Iain Liddle reports from Longmead Stadium
A superb free-kick from forward Frannie Collin inflicted a second defeat in four days on Charlton, as a CAFC XI went down by the odd goal in three to Tonbridge Angels.
With a line-up boasting a mixture of youth and experience it looked as though it would be a comfortable evening for the visitors when Ade Azeez put them in front quickly into the contest.
However, the Blue Square Bet South hosts proved dogged opposition and deservedly equalised when George Purcell adeptly lobbed John Sullivan after 32 minutes.
Collin, the Angels’ most dangerous player on show, then settled the contest two minutes after half-time when he expertly placed a free-kick beyond Sullivan’s reach from 20 yards.
Following the first team’s 1-0 loss at Gillingham on Saturday, there were a sprinkling of stars on show at Longmead Stadium with Leon Clarke leading the line alongside youngsters Joe Pigott and Azeez.
Likewise, the experienced head of Paul Hayes dropped into midfield alongside Bradley Jordan and Ruben Bover-Izquierdo – who was handed the captain’s armband by coach Nathan Jones.
The attacking line-up nearly took the lead with the referee’s whistle still ringing in the ears when a defensive mistake allowed Clarke though on goal, although all-action goalkeeper Lee Worgan saved well, before Hayes’ rebound was deflected over the bar.
On a smooth playing surface it took time for Charlton to settle into the contest with Bover-Izquierdo unusually sloppy in possession in the final third, which earned him a dressing down from Hayes that seemed to enliven the entire squad.
Sure enough, the opening goal soon came and it was the Spanish skipper at the heart of the move.
Picking up the ball deep in his own half, he pinged a pass forward onto the head of Pigott who flicked it into the path of Azeez, before the young striker kept his cool and showed god composure to round the keeper and slot into an empty net.
The same forward nearly made it two after 13 minutes when triallist right-back Henry Muggeridge picked him out with a diagonal pass forward although Worgan was quicker to the ball, and received an accidental clattering from Azeez for his troubles.
The eager-to-impress defender, who was with Bristol City last season, exhibited good pace in wide areas while Semi Ajayi was a calming figure in the middle of a young back four and once again demonstrated an impressive range of passing at times.
Tonbridge soon began to gain a foothold in the contest and Collin provided their first effort on goal when, after being fouled by Bover-Izquierdo, his skidding free-kick was held by stopper Sullivan.
The visitors nearly made it two after the half-hour mark when a brilliant ball forward from Hayes picked out the rampaging Fox, who played in Pigott, only for the the striker’s effort to be blocked by the frequently impressive Worgan.
It proved a turning point of sorts as, from the restart, Collin’s pass was flicked into the path of Purcell, who took advantage of slight hesitation from Harry Osborne and Sullivan, before lobbing the ball over the keeper’s head into the far corner.
Charlton had two chances to regain their lead before the break when Jordan’s incisive through-ball picked out Azeez, from whom Worgan blocked well, before Fox controlled a looping ball on his chest before firing at goal. The goalkeeper once again making the save.
Triallist Fabio Saraiva – who operated at left-back on the evening – replaced Ajayi at half-time, with Fox pushing into the centre of defence, but his first act was to watch keeper Sullivan pick the ball out of the net.
From a free-kick on the edge of the Charlton penalty area, Collin stepped and curled a sublime effort into the top left corner of the net, via the underside of the crossbar.
There was nearly a third for the home side soon after when the lively Purcell cut in front the right flank and shot low at goal, but on this occasion Sullivan got down quickly to gather.
The visiting side looked disjointed for large parts of the second half, but in Jordan they had a player always looking to make something happen in midfield.
His fiercely-struck low shot produced another save from Worgan after 66 minutes, before the keeper smothered quickly as substitute Tobi Sho-Silva looked to pounce on the rebound.
The game fizzled out with around 25 minutes to go although substitute Diego Poyet looked composed on the ball alongside Jordan.
There was one late chance for the CAFC XI to equalise when Hayes, who was picked out well at the back post, drilled the ball across the penalty area, but Sho-Silva was unable to control it closely allowing Worgan, for the final time, to have the decisive touch.
CAFC XI: Sullivan, Fox, Osborne, Ajayi (Saraiva 46), Muggeridge, Jordan, Bover-Izquierdo (Poyet 60), Hayes, Pigott (Sho-Silva 60) Azeez, Clarke.
Subs not used: Phillips, O’Hanlon, Holmes-Dennis.