The last game at Cobham for Chelsea’s Under-18s may have had an end-of-season feel to it, but it was nonetheless a great opportunity to right some recent wrongs and impress against the unfortunate yet hapless MK Dons. The Dons have just one win all season, and on the back of their heavy defeat Saturday morning, it was clear to see why.
Dermott Drummy’s team selection mixed experience with the very young once more, choosing a solid midfield pairing of Conor Clifford and Daniel Philliskirk, flanked by new signing Gokhan Tore and schoolboy Milan Lalkovic. The subs bench featured three more schoolboys, and indeed, soon-to-be scholars.
MK signalled their intentions early, making sure their defensive clearances found touch. Not just touch though, they were encouraged to clear the ball as far as possible in order to both waste time and regroup. Chelsea had enough footballs to make it a pointless gesture though, and soon set about looking for the breakthrough. Gokhan was lively, looking good in the build-up of play before falling over at the crucial moment on more than one occasion.
To be fair to the young Turk though, he wasn’t the only one. Heavy overnight rain had made a pitch already long in places soggy, and hard to keep your feet on. Many players were slipping over, desperate for the bright morning sun to dry the pitch out further. Sam Walker was a veritable spectator in the Chelsea goal as the Blues poured forwards, often through Rohan Ince’s long balls out to Lalkovic, which were hit and miss.
Midway through the first half Adam Phillip collected the ball on the edge of the box, turned, and fired a low shot which skidded along the turf before crashing into the goalpost with the goalkeeper beaten. It signalled an increased intent however, and the opening goal didn’t take long in coming. Sala showed some nice footwork down the left inside the box, before putting a ball into the middle for Philliskirk to tap in from close range.
Gokhan so very nearly made it two before the break, sending a flying header from Clifford’s corner towards the far post which, unfortunately for him, was cleared on the line at the far post. For all their dominance – and it was dominance as MK simply didn’t do anything of note in attack – Chelsea only had a one goal lead. Half time saw a trade in Cliffords, as Billy replaced Conor (they are of no relation), and a faster pace to start the second half.
The newer, younger Clifford struggled initially, perhaps rather slow in his decision making, whilst behind him Ince ruined many a potential move with wasteful long passes to nobody in particular. However, both improved as the half went on, and the faster movement of the ball was aided further by the introduction of James Ashton after an hour for only his second academy appearance. He too will be a scholar this summer, and is an incredibly gifted user of a ball.
Impressing most on this particular day however was Gokhan Tore. His bullish yet finesse-based dribbling opened many a door against the tiring Dons, and he created the second goal which put the game to bed with twenty minutes to go. He fizzed a shot in low which was parried by the MK goalie, but not held. Phillip pounced and poked the ball home.
It broke the spirit of a team who had nothing to play for and were nearing the end of a painful season. Space opened up for Chelsea, and Lalkovic’s enthusiasm carried them forwards in waves time and again. Sala left the game with painful cramp, and was replaced by Kaby, who had a minimal impact on the game.
Lalkovic’s energy knew no bounds though, and he nearly created a third with great pace and skill, but the first shot was cleared and Philliskirk’s rebound smashed off the crossbar before the whistle blew the game dead for handball. The third goal would come though, as a shot from Gokhan was saved but left a rebound for Lalkovic to slam home off the legs of a despairing defender.
A stoppage time counter attack made it 4-0 with another tap-in for Lalkovic, laid on by Phillip, to seal a comprehensive and deserved win. The clean sheet was deserved, despite a late calamity allowing the Dons to hit the post, but Walker has been impressive of late and will be buoyed by a good game in front of him from Tom Hayden. Schoolboys Ince, Ashton, Billy Clifford and Lalkovic were good and showed promise for next year’s team, which will be built around them, but the star on the day was Gokhan Tore. After an iffy start he came into his own and was a regular threat until the final whistle, looking something like the signing he was meant to be.
Team: Walker, Ahmed (Ashton 60), Hayden, Ince, Gordon, C.Clifford (B.Clifford 45), Philliskirk ©, Sala (Kaby 75), Gokhan, Lalkovic, Phillip
Goals: Philliskirk 26, Phillip 70, Lalkovic 83, 90