Chelsea 3 Swansea 1 - Saturday 25 February 2016

I confess to feeling super excited at the prospect of seeing Super Frank Lampard at the Bridge at half time, as he returned in a belated opportunity to say a proper farewell to us Chelsea supporters. But as far as the match was concerned, three points were the order of the day to maintain our command at the top of the Premier League, although a revitalised Swansea under Chelsea old boys Paul Clement and fan favourite Claude Makelele might have something to say about that. 

Just the one change in the starting lineup, Matic making way for Fabregas on his 300th Premier League appearance, otherwise as expected with Courtois in goal and Azpilicueta, Luiz and captain Cahill in front of our big Belgian. Moses and Alonso were on the wings with Kante and Fabregas in midfield, leaving Pedro and Hazard supporting Costa up top. On the bench were Begovic, Zouma, JT, Loftus-Cheek, Matic, Willian and Batshuayi.

From the off we took command of the play as we moved the ball around with ease, and even when Swansea did start to come back into the game, we always looked in control of the situation. It was quick, one touch stuff, the ball not always finding its target, but the way we were controlling the game had me in no doubt that a goal would eventually come.

We were knocking on that door, chances from Fabregas and Pedro before, finally, after 20 minutes, Fabregas broke the deadlock, getting on the end of a few passes between our front three before the man of the moment rolled the ball past the stranded Fabianski in goal. I say finally because with all the chances we were creating the impatient fan inside of me just wanted us to get the rewards we deserved before the game swung the other way, as it so often and inevitably does.

I shouldn’t have worried though; we were dominant, and even that heart in the mouth moment when Luiz gave the ball away leaving an open path to our goal, up popped the diminutive Kante to mop up our curly haired one’s little indiscretion. That’s what we, and our pocket dynamo in particular, are good at; closing down and hassling opposition players in numbers, before quickly getting back into those so-effective attacking positions as soon as possession is regained. I love the way we work for each other and work so well as a unit.

We continued to push for a second goal, and it was Fabregas again who came close, Fabianski having to come to Swansea’s rescue. But the crowd were strangely quiet - in awe of our play? Or so little to get excited about, it was such one way traffic? It did seem like a bit of a training session at times. Swansea weren’t giving their fans much to make a noise about, and we all know the good folk of the valleys love a good bit of communal singing!

With one minute of stoppage time indicated, Swansea were awarded a free kick just as that minute was up. 30 seconds later the ball was in the back of the net, the result of a long ball diverted off the head of Llorente. Our defence were inexplicably switched off following a bit of a frantic call to organise from Luiz and Cahill. With Conte no doubt tearing up his planned half time team talk in favour of a wakeup call for the defence, our hard work in the first half was undone by a momentary lapse of concentration, even if the game had gone beyond the allotted one minute stoppage time. But on that overall first half performance we should get back on track with no problems.

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Crystal Palace 0 Chelsea 1 - Saturday 17 December 2016

Yet another ‘morning’ fixture, but not too far to travel for the south east based Blues support, and although rail disruption was feared, everyone seemed to get to the delightful suburb of Croydon with no issues, the pubs well rammed for a few pre Christmas beverages.

It was a cold and foggy day, and as we approached Selhurst Park, we could barely make out the floodlight towers at the far end of the stadium, and wondered how much of the pitch we would actually be able to see. But thankfully the fog slowly evaporated into a lingering mist as the teams warmed up, as I gave the chock-a-block away concourse a miss - not the most salubrious surroundings, but the music being played by the Palace DJ was putting everyone in the party spirit.

A pretty familiar lineup once again; Courtois in goal, with the tidy threesome of Azpilicueta, Luiz and captain Cahill ahead of him. With our steady wide boys of Moses and Alonso were Kante and Matic, while Willian got the nod alongside Hazard and Costa. Bench warming duties fell to Begovic, Ivanovic, Zouma, Chalobah, Fabregas, Pedro and Batshuayi.

Kicking off in the gloom, we could just about make out the ghostly figures of our boys playing in their white away strip. It was a lively start, both teams dashing about to try and gain an early advantage. Our manager was doing his bit on the touch line to keep our boys on their toes and the Chelsea fans were also in good voice, urging our team on. But how those so-called Palace 'Ultras’ can tolerate that infernal drumming for any length of time I don’t know, does my head in, and I’d hate to be nursing a hangover in that corner of the ground.

On the pitch the teams were pretty much cancelling each other out, both getting the ball up and down the pitch and both equally giving the ball away – a pretty scrappy affair. But as the half wore on we were steadily settling into the game, our creative boys stringing some neat passing together and, inevitably, it was a cynical foul on the twisting and turning Hazard that presented us with a promising free kick just outside the box. Sadly it wasn’t to be, Luiz’s low shot on goal deflected out for a corner that was equally unyielding.

Straight up the other end and Palace’s quick movement and first time ball nearly caught us napping, but for a wildly off target final ball. We really did need to be on our guard.

