NORTHWOOD FC   Saturday 14th July 2012   CHELSEA FC

Pre-season friendly

  Northwood 0    Chelsea U21 0  
Team line-up  

  Team line-up
1 Mitch Swain     1 Sam Walker
2 Danny McDonnell     2 Archange Nkumu
3 Ronayne Marsh-Brown     3 Alex Davey
4 Lee Grant     4 Nathan Ake
5 Reece Yorke     5 Aziz Deen-Conteh
6 John Christian     6 Conor Clifford
7 Adamson Ajayi     7 Ruben Loftus-Cheek
8 Sam Sharples     8 Billy Clifford
9 Spencer Bellotti     9 Milan Lalkovic
10 James McCluskey     10 Bertrand Traore
11 Romaine Walker     11 Adam Phillip
Substitutes (all used)     Substitutes (all used)
12 Brad Hewitt     12 Tika Musonda
13 Ryan Phillips     13 Victorien Angban
14 Scott Raper     14 Andreas Christensen
15 James Fraser     15 Adam Nditi
16 Oliver Hawkins   Photos by James Brown   16 Vincent Angban
17 Garry Senior   Referee: Tony Power; Assistants: S Podsadny & M McDermott   17 John Swift
18 Richard Langley       18 Lamisha Musonda
19 Victor Asombang       19 Lewis Baker
20 Kyle Matthews       20 Islam Feruz
          21 Amin Affane

Northwood welcomed Chelsea’s Under 21 side to Chestnut Avenue in undoubtedly the highlight of the club’s pre-season campaign, in front of a bumper crowd. The weather did its best to dampen the spirits but those who did turn up were treated to an entertaining match. The visitors included three players with Football League experience – Conor Clifford who spent time with Plymouth, Sam Walker who enjoyed a spell with Northampton Town and winger Milan Lalkovic who was with Doncaster Rovers last term, whilst Northwood surprisingly included ex QPR, Luton and Cardiff midfielder Richard Langley in their squad.

Immediately Northwood were under pressure with Lalkovic failing to capitalise on an earlier error as he failed to hit the target, but the hosts were making inroads themselves, with Danny McDonnell and John Christian combining well. The corner that followed very nearly saw the Woods take the lead as Reece Yorke was thwarted by a strong hand from Walker. Yorke was in the thick of the action soon after when he averted the danger up the other end with a perfectly executed tackle on Billy Clifford. Moments later and Mitch Swain had to quick to react to a through ball which saw Adam Phillip steaming in on goal but the former Cockfosters shot stopper stood his ground to momentarily clear the danger. Then a driven shot by Ruben Loftus-Cheek found the arms of a relieved Swain, who held on well.

After both sides shared possession, Loftus-Cheek again went close as his rasping drive only just evaded Swain’s near post. Up until this point in the game, Northwood were dealing with much of the threat posed, yet were almost architects of their own downfall as the Blues broke in numbers. A neat passing move found Lalkovic although to the relief of the home contingent he had marginally strayed offside. Northwood were most dangerous from dead ball situations and very nearly connected from a Romaine Walker in-swinger. Both Christian and Grant rose well but to the relief of the visiting defence they were able to scramble the ball away. Now it was Gary Meakin’s side who were bossing things and another controlled move with Spencer Bellotti and Christian at the heart of it, saw the home side advance on the six yard box, but as of yet they had failed to convert their dominance into chances, with the Walker save the only thing of note.

Following a brief shower which did little to stop the flowing football, Swain was again called upon making a smart reflex save low down from Bertrand Traore. Then, following a well executed corner, Clifford found time on the edge of the D but his effort never troubled the Northwood net. And as half-time approached Dermot Drummy’s side were now becoming the more dominant of the two outfits; Phillip again finding Swain in inspired form. Then it was the turn of Conor Clifford to have an effort from 25-yards out, however he only found the advertising hoardings behind the goal.

At the interval both sides took the opportunity to make several changes. Among those for Northwood were Brad Hewitt, playing for the Woods for the first time since returning from Biggleswade, and Richard Langley, who replaced James McCluskey.

Chelsea were trying to wrestle the initiative immediately as two of their substitutes combined well, except the finish was lacking and it sailed high and wide. Then, the hosts breathed a huge sigh of relief as thankfully a covering defender was on hand to hook the ball clear after Swain could only parry the initial effort. The Blues’ substitute goalkeeper Vincent Angban then made a hash of his clearance which found Langley just over half way and he attemped an audacious effort from 30-yards which – to the Ivorian’s relief – found his midriff comfortably. Northwood were happy to let Chelsea dictate the play, and that almost proved costly when Lewis Baker’s rocket of an effort was gobbled up by Swain once more.

For the first time in the second period Northwood were able to create a decent opening. Victor Asombang, Garry Senior and last season’s top scorer Oliver Hawkins combined well although the visiting party extinguished any lingering danger with relative ease. After a long period with the ball, the away side had to deal with Meakin’s side seeing most of it, and a seemingly nothing clearance by Swain nearly turned into an assist as Senior raced through but the keeper read the danger and intervened. Chelsea – who had dominated in terms of chances – should have been 1-0 to the good yet somehow, with the goal gaping they managed to steer it over the crossbar when it seemed destined that the ball would find the net.

A last ditch free kick found the grasp of Swain for the umpteenth time and he held on well, and it was then only a matter of time before referee Tony Power called time on the proceedings.

Gary Meakin will have been delighted with his side’s performance, in what was an excellent run-out for a youthful side. In particular the manner in which Northwood dealt with the significant threat posed by their visitors was most pleasing and certainly bodes well ahead of the 2012/13 season. The Woods also will be buoyed by the news that the vast majority of the squad have agreed to stay on for this season with the exceptions being Liam Fowler – who is training with Chesham United – Jonathan Constant and Wayne O’Sullivan.

"Despite no goals it was a very entertaining game," said Chelsea manager Dermot Drummy. "We had a number of chances but the most important thing was the boys got some fitness, and the first game against a decent Northwood side was also to get their touch back."

All in all, an excellent game, albeit with nothing to show for it on the goals front; Northwood now play Enfield Town on neutral soil on Tuesday in a 7.00pm kick off, before the small matter of learning who we will face come August 18th, when the Southern Football League fixtures are released the following day.

Report by Matt Ford