Charlton 2 Cheltenham 1
Alfie May showed ice in his veins on a cold Tuesday night at The Valley, converting two penalties against his old club to help the Addicks to a 2-1 victory over Cheltenham Town in Sky Bet League One.
In a scrappy opening to the game, it looked like it was going to take a moment of quality to open the scoring.
That moment came after 10 minutes in the form of a wonderful cross from Liam Sercombe. Receiving the ball deep in the right-wing position, he sent a perfect curling cross onto the head of Will Goodwin, who had the simple task of heading in from eight yards out.
But Charlton responded well, led by the excellent Miles Leaburn on his 20th birthday. Six minutes after the Addicks went behind, they had the perfect chance to level when the birthday boy picked up an excellent headed ball over the top from George Dobson.
Leaburn got to the byline and was cut down by Lewis Freestone, and referee Gavin Ward pointed straight to the spot. May stepped up and claimed his third goal in the last three meetings between these sides = the difference being that, this time, he did so in Charlton red.
The Addicks upped the intensity towards the end of the first 45, culminating in three near-misses in 90 seconds. First, Tayo Edun fed substitute Bodan Tedić, who span and hit an excellent shot across goal, though Luke Southwood dived to his right and pulled off an excellent save to tip it round the post.
From the resulting corner, the goalkeeper produced an even better stop. Scott Fraser’s corner was headed away only as far as Tennai Watson, whose looping volley looked destined to be his first Charlton goal. It was not to be as Southwood acrobatically turned the ball over the bar.
Just seconds later, Corey Blackett-Taylor must also have thought he had scored when he thumped the inside of Southwood’s left post following a trademark dribble inside. The Addicks were finishing the half brilliantly but were not able to find the goal that would have put them ahead.
They were almost made to rue the missed chances within five minutes of the restart. Curtis Davies’ cross from the byline was initially blocked by Fraser, but from the rebound the veteran centre-back hit a looping volley into the box, where George Lloyd was only able to head over at the back post.
Two minutes later, it was Charlton who again went close. Blackett-Taylor’s cross found its way to May via goalkeeper Southwood, and the number nine pulled back for Tedić on the edge of the six-yard box, but the Serbian could not keep his effort down.
As the second period progressed, the direction of play became clear - the Addicks were in control, but were struggling to create clear-cut chances. Midway through the half, Blackett-Taylor went close after Fraser pinched the ball back and fed him, but the winger’s near-post shot was saved by the goalkeeper’s legs.
And then, just as it seemed like the game might be getting away from Charlton, the match’s defining moment came. Substitute Tyreece Campbell got to the byline and saw his cross blocked by the raised arm of Will Ferry. The referee was unmoved but the linesman had an excellent view and waved his flag - penalty.
May this time elected to go to the right rather than down the middle, and goalkeeper Southwood guessed correctly again but once again was beaten for pace. May had been reluctant to celebrate the first goal but not this time, racing away to celebrate in front of the Covered End.
League One’s standout player this season now has 17 goals for the campaign and 29 league goals in 2023, and the Charlton faithful duly responded with a rendition of 'Erling Haaland, he’s coming for you.'
The Addicks are back to winning ways in the league, and now look forward to a trip to Gillingham in the second round of the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday.
Charlton: Maynard-Brewer; T.Watson, Hector, Jones, Edun; Dobson (c), McGrandles (L.Watson 61), Fraser (T.Campbell 73); May, Leaburn (Tedić 38), Blackett-Taylor
Subs (not used): Walker, Asiimwe, Ness, Mbick
Goals: May 17, 86
Assist: Leaburn 17
Booked: Edun 90+1 (foul on Davies)
Cheltenham Town: Southwood; Bevan, Davies, Freestone (Butler-Oyedeji 88); Long (c) (Williams 87), Chapman (Peupion 88), Keena (Hammond 46), Sercombe, Ferry, Lloyd, Goodwin
Subs (not used): Harris, Bradbury, Horton
Goal: Goodwin 10
Assist: Sercombe 10
Booked: Chapman 45+1 (time-wasting), Goodwin 55 (foul on Jones), Southwood 69 (time-wasting), Long 83 (foul on T.Campbell), Ferry 86 (dissent)
Referee: Gavin Ward
Attendance: 10,622 (287 from Cheltenham)