A spirited Chelsea display wasn't enough to progress through to the Round of 16 in the Leasing.com Trophy as we succumbed to a narrow defeat at League Two Walsall.
A near perfect first half display saw Tariq Lamptey have us two goal ahead at the break - his brace inside the first ten minutes complimented the performance as Chelsea looked in control.
However Walsall found a way back into the game by means of a penalty kick following the restart, it gave the hosts the glimmer of hope they needed to start their comeback.
Wes McDonald fired fiercely into the net for the leveller before Dan Scarr took aim from distance and book his teams place in the last 16 of the competition.
Development head coach Andy Myers named a changed side for this knockout stage, captain Marc Guehi was in the heart of defence and Billy Gilmour just in front of him. Meanwhile, goal scorer from the last round Jon Russell, took a place on the bench.
Conditions in the Midlands were very chilly but perfect for a game of football and the Blues got off to a red hot start.
Marc Guehi spotted the run of defensive partner Lamptey from the back, the full-back's pace got the him to the ball before Liam Roberts allowing the England youth international to slot home into an empty net. 1-0 Chelsea.
It got better for the Blues seven minutes later and even better for Lamptey who notched his second of the evening. Tino Anjorin’s acute pass found the defender out wide in the box – he took a touch and then fired into the roof of the net leaving Roberts without a chance.
Charlie Brown looked to get in on the scoring act within the first quarter but his curling effort whistled inches wide of the post following another Anjorin pass. It was a ruthless start by Myers’s men who looked comfortable in all areas.
Walsall’s first meaningful attempt on goal came after 25 minutes of play, Caolan Lavery took aim at goal from 18-yards but Jamie Cumming made the save look comfortable.
The hosts were beginning to get hold of the ball in threatening positions towards the end of the half, Lavery’s cross dropped to Shay Facey on the edge of the box but he was off balance at the point of connection - again, allowing Cumming to easily gather the danger.
The home side needed a route back into the game and almost found one when Cumming was called into action to deny a swerving shot from Rory Holden. It was a bright start to the second-half.
Walsall were given the opportunity to reduce the deficit from the spot when a cross from the right struck the hand of Ian Maatsen – Cumming got a hand to Lavery’s kick but it wasn’t enough to keep the ball out. A blow soon after the restart for the Blues.
After a quieter period the locals were celebrating a second of the evening, however the cheers were cut short as referee Brett Huxtable deemed Rory Gaffney to have committed a found prior to converting a cross at the far post. We were heading into an interesting final 15 minutes.
In the midst of all the action we lost our goal scorer, Lamptey, through an injury sustained while defending his net – Jon Russell was his replacement.
That second goal did come moments later however, this time trickery from Wes McDonald gave the winger the yard of space he needed to fire on target using the far post as an aid.
Seven additional minutes were signalled by the official and the game looked to be heading to penalties to decided which team progressed further – but Dan Scarr riffled a shot into the bottom corner from distance to snatch a place in the Round of 16 from Chelsea’s grasp.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Jamie Cumming; Tariq Lamptey (Jon Russell 76), Marc Guehi (c), Clinton Mola, Ian Maatsen; Billy Gilmour, George McEachran (Jack Wakely HT); Thierno Ballo, Tino Anjorin (Armando Broja 82), Henry Lawrence; Charlie Brown
Unused subs Nicolas Tie, Marcel Lavinier, George Nunn
Scorer Lamptey (3 & 10)
Booked Guehi 90
Walsall Liam Robets, James Clarke (c), Dan Scarr, Liam Kinsella, Caolan Lavery, Rory Holden (James Hardy 51), Danny Guthrie (Alfie Bates 58), Callum Cockerill-Mollett (Kory Roberts 10), Shay Facey, Wek McDonald, Rory Gaffney
Unused subs Jack Rose, Elijah Adebayo, Gary Liddle, Luke Pearce
Scorer Lavery 52, McDonald 78 Scarr 90+4
Referee Brett Huxtable