A League One club, trapped in the bottom four of the third tier and without a win in 11, constantly exploiting the faults in a Championship club who possess the quality, organisation and resolve of an amateur side.
Marvin Sordell, one of the weakest and least intelligent footballers to wear Charlton red, laughing at the ease with which he was able to brush off Naby Sarr and Roger Johnson to latch onto predictable long balls.
The forward’s goal, the second scored by Colchester United prior to half-time after George Moncur had given the hosts the lead, inflicting the punishment that the pathetic efforts of Karel Fraeye’s side, rotated but not weakened to the point that justifies such a performance, deserved. Were it not for Nick Pope, the Addicks would have faced further embarrassment before the break.
Their response only increased the suffering. A Championship club, who should have been a class above their lowly opponents irrespective of their struggles in the second tier, who lacked the pace, creativity and potency to break down one of the leakiest defences in the Football League.
Possession maintained between a defensive contingent unsure what to do, while those in forward positions offered no movement whatsoever. Cristian Ceballos, withdrawn at half-time, too weak to carry the ball forward, Simon Makienok too weak to perform the role of target man, and Reza Ghoochannejhad too weak for the battle. Karel Fraeye’s tactics laughable; the attitude of his players risible.
The stoppage-time consolation goal as much as a non-event as Richard Murray’s carefully worded ‘interview’. Attentions elsewhere as Ghoochannejhad, climbing without fouling for the first time all afternoon, rose highest to head Franck Moussa’s delivery beyond Jake Kean.
In fact, those attentions were elsewhere for much of the afternoon. The team initially backed, but they offered no response, and gave no indication that a place in the fourth round was of any importance. The cries of anti-board sentiment from the supporters unrelenting, and passionate enough again for them not be ignored.
Instead of feeling embarrassed and sorry for themselves, those in the away were defiant. While Colchester, with a chant of “stand up if you’re 2-0 up”, attempted to add insult to those suffering, the Addicks stood united, screaming “stand up if you want them up”.
The players not so mentally strong. The interim head coach even weaker. The mentality of Roland Duchatelet, Katrien Meire and Murray unlikely to change.
An afternoon so bleak that the fact Morgan Fox wore the captain’s armband for most of it can almost be ignored.
It determined that Fox, a 22-year-old academy graduate who has struggled as much as anyone else in recent months, was the most worthy wearer among Fraeye’s rotated side after Jordan Cousins was forced off injured just before the break.
Johnnie Jackson, merely an observer, replaced by the returning Diego Poyet, Chris Solly, absent altogether, rested with Regan Charles-Cook taking his place, and Stephen Henderson, occupying the bench, swapping places with Pope.
Johnson, in place of Harry Lennon, also made his first appearance since re-joining the club, while starts were handed to Moussa, Ghoochannejhad and Ceballos, with El-Hadji Ba, Ricardo Vaz Te and the cup-tied Callum Harriot missing out. The changes totalling seven from the draw with Nottingham Forest.
But there was no change in the style of football played. If anything, without Harriott’s surges forward, the Addicks were even more slow, dull and devoid of attacking intent. The confidence and quality, even against a side a whole division lower than them, that was required to cause threat completely non-existent.
The same could certainly not be said about Colchester. Still searching for a killer final ball, but there was drive and determination as they carried the ball forward. The pace in their moves up-field shifting the Addicks onto the back foot, and being dealt with in uncomfortable fashion.
Or, in some cases, not really being dealt with at all. Richard Brindley able to get in behind Charlton’s defensive line, but Chris Porter unable to turn in his low cross when it looked easier to score. The assistant’s flag rising to signal he was offside hardly sparing the striker’s blushes.
It meant that, despite the tide being very much against the Addicks, it was the visitors who had the game’s first meaningful effort on goal. The ball recycled to Poyet on the edge of the box after Ceballos’ effort was blocked, and the academy graduate curling an effort narrowly wide.
A chant of “Diego, Diego” came from the away end, suggesting all was forgiven after the manner in which he departed the club at the end of the 2013/14 season. But another who featured in Charlton’s survival was not so fortunate to receive the same treatment.
