Charlton pay the price as FA Cup is not a major priority for boss Lee Bowyer 

CHARLTON 0
DONCASTER 2
Butler 66 Marquis 77

BY KEVIN NOLAN AT THE VALLEY

A bespoke Charlton side, tailored by Lee Bowyer to fit the FA Cup but intended to spare key personnel for the prioritised business of league games, made a predictable exit from the world’s oldest football competition at the hands of promotion rivals Doncaster Rovers.

Naming only two of the marauders who mugged Burton Albion in midweek – Naby Sarr and George Lapslie – Bowyer’s bench featured just five substitutes, of whom Mikhail Kennedy was the sole attacker.

When queried whether his caution meant a missed opportunity to secure a lucrative third round tie, he countered that “we’re never going to win it, so where’s the missed opportunity?

“I’m really not that fussed. We have to be realistic so I think I’ve made the right decision.”

Charlton Athletic’s Mark Marshall in action

Pragmatic sentiments, for sure, but hardly the fighting, up-for-the-cup talk fans want to hear.

With four fifth round appearances the summit of their achievements during 139 years history, Doncaster Rovers are even less likely “to win it”. Yet their manager Grant McCann kept faith with nine of the starters who beat Blackpool 2-0 on Tuesday.

Ali Crawford was relegated to the bench, while James Coppinger’s 37-year-old bones were given an understandable rest. McCann clearly sensed an opportunity where Bowyer saw only a holiday.

The 3,000 home optimists, deluded romantics one and all, who ignored the obvious and coughed up 15 quid to attend this low-key mismatch, might have preferred a more competitive run for their money. They should have brushed up on their history.

Not that the volunteers cobbled together to represent the Addicks surrendered meekly. They gave almost as good as they got for over an hour until the visitors rather luckily squeezed in front.

A second goal 10 minutes later settled their hash but they fought on gamely with their best performer, Mark Marshall, denied a late consolation by Ian Lawlor’s outstanding save.

There were positives to be dredged from an otherwise routine exercise, as Bowyer justifiably pointed out. Badly missed first-team candidates Ben Reeves and Billy Clarke gained valuable game time, the latter going the full distance without apparent strain.

Spirited wingback Marshall was a constant threat along the right touchline, with a string of inviting crosses that went unrewarded, while Sarr was imperturbable, sometimes too imperturbable, at centre-back.

Unhappily, out-of-his-depth Reeco Hackett-Fairchild and barely interested Nicky Ajose were a toothless twosome up front.

Charlton Athletic’s Recco Hackett-Fairchild in action

The Addicks created a number of interesting situations but, until Marshall’s header tested Lawlor in the dying stages, their clearcut chances were few.

The visitors, to be fair, were hardly more dangerous.

During an evenly shared first half, in fact, it was possible to entertain the possibility that Bowyer’s babes had enough about them to turn over McCann’s senior citizens.

They began brightly, with Hackett-Fairchild’s flick stopped perilously close to the goal-line by Andrew Butler and Clarke’s touch-and-volley blocked at source by Tom Anderson.

At the other, end Tommy Rowe headed a good cross wastefully over the bar and Herbie Kane’s shot was firm but directed straight at Dillon Phillips.

Although Taylor Maloney’s bravery was called upon to smother Rowe’s point-blank effort, this was no blood-and-thunder cup tie. Such things are nostalgic echoes from the past.

The second half initially offered more of the same. When Matty Blair brought down Hackett-Fairchild, Clarke’s free-kick shaved the bar.

Butler responded by heading Danny Andrew’s corner over the bar but was soon given a second chance to do better.

Reeves’ panicky clearance sailed over Phillips’ bar to concede another left-wing corner, which Andrew swung over and Butler headed goalwards.

In his desperate attempt to intervene, Marshall inadvertently turned the ball out of Phillips’ reach.

Ten more minutes were required for Rovers to settle the tie. Set-piece specialist Andrew’s free-kick from the right was headed back across goal by Butler and bullied home at the far post by John Marquis.

It was Doncaster, not Charlton, who would feature in last night’s third round draw. And that’s par for the course, given the cavalier approach of successive managers to a fine old footballing tradition.

Next season, fans, it might be a good idea to “keep your hand on your ha’penny, cover it well with your palm.” Save your money…stay home…watch the racing.

Charlton (4-4-2): Phillips 6, Marshall 7, Dijksteel 6, Sarr 7, Stevenson 6, Clarke 6, Reeves 6 (Morgan 67, 5), Lapslie 6, Maloney 5 (Sarpong-Wiredu 79), Ajose 5, Hackett-Fairchild 5. Not used: Steer, Kennedy, Blumberg.

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