Charlton, a Premier League club as recently as 2007, saw their 19-match unbeaten record against non-League opposition in the FA Cup plundered by a 20-year-old barman yesterday, Wayne Riley striking late for Northwich Victoria to give the side lying 16th in the Blue Square North the victory they deserved.
Only eight minutes remained when Riley, unleashed from the bench five minutes earlier, anticipated Michael Connor's long header and spun away from Sam Sodje. Darren Randolph, whose acrobatic saves had kept Charlton in the tie, dashed from his line only for the substitute to reach the ball first and poke it through the keeper's legs.
Northwich's part-timers resisted what passed for retaliation by lacklustre Charlton, who stand 76 places above them in the English pyramid. Lincoln will now follow Charlton to the Cheshire club, who were in administration earlier this year.
Andy Preece, the Northwich manager, beamed broadly when it was put to him that Riley's arrival was an inspired substitution. "The plan was always to give Wayne some part of the game because he looked so bright in training," the former Crystal Palace striker said. "When it comes off, it looks like tactical genius."
Preece tasted giant-killing acclaim as a player in 1994 when he scored Stockport's winner over a Queens Park Rangers side then high in the Premiership. He admitted he was concerned that Northwich's superiority would not be reflected in the scoreline. "We said at half-time that all we were missing was a goal. Fortunately, we finally took one of our chances."
Riley, who comes from Macclesfield and earns his living pulling pints in a pub at nearby Adlington, expected to be "ambushed by my mates" when he went to celebrate his winner.
Charlton manager Phil Parkinson conceded that his League high-fliers had been "second best" on the day, adding: "We're very disappointed. They wanted it more. There was a lack of communication on one header and that has cost us." Parkinson made no excuses, which was just as well for none of the normal pre-requisites for a cup shock were in place. Instead of the sloping quagmire and howling gale minnows used to crave, the surface was pristine, the weather mild.
What Charlton struggled to handle was Northwich's commitment in challenges and the Rory Delap-like throws of Ian Herring. One of his deliveries led to an incredible scramble, in which four home players could have scored from spitting distance. Another produced a flick-on by Matt Bailey, creating a header for Michael Connor which Randolph, playing his first game this season, brilliantly tipped over. But when Riley broke free, Charlton were bereft and Northwich were buzzing.
Northwich Victoria (4-4-2): Aspden; Aspin, M Bailey, Kerr, Brown; Herring, Connor, D'Laryea, Elam (Riley, 77); Newby (Edwards, 90), Allan (Winter, 88). Substitutes not used: Spencer (gk), Vaughan, Edwards, Cadwallader, Richards.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Randolph; Omozusi, Sodje, Dailly, Youga; Sam, Racon, Semedo (Wagstaff, 86), N Bailey; McLeod (McKenzie, 68), Shelvey (Burton, 68). Substitutes not used: Binks (gk), Spring, Llera, Basey.
Referee: D Webb (Lancashire).
Booked: Northwich: Connor, Allan, Riley. Charlton: Semedo.
Man of the match: Bailey.
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