Oxford United 0 Charlton 3 (Kermorgant 35, 59), Green 38.
Kevin Nolan reports from the Kassam Stadium.
Having spent a wretched half hour demonstrating an apparent lack of interest in the FA Cup, an almost full strength Charlton pulled themselves together and efficiently disposed of Oxford United in this 3rd round replay. A two-goal salvo dented local hopes in the first half, a third on the hour saw them off. The questionable fruits of the Addicks' labours is a 4th round trip on Saturday to Huddersfield Town, where they have lost twice already this season. Not the best of draws but to win it, you have to be in it.
Before Yann Kermorgant scored the first of two excellent goals, the Championship strugglers seemed at pains to descend to United's lower level, colluding with them in a dreadful mishmash of misplaced passes, carelessness in possession and mutual inefficiency. An assignment in West Yorkshire was clearly a poisoned chalice to be passed on at all costs. Then, to general surprise, the visitors scored and discovered, in the process, that they had little to beat. The opener itself was well worked and clinically converted.
A familiar mixture of promise and frustration, left winger Callum Harriott shook off the lethargy to loft a pass to Simon Church, back to goal and shadowed by Jake Wright. Expertly shielding the ball, Church laid off to Kermorgant, whose vicious 15-yard drive exploded into the net off Ryan Clarke's vainly groping right hand.
The process was so simple that the Addicks wasted little time in doubling their advantage. Tactically switching wings with Danny Green, Harriott eluded left back Tom Newey before sending Church sprinting through the U's dishevelled defence. While Green kept pace with him to his left, the busy forward bore down on Clarke, then chose the precise moment to square generously for his colleague to walk the gift over the line. Church's unselfishness in sacrificing his own need to score in his team's interest will not have gone unnoticed by his appreciative manager.
Possibly relieved that a Cup odyssey which began with a 1st round trek to Gateshead on November 9th was finally over, outclassed Oxford offered little in reply. A crisp drive from James Constable, their solitary effort on target, was collected without fuss by Ben Alnwick, while Josh Ruffels headed David Hunt's cross narrowly wide. But there was nothing much else to trouble the Addicks as they coasted serenely into the next round.
There were, of course, motions to be gone through and respect owed to honourable losers. On the hour, Kermorgant added a final flourish to Charlton's comfortable victory after Johnny Mullins' irritable challenge on the rampant forward, for which he became the game's only booking, briefly soured the benign mood.
Picking himself up from the turf, Kermorgant sized up a 30-yard free kick, slightly to the right of centre. His left-footed skipper Johnnie Jackson showed an interest in having a go from a more advantageous angle but his burly teammate was having none of it. A textbook strike soared into the top right corner with Clarke a helpless witness to its deadly accuracy. And apart from the aforementioned motions, that was all she wrote. Or nearly all.
For revelling in the unaccustomed absence of pressure, Chris Powell duly indulged in a small helping of cup romance. With eight minutes remaining, the game's most accomplished player, Dale Stephens, gave way to 18-year old Diego Poyet, son of Gus, the former Chelsea and Uruguay star. The small pocket of musical, travelling fans promptly confided in us that the son was better than the father. Actually, if he's half as good, he'll be useful but during his brief debut cameo, he showed skill, guts and a hint of acceptable cockiness, masquerading as confidence.
There were other plus points for Powell. Jackson sailed through 90 committed minutes, Alnwick's return to rude health proved beyond reasonable doubt that he is currently Charlton's best goalkeeper and Green, along with Harriott, provided ressurance that the squad has depth. It's also worth mentioning the surprising return from injury of Marvin Sordell, an overlooked striker with plenty to prove.
On the negative side, it might be time for the club to show transparency in clearing up the doubt surrounding Chris Solly's absence. Football is a constantly turning rumour mill, the latest of which suggests that the outstanding right back faces further surgery following a recovery setback. If true - and it remains no more than a rumour - the news underlines the continuing problems faced by Powell, who also temporarily lost Rhoys Wiggins, his other full back star, to suspension last weekend.
The beleaguered boss, like the Victorian poor, has nothing...and is expected to make it go a long way. It would help his cause if fans were told the truth. After all, they march arm-in-arm, shoulder-to-shoulder, with the team they and deserve no less. To be honest - and I'm nothing if not honest - I wouldn't mind knowing myself. Not that I'm nosy or anything but....well, y'know.
Oxford: Clarke, Hunt, Raynes, Wright, Newey, Rigg (O'Dowda 79), Davies, Mullins, Ruffels, Smalley, Constable (Marsh 79). Not used:Rose, Long, Lynn, Shama, Bevans. Booked: Mullins.
Charlton: Alnwick, Wilson, Morrison, Dervite, Evina, Green, Stephens (Poyet 82), Jackson, Harriott (Pritchard 68), Church, Kermorgant (Sordell 76). Not used: Phillips, Wood, Lennon, Pigott.
Referee: David Coote. Att: 3,225.