Leyton Orient 1 (Smyth 73) Charlton 0
By Kevin Nolan at The Breyer Group Stadium (aka Brisbane Road)
Making eight changes from the first teamers who blitzed Havant & Waterlooville with four late goals in the FA Cup on Saturday, Johnnie Jackson sent out a painfully young side to face Leyton Orient three days later. His Papa John starters included two 19 year-old debutants (Richard Chin and Nazir Bakrin), with "experience" supplied by Albie Morgan, Josh Davison and Deji Elewere, mere kids themselves in football terms.
Orient manager Kenny Jackett responded in kind, making nine changes from the side which beat Ebbsfleet United 1-0 and naming seven academy graduates to face the Addicks. Only Shad Ogie and Hector Kyprianou survived from the team which advanced to the second round of the world's oldest football competition. Both the tyro Jackson and the old sweat Jackett clearly prioritised the FA Cup over the Papa John's Trophy. For them (and most of us) it's the difference between sit-down steak and takeaway pizza.
What rolled out in front of us at The Breyer Group Stadium was essentially a youth team clash to decide which club won the group and got to play at home in the next round. With both teams already qualified, precisely 1,530 Os fans were on hand to "jubilantly celebrate" (as the club's official website put it) Paul Smyth's late matchwinner. Behind the opposite goal, some 762 disgruntled Charlton diehards questioned why Smyth had rarely been as clinical in the more famous red-and-white.
With Jackson in hands-on charge in the coaching area, the young Addicks controlled the first half, played some nice stuff and were a shade unfortunate not to take a lead with them into half-time. They were also committed to a build-from-the-back policy which involved the exchange of totally needless passes across their penalty area, a practice which appears to have been mercifully abandoned by the first team. It was to prove their downfall much later on.
A comparative veteran among so many greenhorns, meanwhile, Albie Morgan was the visitors' midfield hub and produced a peach of a pass which sent Mason Burstow through to fire a rising drive, tipped on to the bar and safety by keeper Rhys Byrne. The East Londoners replied instantly as Tyrese Omotoye cleverly eluded Elewere but was foiled by Nathan Harness' outstretched left leg. A pleasingly end-to-end encounter continued with Harness' lusty clearance flicked on by Burstow for Davison to drag a low shot wide of Byrne's left upright. Davison was then out of luck when his goalbound volley met Morgan's outswinging corner but deflected harmlessly wide off an unwitting Elewere; Ben Dempsey concluded the first half by heading Charles Clayden's left wing cross wastefully wide.
Jackett sent out a more purposeful gang of whippersnappers for the second session and Harness was promptly called on to tip Smyth's header, from Matt Young's cross. over the bar. The former Addick threatened again as Dan Happe's quick-thinking free kick sent him clear to beat Harness to the ball and prod it agonisingly against the foot of a post.
The odds shifted in Charlton's favour when a pair of almost identical fouls by Os' midfielder Anthony Papadopoulos on Morgan, then Burstow, earned yellow cards and inevitable dismissal. Neither offence was especially vicious but referee Purkiss was in no mood for mercy. His draconian attitude had apparently handed the tie to Jackson's lads.
Orient's response to apparent disaster was commendable. A warning shot was fired across Charlton's bows by Ruel Sotiriou, who shot dangerously wide, but their breakthrough was not long delayed. When it arrived, it provided further evidence that playing out from the back is a foolproof recipe for disaster, as proven by the many cock-ups it spawns at every level. On this inauspicious occasion, Harness (Paul Chuckle) and Elewere (Barry Chuckle) combined to gift Smyth his matchwinner. To you...to me...
Harness' pass to Elewere was not only ill-advised but poorly delivered. There was no obvious point to it, not with Smyth loitering nearby and ready to pounce on any error. For his part, Elewere should have solved the problem more responsibly but faltered in possession and had his pocket picked by the diminutive Northern Irishman. Trailing in Smyth's slipstream, he was helpless to intervene as the sharp little forward moved into range and finished efficiently past the advancing Harness.
Smyth's goal might be among the dinosaurs to be picked over in upcoming times. Increasing use of the press has made mucking about at the back as foolish as it always was before the deep thinkers introduced it as the very latest fad. To many of us tactical thickos, the swapping of six or seven meaningless passes inside your own penalty area makes no sense. The very act of passing temporarily relinquishes possession and depends not only on the accuracy of its purveyor, but the control of its recipient. And you know what they say...to err is human, to forgive...nah, no way, these self-inflicted goals are beyond forgiveness!
Orient: Byrne, Wood, Happe, Mitchell, Omotoye (Nkrumah 89), Sotiriou, Young, Papadopoulos, Ogie ( Thompson 71), Kyprianou. Smyth (Kemp 85). Not used: Sargeant, Clay, Sweeney, Tanga. Booked: Papadopoulos (sent off), Sotiriou.
Charlton: Harness, Chin(Viggars 71), Bakrin, Elewere, Souare, Morgan, Clayden, Dempsey, Henry, Burstow (Powell 71) Davison (Aouachria 46). Not used: Harvey, O'Connor, Gavin, Ness.
Referee: Sam Purkiss. Att: 2,292(762 visiting).