We knew the time would come eventually, and after 20 minutes of the game Diego Costa was finally shown that 5th yellow card by veteran referee Jon Moss that will see him miss our next game at home to Bournemouth. A pretty soft challenge, but if it was going to happen eventually, it may as well be now, and I suspect our Diego might be indulging in a celebratory cerveza on Christmas Day, just the one to be social, mind!

It was becoming plainly obvious what the Palace tactics were; get on the case of Costa. Well, after he had been 'awarded’ the yellow card they weren’t missing an opportunity to have a little niggle at him. And there was Hazard too, who once again was just unplayable, literally running rings round defenders with their inability to deal with him without resorting to leaving a foot in, whether deliberately or because they were just too slow.

Hazard was tripped off the ball by Zaha, and several farcical minutes later he was still arguing with the referee and his teammates before the free kick could finally be taken by Willian, which was sadly cleared. No idea what that was all about!

Come on Chelsea, come on Chelsea…..the game was intriguing and frustrating in equal measure, and with little by way of clear cut chances being created at either end, the game needed that little bit of magic to lift it out of the scrappiness. I really enjoyed the little piece of skill by Hazard when a cleared ball from Alonso was plucked high out of the air by the foot of our bouncing Belgian, before the ball eventually found its way back to Alonso. But that opening goal still eluded us.

Approaching half time and Palace were awarded a free kick just outside the box, following a foul by Alonso on the whinging Zaha. Thankfully Puncheon’s shot cleared the crossbar, the Palace forward posing quite a threat throughout the game. But if Palace were getting closer to goal it was, who else, Diego Costa, who made the ultimate breakthrough.

A beautifully weighted pass from the superb Azpilicueta floated towards Costa in the box, and as the ball dropped he simply used his head to guide it past Hennessy in goal. With Costa surrounded by two defenders, the ball and a desperate third defender landed together into the back of the net. What a time to score and with that the half ended with us that one goal up.

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Leicester City 0 Chelsea 3 - Saturday 14 January 2017

I always enjoy the trip to Leicester, it’s not too far away and for the past couple of seasons I’ve enjoyed the aural delights of the ‘disco car’ and the culinary delights of a local curry house. And ever hopeful of all 3 points, it was a hat trick of delights!

With plenty of distraction off the pitch, the most important eleven on the pitch were Courtois in goal, with the usual back five of captain Cahill, Luiz and Azpilicueta flanked by Alonso and Moses. Our usual midfield maestro pairing of Matic and Kante were sitting behind Pedro, Willian and Hazard mixing it up as a front three. On the bench were Begovic, Ivanovic, Zouma, Fabregas, Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah and Batshuayi. Costa didn’t travel due to injury. Or was it a case of the Beijing Belly caused by a dodgy Chinese?! Whatever it was, it was, and still is, keeping the media drooling.

As the teams lined up for kick off, everyone inside the ground took part in a rousing minute’s applause in honour of, most notably, ex-England and ex-Watford manager Graham Taylor, whose untimely passing had been reported. RIP.

In light of events at Cobham it was clear that our manager had the fans full support, Antonio’s name sung loud and clear from the off, the travelling faithful were the in good numbers and in good voice. And it wasn’t long before our corner of the ground was rewarded with the opening goal, moving the ball well around the edge of the box at the far end of the ground before Azpi dropped a longer ball towards the six yard box. After a bit of pinball between Hazard and Pedro, the ball landed nicely for Alonso with just enough space to blast it through keeper and defender and into the corner of the net, and on his right foot! Antonio…..Antonio!

With 10 minutes on the clock it was good to see mobile phones lit up around the ground in a pre-planned gesture of support for Leicester and Chelsea old boy Alan Birchenall, recovering from a recent heart attack. Get well soon, Alan.

We looked comfortable; and while the quality of football wasn’t always on display, a few misplaced passes from both sides, we didn’t really look like conceding, Vardy pretty much nullified and looking a bit lonely on his own up front. Inevitably, the home side did have their moments, but we seemed to have the measure of them, their main threat coming from set pieces. 

We continued to pop the ball around, and while Leicester may have been increasing in confidence while the score remained at just one goal difference, they didn’t really look like capitalising on it. While our boys at the back still had to deal with a couple of sticky situations, at the other end a long ball up the pitch from Alonso had Schmeichel out of his box, but his efforts to clear the ball totally Fuchs’d up in a mix up with his teammate.

Approaching half time and in a breakaway move, the man with the lightning legs was sprinting his way up the pitch, eventually pulled back by the defender for a free kick in a promising position. As David Luiz lined up for the expected blast, he fooled us all as he rolled the ball to the edge of the box where Hazard was waiting to lay it back to Pedro who managed to fire the ball over the goal. Nice idea, but not this time! HT 0-1.

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Chelsea 2 Spurs 1 - Saturday 26 November 2016

Always a stand out fixture, and following last season’s title ending shenanigans, it seemed we were playing for more than just the 3 points on offer today, our visitors hoping to end their miserable record at fortress Stamford Bridge.

