Les Reed will be hoping the only sack he gets at Christmas is Santa's after Wycombe Wanderers, of League Two, last night compounded the crisis engulfing Charlton and their second manager of the season. Jermaine Easter's 35th-minute goal sent Wycombe into the last four of the Carling Cup but this tremendous achievement was overshadowed by the Premiership club's despair.
Reed has only just signed a three-year contract but if there is no improvement in the team's dreadful performances the board will be forced to act again. The fans have already made their minds up. They booed the team off at half-time and full-time, called for Reed's removal in an after-match protest, and chanted the name of Alan Pardew, who was only deposed at West Ham a week ago. Reed, who played for Wycombe in their Isthmian League days, refused to speak to the media last night, remaining locked in the dressing room with his players more than an hour after the final whistle. Nor was the chairman, Richard Murray, prepared to speak.
This was Charlton's fifth defeat in seven matches under the new head coach. They shipped eight goals in the previous two and but for Scott Carson in goal would have conceded another three in the first half last night.
Wycombe, who came into the match off the back of two wins in seven matches themselves, all but overran their exalted opponents in the opening half. Although they were hanging on by the finish, their goalkeeper Jamie Young never had to make a save out of the ordinary. "It's a massive win and an unbelievable effort from the players," said Paul Lambert, Wycombe's manager.
"I did think it was going to be harder but, as the game went on and we got in front, I didn't think we were going to lose," said Easter. "We could have gone in two or three nil-up at half-time."
Reed's problems began with team selection. He needed a win, to avoid being humiliated and build confidence, but the Premiership takes priority and the tough Christmas programme is coming up. In the event, he made five changes from the team beaten 3-0 at home by Liverpool but how many were dropped, and how many rested, was hard to ascertain. Charlton were so poor on Saturday Reed could have axed any number of players. Wycombe, who themselves have other commitments being heavily engaged in a promotion battle, made two changes, both enforced.
The benefits of familiarity and confidence soon showed. After some early rustic challenges betrayed Wycombe's status, one of them earning Anthony Grant a booking, Wanderers settled and began to control the play.
They are the first team from the professional game's fourth tier to reach the quarter-finals of this competition since 1975-76 when a Doncaster Rovers team including the Test cricketer Chris Balderstone, were thrashed 7-2 at White Hart Lane. It was not a promising antecedent but that Tottenham side, with Martin Chivers leading the line and Pat Jennings in goal, were a very different proposition to this Charlton one.
In Carson and Darren Bent Charlton have decent players in those key roles and other talented individuals alongside them but the team is suffused with fear and bereft of confidence. As a consequence, their play was riddled with errors - players constantly failing to pass accurately or control the ball. Each time they did so the jeers of the home support got louder, which made the players even more nervous and less willing to show themselves to help a teammate.
It was fully 37 minutes before Young, in the Wycombe goal, was stretched. By then the visitors were a goal up. In the 12th minute Stefan Oakes, a League Cup winner with Leicester in 2000, began the assault with a shot Souleymane Diawara stopped with his hands and groin. While Diawara received treatment on the sidelines Oakes thumped the free-kick through the wall to launch Carson's resistance.
A minute later the England Under-21 keeper parried Grant's drive and he also had to go full stretch to deny Easter after Diawara had given the ball away. After dropping a cross, and being grateful that Tommy Mooney put the loose ball wide, he made a fine save from Mooney's falling volley after 32 minutes. He was finally beaten by a route one goal: Young's kick was headed on by Mooney and Easter, who had scored in all four previous rounds, ran past Diawara to score from 20 yards. "I was very surprised, I don't get that much space in League Two," Easter said damningly.
Young had to scramble away a free-kick from Bryan Hughes as Charlton rallied but the home team nevertheless exited at the interval to chants of "You're not fit to wear the shirt".
Reed resisted the temptation to make changes at the interval and Charlton gradually improved, but not sufficiently to worry a tiring Wycombe. Young was kept busy, bit only a close-range shot from Jon Fortune caused alarm.
As the minutes ticked away they threw more and more players forward but even that proved counter-productive as Carson, up for an injury-time corner, stole a chance from which Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink might have rescued Reed. As the final whistle went the home fans turned their vitriol on Reed, before clapping the Wycombe team off.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Carson; Sankofa (Hasselbaink, 74), Fortune, Diawara, Traoré; Rommedahl, Faye (Holland, 70), Hughes, Thomas (Sam, 70); Marcus Bent, Darren Bent. Substitutes not used: Myhre (gk), El Karkouri.
Wycombe Wanderers (4-4-2): Young; Martin, Antwi, Williamson, O'Halloran; Betsy, Grant (Palmer, 63), Bloomfield, Oakes; Easter, Mooney (Stonebridge, 87). Substitutes not used: Christon, Stonebridge, Dixon, Anya.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Co Durham).Reuse content