League Two side Walsall host Chelsea in Leasing.com Trophy action this evening as the Round of 32 stage of the competition begins.
The group stage saw Chelsea move into the Round of 32 and draw Walsall at the Bescot Stadium with the game kicking off at 7.45pm tonight (Tuesday). After Jon Russell’s last-minute winner later sunk Plymouth Argyle into third place and out of the competition back in October, development squad boss Andy Myers expressed his delight at having progressed and is in agreement that it was duly deserved.
‘I was very pleased to progress, I think we deserved to get through’, Myers said. ‘The way we played against Swindon and even against Bristol Rovers was good, it just went down to the last game against a Plymouth side who we knew were going to be tough but the way we applied ourselves and the football we played was really good.’
In the last two years, Chelsea have been successful at this stage beating MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon respectively and the head coach believes despite his squad being young, they aren’t afraid of what’s yet to come.
‘Some of the lads have already been in the competition before and have a taste of what it’s about’, Myers explained. ‘We’ve got through to a semi-final in this competition and I think the boys like it – it’s the nearest thing to a senior game that they will get at the moment because it is so different from Under-23s football.
‘I don’t think anything surprises them. The boys are ready and they know what to expect. It’s probably the youngest squad we’ve had in this competition and to get this far, they’ve been a credit. I don’t think anything fazes them and they are just enjoying it.’
Forward Charlie Brown has been in good form this term, notching four goals in 12 games, with two of those coming in his three Leasing.com Trophy outings. Myers thinks this competition is the perfect platform for players such as Brown to prove they are ready to continue their development out on loan.
‘Charlie’s been a valuable member of the team, not just in this competition but in the league as well,’ he explained. ‘For Charlie and a lot of the players who are looking for that next step to go out on loan, this is a great platform for them to step up and show the public that they are ready to play at this level. Charlie’s done that, his movement has been second to none and he’s been a pest taking his goals well. He is in a good place at the moment, as are the rest of the boys.’
Walsall topped Group L by winning two and drawing one of their three fixtures. In contrast, their recent league form has been slightly more inconsistent but that isn’t a reason for Chelsea to take their opponents for granted.
‘This competition without doubt is more physical than Premier League 2 and there are good players remaining,’ continued Myers. 'If we played in this competition week-in, week-out we would find it a lot tougher but we don’t take anything for granted. Our league form is okay at the moment but right now it’s about the next game. We’re in a good place but we won’t underestimate who we are playing against.’
The draw for the next round takes place on Thursday 5 December but the focus is on the team doing their job against Walsall this evening.
‘We have to make sure we apply ourselves and keep going,' added Myers. 'Nothing is a given and we have to earn the right to get through as we have done in previous games.’
Supporters can purchase tickets on the door at the Bescot Stadium priced at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions. There will also be updates throughout the evening on our official @chelseafc Twitter.