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Chelsea U21 lose despite Tino Anjorin star turn, Billy Gilmour injury return, and a Danny Drinkwater appearance, too!

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Good news, other than the result

Chelsea U21, one of 16 academy teams competing in this season’s pro-level EFL Trophy (i.e. Papa John’s Trophy, with the winning team probably getting a free year of pizza), needed a win last night to advance to the knockout rounds. And we almost managed to pull it off, mounting a comeback from 3-1 down, then hitting the post, only to lose by just the odd goal in seven in the 90th minute.

Personally, I blame these wretched third kits.

Third division Bristol Rovers would thus take all three points and finish second in the group behind Oxford United, who had beaten Chelsea 2-1 earlier this season. We did manage a draw against the third team in the group, Walsall, then collected an additional point in the subsequent penalty shootout. A similar result would’ve enough against Bristol as well.

As disappointing as it is to not advance to the knockout rounds for the first time since 2016-17, the very first season Academy teams were allowed to enter this competition that was previously only for third and fourth division teams (League One and League Two), we can draw solace from another masterful performance from Tino Anjorin, now fully over the thigh injury he picked up at the start of Project Restart, and the return to match action for Billy Gilmour, who suffered his knee injury just a few weeks after that.

Bristol Rovers v Chelsea U21 - EFL Trophy Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Gilmour played 60 minutes, which was his first bit of real action since his planned involvement for Scotland U21 last week was over after just a few minutes thanks to an overzealous referee and his red card. And while he took a backseat to Anjorin’s brace and general excellence, the 19-year-old midfielder has come through seemingly unscathed, taking an important step towards full fitness.

Hopefully we see both Gilmour and Anjorin involved with the first-team sooner than later this season as well.

Forgotten man Danny Drinkwater was also involved, and played the full 90. Good to see Tenacious Double D keeping up the fitness levels, while presumably exploring his options for the January transfer window.

Bristol Rovers v Chelsea U21 - EFL Trophy Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images