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Ahearne-Grant Gives Addicks Winning Start

It was a pre-season victory which, through one youngster making the most of his chance to impress, threatened to be comprehensive.

But, through a group of youngsters struggling, it was ultimately tighter than the opening exchanges suggested it would be.

For there was a genuine feeling that Welling were going to be on the end of a rout with ten minutes played. The pace and power of Karlan Ahearne-Grant too much for the home defence to handle, with the teenage striker able to break through twice and give Charlton an early two-goal advantage.

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In awe and unable to compete against a strong Addicks XI, Welling were left chasing shadows for much of the opening 45. Chris Solly coming the closest to adding the third goal which would have justly reflected Charlton’s dominance.

But, come full-time, to lose by two was almost a little harsh on Welling. At the very least, a goal would not have flattered a side who rarely ventured into Charlton’s half before the break.

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Showing a desire to dive forward in the second period, they took advantage of the flaws in what was effectively a development XI. The young Addicks sloppy in possession, allowing their opponents too much time in the ball, and often losing the physical battle.

It was not a complete role reversal, with Mikhail Kennedy going close for the visitors, but Charlton had Nick Pope and both posts to thank for their lead not being eaten in to. A timely reminder that the squad requires a great deal of strengthening before the season proper begins.


 

With Guy Luzon given a clear indication that further development is required before the bulk of the U21 side can be relied upon, the friendly was arguably more valuable than if it had continued at the first half tempo throughout.

However, while Charlton’s boss received confirmation further additions to the squad are needed, he would have also been heartened by the impressive manner in which the stronger of his two XIs performed.

So too was it pleasing for those Addicks in attendance at Park View Road, who were given a goal to celebrate just three minutes into the contest.

Latching onto Jordan Cousins’ ball forward, Ahearne-Grant’s pace and quick feet allowed him to waltz past the Welling full-back, before the 17-year-old cut inside and drove superbly into the far bottom corner.

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And it took just three more minutes for Ahearne-Grant, only given his chance to impress from the off due to injuries to Igor Vetokele and Simon Makienok, to add a second.

Again, it was a case of Welling’s backline being unable to cope with the young forward’s pace as a seemingly innocuous punt forward from Morgan Fox caused havoc. Goalkeeper Michael McEntegart came, while centre-backs Harry Osborne  and Reece Harris stuttered, gifting Ahearne-Grant the opportunity to steal in, stab the ball beyond the stranded ‘keeper and tap into the open goal.

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Welling were shaken, while Charlton were rampant, and a third could have been added in the very next attack. Regan Charles-Cook, a tenacious worker on the right wing throughout the opening 45, drove past his man, cut into the box and teed up Solly, who was a deflection away from an uncharacteristic goal.

And Ahearne-Grant was an outstretched leg away from a deserved third. In truth, the forward’s header from Rhoys Wiggins’ corner was a little soft, but it would have found the back of the net were it not for a Welling boot clearing the ball off the line.

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However, more impressive than the scoreline and the efforts on goal was the manner in which the Addicks were playing. With complete composure when in possession, displayed most impressively by new signings Patrick Bauer and El Hadji-Ba, and the ball being moved around at great pace, Welling were clueless as to how to prevent the Addicks from continuing to play such a controlled and high tempo brand of football.

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Not even Ricky Wellard’s snapshot, coming against the run of play and forcing a superb save out of the previously untroubled Stephen Henderson, could put Luzon’s side out of their pleasing stride.

In fact, if you were to have one criticism of Charlton as the half drew towards its conclusion it was that this free-flowing football was no longer resulting in clear-cut chances.

The ever-lively Ahearne-Grant, who had continued to give the hosts’ backline no rest whatsoever in partnership with Watt, attempted to change that, latching onto another through ball and being brought down on the edge of the box, but Fox’s resulting free-kick was stabbed softly against the wall.

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It meant the Addicks had to settle for a two-goal lead at the break. Their dominance arguably merited a bigger advantage than that; Welling thankful to head in without their pride taking too much of a battering.

But there was always likely to be a change in the pattern of play after the interval, with Luzon making eleven changes to his side. That Harry Lennon came out wearing the captain’s armband indicates just how inexperienced this XI was.

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Immediately it was clear this young group of Addicks, which also featured Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, Callum Harriott, and Joe Pigott, was not going to be able to emulate the tempo set by their teammates in the first half.

The movement slower, passes more regularly misplaced, and Welling much more frequently regaining possession. It didn’t prevent Kennedy forcing a strong save out of Welling replacement goalkeeper Grant Smith and Pigott dragging an effort wide, but it remained a little underwhelming given the first half efforts.

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And it soon became a little worrying as the Wings began to take control of the game as it entered its final half hour. The back-pedalling Nick Pope required to superbly tip Xavier Vidal’s deflected strike over the bar.

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The hosts appeared to grow in self-belief with each relatively successful move forward, while the young Addicks looked less comfortable with each passing minute.

In fact, Welling would have, at the very least, grabbed the consolation they arguably deserved late on but for the width of either post. First, an excellent passing move concluded with George Porter thunderously drilling against the base of the goal frame, before Loui Fazakerley volleyed spectacularly against the upright.

But, with some good fortune, Charlton managed to scrape through to full-time with their cleansheet intact. The youngsters as a collective maybe not impressing as much as Luzon would have liked, and certainly not impressing as much as the excellent Ahearne-Grant.

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