Charlton 2 (Wright-Phillips 43, Stephens 81) Exeter City 0
As Charlton's ragbag collection of "temps" and "casuals" lurched from one humiliation to another last season, Exeter City were among a number of supposed minnows who took full advantage of their disarray by beating them twice in the league. They joined other luminaries in Brentford (who added a JPT knockout for good measure) and Walsall in "doing the double" over Charlton's big-time Charlies.
City's 3-1 victory at The Valley was especially demoralising, being accomplished in front of a bumper crowd of over 24,000, lured by the club's attractive offer of £5 admission. Not for the first time, the Addicks choked under the spotlight, a failing which they hope to put right when the offer is repeated for Chesterfield's visit on September 24th.
At home to the Grecians again on Saturday, after a top-to-toe summer re-organisation, newlook Charlton began the process of exacting retribution from their opportunistic tormentors. They made a successful start to their quest for vengeance but not until a huge slice of luck loaded the dice firmly in their favour after just 10 minutes.
The visitors were holding their own during a few give-and-take opening exchanges when loan signing Rowan Vine adroitly made space for a left-footed snapshot which surprised Ben Hamer but was touched aside by the full-length keeper. Closing in at the far post, under crucial pressure from Rhoys Wiggins, much-travelled striker Danny Nardiello managed an unconvincingly scuffed effort which, to most naked eyes, appeared to have squirmed over the goalline before Hamer scrambled the ball clear. Not so, ruled referee Tierney, leaving the unfortunate striker beside himself with frustration.
Some 10 minutes later, Nardiello's simmering sense of injustice boiled over. With the action far afield, he seized the chance to give Mr. Tierney's assistant referee, a chap as crisp and decisive as Pontius Pilate, a piece of his mind. " You're a *******" waste of space, he announced, " and while we're at it, you're also a ****** **** of ********, not to mention a complete ******." In anyone's book, his outburst constituted foul and abusive language. Mr. Tierney agreed and ordered him off after the asterisks were filled in for him.
Nardiello's disgruntled colleagues were left to negotiate some 70 minutes with 10 men and, to their credit, made a fair fist of it. They were lucky to remain level when the outstanding Chris Solly's cannonball rocketed down from the underside of the bar and is generally believed to have crossed Lenny Pidgeley's goalline before it was hacked clear. For the officials to overlook one over-the-line incident may be regarded as misfortune: to completely miss another looked very much like carelessness.
Keeping their heads admirably while refusing the obvious temptation to flood City's penalty area with a barrage of high balls and over-ambitious long passes, the Addicks switched the ball around patiently without making much of their numerical advantage. A glorious through ball from Danny Hollands, which struck its flying recipient Scott Wagstaff unluckily on the heel, was the way forward but the first signs of frustration were beginning to show when, two minutes before the break, their steady pressure told on the beleaguered Grecians.
Picking up Mike Morrison's clearance inside the area, Bradley Wright-Phillips exchanged incisive passes with Paul Hayes, broke away between outmanouevred centre backs Troy Archibald-Henville and Richard Duffy and clinically beat the advancing Pidgeley with the outside of his right boot. His fifth goal of the season was dedicated to those Devonians unwisely taunting him for his Plymouth Argyle connections.
The second period, though confidently expected to be a stroll, developed into a grind as Charlton's chronic inability to finish off apparently stricken opponents returned to haunt them...almost. Wright-Phillips again combined cleverly with Hayes but the latter's concrete-heavy touch allowed Pidgeley to smother the close range effort.
Wright-Phillips was in irresistible form but twice shot narrowly wide. A second goal was sorely needed to soothe The Valley's jangled nerves because the gutsy visitors were far from finished. Then, with 10 minutes remaining, Charlton polished them off with a second well-worked strike. Almost as effective as a provider this season, Wright-Phillips chased down Scott Wagstaff's pass near the right byline before cutting back a low pass behind Wagstaff. Meeting the chance 15 yards out, Dale Stephens drilled the clincher into the bottom left corner, effectively dispelling memories of his glaring miss under similar circumstances against Sheffield Wednesday in midweek.
So revenge it was, a dish they say is best served cold. This time, it was sort of lukewarm but no less tasty.
Charlton (4-4-2): Hamer 6, Solly 9, Morrison 7, Taylor 7, Wiggins 6, Wagstaff 7, Hollands 8, Stephens 7 (Hughes 86), Jackson 7, Hayes 7 (Euell 78), Wright-Phillips 8 (Pritchard 86). Not used: Sullivan, Cort.
Exeter (5-3-2): Pidegely 6, Tully 6, Archibald-Henville 6, Coles 6 (Logan 6,46), Duffy 6, Jones 6 (Shephard 6,46), Dunne 7, Noble 7, Golbourne 6, Vine 6 (Keohane 6,52), Nardiello (sent off). Not used: Krysiak, Nichols.
Referee: P. Tierney. Attendance: 14, 290.