George Jones reports from Whaddon Road
Charlton exited the EFL Cup at the first-round stage after suffering a single-goal defeat against Cheltenham Town on Tuesday evening.
Former Addick Harry Pell struck the only goal of the game on 17 minutes and, despite getting themselves into a number of threatening positions during the 90 minutes, the Addicks were unable to get themselves on the scoresheet.
In terms of team news, Manager Russell Slade handed full, senior debuts to academy graduates Ezri Konsa and Brandon Hanlan.
The former, impressive in our pre-season campaign, lined up in the centre of defence alongside the experienced Roger Johnson. They were supported by full-backs Kevin Foley and Morgan Fox, with skipper Johnnie Jackson and Andrew Crofts operating in front of them in the engine room.
Ricky Holmes and Ademola Lookman provided a threat down the flanks and Hanlan – a scorer of two goals in pre-season – supported Nicky Ajose in attack.
The home side threw a couple of early balls into the Addicks’ box but the visitors were able to defend them well. Then, on six minutes, Charlton were only denied the lead by the linesman’s flag.
Full debutant Hanlan burst into the box and, from a tight angle, he sent a cross-shot towards the back post that Ajose diverted into the net. Unfortunately for the Addicks, the flag was raised for offside, though.
A neat spell of Charlton possession ended with Holmes firing over the bar, and the hosts were then themselves denied by an official’s flag – just as the visitors had been a few minutes earlier.
Pell sent a deflected strike towards goal that Declan Rudd did well to parry and Danny Wright was first to react to tuck home the rebound. But it was ruled out.
At the other end, Johnson saw a close-range strike hacked off the line and Jackson then glanced a header wide soon afterwards.
The home side went in front with 17 minutes played. A long throw-in from Daniel O’Shaughnessy was not properly cleared and Pell tucked the loose ball home from six yards.
No-one in purple was able to get on the end of a Hanlan cut-back as the Addicks looked for a quick response and Fox then saw a shot well blocked after he got onto on the end of a Holmes corner.
Ajose latched onto Hanlan’s knockdown on 26 minutes but could only drag his strike harmlessly wide and both Fox and Holmes then blazed off target, following some good link-up play in and around the Cheltenham box.
Wright looped a long-range strike over the bar and the hosts then had a great chance to double their lead. Wright broke down the left, cut inside and aimed an effort at goal that Rudd pushed away. It came out to Billy Waters and he got the ball under control before curling narrowly wide.
On 38 minutes, Charlton should have equalised. Fox threw the ball down the line to Holmes, he broke into the box and drilled in a low cross that neither Ajose nor Hanlan could get the vital touch to in the middle.
A quick corner routine gave Holmes a sight of goal but the home defence did well to deflect his strike behind and, from the following set-piece, Johnson rose highest at the far post but headed wide.
The Robins headed in a goal to the good at the interval but it took the Addicks less than five minutes to test their hosts after the restart. Hanlan made himself half a yard on the edge of the box but could only shoot wide.
They came within inches of getting their leveller on 55 minutes. Foley scampered down the right and sent in a low cross, which took a deflection off Easah Suliman and completely wrong footed home goalkeeper Russell Griffiths before trickling just wide.
Pell drilled a free-kick into the arms of Rudd on the hour mark and, at the other end, a Jackson through ball just had too much on it for the advancing Ajose.
Substitute Karlan Ahearne-Grant sent a low snapshot a couple of yards wide, having been teed up by Hanlan and, with 10 minutes remaining, Ajose sent an on-the-turn strike into the arms of Griffiths.
The goalkeeper was bravely off his line to smother at the feet of Ahearne-Grant in stoppage time, and that proved to be the final chance of the game as Cheltenham held on to progress into round two.
Cheltenham: Griffiths, Parslow, Pell, Waters (Barthram 89), Wright, Morgan-Smith (Rowe 90), Cranston (Jennings 90), Whitehead, O-Shaughnessy, Suliman, Holman.
Subs (not used): Kitscha, Lymn, Bower, Thomas.
Goal: Pell 17
Booked: Holman 61 (time wasting), Morgan-Smith 72 (foul on Ahearne-Grant), Jennings 90+2 (time wasting)
Charlton: Rudd, Foley, Johnson, Konsa, Fox, Crofts, Jackson Holmes (Ahearne-Grant 68), Lookman, Hanlan (Holmes-Dennis 80), Ajose.
Subs (not used): Phillips, Thomas, Pearce, Solly, Muldoon.
Booked: Fox 76 (foul on Waters), Crofts 90+3 (dissent), Johnson 90+4 (foul on Whitehead)