Charlton’s U23s came out on top of a hugely-entertaining and dramatic encounter at Cardiff City on Monday afternoon, taking all three points from a nine-goal thriller.
Having taken a 4-1 lead into the break thanks to Aaron Henry, Charles Clayden and Junior Quitirna’s brace, it looked as if they had thrown it away when the Bluebirds clawed their way back to 4-4 early in the second half.
But with the hosts reduced to 10 men in the final 20 minutes, it put the young Addicks back on top and Clayden secured the points in dramatic fashion by netting a 92nd-minute winner.
Charlton came close to opening the scoring on 16 minutes when Clayden could only divert a Ruben Carvalho cross wide from close range via a deflection off a Bluebirds foot.
Moments later, the Addicks would have the lead via the right foot of dead-ball specialist Henry.
The young midfielder stood over a free-kick, just outside the box, and put it low into the left-hand corner of the net, under the grasp of the hosts’ stopper.
It would not be long until the hosts would level matters, however, as Sam Bowen dispatched a firm shot past Joe Osaghae from 14 yards after Issak Davies showed good tenacity to pull the ball back for the assist.
Charlton’s reaction would be perfect, going back ahead shortly after the half-hour mark when Henry turned his hand from goalscorer to assister, providing a brilliant cross-field pass from his own half to send Clayden into the box on the right and the winger duly finished across the keeper and into the net from an angle.
The first-half goals kept coming and it got even better for the Londoners five minutes later when Samuel Oguntayo was felled in the box, leaving Quitirna to step up and dispatch his spot-kick straight down the middle.
On the stroke of half-time, Quitirna scored again to put his side in a commanding position going into the break. After a corner was only half cleared, Quitirna picked up the ball in the box, showed great feet to shimmy to his right before sticking his shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
The Bluebirds made a stronger start to the second half and reduced the deficit seven minutes after the restart. Charlton had already hacked a Cardiff opportunity off the line, but with the ball being worked back into the box, Max Watters was quickest to react at the near post, glancing in a header for 4-2.
Before the clock ticked over to the hour mark, the home side reduced the Addicks’ lead to a single goal with a cross from the left being headed home by Owen Pritchard at the back stick.
And with 65 minutes gone, Cardiff were level. Another cross into the box caused problems and Watters was on hand to glance in his second headed goal of the afternoon.
With 20 minutes left to play, the momentum swung back towards the way of the visitors when Bluebirds goalscorer Pritchard was dismissed after picking up a second yellow card following a foul on Terrell Agyemang.
The latter stages of the encounter remained tight, with few opportunities given up by either side, but in the second minute of injury-time, Charlton had the final say in dramatic fashion.
A flowing move forward so the returning substitute Jay Mingi feed Clayden into the left-hand side of the box and the wide man kept his cool to strike the killer blow, ensuring victory for the young Addicks.
Charlton U23s: Osaghae, Barton, Ness, Taylor, Oguntayo, Clayden, Henry, Agyemang (Barker 79), Carvalho (Sivi 87), Qutirna, Afrane-Kesey (Mingi 79).
Subs (not used): Beadle, Aidoo.
Goals: Henry 18, Clayden 31, 90+2, Quitirna 36 (pen), 45.
(Photo: Thomas Lang)