Charlton 1 (Darling 4 o.g.) Swansea City 2 (Piroe 53, Manning 85).
This narrow defeat by Championship hopefuls Swansea City concluded Charlton's preparations for the new season and cleared the decks for an awkward trip to Accrington, where the campaign begins in earnest next Saturday. Despite his outward optimism, it might also have left manager Ben Garner with several unanswered questions as he weighs his options during the upcoming week. Managers are, by nature, optimists - at least in interviews - and Garner was unlikely to reveal negative thoughts to the media in the immediate aftermath of his team's enthusiastic if uneven performance.
"I can't speak highly enough of them," he commented, "we now need to take that into the season.
Hopefully we can get off to a good start and get some momentum early." He then singled out goalkeeper Joe Wollacott for special attention, citing the new arrival's stunning second half saves from Michael Obafemi and Matt Grimes as worthy of particular praise.
He diplomatically declined to mention that both of Wollacott's spectacular contributions were required to mitigate glaring errors made by defensive colleagues. Or that those errors were made as direct consequences of the modern insistence on "playing out from the back" which is de rigeur at all levels and has eradicated the ugliness of "clearing your lines" as recommended by the likes of Bill Shankly. "Horsing around" (or something a little more salty) would have been Shankly's reaction and repercussions would have been seismic.
Big Ryan Inniss was first to err as he meekly conceded possession to Obafemi and had cause to thank Wollacott for the outstanding one-on-one stop he made from Swansea's dangerous forward. Equally absentminded was Eoghan O'Connell who inexplicably rolled the ball to Matt Grimes inside Charlton's penalty area but was rescued by the sprawling save Wollacott made to reach the visiting skipper's venomous daisycutter on its way inside his left post. Jersey Joe's fine, fingertip touch-over from Joel Piroe's thunderbolt completed a hat-trick of wonderful interventions which kept the Addicks level until, with dreary predictability, they succumbed with five minutes left.
The bloomers made by Inniss and O'Connell were jaw-dropping but actually paled into insignificance alongside the own goal by centre back Harry Darling, which gifted Charlton a 4th minute lead. Darling was part of a totally pointless bout of short passing, orchestrated by goalkeeper Andy Fisher and presumably intended to bewilder their lowly hosts.
Startled by Albie Morgan's stealthily applied tourniquet, Darling passed hurriedly back to Fisher and was gobsmacked to discover that his keeper had vacated the premises to join the rubbernecks in a left back position. Stubbornly, Swans boss Russell Martin will stick to his principles and resist calls for his players to use their common sense. It's not called the beautiful game for nothing although, to be brutally honest, it's often as boring as beautiful these days. Or is it just me?
For his part, Garner could justifiably point to more than a few positives. As stated, Wollacott was outstanding but could do without all that keep-ball rigmarole. Garner was also right to mention Corey Blackett-Taylor, whose pace was awesome but whose end product was too often found wanting. He could be more effective attacking on the right. More impressive was Sean Clare, who was outstanding at both ends of the pitch. New boy Conor McGrandles saw little of the ball but used it imaginatively, while his interval replacement Jack Payne was a diminutive, effective bundle of energy.
Up front, Charlton seem destined to struggle with Jayden Stockley and Miles Leaburn too similar in their approach. Both of them lack nothing in effort but the cutting of Conor Washington might prove to be a mistake. Meanwhile, Scott Fraser has expressed his belief that he is among League One's best players; he could be right but, having talked the talk, it's time he... etc etc.
The Addicks held on to their generously gifted lead until eight minutes into the second half, when Grimes' inswinging corner from the left bounced around inconclusively until Piroe lashed a rising shot past a helpless Wollacott. Pre-season results are not meant to matter but somehow the competitors among us were irritated that the Addicks abjectly conceded yet another of those late goals, which have plagued us in recent seasons. In a mini-battle of substitutes, Cameron Congreve mugged Daniel Kanu and Richard Chin along the right byline, made urgent progress and set up Ryan Manning to finish emphatically from inside the six-yard area. Hopefully not a portent of things to come or of how Charlton mean to go on. Some of us are getting League One stir crazy!
Charlton: Wollacott, Clare, Inniss, O'Connell, Sessegnon (Chin74), Morgan, McGrandles (Payne 46), Fraser, Blackett-Taylor (Kanu 74), Stockley, Leaburn (Henry 74). Not used: Harness, Bakrin, Santos, Elerewe, Williams. Booked: Stockley -for a preposterous challenge on Matty Sorinola, which would have seen red in different circumstances. Perhaps it's time for Clare to take over as captain?
Swansea: Fisher, Fulton, Darling, Grimes, Obafemi (Congreve 80), Paterson (Ntcham 72), Piroe, Latibeaudiere (Manning 72), Wood, Naughton, Sorinola (McFayden 86). Not used: Benda, Cullen, Cooper. Booked: Sorinola.
Referee: John Busby. Att: 3,345 (369 visiting).