Charlton’s dominance can best be explained by a 4-1 victory being achieved without the need to come out of second gear.
For things were kept simple. Opponents Dagenham & Redbridge allowed time on the ball in midfield, but rarely threatening in the latter third. The Addicks causing constant problems going forward, but without having to be inventive or dynamic. Individual brilliance substituted for a controlled and composed collective display.
In fact, individual brilliance was restricted to the pace, strength, and clever feet of Tony Watt. The Scot, as influential as he was during Saturday’s win over QPR, collecting Johnnie Jackson’s pass before driving into space and drilling beyond Mark Cousins to open the scoring.
And he was involved in the second, which effectively sealed Charlton’s place in the second round. Creating space with the ball at his feet in trademark fashion, Watt fed Ceballos, who in turn crossed for Karlan Ahearne-Grant to score his first senior goal.
Dagenham, tidy in possession in midfield and putting up a decent fight at the back, were no pushovers, but they were being made to seem like it. Particularly with the Addicks so clinical – Zakaraya Bergdich rounding off a superb move to score his first for the club and the home side’s third just after half time.
But, on a night of cup shocks, the Daggers were able to cause a brief period of worry. Christian Doige tucking neatly pass Nick Pope after the visitors had passed around stationary bodies in red.
Any nerves, however, were settled when an unlikely source added a fourth. Reza Ghoochannejhad, on his first Charlton appearance since April 2014, played through by El-Hadji Ba and curling an effort into the bottom corner.
In control, composed, and comprehensive. The Addcks into the second round of the League Cup with minimal fuss for the third consecutive season.
And progress with minimal fuss was expected when Guy Luzon named a stronger side than had previously been expected.
Five players who began Saturday’s victory over QPR were rested, but their replacements were of decent quality. Naby Sarr, Bergdich and Ceballos making their full debuts, in place of Alou Diarra, Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Jordan Cousins.
There was also a start for skipper Jackson, his first since suffering injury against Brentford in February, and Watt, having impressed off the bench at the weekend. Ahmed Kashi and Simon Makienok missing out.
But the Addicks did not begin the game in a fashion that suggested a dominant victory would be achieved come full-time. Sarr’s long leg poking a long ball into the path of Matt McClure, only for the French defender to recover, and Dagenham unable to capitalise after Pope sliced a clearance having left his goal unattended.
And while Charlton, through flat crosses, were testing the opposition’s back line, it was the Daggers who had the game’s first effort on goal. Hamalainen driving from range, but Pope well behind it.
Those early scares, however, did not set the tempo for the remainder of the half. With a quarter of an hour played, the Addicks had settled into a decent rhythm.
A rhythm being dictated by Watt, who had Nyron Nosworty haul him down on the edge of the box after he had glided past the experienced centre-back. The resulting free-kick struck by the left foot of Jackson, and curled onto the top of the crossbar.
That effort proved to be the catalyst for the Addicks to take complete control of the game. A strike fired wide enough for Pope to simply watch it as it travelled a rare break from the onslaught at the other end, as Morgan Fox’s deliveries forced desperate defensive action, and Patrick Bauer’s glancing header from a corner skipped across the face of goal without anyone in red able to turn it goalwards.
And just as Charlton supporters were beginning to feel a little frustrated by their side’s inability to turn pressure into something more substantial, Watt’s brilliance broke the dead lock with 26 minutes played.
Receiving the ball from Jackson with his back to goal, the Scot turned with the elegance of a swan and bore down on goal with the intent of a lion. Cousins, wrong-footed by the strike, possibly could have made a greater attempt to keep Watt’s resulting strike out, but the fierceness of the effort meant little was taken away it.
Possibly as a result of the Addicks gaining the lead, or possibly owing to Watt taking a couple of hefty knocks shortly after, the intensity dropped a little after the goal. The impressively composed Kane Ferdinand was allowed to see much more of the ball in the middle for the Daggers, and the Fox had to be on his guard to deal with the clever feet of youngster Jodi Jones.
So it was a little cruel that, just as they were coming back into the game, Dagenham’s chances of progression were effectively ended.
