Charlton 0 Brentford 3 (Adams 2, O'Connor 24, pen, Diagouraga 61).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
His hands tied by the tournament sponsor's cute caveat concerning team selection, Chris Powell was reduced to chewing his fingernails on Wednesday evening while half of his first team were in action against Brentford in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. It was no consolation to know that Uwe Rosler, the Bee's manager, was in the same boat.
It's safe to say that Powell's first destination after this halfhearted performance was the injury treatment room. A trip to Wembley is all very well but in his own words "it's all about the league" for him. The mere avoidance of inconvenient injuries would have been, from his point of view, a satisfactory result. Likewise Rosler, no doubt, but last season's finalists Brentford were patently more committed. The West Londoners won comfortably and well within themselves.
For promotion-hungry Charlton, early defeat in this unloved competition cleared another deck on the choppy voyage to the Championship. And they set about eliminating themselves with almost indecent haste. In only the second minute, a weak header from ponderous Gary Doherty dropped limply at the feet of Myles Weston, who surged forward to find Adam Thompson unmarked inside the penalty area. John Sullivan reacted smartly to block Thompson's point blank shot but was unlucky that the loose ball squirted to Blair Adams, who had no trouble in scoring.
It was becoming obvious that the West Londoners were taking things rather more seriously than their scatterbrained hosts and it was no surprise when they doubled their lead halfway through the first period. Clearly struggling to adjust to the game's hardly burning pace, Mikel Alonso was enduring a private nightmare, which reached its low point as the debutant's attempt to correct a poor touch led to his haplessly timed challenge on Toumani Diagouraga near the penalty spot. The clearcut spotkick was calmly converted by skipper Kevin O'Connor and the Bees were already out of sight. It needs pointing out, in the interest of fairness, that Alonso improved steadily and showed that he can play a bit.
In central defence for Brentford, meanwhile, was Miguel Llera, an ex-Addick with a point to prove. His anxiety to make that point was betrayed by the flagrant trip on Danny Green, which earned the big Spaniard a booking and Charlton a free kick in a promising position. Green's low strike penetrated the wall but was routine for Simon Moore to beat aside. But at least Charlton had managed a shot on target.
Rosler's men reasserted their superiority and should have gone further ahead but the lively Weston, another former Addick with some sort of grudge, headed O'Connor's precise cross straight at Sullivan. Diagouraga sloppily finished a first half, to which he had made a positive contribution in surprisingly shabby fashion, first by gifting Paul Hayes a chance which the forward volleyed narrowly over the bar, then picking up a yellow card for a vindictive foul on Green.
Even the keenly anticipated entry of substitute Yann Kermorgant, as a 63rd minute replacement for Johnnie Jackson failed to turn the tide. Showing his usual neat touches, the big Frenchman produced one inspired moment with a long distance chip inches too high. Scott Wagstaff also stung Moore's fingers from 25 yards but, by that time, Brentford had already settled the issue with a third goal. There was initlal doubt that Diagouraga's fierce drive would count, with a linesman's flag appearing to rule it out but wiser counsel, in the form of referee Linington, ensured that justice was done. Not that it seemed to matter much.
With a clean bill of health and Tranmere due at The Valley on Saturday, Powell will surely regard his team's early exit from this millstone of a competition as a blessing in disguise. Promotion to the Championship is the be-all and end-all of this crucial season. To Brentford went the spoils, such as they were. Powell settled for a huge sigh of relief.
Charlton: Sullivan, Hughes, Doherty, Taylor (Morrison 46), Evina, Green, Stephens (Euell 46), Alonso, Jackson (Kermorgant 63), Hayes, Wagstaff. Not used: Hamer, Francis.
Brentford: Moore, O'Connor, Woodman, Bean, Llera, Eger, Clarkson (Grella 75), Diagouraga, Thompson, Adams (Wood 58), Weston. Not used: Lee, Saunders, Spillane.
Referee: J.Linington. Attendance: 3,486.