It was three points for our Under-18s after victory over Southampton at Cobham on Saturday morning.
The two goals and three points were thanks to Dynel Simeu and Thierno Ballo. Simeu struck first, connecting with the ball in the box to make our dominance pay.
We didn't look under threat for the majority of the game and Southampton's passing policy was their own downfall as Ballo doubled our lead and secured the win to keep us within toucing distance of first-placed Fulham.
Ed Brand’s Under-18s were back in league action and there were some changes to the team. Tino Livramento was drafted into a wing-back position, while Xavier Simons was back in his usual midfield role alongside youth team regular Lewis Bate.
There was also a change in attack as Ballo, Myles Peart-Harris and Marcel Lewis were selected as the trio to lead the line.
Schoolboys Harvey Vale and Charlie Webster were named among the substitutes, having both been involved in the Premier League Cup win in Newcastle last weekend.
Perfect conditions meant a perfect start for Chelsea, who sprung out of the blocks with great hunger. Livramento was lively on the right but it was Charlie Wiggett’s cross which caused early problems. He found Dion Rankine at the back post and his volley struck the underside of the woodwork, Peart-Harris trying to turn in the rebound but heading over the target. This was all within the first minute of the game.
The remainder of the opening quarter was much different though and, despite being in control of possession, there weren’t many chances to report on. Lewis had our only opportunity worthy of a mention and it came from Peart-Harris’ nonchalant cross as Lewis beat his man to the ball and poked at goal but Matt Hall was equal to the attempt.
The attacking combination of Peart-Harris and Lewis was causing Southampton problems and we almost took the lead in a reverse move. This time, Lewis was the provider for Peart-Harris, who rounded the keeper and had just the net to find. His attempt looked sure to be a goal but for good defending from visiting captain Pascal Kpohomouh, who made a last-ditch sliding tackle to clear his lines.
It took us 29 minutes to find the net but it came in stylish fashion, albeit from an unlikely source in Simeu. Bate kept our attack alive when an initial corner-kick was cleared, a lovely side-footed strike back into the area caught the run of Simeu who got to the ball before Hall and nodded home. We took that single-goal lead into the break.
Bate continued to see plenty of the ball in midfield throughout the game and in our first attack of the second half, it was his threaded through-ball which found Rankine in space on the left. The number seven took a touch and tried to pick out the far corner but watched the shot whistle beyond the post.
Eleven minutes after the restart, we doubled our lead and it was through Ballo who had worked hard leading the line all morning. The Austria youth international began the move with an excellent sliding tackle to regain possession and, in doing so found his partner Lewis, whose placed shot was parried back into the danger area by Hall and finished calmly by Ballo to end the move he started. Great work, 2-0 Blues.
Vale and Webster took the places of Rankine and Peart-Harris after an hour, both similar swaps of personnel for Brand’s team. The duo had chances to score soon after their introductions as Vale headed wide from Simons’ free-kick before Webster had a volley held by Hall.
The final quarter approached and, as expected, Southampton upped their search for a way back into the game. However, it was to no avail and Chelsea continued to look a more threatening side. Webster skipped over challenges on the edge of the box and fired at goal, unlucky not to hit the target having looked full of energy after entering the field.
George Nunn was our last substitute, replacing Bate with 10 minutes remaining. In that time, Chelsea saw the game out professionally and never looked like conceding. The three points were safe at Cobham.
Brand’s team are next in action on Monday 10 February when the FA Youth Cup returns. Wolves are the visitors to Aldershot and you can support the boys from as little as £3 for adults and £1 for concessions. The game will also be live on the 5th Stand app.
Chelsea (3-4-3) Jake Askew; Charlie Wiggett, Sam McClelland (C), Dynel Simeu; Tino Livramento, Lewis Bate (George Nunn 80), Xavier Simons, Dion Rankine (Harvey Vale 59), Thierno Ballo, Myles Peart-Harris (Charlie Webster 59), Marcel LewisUnused subs Bashir Humphreys, Ethan WadyBooked Bate 23, Livramento 45+1Scorers Simeu 29, Ballo 56
Southampton Matt Hall, Louis Payne (Kya Tshaka 80), Sam Bailey, Callum Watts, Pascal Kpohomouh (c), Will Tizzard, Jaden Smith (Harvey Woods 61), Jack Turner (Mikey Saunders 44), Ramello Mitchell, Lucas Defise, Marco RusUnused subs Olly Wright, Issy Kaba
- Pics by Mark Sandom