Our development squad fell to defeat in the Leasing.com Trophy after a bravely fought contest against League One Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Ground.
After a goal-line clearance from Dynel Simeu and the woodwork coming to the rescue for Chelsea early in the game, forward Charlie Brown fired the Blues into a half-time lead in Bristol.
However our hosts regrouped at the break and came out strong, forcing Chelsea to do a lot of defending in and around the box.
Victor Adeboyejo struck Bristol Rovers level a minute before the hour mark and 12 minutes later, Liam Sercombe finished at the back post to send his side top of Group F in the cup competition.
Andy Myers named a changed Chelsea squad for the trip to Bristol Rovers in the EFL Trophy competition which this season has a new sponsor. There were four switches in the starting 11 as Dynel Simeu stepped into the back-line alongside Jack Wakely. Meanwhile, George Nunn partnered Thierno Ballo in attack and Jon Russell slotted in to the five-man midfield.
After an eventful opener to the group in Swindon, Chelsea were grateful for a slightly less dramatic start to the evening’s proceedings. Rovers had the first meaningful chance of the game after eight minutes and it required quick thinking from defender Simeu, who raced back to his goal-line to head clear Michael Kelly’s powerful strike from the edge of the area which had beaten keeper Jamie Cumming.
Brown notched the winner for the young Blues against Swindon last month and he registered the first shot on target of the evening for the visitors. The forward cut infield on to his left foot and forced goalkeeper Jordi van Stappershoef into a diving save, high to his right to keep the scores level after 10 minutes of play.
The home fans thought their side had taken the lead when Tyler Smith glanced a header on to the woodwork after a quarter of an hour. Kyle Bennett proved a handful for our defence and it was his cross which found the head of the Sheffield United loanee, but the crossbar came to the Blues’ rescue.
With plenty of possession, Chelsea looked a threat going forward. George McEachran whipped a dangerous ball into the six-yard box from the left which Bristol managed to clear, but only as far as Ballo who lurked on the edge of the area and fired on target only to be denied by a defender’s header over his own net.
With 14 minutes until the break, it was a Rovers mistake which allowed the Blues to break the deadlock, and this time Brown found the back of the net. Michael Kelly’s weak back-pass was smartly intercepted by the alert striker, who rounded the keeper and finished with his right foot from an acute angle.
After the fourth official signalled a minimum of an additional minute at the end of the first half, the home team found enough time for one more chance. Luckily for Myers’s men it proved a let-off as Tyler Smith flicked an effort on to the outside of the post from close range following a Bristol Rovers corner.
The Gas got the game restarted with neither team opting for a change in personnel after the first 45 minutes. However, Graham Coughlan’s team talk at the break seemed to spark life into his side, who mounted the pressure on our back-line and forced vital blocks from Simeu and Marcel Lavinier from inside the danger area.
The re-energised hosts didn’t faze the Blues however, as moments later McEachran stung the fingertips of Van Stappershoef from distance after advancing upfield in with possession of the ball, skipping beyond his markers.
Chelsea could only pose a threat on the break as Bristol Rovers continued to knock on the door and eventually found a way through just a minute before the hour mark. Victor Adeboyejo slammed home from close range following a good stop by Cumming to deny Bennett’s initial effort from 18 yards out. That goal set up a very competitive final 30 minutes at the Memorial Ground.
It was a similar move that put Bristol Rovers in front for the first time during the evening as Liam Sercombe slotted The Pirates into the lead just over 10 minutes after they had pulled level. Again Cumming did well to make the save following a close-range shot but the midfielder was in the right place at the right time to strike his side into top spot.
Immediately after the restart, the hosts attacked the Blues’ backline and this time it was the woodwork that denied Adeboyejo, who powered an effort on to the top of the crossbar and out of play. That chance proved to be the forward’s last involvement of the night as he was replaced soon after.
Myers introduced two young Blues to the field, Xavier Simons taking the place of Jon Russell just a few minutes before Levi Colwill swapped places with Tariq Lamptey.That second change proved important as Cowill combined with Simeu to block Tom Nichols’ attempt to find the top corner after quick footwork inside the box earned the forward a yard of space.
Ballo and McEachran had chances to snatch a point and send the tie to penalties but Van Stappershoef stood firm to block the first effort before McEachran struck wide of the target from close range for the final chance in the West Country.
Next up for Chelsea is a trip to Leicester City in PL2 on Saturday 28 September, where they will be looking to maintain their unbeaten start in the league.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Jamie Cumming; Tariq Lamptey (Levi Colwill 82), Jack Wakely, Dynel Simeu, Marcel Lavinier; George McEachran, Clinton Mola (Armando Broja 90); Thierno Ballo, Jon Russell (Xavier Simons 78), George Nunn; Charlie BrownUnused subs: Nicolas Tie, Marcel Lewis, Sam McClelland, Lucas BergstramScorer: Brown 31,Booked: Lavinier, McEachran
Bristol Rovers: Jordi Van Stappershoef, Ed Upson, Liam Sercombe, Alfie Kilgour, Tom Davies (c), Tyler Smith, Micharl Kelly, Kyle Bennett (Lucas Tomlinson 81), Rollin Menayese, Victor Adeboyejo (Deon Moore 84), Alex RodmanUnused subs: Alexis Andre Jr, Tom Nichols, Luke Leahy, Luca Hoole, Cam HargreavesBooked: KellyScorers: Adeboyejo 59, Sercombe 71,
Referee: Antony Coggins