Supporters regularly informing Sordell that they felt he lacked quality, or similar, but he was mightily close to silencing them with 18 minutes played. Gavin Massey getting the better of Johnson, not showing the composure that suggested he would be our saviour, and squaring to the unmarked Sordell, who would have been disappointed to have only managed to hit the stanchion.
Sarcastic cheers followed, and the hope that Colchester failing to take such an opportunity would be a turning point.
But it was a theory that proved as wrong as any of those Meire has. Charlton unable to find any sort of resolve, let alone the attacking play that would push the U’s back, while Colchester’s pace and tenacity showed no sign of decreasing. Johnson required to deflect Massey’s goal-bound effort behind.
And though that resulting corner was dealt with, it would not be long before a chorus of boos was heard from the away end. Pope’s superb save from Alex Gilbey’s close-range effort given the applause it deserved, before attentions turned to crucifying the defenders who had so tamely allowed such an opportunity to occur.
But Charlton’s inept backline was to outdo itself with 28 minutes gone, displaying a level of ineptitude that not even they should have been capable of. Moncur collecting Sordell’s pass with relative ease, before jinking one way and then the other to dismiss the sea of red in front of him. His finish as cool as Charlton were calamitous.
All far too easy for the hosts, with Moncur providing further anger as he celebrated in front of the visiting supporters. He’d probably have been better off doing so in front of Sarr and Johnson, while reminding them how pathetic they are.
A response desperately needed, if only to calm the rage in the away end. Ceballos hitting the post, while Kean stood stranded, not having the uplifting impact it might have done under normal circumstances.
Nor did the return of Igor Vetokele, irrespective of the chant sent his way as took to the field for the first time since September. Undoubtedly wonderful to see him back, but worrying to see Cousins hobble off and the change in shape causing total confusion.
Confusion that seemed to exist among the players as much as it did in the stands, given the ease with which Colchester ripped through the Addicks just before half-time.
All so easy once again. Gilbey striding forward, and picking out Sordell, who had got in behind Charlton’s backline for the umpteenth time. This time, there was a finish to match his ability to find gaps between Johnson and Sarr. The away end hushed as he, unsurprisingly, took pleasure in the pain he had just inflicted.
The reaction a fierce one, but only from the visiting supporters. Almost the entire stand rising to show they wanted the board gone as Pope’s legs denied Tom Eastman from a tight angle.
And though Simon Makienok tested Kean deep into stoppage-time, with his strike parried and Vetokele off-target with the follow-up, there was little hope to be had as the half-time whistle blew. The boos of disgust loud, and no faith in Fraeye’s ability to address this utter shambles.
Events beyond the interval hardly changing such opinions. The lively Moncur breaking into the box, and forcing another save out of the overworked Pope, before Sordell was sent through only to blast over from a tight angle.
This a Colchester side without a win since October. Who struggle to create chances, let alone score. Who sit 23rd in League One. This an embarrassing effort from the Addicks.
Not just in their attempts to prevent the U’s from adding to their lead, but in their desperate efforts to reduce the deficit. Even with some of the early Colchester energy receding, Charlton were incapable of pushing them onto the back foot. Slow, and sideways passing, concluding with woeful crosses to no one in particular.
And even when a chance was created, it was wasted in a fashion that summed up Charlton’s incompetence. Substitute Vaz Te’s knock down perfect for Vetokele, who was in enough space to not need to be in an offside position, but the Angolan somehow poked against the post before catching sight of the assistant’s flag.
In fact, there was a growing sense this game continued for only two causes. The first being the anti-board cries from the away end, growing louder with each one, and the second being Colchester’s search for a third. Moncur somehow denied by the excellent Pope, flinging himself across his goal to keep out his close-range effort.
Pope’s efforts meant that, in theory, it was not completely impossible for Charlton to take this tie to a replay with ten minutes to play. Colchester’s lead would have been four or five without the goalkeeper’s interventions.
