After a month without action, Chelsea’s youth team got back to action where they left off before Christmas, in the FA Youth Cup. Goals from Daniel Mills Pappoe, a Marko Mitrovic brace and Conor Clifford sealed the Blues’ place in the Fifth Round, where Portsmouth await in a home tie.
With last weekend’s league game against Ipswich snowed off, it meant almost a month between fixtures for the youngsters, who have additionally found it hard to train with most of the Cobham training ground under snow as well. The winter break had, however, afforded time for injuries to heal, and with the exception of Rohan Ince, who is out for a little longer with a long-term knee problem, Dermot Drummy had a full squad to choose from. He made one changed from the Third Round winning team at Charlton, bringing in Kaby for Milan Lalkovic to adopt a slightly more solidified approach in midfield.
The visitors started well on a cold night in the East Midlands at the City Ground and it was Jacopo Sala, who was impressive in the previous round, who had the first chance of the game, shooting wide after just three minutes. They didn’t have to wait long to celebrate their opening goal though, netting after just eight minutes of action. Giant schoolboy defender Daniel Mills Pappoe rose to head home from a corner to notch his second goal of the season, and get 2010 off to a fine start. The goal was to signal a first half of Chelsea attacking, often led by Gokhan Tore. The Turkish Under-21 international was causing no end of problems with his trickery out wide, and was delivering a near-endless supply of beautiful crosses which were begging for a finish which didn’t arrive.
The first half opened up slightly as the game drew towards half-time but after soaking up so much pressure, it took a little time for Forest to really begin asserting themselves on proceedings. They forced Sam Walker into his first save of note five minutes before half time but it had very much been Chelsea’s half with six corners and the major territorial advantage. Still, the lead was only one, and Drummy’s half-time team talk will have doubtlessly involved getting a second goal quickly after the restart to offer breathing space.
They didn’t get it immediately, but it wasn’t for the want of trying. Billy Knott replaced Jeffrey Bruma, who was suffering from a slight knock, meaning Aziz Deen-Conteh moving inside to centre-back and Knott to play his brand of attacking play from left-back. Gokhan continued to make the Forest defenders’ lives a misery with another peach of a cross which Mitrovic could only slide wide. Captain Conor Clifford then drew a good save from Mystides in the home goal with a chipped effort before receiving treatment from an injury picked up in the incident. The Irishman was quickly up on his feet and able to resume.
Forest genuinely had no answer to their opponents, and it was just a matter of when and not if the second would arrive. McEachran went close after being gifted a chance from a poor backpass, and then substitute Milan Lalkovic almost made an immediate impact, setting off on a mazy run with an effort crashing back off the bar just minutes after he came on for McEachran. A rare bright spot for the hosts was the play of Tom Mullen, who began to look impressive when moved out to the left wing to try and get him involved a bit more.
Sala went close twice more and Knott forced another good save from Mystides as the Tricky Trees did all they could to keep Chelsea at bay and in turn keep themselves in with a chance of forcing an equaliser, and as if to show that they had that in them, they went as close as they did all night on 69 minutes with a header which forced Walker into a good save. It was a quiet night for the giant stopper but nonetheless impressive that he was able to keep focus and make his stops when he had to.
With fifteen minutes to go and after three more spurned chances, Chelsea finally sealed their place in Round Five. The imperious Gokhan delivered yet another cross begging to be converted, and Mitrovic finally found space to slot into the back of the net. It broke the hosts’ resistance, and five minutes later Chelsea had put the icing on the cake in some style. Gokhan was felled 25 yards out and instead of taking the free kick himself, it was Conor Clifford who stepped up and rifled home to add another spectacular effort to his collection and truly seal the deal.
They didn’t finish there though, and found time to add a fourth as the match ticked into stoppage time. Lalkovic went down the right, put over a cross and Mitrovic was on hand to head past Mystides and add the cherry on top for his 9th of the season. The referee called time on the onslaught and the young Blues will be vastly warmed by their superb performance, and the prospect of a home tie for the first time in 16 months against Portsmouth, who they have beaten 3-2 in League action already this year. The team’s attempt to go one better than their losing finalists berth in 2008 is well and truly running.
Team: Walker, B.Clifford, Mills Pappoe, Bruma (Knott 45), Deen-Conteh, Kaby, McEachran (Lalkovic 57), C.Clifford (c), Sala, Gokhan Tore, Mitrovic
Goals: Mills Pappoe ‘8, Mitrovic ’76, ’90, C.Clifford ’82