Now getting a train to go one stop down the line doesn’t stand up against the records of those who travelled to the Hawthorns, or even those planning to make the trip to Watford on Saturday (it’s the pub for me I’m ashamed to say). But as a desperate attempt to cover up a lamentable performance to date when it comes to away games – a position which will be partially redressed with the season’s daft gesture, a kiddie-carrier full of Addicks driving somewhere up north for the Scunthorpe game – going to the FA Youth Cup game wins a few points. And unlike my previous grand gesture, a 0-0 draw for the reserves against Palace, this one provided plenty of entertainment.
The club site already has a comprehensive report on the 6-0 victory so there’s not much point in going over the details. Suffice to say that as a real contest the match was over after half an hour with Charlton’s second goal, the only doubt having been whether our dominance and obvious advantages in terms of pace and movement would be converted into goals. With a 4-0 lead at half-time the difference in class was obvious. Charlton were able to play through the gears when it mattered while Sheffield’s kids had only one. Their lack of pace in attack was only outdone by a ponderous midfield and a physically-imposing but otherwise limited defence.
By contrast the Charlton youngsters were quick and incisive, playing with a system that had strong similarities with the first team of late. It seemed that every time Sheffield lost the ball going forward we were able to spring a dangerous counter-attack. Our third goal came from such a move, with six Charlton attackers confronted by four defenders. The major difference with the seniors was the quality of the shooting (I’d like to see the percentage of shots which were on target), which put the first team to shame.
It’s fair to say that everyone had a very good game. In goal Joe Woolley dealt with all that came his way, which amounted to one strong shot and a few crosses. The full backs, Chris Solly and Sam Long, tackled well, used the ball with intelligence, and played their part in attack. In central defence Yado Mambo and Rhys Coleman had only a few iffy moments and generally dominated the opposition. Alex Stavrinou had a quietly outstanding game, protecting the defence and allowing others to get forward. And it was the pace and skill of Danny Uchechi, Rashid Yussuff and Jonjo Shelvey – who between them scored four goals, including two in 10 minutes before the break for Shelvey - that proved crucial, especially with good link-up play with Scott Wagstaff, who did a very passable Luke Varney impression. And while centre-forward Ben Godfrey was often out-muscled by Sheffield’s defenders he took his revenge in the second half with two excellent strikes. Callum O’Shea, Mikkel Rygaard-Jensen and Steve Lozano-Calderon came on towards the end but the contest was over long before they took the field.
There was even the added benefit of thinking about how miserable the coach journey back up to Sheffield would be for them and any of their supporters. Unfair? Not after the misery for us of the drive back to London last season. And they probably won’t even have the comfort of a Charles Aznavour CD playing in the background (I’m really not turning French, although the purchase over Christmas of a baby accordion might suggest otherwise). Can’t wait for the fifth round myself, presumably against Middlesbrough (although Swindon Town would be a nice bonus, as long as they don’t bring Willie Carson with them again). It would be nice to turn over Middlebrough in a cup tie and bury another bad memory.
Just about everything that needs to be said about the West Brom cup tie has been said elsewhere. I found myself progressively losing my indifference to the outcome as the game progressed, to the point of a round-the-kitchen jig to Chris Dickson’s equaliser (I totally agree with Wyn Grant that accepting an offer from Southend would make no sense, even if we do eventually land Andy Gray from Burnley). Another good overall team performance should help further strengthen morale and confidence, while hopefully still leaving a sense of unfinished business for the league game against West Brom at The Valley. However, while this might go against the ‘talk/think positive’ pledge, we will only find out on Saturday whether the effort put into the cup tie was worth it.