With the lights dimmed and a laser show build up the teams emerged into the gladiatorial arena, both sets of fans desperate to see the opposition vanquished. This clash rarely disappoints; a win for us and we go back to the top of the league. A win for Spurs….well, they can dream!

Nice to see the team picking itself right now; Courtois in goal, with Azpilicueta, Luiz and captain Cahill in that highly effective back 3. Alongside Moses and Alonso in their flying wing back positions, were Kante and Matic shoring up the midfield. Up top were Pedro and Hazard supporting the not-so-fiery-lately-one Diego Costa. On the bench were Begovic, Ivanovic, Fabregas, Chalobah, Willian, Oscar and Batshuayi.

It’s fair to say that our visitors came out of the blocks a lot faster, probably feeling they had a lot more to prove, and running around like a team possessed. For the first few minutes we were keeping them at bay. But it looked a bit ominous on 5 minutes when their Arsenal youth product Harry Kane put a close range ball lofted over from a free kick into the back of the net only for it to be rightly called offside. Sighs of relief all round.

We were soaking up all the early pressure, a bit too much really, but with just 10 minutes played our excellent clean sheet record had gone when dirty Dembele was allowed too much space to wriggle his way through our defence before laying the ball off for Eriksen to strike an unstoppable shot from the edge of the box and past the outstretched Courtois. That wasn’t in the script!

It was early enough in the game for us to come back, but we still seemed to be sitting back, content to soak up more pressure, not enough quick ball going forward for my liking. Spurs were having the majority of the possession but in the main were forced into wildly off target shots on goal.

We were making hard work of it and recalling our nightmare defeat at Arsenal, Courtois seemed insistent on playing a short ball out leaving our defenders under pressure. So it was a comical moment when the home supporters were screaming at him to just kick it long. Which he duly did!

Frustratingly, Spurs were getting far too much of the ball and they were quick to hustle us when we had possession.  The general feeling in my part of the ground was they would eventually run out of steam. But for the moment it was the boys in blue who were off the pace, anyone would have thought it was us who had been unceremoniously dumped out the Champions League just a few days earlier.

Approaching half time and as we were getting used to the idea that perhaps just being the one goal behind wasn’t too bad considering, up popped the ever smiling Pedro to bang a spectacular equaliser into the back of the net. With Matic finding Pedro in space on the edge of the box, our fleet footed Spaniard did a quick pivot and while their defenders were still trying to decide what to do, he let rip the ball into the far top corner, past the outstretched Lloris in goal and right in front of the cocky Spurs fans. Delicious, and cue frantic celebrations in a beeline towards the dugouts as Conte enthusiastically joined it. HT 1-1.

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Wolves 0 Chelsea 2 - Saturday 18 February 2017

Always love a good away day and nothing better than the prospect of a cracking FA Cup outing at a traditional club like Wolverhampton Wanderers and at an atmospheric ground like Molineux. Once I’d got over the feeling of vertigo induced light-headedness near the front corner of the upper stand, I began to appreciate the great view of the pitch, while at the same time grateful it wasn’t raining because half the roof was missing!

A changed team, but still a strong lineup, thankfully Conte taking this competition as seriously as us fans as well as showing respect to our opponents. Begovic was in goal with Zouma, captain, leader and legend JT, and Ake at the back, supported on the wings by Moses and Pedro. With Fabregas and Chalobah in midfield, Willian, Hazard and front man Costa were leading the attack. On the bench were Eduardo, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Kante, Kenedy, Loftus-Cheek and Batshuayi.

We had a shaky start to the game, Kurt Zouma looking a bit over excited at times. And it nearly went pear shaped when poor Kurt let a high cross into the box drop behind him where ex Chelsea youngster George Saville proceeded to miss and unmissable shot on a practically open goal as the ball rifled back off the post. Poor lad will have nightmares about that, but thankfully sweet dreams for us. The home team continued to make the most of our early hesitancy and the home fans were making plenty of noise to drive them on, after all, this was their biggest game in years….you’re only here for the Chelsea!

Perhaps it was a good half for the neutral or fans of an underdog, but from my perspective it was frustrating to see so much of our passing go astray, a bit slow with the counter attacks, and any promising moves snuffed out by Wolves’ pressing game. But if the home fans thought they could rile our Diego with the customary booing they were truly mistaken - he thrives on that sort of stuff. And where were we when we were sh*t? Come on Wolves fans, so unimaginative!

But while we didn’t seem to be getting the breaks in the first half, Wolves couldn’t capitalise with a goal and the game remained anybody’s at the break, 0-0.

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Burnley 1 Chelsea 1 - Sunday 12 February 2017

With a TV friendly early Sunday kick off, many travelling fans were ‘forced’ into making a weekend of it, enjoying the hospitality of a number of surrounding towns before making the much shorter hop in the morning. Thankfully, the awaydayers made it on time to Turf Moor, it was touch and go for many running the gauntlet of overrunning rail engineering works and club coaches setting off at silly o'clock. What we do to follow our football club!

