Oxford United 2 (Williams 23, Brannagan 31) Charlton 1 (Washington 36, pen).
Two opportunistic goals, snaffled within six minutes of each other midway through a nondescript first half, sent Charlton slithering to defeat at the Kassam Stadium. Connor Washington's penalty before the interval inspired spurious hope of a recovery but Karl Robinson's streetwise country boys expertly managed a second half of constant stoppages, which vanished down a plughole of United's making.
Outwitted and dominated in midfield, where most games are decided, the Addicks struggled to find the rhythm they needed to break through the yellow wall which confronted them. Well before the dismal end, they resorted to long, ballooned deliveries which were easy pickings for the well organised home boys. Jayden Stockley battered away gamely - and was battered in return - while, at his side, Washington toiled tirelessly as usual. There was no lack of effort from any of Nigel Adkins' troops; they gave it their best shot; The real concern is that their best seems not good enough, a judgement based on the admittedly slender evidence of only two league games so far.
In the pleasant Oxfordshire countryside, where summer at last pulled itself together, Charlton began brightly enough and created the first chance of note. Craig McGillivray's old-fashioned clearance was flicked on by Stockley to Washington, who stepped inside Jordan Thorniley and let fly with his right foot. Leaving his line intelligently, Jack Stevens saved at the expense of a corner. Within minutes of Washington's thwarted strike, the Addicks fell behind to a goal which nobody saw coming. An attack launched down the left by Ryan Williams gave Gavin Whyte a chance to try his luck from 25 yards. His shot was firmly struck but should have presented text book work for McGillivray, who got everything behind the ball but spilled it at the feet of Williams, following up optimistically. His conversion of the generous rebound was routine.
Six more shapeless minutes saw Charlton fall further behind. Always a thorn in their side and once a transfer target, United captain James Henry made inroads on the right and crossed dangerously into the six-yard box. A wrongfooted Ryan Inniss' weak clearance was pounced on by Cameron Brannagan and gleefully hammered past McGillivray from six unchallenged yards. The molehill built by Williams' opener was now looking more like a mountain but, temporarily at least, the Addicks set about tackling their task and succeeded in halving their deficit almost immediately.
Sam Winnall's foul on Albie Morgan in the centre circle conceded a free kick, which Akin Famewo lofted towards Stockley in a crowded home penalty area. The centre forward's header was goalbound though not especially menacing but was unmistakeably handled by Winnall; referee Thomas Bramall, no friend of Stockley during his frequent aerial duels with United's bruising defence, ignored the offence though no more than touching distance from it. His mind was changed by a linesman with more reliable vision, leaving Washington to coolly dispatched the spotkick into the bottom right corner and kid us into believing that, with an hour left, redemption was on hand. More fools us.
A nasty head clash, involving Inniss and Steve Seddon, set the pattern for a stop-start second half, during which United's physio became almost a permanent fixture. Not that United's polished timewasting could be blamed for the Addicks' inability to string more than two coherent passes together. Stockley and Washington were brave but outgunned warriors in a side undermined by disappointing contributions. Sean Clare and, to a lesser extent, George Dobson, was anonymous. Morgan attempted to channel defence into attack and saw a lot of the ball but, at his tender age and limited experience, possibly lacks the moral authority to set the tempo.
Elsewhere, Diallang Jaiyesimi conscientiously did his defensive bit but conspicuously failed to supply a single, noteworthy cross or menacing pass. His silky ball skills and ability to beat opponents have disappeared in a colourless side without personality or flair. The return from injury of Jake Forster-Caskey, Alex Gilbey and Ben Purrington seems imperative, while the input of Charlie Kirk is eagerly anticipated. These are very early days and success at MK Dons on Tuesday could put a different spin on Charlton's discouraging start. "The lads looked great yesterday, they looked great before the game, everything was bang on," ruefully reflected Adkins, who reasonably enough mentioned an apparent foul on Adam Matthews during the build-up for Oxford's first goal. "We've just gone and launched the ball forward to Jayden and they've got three players around him." His observation calls to mind Tommy Cooper's joke about the bloke who goes to the doctor and tells him it hurts when he raises his arm above shoulder height. "Well then, don't do it," replies the doc. Seems like a plan, Nigel. And we urgently need a plan.
Oxford: Stevens, Thorniley, Gorrin, Williams, Brannagan, Winnall (Taylor 76), Sykes (Holland 77), McNally, Henry, Whyte, Seddon (Bodin 90). Not used: Eastwood, Mousinho, Agyei.
Charlton: McGillivray, Gunter (Clayden 90), Famewo, Inniss, Matthews, Dobson (Watson 71), Jaiyesimi (Davison 63), Morgan, Clare, Stockley, Washington. Not used: Harness, Pearce, Roddy, Elewere.
Referee: Thomas Bramall. Att: 8,440 (1,323 visiting.)