If the main purpose of Charlton Athletic’s development squad is to mould young players into figures that will fit seamlessly into the senior side, then the evidence provided during their Kent Senior Cup semi-final against Welling United suggests it is most definitely working.
For Jason Euell’s side suffered the most Charlton of defeats. A lack of cutting edge in the final third, followed by some truly horrendous efforts from 12 yards, allowing the Wings to progress to the competition’s final.
Though never in complete control against a robust Welling side, enough chances were created by the young Addicks to feel victory should have been achieved over the course of 90 minutes. Openings both before and after Chris Millar’s emphatic volley had given the visitors the lead with 44 minutes played.
But their wastefulness was punished with 15 minutes remaining as Welling, who themselves had created chances in a relatively open contest, drew level. A deflection helping Alex Cathline to turn home Dan Walker’s low delivery across the face of goal.
An equaliser that would ultimately see the contest prolonged, with spot-kicks required to determine the victor.
And from 12 yards, the young Addicks showed a similar tameness to what had they had provided when in attacking positions for much of the game. Wings goalkeeper Chris Lewington saving from George Lapslie and Brandon Hanlan, before Millar dragged wide, leaving Welling, who had converted through Sam Hatton and Walker, on the verge of victory.
Matt Fish given the opportunity to deliver the winning moment, but Dillon Phillips’ palms preventing the full-back from scoring. A save, however, that was merely academic, with Louis Michael Yamfan blasting the following kick over the bar. Four penalties taken by Charlton, and not a single one converted.
Defeat that was, therefore, somewhat harsh on Euell’s men. But defeat that the young Addicks will reflect upon as just punishment for their wastefulness in open play, and their tameness from 12 yards.
In truth, the development squad of course exists to fine tune young talent, and there were some encouraging signs at Park View Road. The quality of the opposition, with the Wings sitting 16th in the National League South, not something that taints those positives.
Euell’s side featuring first-teamers Phillips, Karlan Ahearne-Grant and Hanlan, as well as Aaron Barnes, who wore the armband having signed a new contract with the club last week. And it was Barnes who was catching the eye in the game’s opening moments.
The full-back a powerful defensive figure, while his pace, strength and intelligent footwork were seeing him create a genuine threat each time he looked to press forward. An early delivery picking out Ahearne-Grant, but the forward taking too long in possession, and ultimately seeing his shot blocked.
If Barnes was delivering the power and pace, then Lapslie was providing calm and composure in the centre. Extremely confident on the ball, and always looking for the next pass before even having received possession, the blonde-haired midfielder was central to allowing the Addicks to settle into something resembling a rhythm.
A rhythm that wasn’t quite functioning to the point where it featured a threatening end product. Early frustration for Hanlan and Ahearne-Grant, who were losing their duels with Welling’s backline, as Charlton struggled to turn comfortable possession into genuine threat. The latter denied as he looked to race through on goal, with Millar unable to coordinate his feet properly as the loose ball feel to him with an unguarded goal in his sights.
But when threat did finally arrive, it was Hanlan who delivered it. Red shirts powerless to stop his driving run into the box from a wide right position, only for Lewington to race off his line and superbly block the forward’s prod towards goal.
Greater composure in Welling’s backline for panic to have set in, but there was certainly a sense of unease with Hanlan beginning to find his feet. A red shirt dispossessed inside his own half, Hanlan bursting forward once again, and a powerful strike swerving just wide of goal. The Addicks starting to claim dominance.
Dominance that Rhys Murrel Williamson did his utmost to interrupt. A free-kick from a wide position curled over the bar, before a yard of space was offered to the forward on the edge of Charlton’s box and his resulting effort driven not too far wide of Phillips’ right-hand post.
But, if the quality of the chances being created was anything to go by, dominance remained with the Addicks as the game reached the half hour mark. Only an excellent finger-tip save from Lewington, diverting the ball onto the post, prevented Lapslie from volleying the Addicks in front, before the goalkeeper won a foot race with Hanlan to pounce on a loose ball inside the Welling penalty area.
The Wings, however, continued to pose a degree of threat when they countered. Pace and strength in abundance down either flank and up top meant they were always likely to do so.
