REPORT: Charlton Athletic 0 Argyle 1
Charlton Athletic 0
A solitary goal from Luke Jephcott was enough to give Argyle a thoroughly deserved win at Charlton Athletic in the first round of the Emirates FA Cup.
The Pilgrims controlled the game and the only disappointment at half-time was the fact composure on the ball and attacking thrust had not been rewarded.
The Greens would not be denied, however, and a fabulous team move created the chance for Jephcott to continue his scoring run with a deft finish on the hour.
Argyle boss Ryan Lowe understandably kept faith with the side that performed superbly in defeating Swindon 4-2 in midweek and it was a first FA Cup meeting with the Addicks since going down to a 2-1 defeat in 1981, when David Kemp scored for the Greens.
Charlton manager Lee Bowyer took a very different approach, making eight changes to the team that beat Fleetwood on Tuesday to extend their winning streak to six games. One survivor from that game was former Pilgrim Ben Purrington and it was a full debut for recent signing Marcus Maddison.
Argyle settled into the game superbly, threading an attack down the right wing and a fizzed low cross from Panutche Camara picked out the run of Jephcott, who guided a clever effort goalward, forcing a fine save from Ashley Maynard-Brewer inside two minutes.
Camara continued finding gaps in the right channel, this time earning a corner that was worked back to the young midfielder for a shot from distance sent scuttling into the arms of Maynard-Brewer.
Charlton began to find their rhythm with a nice spell of possession but without ever penetrating the Pilgrim defence, and Maddison ended up trying a long-ranger that flashed well wide of Mike Cooper’s near post.
A clever ball down the line by captain Joe Edwards picked out Camara for yet another surge along his favoured flank on 15 minutes and the low cross needed a hurried clearance from Ryan Inniss.
The Pilgrims were performing with fabulous belief, underpinned by Jephcott linking the play with a maturity beyond his years and Camara proving too much for the hosts to handle, again finding room for a shot fired narrowly off target.
Charlton attempted to quell the Argyle enthusiasm with a spell of keep-ball but when the danger did enter the penalty area, Jerome Opoku was perfectly positioned to snuff out the cross from Purrington.
Back up the other end, a deflected pass from Edwards inadvertently found Hardie in the danger zone but the angle was too tight for the man on loan to steer his effort on target. Swindon responded with a long ball over the top and Byron Moore defended the situation perfectly to frustrate Chuks Aneke.
Camara, almost inevitably, sparked the next Green surge, powering through midfield to release Jephcott on the left, who instantly switched it to for Hardie to try his luck with a low drive well saved by Maynard-Brewer.
The Greens continued dominating the ball as the game approached half-time and it was simply a case of finding that final moment of quality to get the goal they richly deserved from a super display.
Camara attempted to deliver that moment with a rising drive on the half-volley but Maynard-Brewer saved for a relieved home side that entered the break feeling very grateful to still be on level terms.
Argyle opened the second period with the same fluidity, as Edwards played a bounce-pass with Jephcott before steering a low left-footer that was comfortable for the home custodian.
Maynard-Brewer was under a lot more stress from the next Argyle foray, when Hardie stole the ball for a run on goal and the Charlton ‘keeper raced off his line to just about repel the danger.
The Pilgrims finally got the goal their terrific play warranted on the hour and Danny Mayor was the conjurer with a lovely pass for the run into the box from Moore, who squared the ball to Jephcott and he dinked a beautiful finish over the diving Maynard-Brewer.
It was a goal that was so satisfying in its simplicity but the two passes that created room for Jephcott were perfect, and the final touch showed why the young Welshman is developing such an impressive reputation.
Argyle’s delight was given an abrupt shock when Kelland Watts suffered a nasty blow after some brave defending from a Charlton corner and the young defender required lengthy treatment before being given the all-clear to continue.
While Watts was receiving attention, the Addicks made their first changes by withdrawing Aneke and Maddison for Conor Washington and James Vennings, as Bowyer sought to change the direction of the afternoon.
The Greens wasted no time in rediscovering their attacking flow, with Mayor increasingly influential, and Lowe opted to freshen up his striking options, bringing on Frank Nouble and Dom Telford for Hardie and Jephcott.
Charlton were playing with increased attacking urgency and did find room for a Purrington header that was expertly blocked by Cooper. Argyle came back immediately, and Mayor danced inside for a low shot well saved by Maynard-Brewer.
Ian Maatsen replaced Jake Forster-Caskey in the final switch for Charlton but Argyle continued to be the side in the ascendancy, with Camara breaking forward on an incredible run before feeding Telford for a chipped cross, and the hosts had to charge down shots from Moore and Edwards to stay in the game.
It was sadly the last contribution from an inspired display by Camara, who hobbled off for Conor Grant moments later. The Greens then entered eight minutes of stoppage time to secure their place in the next round.
Charlton had to throw men forward and were denied by a tremendous clearance under pressure by Opoku before Cooper produced a fine save to tip over a flick from Charlie Barker.
It was, however, a rare moment of concern, as Argyle calmly managed the game to victory.
Charlton Athletic (4-3-3): 30 Ashley Maynard-Brewer; 16 Adam Matthews, 48 Charlie Barker, 24 Ryan Inniss, 3 Ben Purrington; 19 Albie Morgan, 8 Jake Forster-Caskey (capt) (22 Ian Maatsen 84), 23 Dylan Levitt; 7 Jonny Williams, 10 Chuks Aneke (14 Conor Washington, 65), 21 Marcus Maddison (35 James Vennings 65). Substitutes (not used): 13 Ben Amos (GK), 15 Darren Pratley, 40 Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, 50 Aaron Henry.
Booked: Levitt 21, Aneke 61, Forster-Caskey 72
Argyle (3-5-2): 1 Mike Cooper; 4 Will Aimson, 24 Jerome Opoku, 2 Kelland Watts; 8 Joe Edwards (capt), 28 Panutche Camara (15 Conor Grant 90), 18 Tyrese Fornah, 10 Danny Mayor, 17 Byron Moore; 9 Ryan Hardie (11 Dom Telford 75), 31 Luke Jephcott (7 Frank Nouble 75). Substitutes (not used): 26 Jack Ruddy (GK), 6 Niall Canavan, 14 Ben Reeves, 32 George Cooper.
Booked: Nouble 88
Referee: Neil Hair