The starting lineup was as expected; Courtois in goal with Azpilicueta, Luiz and captain Cahill in their familiar back three. Moses and Alonso were in their expected wing back positions, flanking Kante and Matic in their holding midfield roles. Up front were Pedro and Hazard working with Costa up top. On the bench were Begovic, Zouma, Ake, Fabregas, Chalobah, Willian and Batshuayi.

With the forecast blizzard-like conditions arriving on cue, the shivering away end were joined by JT in an area set aside for official personnel from both clubs. Needless to say, our captain, leader and legend was mobbed for selfies, and he graciously obliged as usual. Top man!

A really positive start from our boys, moving the ball around the pitch as expansively as you would expect, stretching the boys in claret and blue from the off. And if an early chance from Hazard didn’t quite find its intended target, just a few moments later a second opportunity got through, Hazard collecting the ball and spotting Moses running unmarked towards the goal. He deftly skipped around the defender and by the time he reached the box Moses passed the ball to the fast approaching Pedro who simply took one touch before slotting it past the keeper. What a great start, our celebrations keeping us warmed up nicely as I wondered whether we could be in for a few more goals as we continued to push on.

We were controlling possession and the play, Hazard and Pedro looking particularly dangerous in those forward positions. But we didn’t have it all our own way; as the half wore on we were getting as much as we gave and the ponytailed Luiz with his knee still heavily strapped was called upon to direct defensive operations from the centre of our back three. 

It was turning into a right old tussle of a game and just after 20 minutes Matic found himself grappling with the ball tangled between his feet just outside our box and as he wrestled to control the ball he managed to back heel the misunderstood (and not just because of his Scouse accent!) Joey Barton in the leg. The resulting free kick from Brady was, it has to be said, a beautiful strike into the top corner of the goal in front of us, Courtois couldn’t reach it and our wall seemed rooted to the ground as the ball floated over their heads. 

Game on, and the home team made the most of their renewed confidence as the game settled into the fast paced and bruising encounter we could have expected, especially given the cold and slippery conditions as the sleet and snow continued to swirl around the ground. It was end to end stuff, with last ditch stops and crunching tackles required at both ends to prevent further goals. The game could have turned either way but at half time the scores remained at 1-1.

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Chelsea 5 Everton 0 - Saturday 5 November 2016

On bonfire night we might have expected a few fireworks following previous encounters against Everton at the Bridge. Who can forget that late equaliser when JT and half the team launched themselves into the Matthew Harding end. And on top of our recent impressive clean sheet performances, could we do it again against a tough defensive team like Everton, playing against ex-Blue Lukaku, a player who seems to divide opinion amongst Chelsea fans and who managed to see us out of last season’s FA Cup?

So, for this tea time/night time game we fielded an unchanged lineup, perhaps Conte has found his favoured starting eleven. Courtois in goal with his three-man centre backs of Azpilicueta, Luiz and captain Cahill. Matic and Kante protecting the defence, with Moses and Alonso in their fluid wing back positions. Causing mayhem were Pedro, Hazard and our big man up front, Diego Costa. On the bench were Begovic, JT, Ivanovic, Aina, Chalobah, Oscar and Batshuayi.

With a few fireworks to greet the teams, led out by two Chelsea Pensioners looking resplendent in their familiar bright red coats, we took time out for a perfectly observed minute’s silence to reflect and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect our freedoms.

Kick off, and we seemed to spend the first few minutes of the game warming up, popping the ball around, testing out the spaces and getting the feel for a few cross pitch passes. But it looked a bit ominous for Costa a few minutes in when he went down clutching his ankle following a challenge on the edge of the box. We just played on, maybe because it was assumed he would get straight back up. He didn’t, but our man soon limped back into play, the angelic Mr Costa not letting the likes of Seamus Coleman intimidate him.

It was looking very ominous for Everton as well, already resorting to hoofing the ball away from their box when they did eventually get hold of it. They were also resorting to bundling our guys off the ball as a means of halting our progress. We were all over them and they struggled to keep us under control. We were toying with them, just biding our time….

The inevitable finally came just short of 20 minutes played. Matic stealing possession with a quick pass to Costa as Hazard streaked up the pitch alongside. With a quick pass Hazard did his customary skip into the box, past a couple of defenders, before letting off a crisp low shot diagonally across the front of the goal, through keeper Stekelenburg’s hands and into the far corner of the net. The keeper should have done better, but it was a sweet strike.

We were still celebrating and marvelling at that brilliant Hazard opener when, like London buses, another one came along, the three amigos Hazard, Costa and Pedro combining to bring the ball up the pitch and into the box with such speed, the Everton defenders may as well have been playing a game of chase me! As the ball came across the box it was anyone’s goal, but with Alonso following up at the rear, it was left to him to slot the ball through the hapless keeper’s legs to send us two up with still less that 20 minutes on the clock. We had exploded, like the fireworks at the start of the evening, the blue touch paper had been well and truly lit and we were on fire. Carefree!

