Chelsea’s Reserves returned from a pre-season friendly in Germany to the rather less glamourous surroundings of Aldershot’s Recreation Ground, a former home of the Blues’ second string. A strong home performance in the pounding rain saw a 4-1 win for Gary Waddock’s team, who took their chances well and looked more dangerous throughout than Neil Bath’s team (taking charge with the absence of a permanent coach), who had the better of the possession but lacked a cutting edge.
Bath’s team lacked regulars Jack Cork, Gael Kakuta and Nana Ofori-Twumasi but welcomed back Carl Magnay at the heart of the defence and Michael Woods in midfield. A young subs bench included academy winger Gokhan Tore for the first time, alongside trialist Kenny Strickland, formerly of Manchester United’s youth team.
The Shots were finishing off their pre-season and so were more advanced in their preparations than Chelsea, and started in lively fashion, drawing a good early save from Jan Sebek. They were largely content to play on the break with the pace of Louis Soares and Kirk Hudson, and so Chelsea had more of the ball in the opening stages. Their first chance came when Adam Phillip worked an opening from the left and after his shot was saved by Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz, an Aldershot defender almost stumbled the rebound over the line, but was rescued by an alert team-mate on the line.
Big striker Marvin Morgan was the main target of the home attacks, using both his gigantic frame and his deceptive pace to full effect. He was involved in the opening goal on 24 minutes, although some debatable defending contributed. A deep cross from the left appeared to be dropping out of play over the crossbar but Morgan kept it in, much to the surprise of Jeffrey Bruma and Sebek. The ball hit the near post and rebounded in front of an open goal, where Scott Donnelly beat Magnay to tap home the first goal of the afternoon.
It gave them more confidence and seconds later it should have been 2-0, but Soares, perhaps aptly given his name, sent a shot from the edge of the area flying over the crossbar, stand, and into the street behind. Five minutes later Hudson burst through with his dynamic pace but Sebek did just enough to force a shot just wide, showing good acceleration to come off his line to meet the charging winger.
Having seen off Aldershot’s best spell of the game, the visitors went down the other end in search of an equaliser, and after Jacob Mellis’ fierce volley took a deflection to force a second goal-line clearance, the scores were indeed tied. Adam Phillip fizzed a magnificent cross across the face of goal to the far post, where Fabio Borini swooped to last the ball past Jaimez-Ruiz in clinical fashion.
Unfortunately, the parity was restored for a mere two minutes. The dangerous Morgan, who was providing nightmare match-ups for the Blues, caught up with a long ball into the corner, took it inside the box and took an injury as he cut the ball across the goalmouth, past a stranded Sebek and into the path of Hudson for a tap-in. It had summed the first half up – Chelsea had more of the ball but struggled to break down a resolute defence, and were being punished with some good finishing. At the other end, Borini was having a frustrating game but was also having chances, and forced a corner with a low turn and shot.
There were no changes in blue personnel at half time, but there was in the conditions. The rain, which had been persistent but steadily light, started to get heavier, and unpredictable as the wind changed often. The home team started the new period well, working a good chance which drew a neat save from Sebek. Michael Woods did similar at the other end, with a fierce drive which was parried before an easy catch for sub goalie Masters.
Chelsea came forward in the battering rain, with Sala looking industrious but Borini struggling with the referee (who was often right). Bridcutt smashed a close 25-yardd drive over from a cleared corner, and van Aanholt broke into the box forcing a good near post save, but the equaliser wasn’t coming. The subs were though, with Heimann, Ahmed, Tore and Philliskirk on, leaving Strickland unused. The game continued much the same though, as Bruma almost deceived Masters with a dipping free kick from miles out, forcing a quite brilliant save.
With the rain decreasing but the pitch still wet, the game degenerated into a bit of nothingness, with chances dwindling. Danny Hylton curled a nice one into Heimann’s waiting arms but with five minutes to go the Shots put the game to bed. A free kick was awarded wide on the edge of the area and as Chelsea complained, a short take gave John Halls time and space to exquisitely dink a chip over Heimann to settle things. There was even time in additional minutes for Hylton to weave his way through and bury his chance in Heimann’s bottom corner.
It wasn’t a pretty result for Chelsea and at times the performance was disjointed, especially in midfield. Too many players looked for a team-mate to do their work for them and over-reliance meant a lack of effort. Good performances were found by Shaun Cummings and Jacopo Sala, who always looked dangerous, whilst Michael Woods put in his typical good shift. There’s still work to be done here though.
Team: Sebek (Heimann 65), Cummings, Bruma, Magnay (Ahmed 65), van Aanholt, Bridcutt (c), Mellis, Woods, Sala (Tore 65), Phillip (Philliskirk 65), Borini
Sub Not Used: Strickland
Goals: Borini ’34
Select pictures from the match can be seen here