Crawley Town 4 (Forster 40 secs, Lolos 45, Tsaroulla 70, Khaleel 81) Charlton 3 (Leaburn 23, T. Campbell 27, Dobson 52)
By now a veteran of Livestream, Kevin Nolan did a bit of cursing as Charlton plucked defeat from no more than a draw down in Crawley.
As far as the locals were concerned, Crawley Town’s 4-3 defeat of League One Charlton was a richly rewarding thriller, during which their underdogs had come from behind twice to put their loftier visitors in their place. In the glow of winning, it was easy to forget the setbacks which marred their buccaneering performance. To the victor go the spoils and this was an evening to celebrate that fact – whatever the spoils are.
Reflecting on a game which they had held firmly in their hands but were at pains to throw away, Charlton supporters, whether among the impressive 765 eyewitnesses or the uncounted number on Livestream, will be less understanding. Their interest in the Papa John Trophy is lukewarm but winning is a useful habit and this was an excellent opportunity to build on Saturday’s overdue victory over Fleetwood. Those aspirations were badly dented less than a minute after new boy Louie Watson kicked off for the Addicks.
Playing out from the back is still the way forward in the modern game and Charlton remain among its most faithful disciples. Watson’s ball backwards was passed aimlessly between their less than enthusiastic defenders until right back Richard Chin drew the short straw by receiving possession with his back to the touchline while under pressure from Jack Roles. A hefty boot upfield might have been a sensible option but that’s frowned upon by the tactical zealots and Chin tarried long enough for Roles to whisk the ball off his toe and snap off a first time shot. Although George Dobson blocked his effort, the rebound broke kindly for Harry Forster to drill an opportunistic opener past Harry Isted. Charlton had effectively handicapped themselves by handing their gleeful hosts a head start, which was to prove ultimately decisive.
Chin’s a good lad and kept his – er- chin up before, some 20 minutes later, redeeming himself by laying on a brilliant goal for Miles Leaburn. His aggressive running was capped by a delicious cross, to which Leaburn responded by heading cleverly past Luca Ashby-Hammond and in off the keeper’s left hand post. The big man’s return is a shot in the arm for caretaker boss Jason Pearce, not to mention good news for Alfie May, who will surely prosper with Charlton’s talisman alongside him.
The Red Devils (sorry but that’s what they call themselves) were rocked by the equaliser and found themselves behind just three minutes later. Charlie Kirk’s ball forward ricocheted conveniently off Leaburn to Tyreece Campbell to his left. Squared up one-on-one with Tobi Omole, Campbell dismissed Omole’s weak challenge and placed a right-footed drive into the bottom right corner.
Firmly in control but, as usual, unable to turn their domination into tangible reward, Charlton instead squandered their advantage and were predictably punished in the dying seconds of the first half. A busy worker up front for the Red whatsits, Greek striker Klaidi Lolos rose high to head Roles’ left wing cross into the top right corner.
A surprise choice by Pearce, Dobson had been operating at a lesser level of intensity than normal but his presence had been felt in an untidy but entertaining first period. Seven minutes after the break, he came up with his second goal of the season, a return which already qualifies as prolific by his parsimonious standards. Picking up Watson’s square pass, the skipper detonated a ferocious 25-yard drive which gave Ashby-Hammond no chance on its way into the top left corner. It was a sweet strike and should encourage its scorer to chance his arm more regularly in future. Unhappily – and inevitably – it was not to be a matchwinner.
Twenty minutes from the end, Town were level again, with Roles again the instigator of their second equaliser. His long cross was inconclusively headed clear by Lucas Ness to Liam Kelly, whose pass to Nick Tsaroulla was looped over Isted and inside his left hand post. It was all very exciting but no surprise to world weary Addicks followers that even a draw proved beyond them. Their heroes were a dishevelled rabble by the time Lolos picked out Rahill Khaleel in space on the right, with only substitute Jacob Roddy between him and Charlton’s goal. As Roddy helpfully stood off him, Khaleel accepted his implied invitation to crash a rising shot into the roof of Isted’s net.
Defeat in the Papa John, while it smarts at the time, comes with a silver lining. Nobody remembers who won it last season and to say it’s easily overlooked states the bleedin’ obvious. It’s an obligatory nuisance without tradition or history. But I still wish we’d beaten Crawley!
Crawley: Ashby-Hammond, Omole, Ransom (Wright 46), Mukena, Johnson, Darcy (Kelly 46), Roles, Forster (Tsarouula 46), Simon-Sawyer, Lolos, Khaleel. Not used: Addams, Brown, Kastrati.
Charlton: Isted, Chin (Laqeretabua 46), Elerewe, Ness, Edun (Roddy 61), Taylor, Dobson, L. Watson (Kanu 61), T. Campbell (C. Campbell 77), Leaburn (Tedic 46). Not used: Molyneux, Kedwell.
Referee: Aji Ajibola. Att: 1,973 (765 visiting).