Joe Haigh’s second-half free-kick wasn’t enough to mount a comeback as our Under-18s fell to a derby day defeat on Wednesday morning.

It wasn’t too long ago we were at Arsenal’s training centre for our first meeting this season. A good start that day saw Jude Soonsup-Bell open the scoring just after the first quarter but the hosts soon turned the game on its head. Their first goal came five minutes after ours and then the winner for Arsenal came just after the restart.

If the Blues were to avenge the last result they have leapfrogged both north London sides and move into fourth place depending on results elsewhere.

We got off to a decent start this morning but after an early Josh Tobin goal was ruled out for offside things soon took a turn for the worse. Arsenal found two goals in similar circumstances before half time and we were left with a hill to climb.

In the second-half things looked much better but there was still little opportunity for a way back into the game. With that being the case Joe Haigh took it upon himself to win, take and score 20-yard free-kick 21 minutes from time. Haigh’s goal was the only success we had and the game ended in defeat. We drop to seventh place on 36 points.

Starting XI

The penultimate game of our Under-18 season saw Ed Brand name a changed team for Wednesday’s clash. Luke Badley-Morgan returned to the starting team in defence, as did Derrick Abu. In midfield Jimi Tauriainen, Josh Tobin, and Edwin Andersson were all given places from the first whistle as was latest recruit Jayden Wareham.

False start

Bright conditions welcomed the teams to the Cobham Match Pitch although a rain cloud lurked in the distance. A quiet opening quarter gave us the chance to sus out our opponents who arrived full of confidence after a couple of positive results.

With the first meaningful attack of the game Chelsea had the ball in the back of the net. Charlie Webster’s excellent delivery was met by the head of Josh Tobin and the midfielder wheeled away in celebration, but they were cut short as the official on the far side had his flag raised for offside.

Half-time advantage Reds

Inside the 16th minute the rain began to fall and Arsenal added to our misery by opening the scoring. Miguel Azeez danced his way through the middle of the pitch and tucked the ball away beyond Curd for 0-1.

We tried to force a response a little later. Derrick Abu found himself in an advanced position and struck well from the edge of the box. The shot looked goal bound but for a Remy Mitchell save low to his left, and that opportunity almost came back to bite us as Kido Taylor-Hart fired against the post moments later.

As half time approached Arsenal were certainly the happier of the two sides and they doubled their lead in the just before the whistle. Jack Henry-Francis played a neat one-two with his team-mate and applied the finishing touches from close range to send us in behind at the break.

Glimmer of hope

Both sides returned to the pitch unchanged and there was also little difference to the game’s theme as Arsenal enjoyed possession in the final third.

Jayden Wareham saw a headed chance pass by but other than that there was little to report from a Chelsea perspective until the 69th minute.

Haigh had been quiet up until that point but a charging run forward yielded a free-kick in a dangerous position. The 18-year-old stepped up himself to take it and excellently found the top corner with a stunning strike.

No time for an equaliser

The goal gave us a spark and chances followed. The best two came late in the game when Webster connected well with a cross from the right but a deflection saw it loop over the target and it was a similar story when Haigh connected with Jude Soonsup-Bell’s centre.

We continued to search for a way through but found no success. The full-time whistle blew with the scores 1-2 to Arsenal on the penultimate match day of the season.

What’s next?

Our Under-18 season concludes on Saturday morning against neighbours Fulham. Kick-off at Cobham is 11am.

Chelsea Ted Curd; Josh Brooking, Charlie Wiggett (c), Luke Badley-Morgan, Derrick Abu; Josh Tobin (Bashir Humphreys 60), Charlie Webster; Joe Haigh, Jimi Tauriainen (Jude Sonsup-Bell 75), Edwin Andersson (Dion Rankine 60); Jayden WarehamUnused subs Sami Tlemcani, Alfie GilchristBooked Webster 46Scorer Haigh 69

Arsenal Remy Mitchell, Daniel Oyegoke, Mazeed Ogungbo, Alex Virk (c), Zane Monlouis, Jack Henry-Francis, Joel Ideho (Amani Richards 71), Miguel Azeez, Nathan Butler-Oyedeji (Zach Awe 87), Marcello Flores, Kido Taylor-HartUnused subs Alex Kovacevic, Henry Jeffcott, Charles Jr SagoeBooked Azeez 66Scorer Azeez 16; Henry-Francis 43

Jayden Wareham and Declan Frith have both signed professional contracts with Chelsea having successfully trialled with our Academy over the last two months. Wareham is a 17-year-old forward who most recently played for Woking football club in the National League. Frith is a versatile defender who operates mainly on the left. The 19-year-old was last with Welling United.

Elsewhere in the Academy Marcel Lewis has departed the club upon the expiration of his contract. Lewis spent six years with us having joined from Cambridge United’s Academy in 2015. He joins Royale Union Saint-Gilloise in Belgium. We wish Marcel all the best for the future.