BY PAUL LAGAN
Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi continued their comebacks from injury and both will be very pleased with their time on the St Mary’s pitch this afternoon.
They now need a few more match minutes under their belts before they can look to impact on Frank Lampard’s league squad.
Hudson-Odoi is probably closer but the pair could feature at some point in the Carabao Cup match against Grimsby Town, at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
They lasted 75 minutes before being replaced.
Hudson-Odoi scored the first and set up the second as the Blues ran out 2-0 winners to retain top spot in Premier League 2 in what was a feisty encounter on the South Coast.
James looked comfortable without needing to get into top gear and the reports going to Lampard and his staff should be that they are almost ready.
Hudson-Odoi appeared frustrated in the first half but focused in the second and was a constant danger whenever he had the ball at his feet.
Saints should have scored on 11 minutes when a mix-up in the Chelsea defence allowed Dan Nlundulu a snap shot on goal from close range, but goalkeeper Jamie Cumming was sharp enough to smother the effort.
Saints Pascal Kpohomouh was clattered heavily and looked to have whacked his head in a clash with James following a corner.
After a couple of minutes treatment, he was allowed to continue playing. But three minutes later he was about to take a throw-in, but sat down just off the pitch and was quickly replaced.
Chelsea had a glorious chance to open the scoring on 27 minutes. James’s pinpoint cross into the six-yard box was met by in-running Charlie Brown, but the striker failed to connect with the ball cleanly, shinning it instead and the ball zipped wide of goal.
Hudson-Odoi forced a fine finger-tip save from Lewis on 35 minutes following a thunderous right-footed zinger from the edge of the Saints penalty area.
He was unlucky five minutes later, just screwing a low curler wide of Lewis’s far post.
On the fourth minute of the five added at the end of the fist half, Southampton’s Alex Jankewitz tried his luck from range, and the ball ricocheted off the foot of Cumming’s right post but thankfully for Chelsea cleared.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
A wonderful challenge by Saints’ right back Kane Ramsey thwarted Hudson-Odis while seconds later on 48 minutes Cumming produced a low, quick reaction save to stop Jankewitz from slotting home from close range.
James crashed a header onto the crossbar as the Blues pressed forward. And a minute later, on 55 minutes, Hudson-Odoi broke free into the Saints’ area, latched onto a Billy Gilmour pass and clipped the ball into the far corner of the net to put the visitors 1-0 up.
Chelsea boss replaced Gilmour with Jon Russell on 66 minutes.
The crossbar was hit again when Saints’ Aaron O’Driscoll headed onto the top of the woodwork from a corner.
The linesman decided that Clinton Mola’s header from a Hudson-Odoi corner crossed the line on 70 minutes to double the west Londoners’ lead.
Hudson-Odoi then went on a free run on goal, but again Lewis was his equal and smothered the goal-bound effort.
That was his last effort on goal, coming off on minutes for Tino Anjorin a;OMG with James for
Teams: Chelsea, Cumming, James, Guehi, Mola, Maarten, Gilmour, McEachran, Lavinier, Ballo, Hudson-Odoi, Brown.
Subs, Wakely, Ziger, Russell, Lawrence, Anjorin,
Saints, Lewis, Ramsey, Vokins, Kpohomouh, O’Driscoll, Klarer, Slattery, Jankewitz, Nlundulu, Defise, Hale
Subs, Ledwidge, Bycroft, Hansen, Norton, Turner
Referee: Sam Allison