But a two goal lead was no less than Charlton deserved. Ceballos’ flat cross not dealt with efficiently by those in Yellow and Black, and Ahearne-Grant fortunate enough that the loose ball fell perfectly to him. His first senior goal hopefully a huge confidence boost for the young forward.
While Clevid Dikamona, on debut for Dagenham, headed powerfully over from a corner having been left unmarked on the stroke of half-time, the Addicks went in at the interval in complete control. Not flashy or fantastic, but efficiently getting the job done.
Immediately after the break you could see that the composed nature of Dagenham’s play seen towards the end of the half was now missing. The need greater to get the ball forward at a greater pace.
Which proved to be of benefit to the Addicks, who were able to regain possession at a quicker rate, and look to create more openings.
In fact, they could have been three goals to the good just five minutes into the second half. Ba invited to shoot from distance, resulting in the Frenchman crashing an effort against the part of the goal that almost shares his name.
And while Ashley Chambers’ mis-struck effort needed to be kept out by Pope, it was not long before Charlton’s advantage became sizeable.
Again, it was a very well-worked goal. Dagenham unable to read some snappy passing from the Addicks, with Watt eventually laying in the previously quiet Bergdich, and the Moroccan tucking coolly beyond Cousins.
Seemingly, it was game over. A belief reinforced by the mightily impressive visiting fans forming a superb conga line in the away end, and Guy Luzon throwing on Ghoochannejhad. With an offside flag raised against him and a soft tumble in order to win a free-kick his first two involvements, it was like he had never been away.
But, with Watt withdrawn, it was the Iranian’s strike partner that was causing the greater concern to Dagenham’s back line. Ahearne-Grant’s pace allowing him to get the better of the visitors’ strong but slightly immobile centre-back pairing on two occasions, as he first fired into the side netting, and then had an effort well saved by Cousins. Exciting from the youngster, who has not always managed to impressive in competitive fixtures.
Alas, it was seemingly the case with 69 minutes played that converting one of those efforts would have been useful. Nice build up play from the Daggers, with a couple of one-touch passes around stationary defenders, finished well by Christian Doidge. The supporters behind the goal, desperate to make the most of their night, celebrating as if it were a winner.
And they were inches away from having some genuine belief with 15 minutes to play. The still lively Jones striking an effort that was spilled by Pope, and only just reclaimed in time to prevent one of two Daggers from pouncing.
The hearts that had been edging towards mouths, however, were sent back down with 13 minutes to play as Charlton regained their three goal lead.
Disbelief around The Valley as Ba’s perfectly weighted ball picked out Ghoochannejhad, who, possibly via the fingertips of Cousins, picked out the bottom corner superbly. Jackson, visibly drained but excellent to the extent that he issued a reminder to Luzon of his ability start league games, having enough in the tank to lift the Iranian in celebration.
And although Dagenham threatened to reduce the deficit to something a little more respectable late on, with goalscorer Doidge flashing agonisingly wide, the Addicks were able to see out a game they had long dominated with relative ease.
The Daggers, despite the scoreline, will take positives. They did not capitulate, were comfortable in possession, and showed an element of resilience in continuing to get forward which, against a weaker side, would have produced some sort of reward.
But Charlton were winners by virtue of their clear higher level in class, and an efficient team display that meant the margin of victory did not flatter them.
Of course, it would be wrong to read too much into individual performances against League Two opposition, but the biggest praise I can pay to every player who wore red is that they, at least, performed well.
The usual suspects were impressive. Bauer a rock, Jackson hardworking and tidy, and Watt the most obvious difference in quality between the two sides.
But so too were there good displays from some of the debutants. Charles-Cook, tireless down the right-hand side, more than held his own, Ceballos provided a few flashes of quality down the wing, while it was good to see Tarieq Holmes-Dennis make his first Addicks appearance late on.
Even Barr, rarely tested, and Bergdich, not too involved until the goal, come away from the evening positively despite not being able to showcase themselves properly.
Enough to pressure Luzon into making chances for Saturday? I’m not so sure just yet, but, irrespective of the opponents’ standard, there’s a decent amount of quality in reserve.