Chelsea's Under-18s top their group going into the final round of fixtures following this afternoon's 3-2 victory over Wolves at Cobham.
The Blues came from behind to secure the points after a second-minute Wolves setback with James Clark forceing an own goal before Harvey Vale notched his first for the youth team just before the break.
Wolves drew level shortly before the hour mark but a resilient Chelsea found their deserved winner in stoppage time when Joe Haigh nodded home the decider from close range.
Ed Brand named five schoolboy players in his squad for this afternoon’s game - Charlie Webster, Sam Iling-Junior and Harvey Vale were in from the start while Luke Badley-Morgan and Derek Abu took seats on the substitutes’ bench.
The game got underway in the autumn Cobham sunshine but it was the worst possible start for the Blues as Wolves took the lead inside the opening two minutes. Theo Corbeanu’s teasing corner was prodded over the line by Kamran Kandola, who forced his way through a sea of Chelsea bodies to meet the ball.
Play settled following the opener and Chelsea’s first meaningful chance came from one of the youngsters after 20 minutes of action. Vale was slotted in behind the Wolves defence by Haigh but goalkeeper Jackson Smith was quick off his line to make the block.
The visitors’ creator for the opener almost notched one for himself as trickery on the right flank allowed Corbeanu to advance into the box and fire at goal but Lucas Bergstrom did well and stayed on his feet long enough to make the save.
This time it was Chelsea’s Vale who turned provider, his neat pass found the run of Clark in space and the resulting shot was turned beyond the rooted Smith by his own man, Jack Scott. The Blues were back in the game at 1-1.
That same combination proved fruitful six minutes later as Chelsea looked ruthless. Clark picked up possession in midfield and spotted Vale’s run through the lines, the forward then brilliantly beat the keeper at his near post from 12 yards to take the lead. 2-1 Chelsea at the interval.
There was one change at the break from Brand, Badley-Morgan replaced Jordan Aina in a like-for-like defensive swap.
Despite the first-half advantage, Wolves came out of the traps firing and found the net shortly before the hour mark. Pascal Estrada raced down the right and found Conor Carty in front of goal, his touch took the ball beyond Bergstrom for the leveller. All to play for at 2-2.
The final six minutes were end-to-end as each side searched for the decider. First Charlie Wiggett’s header dropped inches wide of the post before Bergstrom was called into action to deny substitute Jaden Forrester.
The eventual decider fell for Chelsea in the third minute of injury time, Joe Haigh nodding home from a yard out after Wiggett’s touch kept the ball alive inside the box. The goal was the last piece of action as the Blues took the win.
Victory leaves us on six points at the top of the Under-18 Premier League Cup table with one game against Arsenal remaining.
Chelsea: Lucas Bergstrom, Josh Brooking, Sam McClelland (c), Charlie Wiggett, Jordan Aina (Luke Badley-Morgan ht), Lewis Bate, James Clarke, Charlie Webster, Sam Iling Junior, Harvey Vale, Joe HaighUnused subs: Pierre Ekwah Elimby, Ethan Wady, Ben Elliott, Derek AbuBooked: Brooking 88Scorers: Scott (og) 29, Vale 35, Haigh 90
Wolves: Jackson Smith, Jack Scott, Pascal Estrada, Oliver Tipton, Kamran Kandola, Hugo Bueno, Theo Corbeanu (Jaden Forrester), Todd Parker (Erik Bugarin 86), Conor Carty, Jeb Abbey, Luke Cundle (c)Unused subs: Jack Hodnett, Lee McLoughlin, Tyler RobertsBooked: Carty 88Scorers: Kandola 2 Carty 58