But it was indecisive Charlton defending rather than excellent Welling attacking play that meant only Phillips’ fingertips were required to keep the scores level. The Addicks standing off Danny Waldren as he drove into the box relatively unchallenged, before Welling’s captain saw his strike tipped onto the post by the young goalkeeper.
A sense growing at Park View Road that it would take something special to beat either of these goalkeepers, which only grew when Lewington palmed away a Lapslie strike from the edge of the area.
So there no doubt that Millar’s 44th-minute strike which gave the Addicks the lead was an emphatic one. Even in the build up to the goal, Lewington had saved a Hanlan strike from a tight angle, but Millar was alive on the edge of the box to volley beyond even the clutches of this seemingly unbeatable stopper.
The goal giving the Addicks the advantage at the break, and they began the second period on the front foot also. Archie Edwards beating his man before shooting off-target from a tight angle, while Taylor Maloney should have done much better than fire timelessly over the bar after the ball had fallen to him on the edge of the area.
There certainly no chance of the Addicks merely resting on their advantage for the remainder of the game, and the need for Euell’s side to find a second goal was almost as strong as their need for a first. Murrel-Williamson’s strike, breaking into the box and firing against the far post, the perfect reminder.
But the rhythm the visitors had throughout much of the first half had seemingly been lost. Possession now being given away far more frequently, and those in midfield for the Addicks struggling to create any openings when the ball was at their feet. The performance becoming quite lethargic.
At least they were remaining relatively composed at the back, with Dan Bowry and Anfernee Dijksteel comfortable, and Phillips there to rely upon during the moments where they weren’t. A bit of a scramble in Charlton’s box concluding with the goalkeeper claiming the ball from a Cathline effort.
And while the Addicks still had the pace and strength of Ahearne-Grant and Hanlan to call upon, there always the hope that a second goal would come as a consequence of one of the pair capitalising upon a Welling defensive slip-up. So close that hope came to being a reality as Hatton’s weak header was latched onto by Ahearne-Grant, only for Lewington to deny the forward.
A relatively comfortable stop, with the shot coming from a tight angle, but one that would prove crucial. For by the conclusion of Welling’s next attack, they had cancelled out Charlton’s advantage.
No challenge to Walker’s run down the right, and his ball across the face of goal finding an unmarked Cathline. The forward not making the soundest of connections with the ball but, via some aid from a deflection off a Charlton body, enough to divert it over the line. The scores level with 15 minutes to play, and penalties looming.
A penalty shoot-out evidently something Welling were quite happy to see the game go down to, with the Wings doing their utmost to slow the game down. Ahearne-Grant, shooting straight at Lewington from the edge of the area before curling a quickly-taken free-kick wide, not quite doing enough to prevent such an outcome.
An outcome that would be faced with Charlton unable to regain their advantage. No extra-time; the game heading straight to spot-kicks.
It Lewington who was the chief instigator when it came to slowing the game down prior to full-time, and his confidence with regards to a penalty shoot-out appeared to be justified when the goalkeeper got down to his right to save Lapslie’s effort from 12 yards. Hatton converting underneath Phillips’ hands to give the Wings a 1-0 advantage.
The tie far from lost after just one penalty for each side, but it appeared as if the Addicks were heading out of the competition by the time both teams had taken two. Lewington again making the save, this time from Hanlan, before Walker scored with conviction.
And if the tie was not last at that point, it certainly was as Millar’s spot-kick trickled harmlessly wide of Lewington’s right-hand post. That Phillips saved Welling’s following penalty, taken by Fish, provided no real hope of a Charlton recovery.
Particularly with composure still absent from the spot. A fourth successive penalty missed as substitute Yamfam fired horribly over the bar and Welling’s victory was confirmed. A 2-0 penalty shoot-out defeat meaning the Addicks were to miss out on the Kent Senior Cup final for the first time in three seasons.
Welling, who will go onto face Dover Athletic in the final, rewarded for showing a degree of determination over the course of 90 minutes, and then some competence during the penalty shoot-out. Charlton, who did enough during the game to deserve victory, punished for failing to find the finishing touch to their attacking moves, and for producing some desperately poor penalties.