The yellow card Jay Bothroyd picked up for celebratory shirt removal was piffling punishment for his last-gasp goal which ended a brave bid by Leyton Orient to inflict more pain on the country's top division. Having seen off one Premiership side by knocking out Fulham in the third round of the FA Cup, Orient panicked another one, Charlton, in the fourth and merited a replay.
Now it is back to a League Two promotion battle for Martin Ling and his team and Alan Curbishley, for one, wishes them luck. "Orient played fantastically well. They have a good side there," he said. "I didn't want [a replay]. We need to catch up some games." Had it gone to a replay at Brisbane Road, or even a win for Orient, which appeared likely at one stage, the Charlton manager would have suffered two blows in a single afternoon, following the revelation in the programme that his real name is Llewellyn Charles Curbishley.
The match swung on the gamble taken by Llewellyn Charles, sending on all three permitted substitutes at the same time. "I've done that before and it has backfired," Curbishley admitted. This time it worked a treat as Jerome Thomas, Alexei Smertin and Bothroyd, pepped up a flagging team and got the result.
The pace and trickery of Thomas down the left unhinged Orient's previously solid back line, Smertin was the epitome of industry pushing forward from midfield and Bothroyd, of course, got the winner, albeit via a deflected free-kick which sent Orient's Glyn Garner the wrong way and not quite able to keep it out.
So Charlton finished as they had started, well on top. The raucous presence of 6,000 Orient followers at one end of The Valley was silenced as early as the seventh minute by a ridiculously easily taken goal. When the Orient captain John Mackie felled Darren Bent near the right touchline, Darren Ambrose floated the free-kick into the heart of the goalmouth ruck, but Jonathan Fortune was somehow permitted time and space to score his first goal of the season with a diving header.
There could have been more as Orient unwisely stood off their distinguished opponents. Bryan Hughes twice scuffed good openings, Shaun Bartlett glanced a header wide and Gabriel Zakuani, for the first and not the last time, saved his side with a timely clearance from inside the six-yard box.
Not long before half-time Orient decided there was not a lot to beat after all and set about trying to prove it. Their 14-goal leading scorer, Gary Alexander, fired the first warnings before Joe Keith glanced a shot off the crossbar. Having been encouraged at the interval by their manager that they had the beating of Charlton, Orient set about proving it and quickly levelled. The provider was Keith with a glorious through ball and the finisher was Lee Steele, though the blame lay partly with Thomas Myhre, who allowed the low shot to pass under his body.
Under sustained, enthusiastic pressure Charlton not only grew ragged but were being run ragged, as Curbishley noted with his mass substitution. "It needed livening up," he asserted, after removing Radostin Kishishev, Bartlett and Hughes, and he was right. All eye-witnesses but the referee, Alan Wiley, were convinced that Darren Bent had been brought down by Zakuani, who then compounded the felony by repelling a goalbound shot by Ambrose as Charlton piled on the late pressure.
With the loudspeaker announcement that three minutes were to be added, Orient seemed to have done enough to survive until Smertin won a free-kick for something much less serious than the foul suffered by Bent. So perhaps there was justice, if no luck, in the deflection which provided a ticket into tomorrow's fifth-round draw. "I'm just pleased to get through," said the ever-honest Curbishley.Reuse content