Charlton Athletic 3 Brentford 1: Allen's confidence trick no match for Charlton's class

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The Independent Online

Martin Allen tricked his players over which hotel they would be staying in before this fifth-round tie and he even let a complete stranger into the dug-out throughout the game but that was as far as the deception went for Brentford. They were not about to kid anyone they could match Charlton when it came to the football.

Conceding goals at either end of the first half and then a truly decisive third strike after an hour put paid to any hopes the west Londoners may have harboured of causing a second successive Cup upset, having beaten Sunderland at home in the previous round.

A brief flurry of action near the end saw the League One promotion contenders reduce the deficit and they hit the post in the final minute. But that would have put a sheen on the result that the Bees did not deserve, despite Allen's claim that if that effort from Sam Sodje had gone in, his side would have gone on to win. Not that you should fault the Brentford manager for trying to convince his players they were a match for a mid-table Premiership side that had beaten Liverpool 10 days earlier.

Known for his love of the psychological side of sport, he felt his players should stay in a luxurious hotel on the eve of the game. "My players deserve the best," he said. But, at first, he took them to an establishment that, "looked like it was out of Prisoner Cell Block H".

Allen is of an age where he clearly remembers that cult Australian soap about an all-women prison and, having disappointed them, he was able to transform their outlook, for he then directed the team bus to their actual hotel. "We stayed in a five-star hotel, de luxe. The look on the players' faces when we turned up was priceless. We stayed in the business district of Canary Wharf because I wanted them 'to do the business'. As it turned out, they didn't, partly thanks to getting off to such a bad start.

Radostin Kishishev, playing on the right, came infield and flicked an outrageous pass to Darren Bent without looking in his direction, and the club's top scorer did the rest. Jay Bothroyd, who has one of the most powerful shots in the Premiership, hammered home a free-kick from 20 yards, with Stuart Nelson slightly at fault, and the Addicks looked secure.

Cue the next trick from up Allen's sleeve. Earlier in the week, the club had held a raffle, which raised £2,500, to pay for their hotel and the holder of the winning ticket was one Chris Swatton, who works for a chocolate manufacturer. With an hour gone, Allen told him to get up from the dug-out to shout at the players.

They were clearly befuddled at what they saw, for in the next minute Shaun Bartlett, with his first touch, found the impressive Bryan Hughes who slipped his shot between Nelson's legs. Despite Isaiah Rankin's late goal, Charlton's progress to the last eight was never in doubt. Their manager Alan Curbishley's only real concern might have been the distraction caused in the first half when fighting broke out between Brentford fans and stewards.

With two rounds to negotiate and Arsenal and Manchester United already out, Curbishley does not need Martin Allen's imagination to contemplate a possible place in the final.

Goals: D Bent (3) 1-0; Bothroyd (45) 2-0; Hughes (62) 3-0; Rankin (83) 3-1.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2) : Myhre; Young, Perry, Hreidarsson, Powell; Kishishev (Ambrose, 75), Smertin, Hughes (Holland, 82), Thomas; Bothroyd (Bartlett, 62), D Bent. Substitutes not used: Andersen (gk), Spector.

Brentford (4-4-2) : Nelson; O'Connor, Sodje, Turner, Frampton; Tillen (Brooker, h-t), Newman (Rankin, 56), Tabb, Pratley; Owusu, Gayle (Peters, 73) Substitutes not used: Bankole (gk), Mousinho.

Referee: M Riley (Yorkshire).

Booked: CharltonThomas, Bothroyd.

Man of the match: Hughes.

Attendance: 22,098.

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