PL2 report: West Ham United 0 Chelsea 1

Harvey St Clair’s early goal proved the difference at Dagenham as our development squad were winners on the road in Premier League 2.

The Blues travelled to east London for a Sunday lunchtime derby with West Ham and had to dig deep to secure all three points following an eventful and entertaining contest. St Clair’s strike after 19 minutes was the only goal of an open game in which the woodwork was hit three times as Joe Edwards’s side made it four PL2 wins from their past five games.

Over three weeks had passed since our last league outing, a comprehensive 4-0 victory at Manchester United in February, and there were seven changes from the starting line-up as we headed across the capital to take on the Hammers, who started the day two points and two places above the Blues.

Edwards retained the 4-2-3-1 that had worked so well in Manchester but rotated his starting options ahead of a busy week in which our Under-19s travel to Spain to take on Real Madrid in the UEFA Youth League. Martell Taylor-Crossdale returned to lead the line up front supported by a trio of attacking midfielders in the guise of Luke McCormick, Kyle Scott and St Clair.

Charlie Colkett made a first development squad start of the season following his injury-forced return from a spell on loan at Vitesse Arnhem and the 21-year-old started alongside skipper Ruben Sammut in central midfield. Only Richard Nartey kept his place in the back four alongside Dujon Sterling, Joseph Colley and Cole Dasilva, with Marcin Bulka chosen in goal.

The two sides played out a competitive 0-0 draw at Aldershot back in October and the opening to proceedings at Dagenham was similarly well-matched, with Bulka forced to spring off his line and smother at the feet of home captain Marcus Browne early on.

Edwards’s side slowly settled into the contest after 10 minutes and began to form an attacking threat in the final third. A recycled corner found its way to the retreating Colley 25 yards out and the defender moved into space before bending a brilliant effort towards the top corner that clipped the top of the crossbar.

Hammers keeper Nathan Trott was then required to keep the scores level as he dived low to his left to get a hand to McCormick’s drive following a neat back-heel from St Clair to tee up the midfielder. However, Trott was culpable for the game’s opening goal 20 minutes in after failing to heed the warning signs of moments earlier. A poor kick out fell straight to Scott and the recent first team debutant cushioned a perfect one-touch pass to play in St Clair, though a presentable sight at goal was wasted.

There was no such reprieve for the hosts direct from the following goal-kick as Trott fluffed his lines again, Scott pounced once more to supply St Clair and the forward found the back of the net with a powerful right-footed strike.

Terry Westley’s side had beaten league leaders Liverpool last time out and were determined to make a quick response to falling behind. Josh Pask did well to step forward into space from central defence and forced Bulka into making a smart save with a deflected effort before Grady Diangana and then Oladapo Afolayan sliced shots off-target when placed in promising positions.

Scott was proving to be chief creator for the visitors, picking up possession in advanced areas and using the ball intelligently. He turned supplier again after half hour, this time to slide in McCormick down the right, though the 19-year-old failed to test Trott from a narrowing angle.

Both sides continued to rely on their goalkeepers to make key saves as this open game swung from end to end.  Bulka gathered Diangana’s well-hit low effort to preserve our lead before Trott prevented his side falling further behind, first catching a shot from McCormick before clawing away a deep right-sided cross from Colkett.

The final opportunity of an entertaining first period was fashioned by the Hammers, who worked the ball down the right and into the feet of striker Afolayan, though his rising near-post drive was expertly parried behind by Bulka, whose excellent reactions helped him make the save up high.

It was a similar story after the restart, albeit clear-cut chances were less frequent as the visitors looked to hold on to three points that would take them up two places in the league standings. Browne continued to get the better of the chances for West Ham but failed to provide the finish that would draw his side level, shooting well wide after a mazy run across the 18-yard box before firing over after the hosts attacked from a quick turnover in midfield.

The Blues had the ball in the net for a second time after an hour as Taylor-Crossdale turned in McCormick’s ball from the right but the linesman’s flag ruled it out and ensured our advantage would remain at just one. Edwards soon made changes as he looked to protect the points, introducing Reece James and Jacob Maddox from the bench, and it wasn’t long before James threatened with one of his rampaging right-sided runs.

A clever switch of play saw the full-back accelerate into the penalty area and fire at goal, his drive kept out by Trott but the loose ball deflecting back towards goal off the defender Tunji Akinola. The ball looped up on to the bar and bounced back into the six-yard box, where it was punched to safety by the alert goalkeeper.

James then turned supplier from the right to find Taylor-Crossdale, who took one touch to set himself and then spun to shoot at goal, though the strike was a comfortable pace and height for the keeper to collect.

West Ham pushed forward in the final 15 minutes and created their best chance for Jahmal Hector-Ingram, the substitute, who squeezed a shot across the face of goal. It trickled and bobbled across the turf before clipping the outside of the far post and bouncing behind. An aerial onslaught followed as Browne fired into the side-netting from a deep cross before Diangana skewed the final chance wide.

It proved a decisive victory for Edwards’s side, their third in a row in Premier League 2 as they leapfrogged the Hammers into sixth. Most of the team will now travel to the Spanish capital in midweek after of their Under-19s quarter-final on Wednesday.


Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Marcin Bulka; Dujon Sterling (Reece James 63), Joseph Colley, Richard Nartey, Cole Dasilva; Ruben Sammut (c), Charlie Colkett; Luke McCormick, Kyle Scott (Josh Grant 86), Harvey St Clair (Jacob Maddox 63); Martell Taylor-Crossdale
Unused subs
Jamie Cumming, Juan Castillo
Scorer St Clair 19
Booked Colley 59

West Ham (4-2-3-1) Nathan Trott; Ben Johnson, Tunji Akinola, Josh Pask, Vashon Neufville; Conor Coventry, Domingos Quina (Joe Powell 87); Grady Diangana, Marcus Browne (c), Nathan Holland (Sead Haksabanovic 59); Oladapo Afolayan (Jahmal Hector-Ingram 55)
Unused subs
Rihards Matrevics, Ajibola Alese
Booked Browne 35; Johnson 54

Referee Chris O’Donnell


-Our upcoming PL2 trips to Arsenal and Derby County have been subject to fixture amendments. Edwards’s side will now take on the Gunners at the Colney Training Ground next Saturday 17 March, kick-off 12pm. That is followed by a visit to St George’s Park to face the Rams on Saturday 31 March, kick-off 1pm.