Chelsea Under-23s manager Joe Edwards revealed that Ethan Ampadu asked to play for his side as they reignited their Premier League 2 campaign with a victory against Derby County Under-23s.
The Blues ended their three-match losing streak with a 1-0 win over Derby at the Training Centre in Partnership with the University of Derby, Conor Gallagher getting the winning goal shortly before the interval.
Edwards’ starting side was headlined by defender and Wales international Ethan Ampadu, who has featured six times for Ryan Giggs’ national side and 11 times for Chelsea’s first team.
Having struggled for first-team football this season, Ampadu’s quest to get regular minutes saw him voluntarily play for the under-23s against Derby, as Edwards explained after the win.
Manager Edwards said: “Credit to Ethan, he needs to play football and he felt that he hadn’t got many minutes recently, so he asked to come and play which we always welcome and he added to our team.”
Having represented Wales, as well as appearing in both the Premier League and Europa League for the Blues, Ampadu added that extra superiority to the three-man defence which resonated in the result.
“He always brings great leadership qualities for his age”, added Edwards.
“Everyone knows that and straight away, particularly in the first half, you could see how well he defends the box and [with his]really powerful, commanding headers.
“He organised well and strengthened us back there.”
Aside from only Ampadu, Chelsea caused Derby problems and found their goal through Conor Gallagher seconds before the half-time whistle. This ended a run of three league defeats on the spin, a record Edwards was pleased to see the back of.
Edwards said: “Good to get back to winning ways. From the way we started this season, we came into this game probably a little bit disappointed with our league position but that is what happens when you get back-to-back defeats, we had a few on the spin there.
“We played some good football up against what was a really difficult press, got our goal and when we have to dig in towards the end and fight for a clean sheet, we did it.
“I think the lads thoroughly deserved what we got tonight.”
After only a third clean sheet of the season, Edwards saw fit to praise his side as a whole after a determined defensive display, saying: “When you look at the way Derby play, they try and get the ball down and the game was played at a high tempo. That is a real example of one of those clean sheets where the whole team earns it.”
Derby were certainly in the chase for the league title before being slightly pegged back by the Blues, yet Edwards remained focussed on his own side rather than those around them.
“[We were] more disappointed with our own form but I have to say, where we have had a bit of a break in our league fixtures, there wasn’t really a mood in the camp that we are downbeat because we can feel the defeats; they have been spread out.
“These boys are used to winning; the Premier League 2 is not an easy thing to win, but these boys are used to winning so that was their target at the start of the season. I just said to them, ‘if you want to work your way up the table you have to beat the teams that are up there’, so tonight was a step in the right direction for us again.”
Chelsea will hope they can kick-start their season once more, yet Edwards will be aware of the difficulty of building a good run of form.
Edwards explained: “We need to make sure that we just worry about ourselves, consistency has been a problem for us so we will look to follow this up now with a home win, in particular, because that has cost us as well, our home form.”
By Jonty Colman and Nathaniel Kay