Charlton 3 (Blackett-Taylor 12, McGrandles 51, May 68) Sutton Utd 0.
Cool, composed and cohesive, a strong-looking Charlton side had too much of everything for League Two visitors Sutton United and strolled effortlessly into the knockout stages of what is now called the Bristol Street Motors Trophy. Struggling at the very bottom of the 92-club EFL pyramid, despite an opening day 5-1 thrashing of promotion aspirants Notts County, the Us need Cup distractions like the proverbial hole-in-the-head. Their less than enthusiastic approach to this confusing competition can be summed up by the 71st minute introduction of 42 year-old substitute Craig Dundas.
Charlton’s own attitude underwent a dramatic volte-face recently after their seriously under-strength selection was humiliated by Cray Valley PM in the first round of the FA Cup. Stung by criticism, manager Michael Appleton named a no-nonsense side for the replay, which was won comfortably in a second-half blitz. He made no such mistake against Sutton and acknowledged that his carefully calibrated side’s “attitude was spot-on. They showed a really good appetite for the game. There was a hunger and desire.”
There were also impressively relaxed performances from his eleven starters and from the five substitutes who supported them. Among several candidates for MOM -oops, POM – was the often unfairly maligned Conor McGrandles, whose midfield generalship and unhurried distribution were capped by a rare goal. McGrandles’ Scottish know-how was backed up by Louie Watson’s tireless foraging and forward-facing movement. Behind them, Tennai Watson and Lucas Ness were sound, unruffled defenders, as was the versatile Nathan Asiimwe. They were facing weak opposition but were a joy to watch in dealing with it.
Charlton’s business-like attitude was clear from the outset. They might have moved into a 10th minute lead but Miles Leaburn’s low snapshot rebounded off the foot of Steve Arnold’s right post. As it was, they were required to wait just two more minutes before Corey Blackett-Taylor fired them into a lead they were never likely to relinquish. Supplied by the elegant Scott Fraser, he turned Ryan Jackson inside-out before smashing a low drive across Arnold into the bottom right corner.
The visitors were being outplayed but rallied sufficiently for towering centre forward Harry Smith to head Rob Milsom’s corner into the side-netting but were indebted to Arnold for a smart save to keep out Tyreece Campbell’s fiercely angled shot at his near post. Shortly before the break, They should have fallen further behind when substitute Harry Beautyman was adjudged to have brought Campbell down as the speedster eluded him on the left byline. The wrongs-or-rights of referee Carl Brooks’ decision to award a penalty became academic when Blackett-Taylor drilled the spotkick off the woodwork.
United’s relief lasted five minutes into the second half when they were effectively finished off by McGrandles second goal of the season. Set up by Campbell’s persistence on the left, the tall playmaker’s first time effort from outside the penalty area beat Arnold, who was left helpless by an unlucky deflection off Ben Goodliffe on its way inside his right-hand post.
Any chance Matt Gray’s side had of working back into contention disappeared when Smith missed their best chance near the hour mark. An isolated error by Tennai Watson allowed Josh Coley to get behind the Addicks’ wrongfooted defence and set up a clearcut shooting chance which Smith hit tamely into Sam Walker’s hands. The suddenly busy keeper then saved smartly at his near post from Omari Parker before Charlton’s third goal finished off the outclassed visitors.
Alfie May had been among a trio of 6oth minute substitutes and wasted little time in adding to his growing tally of goals this season. The tireless little enthusiast was on hand to nod home right wing Fraser’s cross, after Campbell had dispossessed Beautyman and supplied his skipper.
There should be quiet satisfaction if no excessive celebration of this routine victory over League Two’s bottom club. But Sutton were put in their place by these steadily improving Addicks, whose one-touch passing was electric and eloquent. They played well within themselves, no doubt with upcoming league commitments in mind, but this was a timely boost in confidence and self-belief. They’re as good potentially as any side in League One. There’s no better time than now to prove it.
Charlton: Walker, Asiimwe, Ness, Tennai Watson. Edun (Jones 60), Blackett-Taylor (May 60), McGrandles (Dobson 60), Tyreece Campbell, Louie Watson, Fraser (Kedwell 75), Leaburn (Tedic 75). Not used: Adegoke, Chem Campbell.
Sutton: Arnold, Sowumni, Goodliffe. Coley (N’Guessan 71), Smith (Dundas 71), Patrick, Clay, Fadahunsi, Jackson, Milsom (John 57), Gape (Beautyman 46). Not used: House, Sullivan, Moore.
Referee: Carl Brook. Att: 1,377 (294 visiting).