Our youth team bounced back in style from two straight defeats with a comprehensive shooting down of the Saints at Cobham.
Goals from the Under-18s’ two leading scorers, Donnell McNeilly and Leo Castledine, gave us a 2-1 half-time lead. After McNeilly had headed home, Southampton equalised before the break but there was still time for captain Castledine to net his 11th Under-18s goal of the season from the penalty spot.
A rapid start to the second half by Chelsea all but sealed the win, with Michael Golding making it 3-1 with a lovely finish and McNeilly scoring his second of the game and 13th of the season.
A largely solid display by our defence kept the Saints mostly at bay but after their centre-forward Josh Pitts had scored their second late on, Hassan Sulaiman’s side retaliated when substitute Louis Flower completed the scoring. It came from one of three assists by Ato Ampah.
Late action in first half
Luke Campbell, a late change in the Chelsea goal after Ted Curd was injured in the warm-up, made the first save of the game as Southampton started brightly, but the Blues grew into the game.
Ampah, impressive throughout, used his pace on the right before sending the ball across the Saints goal with menace, but no team-mate was in position to make it count. Somto Boniface, forward from full-back, did similar from the other flank on a couple of occasions but there was relief when Southampton’s Barnaby Williams flashed a ball across the face of our goal and on its way to safety. We reached the midway point of the first half goalless.
Golding tried his luck from distance but the shot floated into the hands of the Saints’ keeper Aldi Mohamed, before Chelsea’s most direct move yet resulted in McNeilly drawing a save from him at the near post.
The wait for the top scorer at this level to break the deadlock was not much longer. The Blues won a corner with a slick attack and when Ampah delivered it into the middle, McNeilly headed firmly home.
Southampton threatened when Nick Oyekunle dribbled through our defence but he ran out of pitch before he could test Campbell.
Then began an action-packed close to the first period. It looked like the young Blues would go into the changing room with the scores level, after conceding with a minute left on the clock when the Saints found space in our box. Alfie Prescott chipped the ball up for Pitts to score with his head.
However Chelsea went straight up the other end and McNeilly was fouled for a penalty. Castledine dispatched it high into the net for a 2-1 half-time lead, his third successful spot-kick of the season.
Ronnie Stutter forced a save right at the beginning of the second half as Chelsea looked to extend the advantage quickly, and we did so five minutes in. Ampah was involved again, twisting into space and finding Golding in the centre but the midfielder still had a lot to do. He turned and lifted his shot past Mohamed for an impressive Chelsea third.
An Ampah shot was deflected over as the Blues looked for more. A sweet Castledine strike was then tipped onto the bar by the Saints goalie.
The fourth goal came from a free-kick with an hour played, delivered by Golding and glanced in off the post by the head of McNeilly.
Stutter was unfortunately not to score from three chances and with five minutes to go, Pitts reduced the deficit with his second of the game, a crisp near-post shot that found the bottom corner.
However it was not long before the three-goal advantage was restored. Flower, who had come on 12 minutes earlier, headed down and in from an Ampah cross.
Chelsea Luke Campbell; Brodi Hughes, Billy Gee (Kaiden Wilson 70), Harrison Murray-Campbell, Somto Boniface; Michael Golding (Silcott-Duberry 76), Harrison McMahon; Ato Ampah, Leo Castledine (c), Ronnie Stutter (Louis Flower 76); Donnell McNeilly (Tudor Mendel-Idowu 76)
Unused sub Kai Crampton
Scorers McNeilly 32, 61, Castledine 45+2, Golding 51, Flower 88
Southampton: Adli Mohamed; Alfie Prescott (Harry Watts 74), Tommy Dobson-Ventura, Tyler Edmondson, Josh Lett (c); Barnaby Williams, Harrison Miles (Harry Gathercote 76), Joe Andrews (Ethan Hartness 58), Korban McMullen; Nick Oyekunle, Josh Pitts.
Unused sub Josh Jeffries
Scorer Pitts 45, 86
Booked Letts 82