The first ever Greenwich borough derby in the FA Cup should have been a foregone conclusion, shouldn’t it? It might have been if the Addicks had put out a proper first team against eighth-tier Cray Valley Paper Mills, writes KEVIN NOLAN.
The managerial mantra is, by now, time honoured.
We respect the FA Cup. It’s the oldest football competition in the world, and far be it from us to show it anything but maximum regard. We intend to take it seriously because winning is a good habit to cultivate so blah, blah, blah … and while we’re on the subject, blah, blah! It should, of course, be taken with a jumbo-sized pinch of salt.
But Charlton fans are as gullible as any others.
We were assured by manager Michael Appleton in Sunday evening’s programme notes that “the FA Cup is a fantastic competition … there’s no other competition in the world that can throw up matches like today”.
“Since the draw, I know this is a game a lot of people have been talking about, especially with it being a local derby. We take on a Cray Valley side today that will be looking to achieve what would be a big win for them, so we have to play with the same focus and intensity that allowed us to produce some really good football on Tuesday.”
Stirring stuff, no doubt, but having talked the talk, Appleton failed to walk the walk.
The boss was referring to the superb first-half performance in the northwest that swept Wigan Athletic aside and sent the Addicks in at half-time three goals to the good.
The problem was that the starting XI he sent out to face the gutsy locals from the Yorkshire Grey roundabout bore no resemblance to the side which made such an impression at the DW Stadium.
It was, not to mince words, Charlton’s reserve team, with the bench featuring regulars presumably being rested from the rigours of playing football – something they are well paid to do. They’re hardly being asked to work the night shift down a coal mine.
To be honest, the opening few minutes of this cup-tie appeared to justify Appleton’s decision to field a seriously weakened side.
The first physical confrontation saw Tayo Edun crunch into Kyrell Lisbie in a warning that Charlton had no intention of being bullied and intended, if necessary, to fight fire with fire. Lisbie had barely recovered after treatment when the visitors fell behind to a goal of distinct quality.
Skippering the Cup side in the undeniably prudent absence of George Dobson, Scott Fraser is a bona fide first-teamer and showed poise and class as he glided past Ali Cem Tumkaya on to Karoy Anderson’s perfectly judged through pass. Showing the ball to advancing keeper Sam Freeman, he elegantly rounded Freeman and finished coolly into his vacated net.
It seemed briefly that Appleton’s second-stringers were on their way into the next round and that an uncomfortable ordeal lay in store for Steve McKimm’s plucky outsiders.
But Cray Valley were in no mood to be patronised. They kept their heads and gave as good as they got during the rest of the first half.
There were occasional awkward moments for Charlton’s noisy neighbours, not least when Slobodan Tedić pounced on Arthur Lee’s error and forced a fine save from Freeman. They survived until the break, however, and only three minutes after resumption, were level.
Sent sprinting clear along the left flank by Hassan Ibrahiym, chip-off-the-old-block Lisbie fired over a low, hard cross which Lucas Ness, under intense pressure four yards from goal, turned past helpless debutant Sam Walker.
A well-populated Jimmy Seed Stand erupted in unrestrained joy. The world-weary home fans had seen it all before.
Fraser was hardly running riot but his ability to pick a pass was a sporadic threat. A finely-weighted ball sent Charlie Kirk through an outwitted defence to face Freeman but the wide man shot against the keeper’s legs.
Kirk was similarly wasteful with a similar chance later on and as Charlton sought desperately to salvage an embarrassing evening, Tedić’s looping header cleared Freeman but clipped the bar on its way to safety.
Two minutes from the end, total disaster was averted by Walker, who stood firm in parrying substitute Adam Coombes’ waspish free kick.
His save earned for Appleton’s humiliated side a second chance to put things right. The same applies to McKimm’s men, of course, who saw little on Bonfire Night to daunt them.
They will, instead, fancy finishing the job, wherever the replay takes place.
Next time, though, they might encounter a different Charlton side, the one which put Wigan to the sword and should be given the opportunity to replicate that fine form. That unpleasant second round trip to Gillingham is still up for grabs.
Charlton: Walker, Abankwah (Asiimwe 61), Thomas, Ness, Edun (T Watson 61), Fraser, Kirk (May 61), McGrandles (L Watson 74), C Campbell (Leaburn 78), Tedić, Anderson. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Dobson, Hector, Blackett-Taylor.
Cray Valley: Freeman, Williams, Lee, Tumkaya, Black, Parker (Coombes 71), Ademiluyi, Vigor (Anau 71), Lisbie (Gayle 62), Ibrahiym, Asiuedu. Not used: Ovenden, Wicks, Chambers, Ekpiteta, Gilchrist, Turner.
Referee: Benjamin Speedie. Attendance: 6.726 (1,998 visiting).