Match Report

EFL Trophy report: Cheltenham 0 Chelsea 0 (5-4 on pens)

Cheltenham Town managed to beat our development squad in a penalty shoot-out that ended 5-4 after both sides played out a goalless draw in our final group-stage game in the Papa John's Trophy, with Lewis Baker unfortunately missing his spot-kick.

The young Blues were already guaranteed a place in the knockout round but were playing for top spot in Gloucestershire. We may still receive that prize in Group 13 of the southern section, if Bristol Rovers and Exeter City draw their final game against each other next month. The Robins were already eliminated prior to tonight's action.

In the round of 32, group winners play at home against a runner-up from their section. Our six-point haul in the group stage is the best showing for a Chelsea side since 2019, when we exited at the second round.

The selection

Andy Myers made five changes from our 1-1 draw with Leicester City in Premier League 2 three days previously, with Harvey Vale and Teddy Sharman-Lowe both on senior duty at Stamford Bridge.

Jude Soonsup-Bell came in to lead the line up front, while Ethan Wady (pictured top) started in between the posts.

Game of chess

Both sides had chances to open the scoring early on. There was an early shot from Cheltenham forward Andy May, who forced a good stop from Wady in goal. 

The Robins certainly edged the opening moments of the game and a cross into the box found the head of Andy Williams, with May attempting an overhead kick that was deflected just wide. From the resulting corner, winger Christian Norton headed inches wide.

Chelsea did show their threat in the ninth minute of the game after some good skill on the right from Edwin Andersson, who drove a shot goalwards. However, it failed to trouble the keeper due to a lack of shot power.

Our youngsters then threatened again from a corner as Xavier Mbuyamba found himself free in the penalty area and he will be disappointed that he did not keep his header down.

After chances for both sides in the early moments, the game settled down with our young Blues contolling the possession. We were almost rewarded for that control as good pressure allowed the ball to break out to Soonsup-Bell, who tried reverse a shot into the keeper Owen Evans' net but he saved well.

Josh Brooking did soon get dispossessed however and Felix Miles had an effort that Wady had to hold onto with onrushers lurking.

Increased pressure

We almost found the breakthrough as Andersson beat his man down the right and put in a nice lofted cross. The Cheltenham keeper attempted to claim it but it went straight through his hands. 

He recovered well though as the ball landed at Charlie Webster's feet and he rifled a left-footed shot which Evans did well to save with an outstretched left leg. Having gone quiet for a large part of the first half, Dylan Barkers for the Robins went on a surging run which he laid off to Norton but his tame shot did little to worry Wady.

More possession for the visitors as the half drew to a close was only creating half chances but the best opportunity of the half fell again to Webster after 44 minutes. McEachran was played through on the left-hand side of the pitch and shaped to shoot before cutting in to beat his man. The midfielder then unselfishly laid it off for Webster, who just could not keep his shot down.

The second period started again with the same tempo as Chelsea controlled, and again Webster had an opportunity to open the scoring. After some good work in the middle by him and Soonsup-Bell, the ball was played out wide to Andersson who cut the it back to Webster, though his half-volley was saved well by the Cheltenham keeper. Baker also had an opportunity from a free-kick that was roughly 30 yards away from goal but his effort sailed wide of the goal.

Tough spell

Will Armitage, who was playing centre-back for Cheltenham, did have a rare chance for his side as he had a free header but failed to get enough power on it, giving Wady the opportunity to make a good save sharp to his left.

Another opportunity was created by May as he took a shot from 25 yards out and it only just cleared Wady's bar. Despite not having possession for most of the game, the Robins' few openings gave them confidence. 

After McEachran gave away a free-kick, a well-worked move found its way to substitute Ellis Chapman but his left-footed shot which he tried to bend to the far corner was weak. 

This gave the crowd a reason to shout and the louder atmosphere certainly was helping the home side. The dangerman May almost scored a wonder goal as his volley in the box beat keeper Wady but only just missed the bottom corner. Despite being already eliminated from the competition, the Robins were giving a good account of themselves in the final moments of the game.

The League One side were looking most likely to get the win as they began to ramp up the pressure on our side. A last-ditch challenge from Josh Brooking stopped Norton, on loan from Stoke City in the Championship, from pulling the trigger in what looked like a certain goal.

In the last minute of normal time, Baker did have a good chance to give us the lead. McEachran picked him out on the edge of the area and his attempted caress of the ball to the far corner was inches away from going in. That was the last chance, with the game ended 0-0 and both sides probably feeling that they could have won it. Despite the draw, as is customary in the EFL Trophy, a penalty shoot-out followed to decide which team were awarded a bonus group point.

Penalty shoot-out

Goerge Nunn and Jayden Wareham both dispatched their penalties for our young Blues. For Cheltenham, Ellis Chapman and Felix Miles also scored Cheltenham's first two. However, the experienced Baker did miss our third, with May scoring to give the hosts an advantage. 

Mbuyamba converted our fourth but Connor Jakeways put away his penalty to keep Cheltenham in front. Joe Haigh also dispatched from 12 yards but Norton sealed the win for Cheltenham, sending Wady the wrong way to seal an extra point and leave the Blues temporarily on top with six points from their three games.

Myers's men are next in action this Saturday 30 October as we host Everton in PL2 action at Kingsmeadow kick-off 1pm. Tickets are available online priced at just £5 for adults and £3 for seniors (over-65s) and juniors (under-20s). 

Cheltenham Town (4-3-3): Owen Evans; Lewis Freestone, Will Armitage, Grant Horton, Joe Hunt (Connor Jakeways 90+3); Conor Thomas (Ellis Chapman 61), Dylan Barkers, Felix Miles; Alfie May, Christian Norton, Andy WIlliams (c) (ZacGuinan 88)
Unused subs: Scott Flinders, Harvey Skurek, Mattie Pollock, Goerge Clark
Booked: Barkers 62, May 89

Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Ethan Wady; Josh Brooking, Xavier Mbuyamba, Brodi Hughes; Edwin Andersson (Silko Thomas 82), Xavier Simons (c) Lewis Baker, George Nunn; Charlie Webster (Joe Haigh 67), George McEachran, Jude Soonsup-Bell (Jayden Wareham 67)
Unused subs: Lucas Bergstrom, Dion Rankine, Bryan Fiabema, Bradley Ryan
Booked: Simons 71, McEachran 74

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