Charlton 2 (Grant 12,88) Plymouth Argyle 1 (Carey 9).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
After coming of age just four days before this game, Karlan Grant rubberstamped his 21st birthday with two vital goals to drag Charlton across the line to victory over stubborn Plymouth Argyle at a rainsoaked Valley. Having made his debut as far back as September 2014, the young Academy graduate seems to have been around forever but it's his dramatic improvement during the last few months which has been particularly gratifying for his New Eltham mentors. There was always a bona-fide player lurking behind the often diffident novice and he's finally emerged from his shell. Karlan's a born-again Addick.
A freescoring loan spell with Crawley Town towards the end of last season sent the young striker back to Charlton brimming with new confidence. Hitting the ground running - and- scoring- under new manager Lee Bowyer's nurturing eye since this campaign kicked off, Grant has formed one half of a potent partnership with Lyle Taylor, which guarantees problems for League One defences. Possibly removing the weight of "Ahearne" from his back and going single-barrelled did the trick. Hopefully, it catches on among all the ersatz public schoolboys currently cluttering our teamsheets.
Grant's first goal was particularly timely coming, as it did, just three minutes after the injury-hit Pilgrims had silenced the home tribunes by grabbing a shock lead. He was artfully goalhanging under the crossbar when Jason Pearce's cushioning header of Ben Reeves' outswinging corner from the left reached him; swivelling balletically, he ruthlessly hooked the ball into the net. Though there was a frustrating wait in store for his second goal, the equaliser took the immediate wind from the Westcountrymen's sails. They really needed to consolidate their early advantage until at least the interval. Not that they didn't give a spirited account of themselves during the long struggle separating Grant's goals.
A cagey opening had sprung into life when Graham Carey, Argyle's midfield driving force, headed the visitors in front. The spadework for his chance was provided by Ruben Lameiras' sharp pass out to Joel Grant on the left flank and continued by an accurate cross, delivered right-footed by the Jamaican international and nodded neatly into the bottom left corner by Carey. Painful questions might be asked about the inability of the normally impeccable Chris Solly to close down Grant's space and of momentarily switched-off Lewis Page for allowing Carey to brush past him to steal the yard he needed in making telling contact with the wideman's inviting centre.
A prompt riposte was demanded of the Addicks and Grant's fourth goal of the season cut the mustard perfectly. It was never going to be easy to break Plymouth's toe-to-toe resistance thereafter but the momentum had shifted in favour of Bowyer's eager beavers. Enjoying his best performance in the red shirt, Reeves began to show the class which, to be fair to him, was recognised by Karl Robinson at MK Dons. Alongside him, Joe Aribo, until he faded somewhat, made his usual prodigious contribution, while Josh Cullen's Scott Parker-like quality was again obvious. With pugnacious Jamie Ward beginning to settle in and Billy Clarke on his way back, Bowyer seems satisfactorily stocked in midfield. And up front, of course, in the prolific partnership of Grant and Lyle Taylor he has the means to frighten defences at this level.
It was Taylor, foraging in the right channel, whose shrewd pass played Solly into unaccustomed penalty area territory five minutes from the break. Diligently tracking the adventurous right back's run, Antoni Sarcevic's lunging challenge from behind was both ill-advised and illegal. Handed the opportunity to punish the offence from the spot, Taylor was instead foiled by Matt Macey, who brilliantly fingertipped his shot against the bar. With Grant unable to turn in the rebound from an acute angle, Argyle had been spared to fight on. Grant might find solace in accepting that if there's ever a good time to miss a penalty, it's in an ultimately winning cause.
Prior to the interval, the lanky Macey again distinguished himself with a double save to deny first Ward, then Grant from the ensuing rebound. Ten minutes following resumption, Joel Grant came close to rubbing salt into Charlton's wounds with a shot which deflected wickedly to safety off the bar. But by then the traffic was flowing in one direction, with Page and Aribo denied by emergency blocks before Taylor's electric burst was blunted by Peter Grant's heroic intervention; Grant shot wildly wide with Taylor better placed, then Page's effort looped off Ryan Edwards but harmlessly against the left upright. It seemed that the Pilgrims would be progressing home with a valuable point when, in the 88th minute, their brave defensive wall was breached.
Switching to the left, Reeves stepped inside to launch one more cross towards the far post. Competing with Yann Song'o in the air, Igor Vetokele managed enough contact to keep the ball alive, his touch all Grant needed to bury the matchwinner through a spreadeagled Green army and to break the hearts of 1013 long-distance commuters watching in horror from behind the far goal. Those broken hearts soon joined home hearts in their mouths as substitute David Fox comprehensively beat Jed Steer with a right-footed cannonball which took the paint off the left post, rebounded off the barrier back into the safe part of the sidenet, meanwhile fooling one and all that he had scored. Seconds later, the three added minutes, which served as a rebuke to the visitors for their flagrant time wasting, came to an end and Charlton's latest walk on the wild side was over. Call 'em what you like but don't dare call 'em boring!
Charlton: Steer, Solly, Pearce, Sarr, Page, Cullen, Aribo, Ward (Vetokele 81), Reeves, Grant, Taylor. Not used: Phillips, Dijksteel, Marshall, Morgan, Ajose, Lapslie. Booked: Taylor.
Plymouth: Macey, Smith-Brown, Wootton (Peter Grant 38), Edwards, Sawyer (Wylde 46), Songo'o, Carey, Sarcevic (Fox 53), Joel Grant, Lameiras, Ladapo. Not used: Letheren, O'Keefe, Dyson, Fletcher.
Referee: Dean Whitestone. Att: 10,818 (1013 visiting).