Charlton 1 (Ahearne-Grant 7) Oxford United 1 (Thomas 54).
(Oxford won penalty shoot-out 3-0).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
A frustrated Karl Robinson had two important statistics at hand to explain Charlton's exit from the Checkatrade Trophy, in arctic weather tolerable by human beings but ominous for the welfare of brass monkeys.
"We had over 60% of possession and 23 shots to one from them. You're writing the same article every week. Charlton were the better team but didn't take their chances", the beleaguered manager complained.
There's more than a grain of truth in Robinson's lament but it hardly tells the full story. Charlton were superior in the first half on Tuesday evening, withdrew at half-time in front but re-emerged following the break a totally different side. As did the outplayed visitors who, no doubt, drew encouragement from knowing that their hosts rarely score more than once and find it impossible to seal the issue with a second goal. The word is out on Charlton. They give suckers an even break. So it's worth hanging in there against them.
This 3rd round tie opened along familiar lines. The Addicks tore from the traps and were spectacularly fired ahead after just seven minutes by Karlan Ahearne-Grant. Enthusiastically chasing down Ricardhino's wayward pass before it crossed the left touchline for a throw-in, he retraced his steps, cruised inside Canice Carroll, then gave Scott Shearer no chance with an unstoppable right-footed drive into the far corner. Ahearne-Grant's premature withdrawal, hopefully for precautionary reasons just past the half hour, summed up the wretched luck of both this mercurial player and his injury-haunted manager.
Comfortably on top, Charlton pottered about in familiar, unconvincing pursuit of a second, reassuring goal. Ahmed Kashi stung Shearer's hand from 30 yards but it was the holding midfielder whose carelessness in possession gave United their first sliver of hope. Pouncing on Kashi's error, Ryan Ledson broke through but was foiled by Ezri Konsa's brilliant saving tackle. The visitors were sporadically dangerous, with Wes Thomas' cross from the left eluding everyone on its way across the six-yard line. Dillon Phillips' low save from Jack Payne, meanwhile, confounded Robinson's assertion that the visitors had managed but a single shot. Their shooting accuracy, in fact, was to serve them well in decisive circumstances later on.
Two apparently different sides resumed after the interval and within nine minutes Oxford were level. Ledson's optimistic punt forward was disputed by Anfernee Dijksteel and a stumbling Thomas, who shook off the youngster before prodding an opportunistic equaliser past Phillips. As the momentum shifted, Jon Obika's shot was smartly saved by Phillips, with Johnnie Jackson hacking Malachi Napa's point blank follow-up off the goalline.
The dubious prize of a place in the 4th round of this unloved competition was now up for grabs, with Charlton huffing and Oxford puffing in quest of a winner. Stephy Mavididi came closest to sparing us Charlton's subsequent humiliation but his low effort squeezed inches wide.
By then, it had become inevitable that this tie would be resolved by penalties and equally predictable that the Addicks would finish on the short end. In the process, they added three more shots to Robinson's figure of 23, each of them a hapless nail in their Checkatrade coffin. Thanks to the new Abba system, three misses were all that were needed before the shambles was over. For small mercies, may the Checkatrade Trophy make us truly grateful.
Charlton: Phillips, Dijksteel, Konsa, Dasilva, Kashi (Lapslie 60), Marshall, Aribo, Reeves, Jackson, Ahearne-Grant (Hackett-Fairchild 34), Magennis (Mavididi 64). Not used: Amos, Holmes, Lennon, Mascoll.
Oxford: Shearer, Williamson, Martin, Ledson, Thomas (Mehmeti 75), Payne, Obika, Ricardhinho (Tiendalli 46), Mowatt, Carroll, Van Kessel (Napa 57). Not used: Stevens, Henry, Fernandez, Raglan. Booked: Carroll.
Referee: Andy Haines. Att 1,146 (122 visiting).