Derby County Under-23s narrowly missed out on the opportunity to take top spot of the Premier League 2 – Division 1 as they were held to a 3-3 draw at fellow high-flyers Chelsea on Saturday afternoon.
The match, played at the EBB Stadium in Aldershot, saw two of the best teams in the division go head-to-head and gave either side the chance to takeover Arsenal as the league leaders.
It was, though, Chelsea who took this opportunity after a point was enough to see them move above their London counterparts on goal difference.
Goals from Josh Shonibare, Louie Sibley and Jahmal Hector-Ingram couldn’t see Derby over the line as Jonathan Russell’s brace and Charlie Brown’s late goal meant that the points were shared.
Derby started with electric pace, personified by the equally rapid Hector-Ingram and Jayden Mitchell-Lawson. The double-barrel-named duo caused Chelsea problems in the opening stages of with their direct runs towards goal and the former went closest to giving the Rams an early lead but saw his shot fly just wide of the post.
Derby’s relentless pressure proved dividends after 20 minutes of action. Shonibare’s clever movement meant that he found a yard of space in the box, which was all he needed to pick out the corner of the net and put Derby ahead.
Chelsea looked at their most dangerous on the counter and this was how they scored their first equaliser. Marcel Lavinier found Russell, whose glancing header found the far corner beyond the reach of Ravas in the Derby goal.
It remained level until the final minute of the half when Mitchell-Lawson’s effort was blocked, conveniently, into the patch of the waiting Sibley who made no mistake in dispatching the rebound to send his side down the tunnel with a 2-1 advantage at the break.
Ten minutes after half-time, Derby went further ahead. Hector-Ingram decided to run half the length of the pitch, take on two Chelsea players and nestle the ball into the net to continue is rich vein of form in front of goal with a superb individual effort.
Chelsea demonstrated to Derby exactly why they are one of their main competitors for the league title just five minutes later. Clinton Mola’s shot looked to be heading over the line before it was tapped in by Russell from close range to reduce the deficit back to one goal.
After Derby looked to re-establish a firm lead in the game, they were caught on the break once again and the hosts levelled late on. Goalkeeper Ravas failed to collect Henry Lawrence’s looping cross, paving the way for striker Charlie Brown to head in from a yard out.
The result means that Derby remain in third place behind Arsenal and Chelsea by just one point. The side have taken just two points from their last three games and will be looking to get back to winning ways against a struggling Southampton in their next Premier League 2 – Division 1 encounter on Monday 16th December at Loughborough University Stadium.
Chelsea Under-23s: Tie, Lavinier (Lewis 75), Guehi (c), Mola, Maatsen, BGilmour, Lawrence, McEachran, Brown, Russell, Ballo (Broja 46).
Substitutes Not Used: Wakely, Ziger.
Derby County Under-23s: Ravas, McDonald, J Brown, Bird (c), Minkley, Wassall, Mitchell-Lawson (A Brown 90), Sibley (Cresswell 64), Hector-Ingram, Babos, Shonibare (Ebosele 82).
Substitutes Not Used: Barnes.