THERE were flashes of excellence, namely from star winger Lloyd Isgrove, but Swindon Town fell to a 3-2 loss at the County Ground on Tuesday evening to Chelsea U21s.

The game was Town’s first of three group fixtures in the newly named Trophy, and Richie Wellens’ makeshift team were made to pay for a poor start.

An early brace for Tino Anjorin was responded to, but proven Premier League 2 goalscorer Charlie Brown netted a clinical third for the Blues to earn them three points.

There was an element of surprise in Wellens’ team selection, as six changes were made.

Keshi Anderson retained his place in the side and was the sole striker with Ellis Iandolo and Lloyd Isgrove placed on both wings.

Michael Doughty and Adam May filled the middle, with Toumani Diagouraga placed in the holding role.

Tyler Reid, Dan Ballard, Tom Broadbent and Rob Hunt filled the defensive line with McCormick in goal.

The crowd, unsurprisingly, was sparse. You only have to read fans’ opinions on social media to understand the tournament’s ‘surplus to requirements’ nature.

After a bit of digging, though, it’s clear the excitement and hype that any group/knockout competition should naturally deliver eventually finds its way to the supporters.

The average attendance for the final since the competition’s new format was introduced in 2016-17 stands at 66,905 – proving the now Trophy has potential.

But it’s the addition of Premier League youth teams that has turned many fans away – including this evening, where the Don Rogers Stand was closed, the Town End chosen by a handful, and a couple of thousand watched on from the Arkell’s Stand.

Energy that did exist in the ground was immediately eliminated when Chelsea struck twice in the game’s opening 15 minutes.

Tino Anjorin scored both goals – his first proved rather fortuitous after an excellent low save from McCormick rebounded in the forward’s path. A strike on the edge of the area found a way through Ballard’s legs on the goal line.

The teenager doubled Chelsea’s lead four minutes later. This time, Juan Castillo breezed clear on the left before a cross from the byline was tapped in.

A silent County Ground undoubtedly needed an immediate response. And supporters got just that when Ballard made up for his earlier goal line blunder to half the deficit.

The Arsenal loanee jumped highest and buried his spectacular header from Doughty’s free kick into James Cumming’s top right corner.

Ballard’s strike injected confidence up front. But in defence, Town still looked shaky.

Tom Broadbent succumbed to the Blues’ next attack and was alarmingly dragged out of position, while Hunt made a pair of errors when wiping out substitute Lavinier to concede a free kick close to the byline before alarming mistiming a back pass that almost led to Chelsea’s third.

Three chances were then presented to Town in the concluding minutes of the half.

The first saw Doughty and Ballard again combine from a free-kick before Diagouraga nodded the 19-year-old’s downward header over the crossbar.

Isgrove then had the majority of Arkell’s Stand fans convinced he had equalised after forcing Cumming’s into a save – it was only several seconds after the save the home fans realised they had been blessed with a corner rather than a goal.

Broadbent rounded off an encouraging end to the half when falling millimetres short of Hunt’s low cross - any contact would’ve almost certainly brought Town level.

Goals were required to earn any points from this tie, this prompted Wellens to switch Iandolo for Saturday’s hero Jerry Yates.

It’s up for debate if Wellens’ tactical tweak aided Town’s equaliser, but – nonetheless – Adam May levelled the game less than a minute into the half with a delightful strike from outside the area following Chelsea’s attempt to clear their lines from a cross.

At this point, you could sense Town were the better team. Passing in midfield confused Chelsea, and they were frequently thrown out of shape to the benefit of Isgrove, Doughty and Yates.

But just as that hoped built, Gilmour’s through ball puzzled Ballard and Broadbent – allowing Brown to beat McCormick one on one and re-establish the Blues’ one goal lead.

Frustration that followed on the terraces was understandable as two promising Town moves were harshly called back.

Yates was flagged for offside from Diagouraga’s long-range punt following spectacular build up from Isgrove. Anderson was then penalised for a soft foul when moving forward on the left.

Both incidents led to Blues’ Uwakwe being denied by a reaction save from McCormick on 66 minutes before Broadbent hacked away the clearance.

Isgrove and Anderson both made way for Town shortly after, with McGlashan and Woolery coming on.

McGlashan had two chances from which he should’ve done better. His first was weak and guided well wide of Cumming’s right corner, but the second was struck straight at the Chelsea ‘keeper from a favourable position 15 yards out.

That was the last of Town's notable chances. Their Trophy campaign resumes on October 8 when Plymouth Argyle visit SN1.

Swindon Town: Luke McCormick, Tyler Reid, Dan Ballard, Tom Broadbent, Rob Hunt, Ellis Iandolo (Jerry Yates, 45’), Adam May, Michael Doughty, Toumani Diagouraga, Keshi Anderson (Kaiyne Woolery, 67’), Lloyd Isgrove (Jermaine McGlashan, 67’).

Chelsea U21s: James Cumming, Charlie Brown, Juan Castillo, Marc Guehi, George McEachran (Marcel Lavinier, 21’), Tariq Uwakwe (Marcel Lewis, 81’), Billy Gilmour, Tariq Lamptey, Clinton Mola, Tino Anjorin (Jack Wakely, 53’), Ian Maatsen.