Time for a short breather; we slowed the pace down and allowed our shell-shocked visitors a few moments with the ball, lulling them into a false sense of security as nothing was getting near our goal. We were like coiled springs just waiting for those counter attacking opportunities and the right time to burst forward.

Half hour gone and scintillating football was on display, short, triangular passing; our yellow shirted visitors could do nothing but stand in awe as we flicked the ball around in an elaborate game of piggy in the middle and when we got bored with that game we switched it to target practice, a lofted ball from Alonso to Moses, his volleyed strike at goal so close, but clattered the woodwork.

It didn’t stop there; we still had time to sneak another goal before half time. A corner lofted in to the edge of the 6 yard box, nodded on by Matic to Costa, who was inexplicably allowed to loiter in space and when the ball dropped to his feet he simply knocked it into the back of the net. Stekelenburg was having a nightmare, he just couldn’t respond because he didn’t know where our next attack was coming from, and neither did his defenders who were left helpless to respond.

Into stoppage time at the end of the half, but rather than winding down ready for a half time Bovril, our boys nearly had the game out of sight. Once again, just popping the ball around when Pedro, on the touch line, back heeled the ball to himself to change direction and sprint towards goal, a forward pass to Costa who burst through the yellow defenders racing towards goal and as the keeper came out Costa managed to send the ball into the side netting. It could have been over and out for Everton at half time, but the score remained at 3-0.

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Southampton 0 Chelsea 2 - Sunday 30 October 2016

Always one of the stand out away games of the season, an easy train journey from south west London towards the south coast and a great atmosphere all the way from the pre-match hostelry where opposing fans freely drink together, to the ground where supporters of both sides are free to support their team without fear of aggravation. In truth, the vast majority of away days are like that!

In pleasing team news, the same lineup that convincingly defeated Man Utd; Courtois in goal, with Azpilicueta, Luiz and captain Cahill as the centre back trio, supported by Moses and Alonso in those all important wing back positions. With Kante and Matic as Little and Large (I am showing my age there!) in the middle of the pitch, were Pedro and Hazard on the flanks, with the big man Costa up front. On bench warming duties were Begovic, the welcome return of Ivanovic, JT, Chalobah, Willian, Oscar and Batshuayi.

Following a well observed and moving minute’s silence in honour of the upcoming Armistice Day, we kicked off against an on form Southampton.

A cracking game in store, both sides looking up for it and either team could have opened the scoring during the early exchanges, play moving freely between both ends. But it was our boys in blue who took the initiative and took the lead after just 5 minutes, Hazard using Moses to return the ball as he danced his customary undetected skip into the box, jiggled past a couple of defenders before stroking the ball through the legs of Forster at close range and into the back of the net, and from the tightest of angles as well. All too easy really, what a start!

The game continued at a blistering pace, as the away fans kept up the noise levels, vocal chords suitably lubricated. And undeterred by the goal against them, Southampton were not averse to getting forward themselves, but our remoulded defensive-aware outfit were wise to whatever they wanted to throw at us. And they did throw quite a bit at us as the game wore on, but lately you feel that our defence is made of an impenetrable blue barrier, that moves, shifts, expands and contracts to suit the threat. They really are a sight to behold when they’re in full flow.

We weren’t creating a whole load of nailed on chances until later on in the half, but when we did get possession we looked dangerous, Hazard especially slicing through those red and white shirts, and a late chance saw Costa’s shot blocked by the long legs of Forster. HT 0-1.

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Chelsea 4 Stoke City 2 - Saturday 31 December 2016

The last game of the year was against an always pesky Stoke team, who were never going to make things easy for us, a team traditionally capable of getting under our skin both figuratively and physically. Not a team known for their finesse, consisting of overweight nutters and second rate internationals, but as a team always capable of causing problems. 

With the return of Diego Costa and N'Golo Kante, the team lined up as Courtois in goal, with Azpilicueta, Luiz and captain Cahill in the back three. Fabregas got the nod ahead of Matic as midfield partner to Kante, flanked by Moses and Alonso. Up front were Willian and Hazard supporting the big man up top. On the bench were Begovic, Ivanovic, Zouma, Matic, Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah and Batshuayi. No Pedro though, suspended because of a fifth yellow card picked up last time out.

It took a while for us to get warmed up; fans and players alike a bit sluggish as Stoke were enjoying some extended periods of possession, but not enough to concern our defence. It was an untidy affair, but we gradually worked our way through to set up some decent chances, Costa attempting a great shot on goal, with only a decent stop from Stoke keeper Grant preventing the opening score. A succession of corners almost reaped rewards too when Cahill nearly headed the ball over the line, Grant in goal once again saving Stoke’s blushes.

