A first-half goal from Chelsea U23 forward Harvey St Clair was enough for Joe Edwards’ men to down Terry Westley’s West Ham United U23s in the Premier League 2 at the Chigwell Construction Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The match’s decisive moment came in the 19th minute, St Clair putting the finishes touches on a quick move from the Young Blues, giving his team an advantage that would last the entirety.
The hosts looked to reply thorough, going close through the likes of Oladapo Afolayan, a product of Chelsea’s Academy, captain and playmaker Marcus Browne and substitute Jahmal Hector-Ingram.
The East Londoners’ second home defeat in the space of three matches saw them fall to a season-low position of seventh in the PL2 Division 1 table, while the West Londoners, who had been just below their opposition before kick-off, moved above them and into sixth.
From the start in East London, home manager Westley made three changes to his team’s starring Xl in the wake of their impressive away PL2 victory over high-flyers Liverpool last month.
In midfield, the duo of U18 star Alfie Lewis and Montenegrin International Sead Haksabanovic were replaced by Domingos Quina and Conor Coventry both returning from injury, while further forward, Nathan Holland started for the first time since October 2017 after a hamstring tear, taking Jahmal Hector-Ingram’s place.
Meanwhile, away boss Edwards decided on seven alterations to his side from their PL2 win in the North West a day before in February, where they defeated Manchester United comfortably.
They started on goal with Marcin Bulka coming in for Jamie Cumming, elsewhere, Reece James, Josh Grant, Spaniard Juan Castillo, brother of Eden Kylian Hazard, Isaac Christie-Davies and striker Daishawn Redan were all ousted, England U19 man Dujon Sterling, Joseph Colley, Cole Dasilva, Charlie Colkett and attackers Martin Taylor-Crossdale and Kyle Scott being favoured.
Right from the very off in Essex, the visitors went at their entertainers in an aggressive manner, catching them like rabbits in headlights with an early bombardment on goal.
Bermudan Nathan Trott was forced into several excellent early saves, the pick of them being stops to deny the likes of Colley, tipping his accurate shot onto the bar and then St Clair.
But, the West London side and the Scot would soon find a way past the stern Trott, St Clair cutting in after a stealthy run on the left to unleash a low effort on target.
Despite the pace on the ball, Trott would have been disappointed to let that go by him so close to his body, however, this proved the kick up the backside that the hosts needed to wake up.
Westley’s men started to create their own opportunities, centre-back Josh Pask marauded forward to have a deflected shot that Bulka did well to keep out and Holland got in on the left to see his goal-bound effort blocked over the crossbar.
Dapo Afolayan the broke on the right looking to punish his former club, unable to find the target, Grady Diangana was from a similar position, he could only fire straight at Bulka, however.
In the second period, the Irons, who had only recently been challenging for the top four in the PL2 Division 1, continued to create with talisman Browne looking dangerous, though unable to apply a finish to a dazzling run early on.
At the other end, the visitors spurned a superb opportunity to severely damaging their entertainers’ hopes of getting back into the affair, substitute James was able to get clean through on the right.
His shot was saved by Trott and somehow diverted onto the bar by some heroic Tunji Akinola defending, Trott getting back to his feet to punch clear with two Chelsea striker lurking to head home into an empty net.
Then came a moment that summed up the afternoon Westley’s men were enduring and signalled the end of their charge to try to draw level late on in Dagenham.
The pace and pass of Diangana slipped sub Hector-Ingram in behind the defence, he tried his luck across the face of goal and was desperately unfortunate to see the ball strike the post and bounce out for a goal-kick.
In the end, the travelling Blues held out for a third successive triumph in the PL2, leaving the East London tea with a very slim chance of achieving their top four dreams, there being just a few remaining matchdays of the campaign.
Next up for the Academy of Football’s most senior side will be a break of over three weeks between now and their next fixture, they travel to Manchester City in the PL2 on Thursday 5 April.
Whereas, the Young Blues return to action a little sooner than that, journeying a short distance to North London where they will face off with Arsenal in the afternoon at Colney Training Ground.