Charlton 4 (Kermorgant 13, 37, Wright-Phillips 21, Hollands 48) Carlisle United 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
It's a long, weary road from London back to Carlisle after you've been outclassed 4-0. You're entitled to wonder whether, in the nagging words of the World War II poster, "your journey was really necessary." And it only adds to the misery to reflect that your performance included a player sent off, a penalty missed and a goalkeeping catastrophe of heroic proportions. So let's be kind to the Cumbrians.
Just 12 miles short of Scotland, United plough a lonely furrow as the solitary league representative of their remote county. For evidence of just how lonely it is look no further than the bleak reality that their local derby passion is directed at...Workington. That's hardly a clash to make emotional wrecks of their fans. In fact, it's a clash that hardly ever happens.
The Blues have endured dramatic highs and soul-destroying lows recently. Relegated to the Conference following the 2003-04 season, they made an immediate return to the Football League in 2004-05 by way of a play-off victory at the Brittania Stadium. Having restored the natural order, they drove a coach-and-four through League Two in 2005-06 and are back where they belong again.
League One is not where Charlton consider THEY belong. Their pedigree comprises numerous seasons in the top echelon of English football, punctuated by years of waiting in the old Second Division, now all gussied up as The Championship. The Addicks don't regard themselves as Third Division material, except, of course, that's where they find themselves right now.
During a blistering first half, the new side assembled by almost as new manager Chris Powell served notice that they are deadly serious about tearing themselves clear of what frankly is a depressing division. Beaten for the first time last week by Stoneage Stevenage, they took out their irritation on poor old Carlisle. In little over a half hour, they chewed up and spat out their bewildered visitors, scored three excellent goals and, for once, spared another marvellous Valley crowd their usual ordeal of nerve-jangling worry on the way to victory.
With new dad Dale Stephens' compassionate absence admirably covered by Andy Hughes and Chris Solly resuming at right back, Powell's decision to continue with Yann Kermorgant up front was handsomely vindicated by the Frenchman's bravura performance.
Scorer of two goals as what is popularly called an "impact sub", Kermorgant had struggled to make an impression in a couple of starts. His difficulties were put behind him by two outstanding strikes, the first of them finishing off a fluent move launched by an artfully lobbed pass from Johnnie Jackson and continued by Rhoys Wiggins' deliciously volleyed cross from the left. Kermorgant's firm header did the rest.
Eight minutes later, fast improving goalkeeper Ben Hamer earned himself an assist with a deliberately arrowed clearance which panicked United right back James Tavernier into a hopelessly underpowered header back to stranded keeper Adam Collin. Greased lightning in such situations, Bradley Wright-Phillips accelerated smoothly, beat Collin to the ball and rolled it precisely home from an acute angle.
The North Easterners were all at sea and easy prey for the rampaging Wiggins, who left Tavernier in his wake as he marauded along the left byline before picking out Wright-Phillips with an astute cutback. Charlton's razor sharp striker was twice foiled by desperate blocks from Peter Murphy but Kermorgant tidied up the mess with a rising drive off the underside of the bar.
United's discomfiture intensified with the pre-interval dismissal of Matt Robson. Deservedly booked for a earlier foul on Danny Green, no doubt a consequence of Green's effortless mastery of the left back, Robson's trip on Wright-Phillips lacked malice but left erratic referee Sheldrake no wriggle room in applying the letter of the law. Carlisle's wretched afternoon was degenerating fast but their humiliation was not quite over yet.
Shortly after resumption, Danny Hollands carried the ball over the halfway line, proceeded without challenge into shooting range and tried his luck from over 25 yards. His shot was firm enough but was no more than routine business for Collin to collect. A glaring sun was complicating life but could hardly be cited in his defence because Hollands' optimistic slipped through his legs.
The only possible consolation for the stricken keeperwas that a fourth goal had by then become academic. The same comfort could be extended to James Berrett, who spurned the chance to reduce United's arrears from the spot after Wiggins was harshly adjudged to have handled Tavernier's cross. Hamer protected his clean sheet by brilliantly saving James Berrett's firmly struck penalty. It's best to miss penalties when they have little effect on the outcome, just as it's easier to accept grotesque decisions such as the one later made by Mr. Sheldrake, who appeared oblivious to the obvious handling of Wiggins' goalbound drive by Danny Livesey. You only get so many penalties per season. You don't want to waste one with the score already 4-0.
A club without any apparent unpleasantness to them, Carlisle duly embarked on their punchdrunk journey to the far reaches of the northwest, with the prospect that, on St. Patrick's Day, there awaits them an even more gruelling assignment at Bournemouth. Anyway, a club which boasts among their season ticket holders no less a luminary as Coronation Street's Norris Cole (Malcolm Hebdon) has much to recommend it. Gratuitously- and with no justification other than a desire to share his riches - we offer in appreciation one of his better bon mots: "Yorkshire Moors? Fresh air? It didn't do the Bronte sisters much good. They were all dead by the time they were 40!" Harsh, admittedly, but fair, which accurately describes the treatment received by the Cumbrians in the cheerfully polluted air of South London.
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Morrison, Taylor, Wiggins, Green (Wagstaff 69), Hollands (Euell 72), Hughes, Jackson, Kermorgant, Wright-Phillips (Hayes 76). Not used: Sullivan, Cort.
Carlisle: Collin, Tavernier, Livesey, Murphy, Robson (sent off), Berrett, McGovern, Taiwo, Loy (Curran 76), Noble (Michalik 46), Miller (Zoko 76). Not used: Gillespie, Helan.
Referee: Darren Sheldrake. Attendance: 16,741.