At the other end it was a comedy of errors; short arse Shaqiri managing to sky fat boy Adam’s low free kick. Then Courtois managed a spectacular air kick of a clearance. Oops. The game was very scrappy, the crowd were restless, a mixture of mumbles, silence, and a few chants in equal measure - if only either team could string a few quality passes together.

But the breakthrough finally came after half an hour, a corner floated into the 6 yard box by Fabregas with captain Cahill first to the ball with a powerful header past the keeper who, up until then, had been pulling out some great saves. But not this time, as we finally took the lead.

Much better from us now, we were moving round the pitch with relative ease, taking advantage of the Stoke boys starting to lose what little composure they ever have, but at half time the score remained 1-0.

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Manchester City 1 Chelsea 3 - Saturday 3 December 2016

An ungodly hour of an early start for the travelling contingent heading to Manchester for the TV friendly 12.30 kick off. But at least the round trip could be completed within regular train service times. A massive game for both teams, and as suggested by one of my travelling companions, we were probably going to be watching the likely title winners today.

Only the one forced change in the starting lineup, Fabregas replacing the injured Matic. So it was the ever present Courtois in goal, Azpilicueta, Luiz and Cahill in that 3 man defence, supported by Moses and Alonso on the wings. With Fabregas drafted in to pair up with Kante in midfield, it was Pedro and Hazard with the fancy footwork around big Diego Costa up front. On the bench were Begovic, Aina, Ivanovic, Chalobah, Oscar, Willian and Batshuayi.

The proceedings began with a poignant and impeccably hushed one minute silence for the victims of the sad events in Colombia, which saw many members of the Chapecoense football team killed in a plane crash as they travelled to their cup final. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the tragedy. 

Kick off, and it didn’t take long for the first of the predictably compulsory tackles on Hazard, this time by Fernandinho, before anyone even had time to stretch their legs. Otherwise a cagey and scrappy start to the game, plenty of loose ball being fought over, pretty feisty stuff at both ends. It was fast and furious, a battle of the tackles as well, as late challenges were flying in from both sides, leaving players writhing on the ground in their wake.

But while we were fighting for possession of the ball, we weren’t able to carve out too many clear cut chances, a shot just wide from Hazard the nearest we came in the first 15 minutes. Worryingly though, City were able to slip past our wide boys a couple of times, and play a decent ball in behind our defence. But Luiz was doing a fine job mopping up in front of our goal.

That worry turned to fear on 25 minutes when a De Bruyne free kick eventually found the back of the net, only for Fernandinho’s header to be ruled offside. Being positioned next to the home fans in the 2nd tier it was more than amusing to witness the instant about turn in the goading and friendly w*nker waves!

Really entertaining end to end stuff, Hazard and Aguero not able to take their chances. And on the half hour Aguero found himself on a decent goal bound run, but he didn’t reckon on bouncing off David Luiz before he could make it as far as our box. Loud boos ringing out from the home crowd, as referee Anthony Taylor dismissed the challenge. I turned to my neighbour and we both agreed that Luiz had taken Aguero out. Hilarious!

A cracking match, anybody’s game, and thoroughly enjoyable to watch, if not a tad frustrating not to have already nabbed a goal. But as we approached half time City seemed to be getting closer, it was frantic stuff in front of goal with last ditch stops. More boos when a penalty shout went unheeded by the ref when Kante nicked the ball off Gundogan in the box. 

But City kept pushing and in the end it took a crazy own goal from Gary Cahill for the deadlock to be broken, flicking a crossed ball by Navas into the roof of the net. Shame, and with no time to equalise, we went into the break a goal down, with the home fans still booing!

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Chelsea 2 Hull 0 - Sunday 22 January 2017

The last of three games squeezed in to the Sunday TV schedule, and hoping the Sunday train schedules were kind to our visitors returning north after the game. With all the recent talk of China in this divisive transfer window (isn’t there a case for making it for loans only?) we were back to the important stuff of the game on the pitch. Already with a healthy cushion at the top of the table, with teams around us dropping points over the weekend, this game would be a great opportunity to take advantage and extend that lead.

With Diego Costa returning to the starting lineup, it was a familiar look to the team; Courtois in goal with the Azpilicueta, Luiz and Captain Cahill back three, flanked by Moses and Alonso. With the midfield maestros of Kante and Matic were Pedro and Hazard supporting Costa up front, recovered from the back injury and, hopefully, all the press attention. On the bench were Begovic, Zouma, Fabregas, Chalobah, Willian, Batshuayi, and a welcome return to Nathan Ake from his loan travels.

Kick off, and it was nearly a dream start when David Luiz launched a long ball towards goal, and if Costa’s strike had gone in, the Bridge would have erupted. As it turned out, the game was a very quiet one, the expectation following that blistering opening minute didn’t quite materialise into the hopeful goal fest against a team struggling near the foot of the table.

