Kingstonian vs Chelsea U-21's
Kingstonian have had an 'encouraging' pre-season, writes Robert Wooldridge the editor of their match day programme. Some good results have caused many fans to be a little more expectant than usual. That said, there was clearly a buzz around the ground as we neared kick-off.
All supporters were put together which meant there was no clear way of counting the away support but there were plenty of Blue shirts of all era's on show. Noise levels were at a minimum though as 'family fun' was the order of the day.
Sportsmanship and respect were also high on the agenda as the hosts formed a guard of honour for the visitors; always a nice touch before 'battle' begins!
Chelsea lined up with Jamal Blackman in goal and a back four of Sam Hutchinson, Alex Davey, Nathan Aké and Aziz Deen-Conteh. Aké wearing the Captain's armband.
Further up field, it was hard to say whether it was a 4-3-3 formation or a very loose 4-2-3-1. The Academy have always maintained the decision to 'copy' the first team so it could've been either!
The deep lying midfielders were Nathaniel Chalobah, George Saville and Josh McEachran with Lewis Baker and Lamisha Musonda either side of Alex Kiwomya who was tasked with all the running as the lone striker.
Just like the first team, possession was the priority with this team. After Kingstonian kicked off, it was mere seconds before the ball was being played around nicely by the boys in Blue. Deen-Conteh was causing problems down the left wing and down the right, Hutchinson worked an early one-two with Chalobah to reach the by-line. His low, fast cross was a little too strong for Musonda who slid in a la Gazza Euro '96.
In the first half, Kingstonian's number 10 had a couple of decent chances cutting in the from the right wing after good forward play from the no.9; each time sending it wide of Blackman's post.
The amount of footballs the teams would be playing with became a sub-plot during the game. 5 in total were lost over the stands and into gardens. Saville sending one of them over in the first half after being gifted time by Kiwomya.
The final ball and the killer instinct were the two things most lacking in this game from either side. Kingstonian happy to lump the ball up the pitch to their pacey attackers, half of the time through tactics and the other half just to allow some breathing room amidst the constant final third possession that Chelsea were enjoying.
Of the first half team, the standout performances came from, Blackman in goal who was incredibly quick off his line on three separate occasions to block shots (and injure the no.9 just before half time), Deen-Conteh showed a lot of stamina to get up and down the left wing time after time, Saville looked superbly confident in the middle with Chalobah (both clearly having learned a lot on the USA Tour) and Sam Hutchinson down the right.
Baker looked a little quiet at times, perhaps because he was used as a RW. The same can be said of L. Musonda who didn't appear to be a natural LW. He did show good effort though and despite his size he could prove a useful reserve player in this team over the season if used more in the middle perhaps. He reminded me of Kaby Djalo, very small but terrific work rate, perhaps not as strong as Kaby though.
Into the second half and there were multiple changes; the second half side started like this Blackman, Hutch, Tika Musonda, Reuben Loftus-Cheek, Amin Affane, Chalobah, Josh, John Swift, Thorgan Hazard, Billy Clifford and Adam Coombes. Again there was not perhaps a natural right or left winger in the side as Hazard was preferring to work through the middle along with Clifford. Coombes was playing well to drop deep or wide to receive the ball and set up plays.
Hutchinson looked like a man inspired in the second half. He was finding more room on the right wing that in the first half and on countless occasions he was away to the by-line to put in crosses. Coombes and Chalobah narrowly missing out on connecting.
Sam Walker came on for Blackman in goal around the 55th minute mark. Blackman had had a very quiet second half up to that point.
I felt sorry for Amin Affane playing at LB. He's naturally an attacking player and one or two times you could see an ounce of frustration as he dribbled past players in his own half.
At 65 minutes Chalobah was replaced by Archange Nkumu. Nkumu then switched with Loftus-Cheek allowing the midfielder to enjoy some minutes in his actual position. Shortly after Todd Kane came on to replace Hutch at RB, huge applause for him as he left the field.
Not long after the team were enjoying more possession outside of the Kingstonian box, drawing comments from behind me about Chelsea looking like Barca. I decided not to distract myself with silly comparisons but the team were dominating. The problem was the final ball and just as I was about to comment on Clifford having looked a little wasted in the middle, shouts of 'SHOOOOOT' came from the crowd as he collected the ball outside the box.
He'd been roaming there and feeding it out to our wingers but to no avail and I think half through the crowd's encouragement and half through any lack of progress he curled a shot at goal. His effort was too far away from the GK for a save and the top corner netting received the ball gratefully as Chelsea went 1-0 up.
It would prove to be the only goal of the game and one of only a few shots by both sides. Clearly two tactical plans almost cancelling each other out.
There was enough time for a dangerous looking free-kick outside of the Chelsea area which ended up over and wide. Walker was also very quick to get his body behind a moving shot that bounced just in front of him.
That was it as the whistle went. Both teams using the game to get a lot of minutes for players and to try out ideas. Kingstonian, having had an 'encouraging' pre-season, should take a lot of heart from their performance. They were resilient and very strong in defence, I hope they have a good season in the Ryman's League this year.
Sam Hutchinson was arguably MOTM and kindly posed for photos and shook hands after the game.
For me, a few of the lads playing today could do with some good loan spells. Below are my thoughts on that.
McEachran - Championship or higher
Saville - Championship
Chalobah - Championship or higher
Aké - Championship
6 month loan:
B. Clifford - Championship
Kane - League 1 or Championship
Walker - Championship
Thanks for reading guys. If you've got twitter, I was tweeting all the highlights during the game and they'll be on my timeline if you want them. Follow @simonvictor87