Charlton 3 (Hayes 18, Jackson 28, Wright-Phillips 90) Chesterfield 1 (Whittaker 71,pen)
They rolled up in their thousands, Charlton supporters past, present and hopefully future, enticed by the club's handsome football-for-a-fiver offer and encouraged by the team's fine early season form. They arrived with hope leavened by a sensible measure of caution because, let's face it, they've been here before. An inborn suspicion of hype and hoopla is part of the Charlton fan's DNA. Throw in a spot of opera, not to mention knockdown admission prices and they hug chains of anticipated misery. The Addick is a rare mole-like breed, content to operate under the radar, out of the spotlight and touchingly resigned to 45-second telly coverage. It saves so much pain later.
As it turned out, for once, performance matched expectation. At least it did for 45 excellent minutes, during which Chesterfield were handed a chastening lesson and relieved to totter off at the interval just a manageable 2-0 down. It couldn't -and didn't- last. A two-goal lead terrifies Charlton more than it does their opponents.
The Spireites, bolstered by 1225 travelling Dalesmen who recognised a bargain when they saw one, kept their cards watchfully clapped to their chests during the pre-kickoff festivities. Clearly up to no good, they wore a "lean and hungry look" and you don't need reminding that "such men are dangerous." They meant business and intended to bury Charlton, not praise them. But until their rampant hosts froze, they were frankly outclassed.
Masters these days of the fast start, the Addicks almost succumbed themselves to an early goal but Lee Johnson spoiled a fine solo run by spooning his effort wide of the left post.
That was as good as it got for the visitors until Charlton inevitably cooled off. They had the sharp reactions of Greg Fleming to thank for alertly tipping Michael Morrison's hook shot over the bar and were lucky again as Johnnie Jackson glanced Dale Stephens' resultant corner narrowly wide.
A steady stream of corners maintained the opening pressure and it was from another of Stephens' wicked deliveries that Chesterfield eventually cracked. Fleming's plucky clearance of his inswinger at the outstanding Danny Hollands' feet reached Bradley Wright-Phillips, whose instantly returned low shot was nimbly turned over the line by Paul Hayes.
The same combination should have immediately doubled the lead but Hayes' disastrous first touch squandered an easy tap-in chance provided by Wright-Phillips' unselfishly squared pass. Hayes was more decisive with a venomous sideways-on volley diverted splendidly over the bar by Fleming.
It was all Charlton and came as no surprise that they claimed the important second goal their superiority promised. Impressively aggressive left back Rhoys Wiggins' cross from the left corner flag was handled by Drew Talbot; Stephens pulled back the free kick to the edge of the penalty area, from where Jackson drilled his fourth goal of the campaign past the helpless Fleming. Chris Powell chortled his pleasure at the success of a training ground wheeze.
Since Johnson's early enterprise, Chesterfield offered little until Craig Westcarr chipped over a cross which an unmarked Leon Clarke met at the far post. From two yards the recently prolific forward contrived to lift an awkward effort haplessly over the top. Though Scott Wagstaff drove Hayes' clever lay-off narrowly off target before the break, the Addicks retired in great shape.
One team disappeared down the tunnel, clearly a different one replaced them for the second period. Inexplicably nervous, shorn suddenly of confidence, Charlton allowed their outplayed victims back into a game which should already have been out of their reach. Chesterfield sensed it wasn't over, persisting in their neat passing without accomplishing much. But the Valley braced itself for trouble and it duly arrived with 20 minutes remaining.
Moments after Chris Solly had "sportingly" rolled the ball out of play to enable an opponent to receive prompt treatment for a supposed injury, the Spireites declined to respond in kind when Wagstaff collapsed in convincing agony.
Alex Mendy's pass enabled Clarke to roll inside Morrison, whose clumsily mistimed tackle felled the big striker. After a spirited discussion between Danny Whittaker and Clarke was resolved in the former's favour, the clear-cut penalty was hammered into the roof of the net to ensure the customary frantic finish in SE7.
The phony war of words, meanwhile, about Chesterfield's perceived lack of sportsmanship, can be dealt with succinctly. Allowing players to self-diagnose injury is a recipe for corrosive disagreement; cobblers in simpler terms. If music, not to mention football, is the thing, play on. Leave the laying on of hands to the medical profession...
In the mire yet again, the Addicks soldiered on unconvincingly. Hayes hit the bar, Wright-Phillips cleverly eluded two defenders but shot too close to Fleming, Matt Taylor was ludicrously booked for diving though clearly chopped down in the penalty area by Simon Ford. At the other end, more crucially, Mendy's left-footed volley whizzed inches wide before Wright-Phillips' all-purpose contribution was crowned by a richly deserved added time goal.
Big French striker Yann Kermorgant had replaced hardworking Hayes on 79 minutes and his silken first touch was followed by an adroit pass to pick out Wagstaff on the right flank. Thankfully restored to good health and possibly still irritated by Chesterfield's cavalier attitude to his suffering, the indefatigable winger produced a perfect waist-high cross which Wright-Phillips dived to convert at the far post. That notorious two-goal lead is a slippery bar of soap for Charlton to hold on to but they managed it with something of a flourish in the time left. Which was only two minutes, after all...
Charlton (4-4-2): Hamer, Solly, Morrison, Taylor, Wiggins, Wagstaff (Hughes 90),, Hollands, Stephens, Jackson, Hayes (Kermorgant 80), Wright-Phillips. Not used: Sullivan, Euell, Cort.
Chesterfield (4-4-2): Fleming, Talbot, Grounds, Ford, Smith, Allott, Mendy, Johnson (Morgan 80), Whittaker, Westcarr (Boden 87), Clarke. Not used: Smith, Holden, Randall.
Referee: G. Scott. Attendance: 22,151.