We were playing some decent stuff, passing the ball around swiftly and confidently, but those pesky northerners were managing to frustrate our efforts with the numbers they were putting behind the ball. For all the possession we had in the final third, we just weren’t able to convert it to chances on goal.

But with just over 10 minutes played a ball crossed in by Pedro had both Cahill and Mason jumping and challenging for the ball and both falling flat out following a horrendous clash of heads. Mason clearly came off the worse and the medics were taking no chances and took their time to ensure he was able to be moved off the pitch safely. A round of applause for medics and player alike, as Mason was stretchered away down the tunnel. I wish him well for a full and speedy recovery.

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Hull 0 Chelsea 2 - Saturday 1 October 2016

It was an early start on our train journey to a city in dire need of some culture – Hull, declared UK City of Culture for 2017. We made our way along busy streets filled with discount shops and miles of fluorescent plastic barriers where work is hurriedly taking place to clean up the grimy streets in an attempt to prepare for the influx of visitors from across the country. I wish them well. Stumbling across one of many old town hostelries, and with a bite to eat and a few beverages consumed we made our way to the ground, now called the KCOM, actually one of the nicer stadiums in my opinion, purely because of the unobstructed and open views of the pitch from our corner position of the ground.

For us, we were in dire need of some points after our previous slip ups. The team shaped up with the much discussed formation of three centre backs in front of Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz and captain Cahill, with a welcome start for Moses partnered by Alonso, as wing backs. Along with Kante and Matic taking on the holding midfield duties, Willian, Hazard and Costa were our creative threesome looking for the goals. On the bench were Begovic, Ivanovic, Fabregas, Oscar, Pedro, Chalobah and Batshuayi.

Following a fully observed and moving minute of appreciation for young Hull fan Megan who had tragically passed away, the game got underway.

It was a shaky start, David Luiz conceding and early free kick just outside the box, but thankfully the superb strike from Snodgrass was tipped over the crossbar by the athletic Courtois. We seemed to be making a habit of giving the ball away, team mates perhaps not quite used to their new roles and positions on the pitch.

In all honesty, the game was a bit dull. We had decent amounts of possession but we were just running around with the ball with nowhere to go, slow to move forward, allowing the opposition time to organise their defensive lines. I’m OK with a patient build up, but the ball needs to be knocked into the danger area at some point, which we just didn’t do enough of. In fairness, Hull weren’t much better; their final balls were, in the main, way off target.

We were making hard work for ourselves, just not quick and creative enough to get round their black and gold lines. But when we did manage to cause a hint of trouble, it was our wing backs of Moses and Alonso who were looking the more likely to find a way through. Even our hard earned corners ended up straight into the arms of Marshall, their keeper. But we stuck at it, we tried, and at least we still had a clean sheet - progress on last time out. Zzzzzzzz…… HT 0-0.

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Stamford Bridge consultation

I popped along to Stamford Bridge on 2 July 2015, as season ticket holders, members and local residents had been invited to view the consultation exhibition on the development of Stamford Bridge into a 60k seater stadium, from its current capacity of 41,600.

It was a very interesting and impressive session, the consultants on hand seemed very open with the information provided and there were very few questions they were unable to answer, from me at least.  I left feeling very positive about the proposals, not least because we will remain at our spiritual home, but also because many of the concerns raised regarding our current set up, for example away fans, atmosphere etc, appear to have been addressed.
Below are a few of the main points I have managed to glean from my visit and since, in no particular order. I make no guarantees of their accuracy or detail; this is just my take on the information provided.

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Watford 1 Chelsea 2 - 20 August 2016

Always a treat to go on the road with Chelsea fans, although I had to skip on any pre and post match jollies, as I’d travelled directly from the venue of a wedding the day before and felt a bit delicate! But still great to see some of the usual suspects including the delightful ‘three amigos’, Walter, Smithy and Big Chris, standing just behind me as we approached kick off.

Starting in goal Thibaut Courtois, with the ever present back four of Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry and Cesar Azpilicueta. With N'Golo Kante just in front of the back four it was Pedro in place of Willian (reported to have a calf injury) alongside Matic, Oscar, and Eden Hazard with Diego Costa upfront. On the subs bench were Asmir Begovic, Ola Aina, Nathaniel Chalobah, Cesc Fabregas, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Victor Moses and Michy Batshuayi.

A steady start to the game, plenty of possession and knocking the ball around the park, but not much in the way of gilt edged chances. We didn’t have it all our own way and we needed to be on our guard to the home team’s threat on the counter attack. It was untidy at times and a right old scrap in midfield as Kante and Co got stuck in.

But as away fans we kept ourselves entertained and were in fine voice as usual, it must be something about a few pre-match beverages that loosen up the vocal chords!