In practice, however, it was naïve to think the Addicks had any hope, or that they deserved anything but a crushing defeat. They probably didn’t deserve to have hope, either, so Kean saving from Vaz Te’s strike before his follow up effort was cleared off the line by Matthew Briggs was just.
Equally just was Colchester sub Macauley Bonne being left embarrassed after attempting to lob an out of position Pope from distance. The youngster clean through on goal, and would have been better served continuing his run.
Nonetheless, it was the sort of tenacity that this Charlton side lacked. Their predictable runs, predictable passes and predictable poor performances tiresome. Fraeye predictably emotionless as the away end chanted “you’re worse than Iain Dowie”.
But maybe Bonne might have felt a little uncomfortable as Ghoochannejhad turned in Moussa’s cross two minutes into stoppage-time. No celebration on the pitch, and only a rather sarcastic “we’re scored a goal” song from the away end.
Bonne had no need to be nervous, and the Addicks were correct not to predict a late surge. Fox taking a foul throw moments after the goal meaning Charlton’s afternoon was to end in a much more fitting fashion than if the final act had been a goal.
More effort in the full-time booing and displays of anger than those in red had given across the 90 minutes. Supporters having every right to be infuriated with a performance that lacked every quality imaginable – one of the worst I’ve seen in my time as an Addick.
The reaction from the players mixed. Some tried to create the impression they were hurting too, with Makienok kneeling in despair. Some tried to hide, quickly turning their backs on the away end. A sheepish Poyet, Williams and, predictably, Jackson among those that faced up to the visiting supporters, but it was hardly enough to ease the substantial suffering.
Substantial suffering not exclusively caused by the cup exit, the defeat to lower league opposition or the nature of the performance. Substantial suffering caused by yet another reflecting the disastrous state this once proud club is in.
It would, however, be wrong not first of all issue the praise Colchester deserve. Kevin Keen evidently injecting some life into a group of players that were seemingly resigned to relegation a few weeks ago. Their effort unrelenting, the battling qualities in midfield leaving you somewhat envious, and the intelligence shown to get in behind Charlton’s backline on numerous occasion indicated a degree of attacking threat.
The sort of performance that has every chance of providing a season-changing lift. That they might well look back on as the turning point. At the very least, they’ll be ending their winless league run soon if they can repeat such efforts.
But these were not the sort of efforts that should have left Charlton embarrassed. This still a Colchester side that had not won since October prior to today, and occupy a relegation spot in League One.
The efforts from those in red, however, were. The Addicks pathetic, disgraceful and any other word you want to use that describes an insulting performance. Anything you can think of. It’ll be fair and justified.
Only Pope, whose numerous saves prevented the scoreline from reflecting the performance, comes away with any sort of credit.
Johnson and Sarr, as predicted by everyone but the club, a complete disaster. Fox constantly beaten, and Charles-Cook too weak. The defence a wonderful shambles.
Poyet almost anonymous in midfield, with Gilbey and Moncur well on top throughout the game, Ghoochannejhad more interested in lazily clattering opponents than playing football, and Makienok with such a poor performance there was hardly an opportunity to sarcastically cheer a won header.
“You’re not fit to wear the shirt” was hard towards the end of the game. When you think of the battlers we’ve had in the past, irrespective of their quality, it is desperately depressing to see such a tame group of players representing the Addicks.
But there’s only so much criticism you can direct the way of a group of lost players, many of whom are out of their depth.
Fraeye’s continuation as ‘interim’ head coach is not only an insult to supporters, but an insult to those players within the squad who do possess some quality, and deserve better than to be led by an incompetent boss. His decision making desperate and confusing, while his words and defiance infuriating.
And leaders are absent on the pitch and in the dugout, the leadership of this club remains a joke. The players recruited and head coach retained by this soul-destroying regime, sucking the life out of the Addicks, and damaging my once untaintable love for them.
We want our Charlton back. Even just one that doesn’t feature Fox wearing a captain’s armband, Fraeye looking hopeless in the dugout, and Meire finding it all hilarious from above would be a bonus.