PL2 reaction: Shutout satisfaction
news Mon 12 Mar 2018
Joe Edwards felt his side were worthy winners at West Ham as our development squad continued their fine recent form by collecting a fourth victory from their past five league games, rising two places in the table in the process.
Harvey St Clair’s early goal settled a competitive London derby at Dagenham, a contest in which the young Blues were forced to adapt in order to excel. A pitch showing all the signs of the recent adverse weather meant flowing football was off the Sunday lunchtime menu but Edwards was pleased with how his young charges retained an attacking threat while defending with purpose.
‘It was a game between two teams that like to play football but that was difficult to do on such a poor pitch,’ the manager told the official Chelsea website. ‘We still tried it but we also had to be a bit more direct in attack, as did West Ham, which made it quite an open game with a lot of chances.
‘I felt we always looked the more dangerous team, particularly with the chances we had in the first half. Luke McCormick got down the side of them and could have squared it to Martell Taylor-Crossdale for a tap-in, while Joseph Colley hit the bar, before Harvey St Clair got one chance from their goal-kick which he missed with his left foot.
‘Fortunately, he gets a second identical attempt at it straight away and he did well to score because a lot of people’s confidence might be knocked after the first miss. He could have played it safe and just passed it on to a teammate but he believed in himself and was clinical with his finish.’
The Blues were unable to take the opportunity to extend their advantage, resulting in a tense conclusion, though Edwards was pleased with how his side demonstrated their defensive improvement to secure a third successive PL2 win, all accompanied by clean sheets.
‘The second half for us was all about game management,’ he continued, ‘getting the balance right between wanting to control the game through possession and understanding that sometimes you make it more difficult for yourselves by playing in dangerous areas on a surface like that. We had to play a bit more direct down the sides and Martell put in a great shift even though he didn’t have a lot of great quality service.
‘They have very quick attacking players and caused us problems but we did what we could defensively and defended the box well again. There were a couple of scary moments late on as they threw everything forward but you could see a lot of the work we’ve done over the last couple of months bearing fruit.’
The three points took our development team closer to the top of the table than the bottom as the pressure of a survival scrap was relieved. The bottom two teams at the end of the Division One campaign are relegated and the young Blues have had to deal with that threat throughout the season, though another victory was the perfect tonic to moving us further away from danger.
‘There was a stage in the season when we were looking at the league table and feeling a bit of pressure, wondering if we were going to get sucked into a relegation battle,’ Edwards admitted. ‘Our boys are used to playing with the pressure of winning games at the top-end of leagues or semi-finals and finals but it’s a different sort of pressure to pick up points.
‘That’s now three clean sheets in a row which is particularly pleasing during such a disjointed period of the season where we haven’t played for a while and have not had much rhythm going into this game. There were times when it was far from pretty but we did the basics well and that’s something I feel we’ve learned from the Checkatrade Trophy this season. The boys really dug in and thoroughly deserved the three points.’
Those eligible from the development squad will now travel to Spain this week for a UEFA Youth League quarter-final against Real Madrid. That takes place at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, kick-off 3pm UK time and live on BT Sport 3.