The first real chance on goal fell to Watford when Amrabat (isn’t that a species of Pokémon?) hustled his way up field from the half way line and with his cross from the edge of the box he almost found Ighalo only for the ball to be cleverly intercepted by Gary Cahill. Straight up the other end and a free kick taken by Eden Hazard came to nothing as the game was becoming an end to end affair. Frustratingly, we weren’t able to replicate the quick forward movement on show against West Ham last week. We were knocking on the door but the delicate touches were eluding us, Matic in particular, although not exclusively, seeming to struggle. And you know the Chelsea fans are getting frustrated when the desperate Come On Chelsea rings out.

With half time fast approaching there was a bit of contention when Costa went for a loose ball spilled by Gomes after Matic had played the ball in to our striker. But in the following mini melee, was the ball back passed to the keeper by the defender? It was well disguised! 

Yet another foul on Eden Hazard on the edge of the box as we approached stoppage time, but his low shot free kick went straight through to the keeper and the ball was safely collected. HT 0-0.

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Sunday 24 January 2016 - Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1

Still unbeaten under Guus Hiddink’s tenure, our next game in this strangest of seasons was a trip to The Emirates, home of The Arsenil. Always a highlight fixture of the year, we have an uncanny knack of winding up the Gooners, both on and off the pitch.  So we headed off for pre match refreshments in one of the local hostelries that pretentiously doubled up as a kindergarten!

Team news had Courtois in goal with Ivanovic, Zouma, JT and Azpilicueta across the back, supported by Mikel and Matic in front. With Fabregas, Willian and Oscar was Costa up front. On the bench Begovic, Cahill, Rahman, Loftus-Cheek, Traore, Hazard and Remy. Come on you Blues!

An even first few minutes of the game, neither team having any real attempt on goal, but it was telling the number of times Fabregas was on the ball by the amount of booing emanating from the home fans. And with Diego Costa being afforded the same special treatment it was with delicious irony that the fiery one was once again the villain.

After 15 minutes the pace picked up and within a couple of minutes the first major game influencing moment. A beautifully timed through ball from Willian found Costa charging towards goal and with only Mertesacker in contention the man in red saw red when he slid in across Costa and brought him down. With his defensive colleagues nowhere to be seen he had to go. And he knew it, as he walked off to cheers from the away fans and a comical rendition of ‘Diego Costa, he’s done it again!’

Not wishing to harp on about the Gooners but they do like a good boo don’t they? And they had a great opportunity to show Wenger their perpetual frustration when Giroud was sacrificed for the sending off, replaced by another of Costa’s victi….sorry, friends Gabriel.

But the hilarity of it all didn’t stop there, when two minutes later, who else but Costa put the ball into the back of the net, a lovely cross from Ivanovic planted just ahead of our striker and with just the barely warmed up Gabriel and Cech to beat he stroked the ball home from close range. Diego Diego Diego.

All very comfortable for us, we were playing with confidence, our defence alert to any half-hearted efforts from the home team, our midfield dominating possession against their 10 men while we engineered chances on goal. And with Flamini messing up a golden opportunity to equalise just before the break the first half ended 0-1.

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Ohhhhhh, Fabregas is Magic…..

Saturday 27 February 2016 - Southampton 1 Chelsea 2

With the Disco Car in the garage, it was the train taking the strain as we headed to one of our most popular away fixtures at Southampton and St Mary’s Stadium, via one of the local hostelries favoured by home and away fans alike.

A familiar team lineup with Courtois in goal and the de-masked Azpilicueta, Cahill, captain Ivanovic and Baba Rahman across the back. With Fabregas and Mikel in their settled defensive midfield positions were Willian, Hazard and Pedro supporting Diego Costa up top. Bench warming duties were from Begovic, Matic, Loftus-Cheek, Kenedy, Oscar, Traore and Remy.

A cagey start to the game, the ball popping around the park, neither team taking control. But just 5 minutes in we were forced into an early change when Oscar came on for Pedro, who had pulled up with what looked like a hamstring problem.

The first real threats on goal came from the home team as they created some decent chances that didn’t quite come off, but the danger signs were there. Play then immediately switched to the other end in this ongoing ding dong battle, the game could have gone either way for much of the early minutes of the game.

As the half wore on and a corner that wasn’t a corner, where the ref from yards away overruled the linesman inches away, led to a passage of play that saw Charlie Austin’s dangerous cross into the box athletically headed clear by Gary Cahill. Another worrying moment to deal with.

Halfway through the first period Costa decided to lose his own mask, perhaps having trouble seeing where the goal was! We continued to plug away, but continually thwarted when we did get anywhere within goal sniffing distance.

But as we approached the end of the half we lost our concentration at the back, a ball headed forward by the home team was picked up by Baba Rahman who rather tamely nodded it sideways towards Cahill, but before he could blink Shane Long had intercepted the ball and went streaking towards our goal, and as Courtois approached to close down the angle, Long had chipped the ball into the back of the net while our defenders were still chasing back. A shame, and poor Baba looked mortified. But as we tried to make amends with a quick foray up the other end, the half time whistle blew with us trailing by that one goal.

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Steven Gerrard he’s done it again (WE GO AGAIN!!!!)