BY PAUL LAGAN
Edwards, Chelsea’s Development squad manager was happy that his u-21 kids survived the huff and puff and strength of League One side AFC Wimbledon last night to win 2-1in the Checkatrade Trophy at Stamford Bridge.
Edwards said: “It was a tough game. We never get easy games in the Checkatrade, that is exactly why we love entering the competition. It presents a different side of the game that we don’t always get in U16, U18, U23s football.
“To be fair, U23s football is coming in a bit more, there are some teams that are mixing it up but certainly for our boys to be facing a barrage of balls into the box and the big, experienced target men pinning you it is an experience that is invaluable.
“It is difficult, but I thought that we stood up and coped well. Ultimately the only way that we were going to win this game and progress is by trying to impose our style of play, get the ball down and show the technical side of the game that we like to use and I thought we did that well overall.”
Did he manage to get his side to play that way, he’s not too sure.
“Probably not,” he conceded.”
“I thought there were times that the idea we had before the game, the strategy we had, we created a lot of moments where it looked like it was going to open up for us but the final decision or the final execution wasn’t quite there.
“Also, at 2-0, I thought there was a spell that we were really comfortable and could have got a third, looked like we were going to manage the game out a bit, if you like.
“But then we started overcomplicating a little bit, as young players will tend to do that. You want them to express themselves, but they were taking the extra touch, playing the more difficult pass and what happens happened.
“You do that to a more experienced team, that’s why we like playing in this competition, they will punish us and come back into the game and they did exactly that.
“But the positive is that we stood up and defended our penalty area, we rolled our sleeves up, rowed the storm out and then saw the game out by moving the ball around the pitch in a way we like to do.”
Chelsea stopper Jamie Cumming was outstanding and Edwards agrees.
“It is invaluable for Jamie,” he said.
“He won’t have played many games in his career where the ball comes into the box and it comes into areas where there are big, strong centre forwards.
“You have to be brave, and he did it and he executed it well and he showed the other side with a couple of moments where he stayed composed and played good passes into midfield, which was our plan. We knew that if we were going to play a direct game tonight then the ball would keep coming straight back at us.
“We needed to get it down and it starts from the back, and I thought all the boys in the back unit, the goalkeeper, the three centre-backs were all willing to keep trying to persevere and play through AFC Wimbledon.”
Chelsea’s first team are through in the Europa League, does Edwards think some of the youth team could travel to Budapest for last game?
“I am unsure, to be honest,”. He said.
“It is not a conversation we have had. Of course we would always welcome any of our academy players getting a chance with the first team.
“But for now they are in a tough games’ programme owing up. Premier League 2 is far from easy either, and we go again West Ham on Friday, which is a quick turnaround.
“West Ham are a team, in our league, whose form is on the up slightly and we were yet to win at home until Tuesday, so we want to put in a good performance on Friday first and foremost and hopefully get another win