Charlton u-18s 0 Wigan Athletic 2 (Fulton 6, Brown 74)
Kevin Nolan was at The Valley to see Charlton's young generation experience the agony of defeat.
Charlton's U-18s fought the good fight from whistle to whistle but were fairly and squarely beaten by a well-drilled Wigan side who had their number on an unpleasant evening masquerading as May when it more properly belonged in January. The visitors held a slight edge in nous and, more importantly, finishing. But Anthony Hayes' boys left nothing out on The Valley pitch and owe neither apology nor explanation.
A tough task became that much tougher when the visitors went ahead after just six minutes. The Addicks survived the original confusion caused by Sean McGurk's left wing corner thanks to James Beadle's brilliant save from Millen Brown. They were not so lucky in dealing with Chris Sze's delivery from the opposite flank as a scuffed clearance reached Jason Fulton near the penalty spot. One touch on the centre back's chest set up an unstoppable volley which left Beadle helpless. There were two fine young keepers in opposition in this keenly contested PDL2 final and Tom Watson matched Beadle's excellence with an outstanding response to Kai Garande's top-corner bound drive. Charlton's barnstorming left back had been played clear by Ryan Viggars and seemed momentarily to have beaten Watson until the plunging keeper's fingertips diverted his shot to safety.
Watson was in action again five minutes later when Viggars was sent through by Jeremy Santos, a restless thorn in Wigan's side, and succeeded in rounding the advancing keeper. With the narrowing angle limiting his options, Viggars's shot was resourcefully smothered by the retreating Watson. An end-to-end clash between these talented sides continued to throw up chances, with Brown guilty of missing the apparently unmissable before the interval. Kieran Lloyd combined with Tom Costello to set up the unmarked striker to finish from six yards. His shot, possibly deflected, instead hit the post. Brown should have scored - an error he duly rectified later on.
The hard grafting Viggars came close to equalising ten minutes into the second half. A breathtaking move cooked up by Aaron Henry's cheeky nutmeg and garnished by skipper Charlie Barker's extraordinary sleight-of-foot which bamboozled Marcus Snell, tore the visitors apart down the right. Barker quickly advanced and cut back for Viggars to finish from six yards. The big lad's hasty shot cleared the crossbar and the visitors had been spared again. They already had reason to thank Watson for saving smartly from Jason Adigun soon after the break. Santos probed and experimented ceaselessly -an old-school maverick who took risks and persistently chose the incisive pass over the careful cop-out. He ran into an occasional roadblock but was a pleasure to watch. So was Barker, who ran him close as Charlton's best performer and played with his heart on his sleeve. But then Hayes was not let down by any of his young charges. They gave him their best and brought out the best from Wigan. As the Addicks began to run out of attacking steam, it remained only for the confident visitors to apply the coup-de-grace. Sze could have lowered the boom but his athletic volley from close range sent Lloyd's precise cross spiralling over the bar. Instead it was Brown who provided the Latics with the two-goal margin they sought. More confusion from a corner - this one swung over by McGurk - was resolved by his crisp drive through a crowded six-yard box into the bottom right corner.
There was to be no coming back from this second blow and it was Wigan's captain, James Carragher, who led the wild celebrations at the final whistle - in-yer-face celebrations, it should be said, which initially ignored the anguish of their vanquished opponents until the magnificent Watson led a breakaway deputation of more gracious Latics to commiserate with a bristling Barker and his heartsore mates. Put it down to teenaged exuberance...
Charlton: Beadle, Barker, Bakrin (Asimwe 73), Elewere, Garande (Leaburn 85), Henry, Adigun (Mitchell 75) Santos, Campbell,
Burstow, Viggars. Not used: Whitling, Ladapo. Booked: Bakrin. Wigan: Watson, Lloyd, Snell, Carragher, Fulton, McHugh, McGurk, McGee, Costello, Sze (Pinnington 89), Brown (Welsh 90). Not used: Smith, Tickle, Brooks.