the season in all competitions.
Lawrence looked to get his name on the scoreboard as the interval approached as smart play on the edge of the box between Anjorin and Broja found his overlapping run but the attempt that followed was too close to Johansson’s near post and he gathered the danger.
The scores should have been level but for a wonder save by Ziger to deny Ughelumba from six yards. The defender struck a powerful volley towards goal but our keeper somehow matched the attempt, getting fingertips to the ball to see it over the target.
Ziger produced heroics again to prevent the same Leicester man levelling the scores before half-time, which meant we led at the break.
Our lead was doubled bang on the hour mark and Lawrence was sure to hit the back of the net this time. Anjorin worked well on the left flank to find Broja in the centre, the forward helped the ball on to McCormick who was denied by Johansson but Lawrence made no mistake and tapped home from close range. 2-0 Chelsea.
Anjorin had a say in both goals and was withdrawn after 69 minutes of work, Tino Livramento his replacement in a like-for-like midfield swap.
Leicester’s Tyrese Shade was also a second-half substitute and made his mark on 74 minutes when he created an inch of space on the right and found the bottom corner. The visitors were back in the game at 2-1.
Myers recognised the need for defensive reinforcements moving into the final quarter-of-an-hour and introduced Dynel Simeu in place of Marcel Lavinier. This warranted a change of shape as we switched to a back three with the aim of protecting our lead.
Four minutes of additional time were added by the fourth official and strong defending was required by the whole team. But a corner kick proved our undoing as Leicester's captain Darnell Johnson powered a header home to steal the three points from our hands.
We remain unbeaten at the top of PL2, with both our next closest competitors in Monday night action as Derby take on Blackburn. Before then, our Under-18s are back in league action tomorrow morning (Saturday) as they host Southampton at Cobham in an 11am kick-off.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Karlo Ziger; Marcel Lavinier (Dynel Simeu 78), Jack Wakely, Levi Colwill, Ian Maatsen (c); Jon Russell (George Nunn 83), Tino Anjorin (Tino Livramento 69); Tariq Uwakwe, Luke McCormick, Henry Lawrence; Armando Broja
Unused sub Nicolas Tie, Thierno Ballo
Scorers Anjorin 28, Lawrence 60
Leicester Tobias Viktor Johansson, Darnel Johnson (c), Luke Thomas, Khanya Leshabela, Sam Hughes, Calvin Ughelumba, Vontae Daley-Campbell (Tyrese Shade 63), Bartosz Kapustka (Terell Pennant 84), Josh Eppiah, Callum Wright, Ali Reghba
Unused subs Darragh O’Connor, Jakub Stolarczyk, Callum Hulme
Booked Ughelumba 4, Johnson 57
Scorer Shade 74
Referee Matthew Russell