Since being moved to left-back, England Under-17 international Billy Knott has re-found his goalscoring form. After missing three-quarters of a year with a cruciate ligament injury, he has ironically found goalscoring form since being moved to left back to aid his defensive development. The most recent of the goals came Saturday, as Dermot Drummy’s boys took a credible 2-2 draw against an impressive Ipswich Town team.
Having had a week off, everyone was keen to get going again away to a team who have a good record of academy production and indeed, one which had beaten Arsenal recently. Aldi Haxhia started in goal with Sam Walker absent with a broken foot, and Tom Hayden came in at centre-back for Danny Mills. A diamond midfield saw George Saville anchor behind Billy Clifford and Anton Rodgers, with Kaby captaining the team behind Bobby Devyne and top goalscorer Marko Mitrovic. The hosts started better, with Haxhia forced into two early saves, but they fell behind to the first of two sublime Chelsea goals. A free kick just outside the penalty area was duly dispatched by specialist Rodgers, who left goalkeeper Ian McLoughlin with no chance to score his first of the season.
Rodgers was making just his second start of the season and appeared to be keen to make up for lost time. He followed his strike with a perfect through ball to Devyne, who drew a save but will really regret not having made more of his chance. Kaby kept the pressure up with a chance which fell to his weaker foot and therefore flew over the crossbar, whilst Rodgers couldn’t repeat his earlier feats with another free kick. A high-tempo and all-action first half began to see some tough and tenacious tackling from both sides, and it was from a foul that Ipswich would level. Billy Clifford was booked for his misdemeanour, and the resulting free-kick found Ronan Murray, who headed into the path of David Cawley, who beat Haxhia from close range, although the goalkeeper will be disappointed at getting hands to the effort and not keeping it out.
A shuffle of the pack from Drummy saw the second half start with Rodgers replaced by Aziz Deen-Conteh, who moved to left-back whilst Knott moved up into midfield. The flow of the game continued at a high pace and tempo, and just short of ten minutes into the second period Ipswich took the lead. Devyne lost the ball to Caolan Lavery, who took off on a mazy run towards the penalty area. A combination of Hayden and Saville interrupted his attempt but he was able to react to the deflection quicker than any Chelsea player and expertly finished to leave Haxhia with no chance. It was almost 3-1 instantly following Lavery’s goal, but Kaby was alert on the line to clear Josh Meekings’ effort.
As Chelsea pushed to find a way back into the game, James Ashton made his return from injury to add some creativity to the midfield. Devyne and Mitrovic had chances which were spurned, but it was left to Knott to score his third goal of the season contender with just three minutes left on the clock. A ball from the middle of the pitch found Mitrovic, who spun it expertly wide to Knott on the left. The Essex-born winger collected himself and unleashed an unstoppable effort which hummed into the top corner to seal a deserved share of the points.
With the team missing key contributors so far this season in Walker, Mills, McEachran and Prosenik, it was an impressive performance from a young, mainly first-year selection. The team continues to work hard and fight for every result and are seeing tangible results both on the pitch and in the standings. A positive result, most certainly.
Team: Haxhia, Sampayo, Hayden, Strickland, Knott, Saville, Rodgers (Deen-Conteh 45), B.Clifford (Ashton 75), Kaby, Mitrovic, Devyne
Goals: Rodgers ’10, Knott ’87