Lee Barnard almost capped his return from injury with a late winner as Monday's reserve clash against Chelsea ended in a goalless draw.
Lee Barnard almost capped his return from injury with a late winner as Monday's reserve clash against Chelsea ended in a goalless draw.Last season’s top scorer in reserve football came off the bench for the final half-hour of this afternoon encounter at Aldershot FC and looked set to be the matchwinner in his first action of the season just five minutes from time.
Taking a cross from Jamie O’Hara, Barnard worked a yard of space between defenders and suddenly found himself free, six yards out. However, home keeper Yves Ma-Kalambay got his angles right and made a point-blank block.
Ma-Kalambay was the busier of the two keepers in a chess match of an encounter as rain, snow, sleet and hailstones came down at the Recreation Ground. Unfortunately, it wasn’t raining goals.
Chances were limited but few could have argued had Barnard’s chance found the net – Clive Allen’s men enjoyed the territorial advantage throughout, restricted Chelsea to shots from distance and were the team, particularly as the match wore on, that looked the likelier to score.
Ben Alnwick, Charlie Lee, Kieran McKenna and Andy Barcham all returned to add more experience after a young line-up did so well in the draw against Charlton last time out.
Clive opted for a 4-3-3 system with Barcham up front supported by Emil Hallfredsson on the left and David Hutton on the right, McKenna, Jamie O’Hara and Jake Livermore all central.
After an even start, Livermore and Hallfredsson had shots blocked as the ball ran loose in the Chelsea box before the first chance of note on 17 minutes, O’Hara feeding in Phil Ifil wide and his whipped cross was guided over by Barcham.
Hallfredsson cashed in on some sloppy defending after 25 minutes to release Barcham, who was held up in the box but managed to roll the ball back to the supporting McKenna, whose shot was blocked by Cummings. O’Hara’s follow up was also blocked, by Hutchinson.
Play was scrappy for the next 20 minutes as both sides struggled to maintain possession, the only half-chance of note Rodriguez’s lobbed volley high and wide as the sides went in goalless.
Younghusband struck a good chance wide from the edge of the box at the start of the second half before the referee led the players off because of a heavy burst of hailstones! Bolts of lightning then lit up the grey sky – weather-wise, it was all happening!
The players were only off for about a minute and on their return, Rodriguez curled a free-kick wide from a decent central position and Hallfredsson cut inside Cummings only to drag his shot wide. O’Hara’s dipping volley also went wide, 57 minutes on the clock.
A minute later and Alnwick was forced into his first and only save of note, although he couldn’t have known too much about it as Mills diverted Ferreira’s cross towards his own goal from six yards, the ball hitting the keeper and looping over.
Play broke up the other end as Hutchinson produced a superb flying block to deny O’Hara while Rodriguez blasted Chelsea’s best chance over from 18 yards.
Barnard stepped back into reserve action for Hutton after 62 minutes, taking the lone striking role with Barcham pushed wide right. Cian Hughton replaced Joe Martin soon after.
Ma-Kalambay was then forced into action twice in as many minutes, first blocking O’Hara’s low drive with his legs before sliding out to avert the danger as McKenna tried to feed in Hallfredsson.
We were pushing further and further on by now without carving out that one clear-cut chance. Lee was next to try his luck, driving forward after intercepting a pass and electing to shoot from 25 yards, Ma-Kalambay diving low to his right to gather.
That one chance arrived with five minutes left. O’Hara crossed from the left, Barnard controlled and found himself away from defenders, six yards out. He only had a moment to strike but did so on target, only for Ma-Kalambay to come out and make the save of the match, diverting the effort wide.
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