Cobblers youngsters impress as they play out Trophy draw with Chelsea Under-21s
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The visitors took an early lead before two goals in three minutes from Shaun McWilliams and Tyreece Simpson turned things around, but Chelsea hit back to level at 2-2 in an entertaining first half.
Two 16-year-olds finished the game for Northampton, among several other teenagers, but they dug in and earned a commendable draw.
A penalty shoot-out followed to decide who would take an extra point and it was won 4-3 by Chelsea after Harvey Lintott and Manny Monthé missed their spot-kicks.
Cobblers are still in the competition but must beat MK Dons in their final group stage game to have any chance of reaching the knock-out stages.
Seventeen-year-old forward Jamari Hart started up front for a young Cobblers team, one of eight current academy players involved, with Josh Tomlinson also starting at the back.
Aaron McGowan captained the side despite the sad and very recent death of his father.
Ryan Haynes and Ben Fox made their first starts of the season, while Tyreece Simpson led the line and he was off target with an early header from Fox’s left-wing cross.
Max Thompson shovelled Ronnie Stutter’s shot around his post on eight minutes but he was beaten by the same man just three minutes later, Stutter clinically firing into the bottom corner to hand Chelsea the lead after Cobblers lost possession.
Chelsea were sharp and slick in possession and Reiss-Alexander Russell-Denny brought another decent save from Thompson, but within three minutes of that the visitors found themselves behind.
Town pulled level midway through the half when McWilliams tapped home after terrific work by Lintott on the right, and immediately the home side completed the turnaround thanks to an excellent finish from Simpson.
The entertainment continued as Tomlinson and Monthé produced brilliant defensive challenges at one end while Haynes fired over at the other, and Chelsea were level again before half-time through Michael Golding’s close-range shot that squirmed through Thompson.
Reuben Wyatt replaced McWilliams in a pre-planned change at the break before Simpson also made way on the hour-mark with what looked a potential hip issue.
His replacement, 16-year-old Neo Dobson, almost scored with his first touch, his poked effort deflecting just wide, before Chelsea went up the other end where Thompson saved from Stutter.
Cobblers finished the game with a very young team, including a forward line of Jacob Scott, Hart and Dobson, and another 16-year-old – Matthew Ireland – at left-back.
Unsurprisingly Chelsea ended the evening on top and missed a couple of half chances, although Cobblers went closest to winning it in remarkable fashion when Wyatt’s 45-yard volley was just about kept out by a back-peddling Eddie Beach.
Cobblers had guaranteed themselves a point but they couldn’t manage anymore than that after Lintott and Monthé both missed in the subsequent shoot-out, which was won 4-3 by Chelsea.
Cobblers: Thompson, Lintott, McGowan ©, Tomlinson, Monthe, Haynes (Ireland 74), McWilliams (Wyatt 45), Fox (Scott 67), Abimbola, Hart, Simpson (Dobson 61). Subs not used: Dadge, Scott, Jenkins
Chelsea Under-21s: Beach, Williams ©, Castledine, Morgan (Silcott-Duberry 88), Gee, Hughes, Stutter, Golding (George 66), Murray-Campbell, Russell-Denny (Rak-Sakyi 83), Dyer. Subs not used: ,Merrick, Akomeah, McNeilly, McMahon
Referee: David Rock
Chelsea fans: 155