Checkatrade Trophy report: Plymouth 2 Chelsea 2 (5-4 on pens)

Our development squad picked up a point in the Checkatrade Trophy at Home Park this evening (Tuesday) but were denied all three by a late fightback from League One Plymouth.

Joe Edwards’s side competed manfully throughout against their senior opposition and took their chances in the second half to open up a two-goal advantage. Callum Hudson-Odoi, the youngest player on the field at 16 years-old, bagged a brace after the interval, his maiden goals at the development squad age group.

However, the home side scored twice in the final few minutes through striker Alex Fletcher and then won the bonus penalty shootout to gain an additional group point.

Edwards made three changes from the 0-0 draw that opened our PL2 campaign away at Manchester City last week as Cole Dasilva, Luke McCormick and Martell Taylor-Crossdale came into our all-teenage side.

Taylor-Crossdale led the line up front supported by Dujon Sterling, Isaac Christie-Davies and Hudson-Odoi, while McCormick anchored in midfield alongside skipper Ruben Sammut. Dasilva lined up at left-back, the same position his on-loan older brother Jay had played against the Pilgrims three days previously for Charlton, while Reece James, Joseph Colley and Ethan Ampadu comprised the remainder of the back four in front of keeper Jamie Cumming.

Plymouth, runners-up in League Two last season, started with an average age just over 25 years-old but the visitors settled quickly and confidently on the ball in the early stages. Sammut denied Ruben Lameiras with a good block on the edge of the box while Ampadu headed clear Lionel Ainsworth’s set-piece delivery from the right as Edwards’s side defended well from the start.

They threatened themselves as Christie-Davies swung in a cross towards Sterling at the far post but left-back Aaron Taylor-Sinclair did well to head clear under pressure. Operating in an altered 4-2-3-1 system, Edwards’s side pressed intently from the front and were able to cut the Plymouth supply line high up the field.

The predominant threat from the hosts was the aerial delivery into the 18-yard box and Ainsworth might have done better with a header at the back post that dropped wide before Colley headed clear a centre stood up into the middle by Gregg Wylde.

Down the other end, our endeavours were providing some encouraging signs. Hudson-Odoi’s deflected free-kick ricocheted behind but Swedish defender Colley could not test Robbert te Loeke in the Plymouth goal with his strike from McCormick’s low corner.

James twice threatened with inviting crosses from the right, the latter a low delivery that was cleared behind by the well-positioned Yann Songo’o before the Pilgrims had the best opportunities of the half to open the scoring. Their advance down the right paid dividends and Cumming made a smart stop to thwart Fletcher before Lameiras hit the post with the rebound.

Loose play at the back almost handed the Blues an early opportunity after the restart but the ball just spun away from the hopeful McCormick before Plymouth enjoyed a strong spell. Lameiras’s pass for Ainsworth was taken with an excellent first touch by the forward but his low shot was drilled straight at Cumming before Songo’o headed narrowly over.

However, the defender was guilty of sloppy play in defence in the build-up to the game’s opening goal after 62 minutes. He stumbled in possession and allowed Hudson-Odoi, recently deployed as the central striker following Taylor-Crossdale’s withdrawal, the opportunity to advance towards goal. The 16-year-old’s eyes widened as he bore down on goal and he kept his composure to finish beyond the goalkeeper for his first goal at this age group.

The visitors were buoyed by the advantage and Hudson-Odoi skipped away from a challenge before teeing up Christie-Davies, whose effort was blocked. The youngest player on the field then had another great chance, again aided by slack Plymouth play in possession, and rounded the keeper before placing his left-footed shot over the crossbar with the goal gaping.

Yet the England Under-17 international did not ponder on that missed chance for long. Substitute Jacob Maddox was shoved to the ground and Hudson-Odoi stepped up to curl a precise free-kick into the bottom corner in front of the celebrating Chelsea supporters.

It looked for a long period like the advantage would earn us our first three points in the competition but Plymouth striker Fletcher had other ideas. He halved the lead two minutes before the end of regulation time with a close-range finish, latching on to the loose ball after Cumming had palmed away a shot across goal by Lameiras.

With the pressure cranked up a notch and the decibel levels rising, Fletcher struck again in stoppage time with a well-hit volley on the spin that flew past Cumming and ensured the contest would end in a penalty shootout for an additional group point. McCormick, Muheim, Christie-Davies and Colley all converted but Maddox’s effort struck the base of the post and bounced away as the hosts claimed a 5-4 shootout win and two group points.


Chelsea: Jamie Cumming; Reece James, Joseph Colley, Ethan Ampadu, Cole Dasilva (Juan Castillo 74); Ruben Sammut (c), Luke McCormick; Dujon Sterling, Isaac Christie-Davies, Callum Hudson-Odoi (Miro Muheim 90); Martell Taylor-Crossdale (Jacob Maddox 59)
Unused subs Marcin Bulka, Ali Suljic, Jacob Maddox, Richard Nartey
Scorer Hudson-Odoi 62, 75
Booked Sterling, Ampadu

Plymouth Argyle: Robbert te Loeke; Gary Miller, Yann Songo’o, Jakub Sokolik, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair; Antoni Sarcevic (c) (David Fox h/t), Ruben Lameiras (Nathan Blissett 90), Jamie Ness (Graham Carey 61); Lionel Ainsworth, Alex Fletcher, Gregg Wylde
Unused subs Luke McCormick, Gary Sawyer, Graham Carey, Sonny Bradley, Joel Grant
Scorer Fletcher 88, 90+1
Booked Songo’o

Referee Brett Huxtable
Crowd 3962

DEVELOPMENT SQUAD HIGHLIGHTS: Plymouth (A) Checkatrade Trophy

Highlights 16/08/2017