Chelsea development sqaud booked their place in the knockout stage of the Leasing.com Trophy with a dominant display over League Two opponents Plymouth Argyle.
Jamie Cumming kept Andy Myers' side in the game with an impressive first half save before Jon Russell's injury time winner was the difference between the teams at Home Park on Tuesday evening.
The game looked to be ending in a draw and heading to penalty kicks to decide who took the extra point but a resilient performance got the Blues the goal they deserved.
Defender Marcel Lavinier started his second Leasing.com Trophy game of the season just in front of Cumming who made his third cup appearance this campaign.
Henry Lawrence was named in defence for his bow in the cup, while Charlie Brown captained the side in Devon having already scored twice in this competition.
Chelsea got the game underway at a chilly Home Park with a small number of travelling Blues watching on.
Cumming was the busier of the two ‘keepers in the opening stages and after two routine catches, he produced a smart save with his legs to deny Billy Clarke a golden opportunity four yards from goal.
Chelsea began to grow into the game stringing some nice passes together just outside the box looking for a way to unlock Plymouth’s defence but to no avail.
Midway through the first half Joe Riley fired inches wide of Cumming’s net after Lawrence’s headed clearance dropped to the full-back. Our ‘keeper looked to have it covered as he guided the ball beyond the post.
Chelsea’s best chance and arguably the best of the half fell to Brown on the half hour mark after a good interception from Thierno Ballo set the captain clear on goal - but Mike Cooper in the home net made himself big and blocked the resulting attempt with his feet.
Both sides had their goalkeepers to thank at half-time as the scores were kept level.
Brown looked to capitalise on a fast start from the Blues, his first-time strike from Russell’s perfect through ball required a diving save by Cooper who palmed the danger wide.
Tino Anjorin looked like a bright spark as Chelsea controlled possession early after the restart, he found George Nunn on the edge of the box but the Ireland youth international wasn’t able to direct the ball through a sea of Plymouth bodies.
It was all Chelsea after an hour's play and that same combination of Russell and Brown found the latter through on goal again but the Pilgrims’ stopper closed down the angle well to make the save.
The locals thought they were ahead just moments later however, Adam Randall’s free-kick from 25 yards brushed the side netting fooling most into believing it found the target. It proved a welcome let off as the Blues continued to hunt for the opener.
Defender Jack Wakely found the ball at his feet from George McEachran’s corner kick, his prod goal-wards was frustratingly blocked on the line by a combination of Nunn and his marker.
Just as the well contested battled looked to be heading to penalty kicks, Russell popped up in the box with the opener to slam home Ballo's low centre which sends the Blues into the knockout stages of this year's EFL Trophy.
The midfielder's first goal of the season was a vital one as the young Blues needed a win to secure qualification from Group F on the night.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Jamie Cumming; Henry Lawrence, Jack Wakely, Clinton Mola, Marcel Lavinier (Tino Livramento 83); George McEachran, Jon Russell; Tino Anjorin (Levi Colwill 73), Thierno Ballo, George Nunn (Armando Broja 90); Charlie Brown (c)Unused subs: Karlo Ziger, Xavier Simons, Marcel Lewis, Dynel SimeuScorer: Russell 90
Plymouth: Mike Cooper, Joe Riley, Gary Sawyer, Will Aimson, Scot Wooton, Antoni Sarcevic, Byron Moore, Billy Clarke (Joel Grant 63), Adam Randell, Callum McFadzean, George Cooper (Josh Grant 66)Unused subs: Niall Canavan, Alex Palmer, Mike Peck, Rubin Wilson, Zak RuddenBooked: Randell, Sarcevic
Referee: John BusbyAttendance: 1,725 (125)
- Last Saturday's postponed PL2 game against Everton will now take place on Friday 24 January at Southport FC, 7pm kick off.