Iain Liddle reports from John Smith’s Stadium
Charlton advanced to the fifth round of the FA Cup for the first time since 2006 on Saturday afternoon thanks to Simon Church’s 54th-minute goal.
Determination, doggedness and sheer bloody guts – the Addicks displayed them all. Luck? Maybe there was a slice of that too.
It was a result nobody saw coming at the end of a first half in which Charlton had been turgid.
But then, as Chris Powell’s side have a habit of doing, the group summoned reserves of spirits and produced when it mattered.
A turning point arrived in the first period when a poor challenge from Dale Stephens was punished with a yellow, rather than a red, and the visitors continued with their full complement.
It also had the unfortunate side effect of taking out Town’s most effective player in Adam Hammill – who had looked a threat while still on the pitch.
The defining moment however was Church’s winner, made by the marauding Lawrie Wilson, and Charlton’s backline were heroic from then on.
Special mention to the two central defenders and goalkeeper Ben Alnwick, but the whole team can now dream of who may lie in wait in Sunday’s fifth-round draw.
Powell made two changes from the side which progressed to the fourth round with a victory over Oxford United on Tuesday evening, with Astrit Ajdarević making his first start for the club.
The former Sweden U21 midfielder came into the starting XI in place of Danny Green, who dropped to the bench, while Marvin Sordell came in for the rested Yann Kermorgant.
Yohann Thuram-Ulien was also named among the replacements, along with four former members of Charlton’s esteemed academy.
The Addicks began the contest in a 4-3-3 variation with Church and Callum Harriott playing either side of Sordell.
However, it was the Terriers who began the game with the greater attacking purpose and should have asked more questions of the visiting defence early on, but three successive crosses from Hammill were calmly dealt with.
A smooth passing interchange led to the Terriers’ first effort on goal when Danny Ward drifted wide and quickly played into the path of Oliver Norwood, whose low shot from 20 yards was collected by Alnwick.
Charlton slowly began to ask more questions and, out of the blue, suddenly had a fine chance to take the lead.
The always-industrious Church got past his marker on the right and whipped in a ball to the near post. Sordell gained a yard of space, but scooped his shot over the bar.
It was a rare bright spot in an opening 20 minutes where the Londoners were often too easily exposed down either flank, as Town’s wing-backs enjoyed a great deal of success.
On the 20-minute mark, two chances came and went for the visitors. First Michael Morrison blocked crucially to prevent Vaughan eight yards from goal, before – from the same passage of play – Hammill’s coss was headed over by Norwood.
It seemed a matter of when would Huddersfield take the lead, rather than if they would.
The chances kept coming with Clayton volleying over the bar before a defence-splitting pass from Paul Dixon sent Ward through on goal.
Only a fine save from Alnwick kept the game at 0-0 before the goalkeeper bravely jumped on the rebound under pressure from Vaughan.
Frustration was beginning to show on Charlton faces and it nearly resulted in the visitors being reduced to 10 men on the half-hour mark.
When the otherwise impressive Stephens had the ball nicked off him, referee Stuart Attwell played advantage and it was the cue for the midfielder to fiercely clatter – and injure – Hammill.
It was a reckless challenge and while not vicious, that Hammill had to be replaced minutes later was testament that it was uncontrolled.
Attwell’s leniency was nearly doubly harsh on Town soon after when a rare Charlton foray saw the midfielder in space and shaping for a shot, but Ajdarević opted to shoot – over the bar – rather than tee him up.
Amid the aggression Charlton found time to introduce academy graduate Harry Lennon at left-back in place of Cedric Evina, who picked up a knock early on and struggled on before finally being replaced.
Lennon became the second home-grown player to make his senior bow in less than a week after Diego Poyet on Tuesday – albeit at the unfamiliar position of left-back – and made an impressive first impression by snuffing out an attack despite being outnumbered.
A second full-blooded challenge from Stephens soon after infuriated the Terriers crowd and players again, although on this occasion he won the ball.
That he did was immaterial to opposite number Adam Clayton who kicked him at the next semi-legal opportunity. Stephens was a marked man.
It seemed scarcely possible that Charlton went into the interval level given the balance of play, but their first 45 minutes was summed up nicely in one moment when Alnwick directed a free-kick from his own area straight into the arms of Alex Smithies.
It presented Powell with a poser at the break as to whether to replace Stephens for fear or a second booking and possible suspension for Tuesday evening against Doncaster Rovers, or leave his best outfield player on the pitch so far on to provide a cutting edge.
He chose the former option. The bolder option, but also the braver one.
Charlton could only be better in the second half and, no doubt propelled by the hot air from Powell’s hairdryer, they were.
Suddenly passes began to be strung together and Ajdarević in particular beginning to put his foot on the ball and play.
The game’s opening goal quickly followed.
Ajdarević fed Wilson, who cut inside and cleverly played into the path of Church who slotted past Alex Smithies to put the Addicks a goal to the good.
It may not have been the cleanest connection, but the effort was well-placed and reward for his energy defensively on the right all afternoon.
That it came on the ground where he had an unhappy loan spell last term was an added bonus.
Town boss Mark Robins responded immediately by introducing Sean Scannell, a tormentor of Powell’s side in both previous meetings this season, and the onslaught on Charlton’s goal was under way.
First Tommy Smith blazed over from the edge of the area before Ward squandered a glorious opportunity by slicing wide from Scannell’s cut-back.
The former Crystal Palace lived up to his previous performances and another tantalising cross seemed destined for the boot of James Vaughan, but once again Alnwick excelled and clutched it mid-path.
Duane Holmes, a standout performer for Huddersfield’s U21s at Sparrows Lane last season, was Town’s final change and provided another quick, direct outlet.
Powell then made his final changes, which resulted in Church moving to a lone striking role in which he excelled.
When presented with his next shot at goal by Stephens, the Wales international did the hard work and found space for a shot although his left-footed effort was gathered by Smithies.
For those of a Charlton persuasion it was uneasy, but yet absolutely gripping viewing.
The subsequent deluge of rain gave Charlton more to soak up, in addition to the pressure from the hosts.
Yet, as the game entered its final 10 minutes, the Terriers somewhat lost their cutting edge.
Chances were still being created but there felt like slightly more breathing space. Not that it made the announcement of four added minutes any more palatable.
You sensed there would be one more chance. There always is in these situations.
Sure enough Huddersfield won a corner in added time and Alex Smithies was sent up. The ball in eluded him but fell to Norwood at the back post.
With the chance to put in an even more inviting delivery back into the danger area his cross flew wide of the post and the final bit of air was sucked out of the John Smith’s Stadium.
Forget the whys and wherefores, Charlton are into the fifth round of the FA Cup for the first time since 2006 thanks largely to an inspired showing from the back four and goalkeeper.
Can we call it a cup run yet?
Charlton: Alnwick, Wilson, Evina (Lennon 35), Morrisom, Dervite; Stephens, Jackson, Ajdarević; Church, Sordell (Green 69), Harriott.
Subs (not used): Thuram-Ulien, Wood, Cousins, Cook, Pigott.
Goal: Church 54.
Booked: Stephens 29 (foul on Hammill), Morrison 31 (altercation with Gerrard).
Huddersfield Town: Smithies (c); Wallace, Gerrard, Smith; Hammill (Sinnott 35 (Scannell 55)), Gobern (Holmes 64), Clayton, Norwood, Dixon; Ward, Vaughan.
Subs (not used): Bennett, Woods, Stead, Bunn.
Booked: Gerrard 31 (altercation with Morrison).
Referee: Mr Stuart Attwell.
Att: 10,102.(382 Charlton).