EFL Trophy has romance at The Valley – but that isn’t to do with a tournament that lacks credibility

CHARLTON 2

Sarr 41 Mascoll 83

AFC WIMBLEDON 2

Hartigan 26 Soares 48

(AFC Wimbledon win 4-2 on penalties)

BY RICHARD CAWLEY AT THE VALLEY

The EFL Trophy has been desperately trying to become relevant for years, but this competition is never going to be anything other than an afterthought for the clubs involved.

It is why managers take defeats and victories in it without any real joy or pain.

“That was tense wasn’t it? I tell you what, the road to Wembley starts.” Neal Ardley’s opening words as he sat down to speak to the assembled media were more than laced with sarcasm.

The tournament is a mass of contradictions. Clubs get fined for fielding weakened teams, when that doesn’t happen in far more prestigious competitions like the FA Cup or EFL Cup.

And the tinpot feel isn’t helped when Charlton were told they couldn’t play Tariqe Fosu in Tuesday night’s tie but that it also didn’t count towards his three-game ban. So effectively the winger gets a four-match punishment.

The introduction of U21 sides from Premier League clubs, and those that have top-rated academies, hasn’t done anything to add prestige in the last couple of years. 

Charlton Athletic v AFC Wimbledon, Checkatrade Trophy, The Valley, 4 September 2018.
Image by Keith Gillard

So, what is the answer to invigorating it? I don’t think you can. A straight knockout would be a start, but even then you somehow have to  get more bums on seats. 

That’s not to say that there were nothing to enjoy in midweek. Jamie Mascoll’s first professional goal was a sweet moment, the former Dulwich Hamlet left-back dedicating it to his nan.

And then there was the Charlton fan who proposed to his girlfriend, an AFC Wimbledon fan. The subterfuge of a blindfolded penalty shootout is something EFL suits might take note of as another way of bringing attention to the trophy. Convert with a scarf tied over your eyes? Here is an extra point.

Two of Charlton’s spot-kicks were poor at the end of the 90 minutes and Joe McDonnell saved from Nicky Ajose and George Lapslie. 

Photo: Paul Edwards
Charlton Athletic v AFC Wimbledon, Checkatrade Trophy, The Valley, 4 September 2018.
Image by Keith Gillard

Wimbledon had no such problems. Kwesi Appiah, Anthony Hartigan and Mitch Pinnock all sent debutant Jed Steer the wrong way – and the Aston Villa loanee could not get a hand to James Hanson’s effort which sealed a 4-2 victory and an extra bonus point.

The goal of the night belonged to Tom Soares, captaining the Dons on the evening. Charlton were slow to close down the former Crystal Palace man, but take nothing away from the 25 yard right-footed thunderbolt which flew past Steer.

Wimbledon’s first of the evening was credited to Hartigan but it took vital deflections off both Kenneth Yao and Taylor Maloney.

Albie Morgan’s free-kick was swept in from close range by Naby Sarr just before the interval.

Ajose came close to curling in a late decider. Charlton had plenty of confidence on the ball, but the same often couldn’t be said when it came to a finishing touch.

It wasn’t a dreadful game. We had romance, a blockbuster strike and penalties – just don’t try convincing me that any of it felt worthwhile. 

Charlton Athletic v AFC Wimbledon, Checkatrade Trophy, The Valley, 4 September 2018.
Image by Keith Gillard
Charlton Athletic v AFC Wimbledon, Checkatrade Trophy, The Valley, 4 September 2018.
Image by Keith Gillard

Wimbledon are back in Group G action against Swansea U21s on September 18 with Charlton facing a wait until October 9 and an away trip to Stevenage.

They are dates in the diary for the footballing diehards. 

Charlton (3-5-2): Steer 6, Yao 6, Dijksteel 6, Sarr 6, Marshall 7, Reeves 6 (Mascoll 57, 6), Maloney 6, Lapslie 6, Morgan 6, Vetokele 7 (Ajose 71), Hackett-Fairchild 5. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Blumberg.

AFC Wimbledon (4-4-2): McDonnell 7, Garratt 7, Sibbick 7, McDonald 6, Thomas 6 (Purrington 90), Wagstaff 5, Hartigan 7, Jervis 6 (Appiah 79), Pinnock 6, Hanson 6, Soares 7 (Barcham 68, 6). Not used: King, Nightingale.


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