Charlton 4 (Stockley 28, 34 pen, Purrington 45+2, Pearce 90+2) Southampton u-21 1 (Lancashire 75)
Say what you like about Papa John's Trophy - and most of us already have - but you won't hear a word against it in the SE7 area of London. Charlton's two best performances of a doleful season have been reserved for this much derided competition. Ask any of the doughty 689 (40) souls who braved an early harbinger of winter to watch them dismantle Southampton U-21s with a first half display of slick, fluent football. They'll testify that the ball zipped accurately from player to player with malicious intent as the visitors were outclassed before the break before withdrawing three goals down, grateful that their deficit was not considerably more daunting.
It's only fair to report that the visitors, no doubt on the end of a dressing room dressing down from manager David Horseman, dominated much of the second half, missing a penalty and briefly reducing their arrears, before their hosts finished them off with a fourth goal in added time. But this tie had already been decided by 45 stand-alone minutes of intensity and purpose, during which the Addicks blew them away.
A strong Charlton side, clearly fancying the job, tore from the blocks and created a flurry of chances in the early going. Sean Clare, one of several players with a point to make, shot narrowly wide, as did Ben Purrington following a sharp exchange of passes with Charlie Kirk. Skipper Jason Pearce sent a header from Albie Morgan's corner inches off target as the one-way traffic flowed towards Jack Bycroft's goal. A cluster of corners kept the pressure on but with almost a half hour played, Charlton needed a goal to put the seal on their superiority, a detail duly taken care of by Jayden Stockley's 28th minute breakthrough.
Morgan's partially cleared right wing corner was re-cycled by George Dobson to its taker, who crossed precisely for Purrington to head forcefully against the bar. A hectic scramble featuring blocked efforts by Purrington and Pearce was resolved by Stockley, who prodded the opener over the line through a thicket of prone bodies. Four minutes later, Stockley increased the lead from the penalty spot after Bycroft upended the combative Clare. His spotkick was struck with ferocious power and rebounded almost to his feet.
The young Saints were in danger of capsizing completely but Kirk let them off the hook by blazing well over the bar after the excellent Morgan's crunching tackle squirted the ball to his feet. They were not so lucky two minutes into added time when George Dobson worked a short corner with Morgan and crossed from the left to the far post, where Purrington nodded in the Addicks' third.
Purrington's goal completed an exhilarating first half, during which first-team fringe players such as Clare, Dobson, Kirk and Diallang Jaiyesimi reminded Nigel Adkins of their availability and ability. Nothing had been seen of the visitors as an attacking force until Ramello Mitchell cut into the penalty area from the left and was ruthlessly chopped down by Adam Matthews as he shaped to shoot. Caleb Watts hit the penalty firmly enough but, diving to his right, Nathan Harness saved brilliantly.
Had Watts scored, Southampton's eventual success 15 minutes from the end might have made the closing stages a bit tricker for Johnnie Jackson's men. But he didn't score and Olly Lancashire's 75th minute goal, which he nodded past Harness from Kami Doyle's centre was no more than a consolation. Even that was nullified by Pearce, who bundled in from all of twelve inches when Stockley headed another of Morgan's corners back across goal to him.
When Nigel Adkins names the starting XI to face Lincoln City, he will be facing an embarrassment of riches, if the evidence he gathered at The Valley on Tuesday evening can be taken seriously. There were sturdy contributions made by Clare and Dobson, more uneven performances from the unquestionably talented Kirk and Jaiyesimi, while Deji Elewere, despite his youth, made a convincing claim for inclusion with his precocious coolness. Meanwhile, the ability of Corey Blackett-Taylor, who relieved Kirk and tore Southampton's left-sided defence to tormented shreds, speaks for itself. Charlton have all the parts at hand; It's Adkins' task to form a settled whole from them. He could do worse than seek inspiration from this pleasing performance and the annihilation of Crawley Town in the same competition back on August 31st.
Never thought I'd say this but the Papa Doc Trophy is growing on me. Roll on the November 9th showdown with Leyton Orient. We must not allow our commitments in League One to distract us, not with Wembley in our sights.
Charlton: Harness, Matthews, Elewere, Pearce, Purrington, Clare (Dempsey 77), Kirk (Blackett-Taylor 75), Morgan, Dobson, Jaiyesimi (Clayden 61), Stockley. Not used: Beadle, Famewo, Bakrin, Burstow. Booked: Dobson, Clayden, Morgan, Pearce.
Southampton U-21: Bycroft, Smallbone (Ballard 46), Lancashire, Simeu, Olufunwa, Watts, Chauke, Mitchell, Payne, Otseh-Taiwo (Davey 82), Doyle. Not used: Wright, Smith, Burnett, Pambou. Booked: Simeu.
Referee David Rock. Att: 869 (40 visiting).