Charlton AthleticSport

Richard Cawley’s verdict on Charlton Athletic’s EFL Cup win at Stevenage – Chuks Aneke a potent weapon

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Or, to be exact, it was the 61st minute when Ben Garner opted to bring on Chuks Aneke and change the outcome of Charlton’s EFL Cup tie at Stevenage on Tuesday.

The big striker is perfectly happy to start matches on the bench. And the reason for that is throughout his career, both in Addicks colours but also at Milton Keynes, his scoring record as an impact substitute is hugely impressive.

Charlton always looked like they had quality substitute options if they were forced to chase the tie and Aneke was part of a quadruple change that also saw Steven Sessegnon, Corey Blackett-Taylor and Charlie Kirk enter the fray.

If you had to put money on one of those to score it would have been Aneke and he duly delivered.

He now has 17 goals as a substitute for Charlton, a club record, and the three times he has notched this season have bumped up that haul.

Kim Grant previously led the way with nine goals and Aneke has raced well past that total.

It is little wonder that the 1,137 travelling Addicks fans were chanting his name well before he came on.

Jayden Stockley, Jack Payne and Albie Morgan had all struggled to put a dent in physical opposition.

When Aneke returned to SE7 in January from Birmingham City, Charlton also took over the loan of Chelsea full-back Juan Castillo to sweeten the deal for then Blues boss Lee Bowyer, there was an element of scepticism. The need to manage the 29-year-old’s minutes and reduce his injury risk is an issue to continually factor in.

But there is absolutely no disputing that Aneke is one of the top frontmen in League One. He always looks likely to cause damage, whether he gets an hour on the pitch or just five minutes. He has the power and mobility to knock any centre-back out of their stride.

Picture: Kyle Andrews

The way in which Ben Garner sets up his team is more favourable to Aneke than Stockley. Last season’s top-scorer is not getting the type of service that he thrives on and looks ill at ease with his role, while trying manfully to make it work.

Charlton’s number nine was not the only one to be off the pace for so much of the Stevenage fixture. Their League Two opponents had plenty of joy pressing and forcing errors from their opponents as well as being first to so many of the loose balls or winning the 50-50 duels.

When Luke Norris slotted Stevenage ahead from the spot in the 22nd minute – Richard Chin penalised for a handball right on the eyeline of referee Tom Nield – they were good value for their lead.

Not only that, Charlton were fortunate to only trail 1-0 at the interval. Norris failed to make the most of two other excellent shooting opportunities while Jake Taylor’s cross came back off the crossbar.

By contrast, Charlton’s one real moment of danger came when Sean Clare played Morgan through but although he lifted the ball over the onrushing Aaron Chapman it went harmlessly wide.

Garner did not make any changes before the start of the second half and the momentum remained with Stevenage. Joe Wollacott had to turn away a full-blooded strike by Danny Rose while Taylor flashed one across the face of goal.

Picture: Kyle Andrews

Jake Forster-Caskey has been a peripheral figure for Charlton this season. If things had worked out differently on the last transfer deadline day he would have been reunited with Johnnie Jackson at AFC Wimbledon. Instead he was brought on for George Dobson – a fifth switch – and helped the South Londoners belatedly take control in the final 15 minutes.

Suddenly the chances started coming. Inniss was a menace in the air all night and his header came back off the bar, then Clare put another one over it after the former Crystal Palace centre-back once again climbed highest from a Charlie Kirk delivery. Chapman fumbled from an excellent run and cross by Clare, only for home defenders doing just enough to stifle Jes Rak-Sakyi.

Once Aneke beat Chapman, Rak-Sakyi’s persistence paying off in the build-up, it was clear that only one team wanted to try and win it in normal time.
Stevenage took it to penalties and the first eight were textbook.

It was slightly cruel on Taylor, one of Stevenage’s best performers, that his effort was saved by Wollacott. Scott Fraser showed zero compassion towards his fellow midfielder to send Charlton into the fourth round of the EFL Cup for the first time since 2006.

The good news for Charlton is that November is not set to be quite such a demanding month in terms of schedule. They played eight times in October and last Saturday’s 4-1 FA Cup win over Coalville Town has added a home tie later this month against Stockport, making it six matches in November.

But right up until Boxing Day they go Saturday to Saturday except for a Friday night meeting with Cheltenham on December 2, switched to avoid a potential clash with England in the World Cup.

Charlton have lost just one of their last eight games in all competitions and four of their next five league matches are against clubs in the bottom nine.

With Miles Leaburn sidelined, the key will be getting the risk to reward of Aneke’s workload right. He’s proving absolutely vital.

Chuks Aneke. Lethal.

Scott Fraser’s ice-cool penalty.

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