Chelsea's Under-18s found themselves on the right end of another seven-goal thriller in this afternoon's win over Norwich at Cobham.
It was another weekend which provided plenty of goals for our Under-18s, who battled until the end to grab all three points.
We were behind by two goals shortly after the opening 20 minutes and couldn't seem to find a way back into the game until Harvey Vale's strike on the stroke of half-time gave us something to fight for in the second half.
Despite a strong start, Norwich stretched their lead just after the restart and we were 3-1 down but we remained positive and began the fightback when Vale was on target again, this time from distance. With just one goal between us and a point there was nothing to lose. Jude Soonsup-Bell notched the first of his brace after 72 minutes and his second came three mintues from time which sealed all three points for Chelsea.
Shortly before the start of the game the heavens opened and added an extra yard of pace on to the Cobham Match Pitch, and Norwich used it to their advantage within the first five minutes. Abu Kamara was slipped through on goal with only Jake Askew to beat however he missed the target much to Chelsea’s delight as it was a chance he really should’ve made count.
Chelsea’s first chance of the afternoon came from a set-piece and although Alfie Gilchrist connected with the ball it dropped just the wrong side of the post in our first attempt to break the deadlock inside the first quarter.
After 16 minutes of play we were penalised for our willingness to defend with our bodies, the ball was adjudged to have hit Charlie Wiggett's hand during a sliding challenge and the referee harshly awarded Norwich a penalty kick which Tom Dickson-Peters converted.
Norwich double the lead
There was no time to dwell on falling behind though and we immediately looked for a way back into the game. Castledine’s through ball found the run of Silko Thomas whose cross dropped for Alex Kpakpe at the back post, but unfortunately his right-footed attempt was blocked before it could trouble Sam Blair’s net.
While we were in the hunt for a way back into the game, Norwich were plotting an attack of their own and it was one which proved fruitful. Neat build-up play down the right allowed for a low cross into the box which Oscar Thorn picked up and slotted away. 2-0 Norwich.
Kept at bay
Chelsea had finally found their flow after a frustrating opening 30 minutes and saw consecutive chances go agonisingly close to earning a way back into the game. First Castledine let fly from distance but the ball rolled inches wide of the Norwich net before Soonsup-Bell’s drive did the same.
Despite our best efforts we were kept at bay by a combination of missed chances and Norwich defending and shortly before the break our visitors went closest to being the next scorers. Dickson-Peters squeezed through the backline and found himself one-on-one with the keeper but luckily for Chelsea he squirmed the chance to secure his brace.
Chelsea were handed a first-half lifeline when a poor goal-kick gifted us possession in midfield. Vale had the ball and opted to try his luck from distance with his lesser favoured right foot and curled the ball perfectly into the bottom corner for his second goal in consecutive games. We were behind by just one at half time.
Despite being dealt an early blow by Norwich stretching their lead through forward Dickson-Peters, Chelsea responded to the goal in the best way possible. A half-cleared corner-kick left the ball bouncing in the air where Vale reacted first to head on target and over a grounded Blair. The young Blues had momentum on their side as the scores read 2-3.
Next was the chance of captain Bashir Humphreys and again it was from a corner-kick. Our centre-back was quickest to the front post to connect with the cross. His effort flew just over the target.
Brand opted for a double substitution just after an hour’s play. Humphreys and Kpakpe made way for Derrick Abu and schoolboy Brodi Hughes for his Under-18s debut.
The game opened up as we entered the final 20 minutes and Chelsea were in ascendance. Set-pieces had provided a decent chance every time we attacked and it gave us the goal we needed to get on level terms, and it was scored in style.
The ball in from Castledine’s corner was played short to Thomas who put the ball in the box where Norwich's partial clearance was met by Soonsup-Bell’s overhead-kick sparking jubilant scenes among the players who had earned their goal. It was 3-3 as the final quarter approached.
Chelsea had the win in their sails and Derrick Abu almost scored a wonder goal to give Chelsea the lead for the first time on the afternoon. The full-back found space on the right and saw his looping cross drop beneath the bar and off the inside of the far post, catching all in attendance by surprise. Blair was quick to grab the loose ball.
Finally in the lead
The game was turning out to be an incredible watch and Chelsea looked to have snatched the lead in the final moments and it was again from a corner-kick. Vale’s in-swinging ball was well met by the head of Soonsup-Bell who wrapped up an afternoon’s work with a fantastic brace which ultimately secured with win for Chelsea’s under-18s.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Jake Askew; Alfie Gilchrist (c), Charlie Wiggett, Bashir Humphreys (Derrick Abu 64); Silko Thomas, Leo Castledine, Josh Tobin (Ronnie Stutter ht), Alex Kpapke (Brodi Hughes 64); Harvey Vale, Lewis Hall; Jude Soonsup-bellUnused subs Max Merrick, Malik MothersilleBooked Vale 45Scorer Vale 45, 58; Soonsup-Bell 72, 87
Norwich Sam Blair, Eddie Jackson, Sean Stewart, Jaden Warner, Lewis Shipley, Nelson Khumbeni, Jon Rowe, Sayon Earley (c), Tom Dickson-Peters (Harry Brooke 64), Abu Kamara, Oscar Thorn (Harry Pitcher 54)Unused subs Zak Brown, Soloman Alidor-Hamilton, Ola OkeowoBooked Earley 86Scorer Dickson-Peters 16, 48; Thorn 22
Photography by Mark Sandom