FLEETWOOD TOWN 1 CHARLTON ATHLETIC 3
by Rick Everitt
On an afternoon when two of Karl Robinson’s summer signings finally made their League One bows in Charlton colours following a two-month wait, it was another pre-season recruit who left the field clutching the match ball after scoring all three goals in a thoroughly deserved Addicks’ victory at Fleetwood Town.
Mostly operating behind Josh Magennis, who had a quiet afternoon, 21-year-old Tariqe Fosu took his tally to four in two games as he caused the home defence all kinds of problems, particularly before the break.
This was the Charlton team glimpsed in the first half at the Bescot Stadium on Tuesday night, when they also threatened to run away with the game before allowing Walsall to level Fosu’s opener before the break and then putting in a dreadful second half.
And there may have been fears that something similar would happen at Highbury Stadium, after Bobby Grant cancelled out Fosu’s opener when he was allowed time and space to finish from the right side of the Charlton penalty area on 25 minutes.
Far from it, as the Addicks were back in front before half-time and never looked like surrendering that advantage against a Fleetwood side who had won 3-0 at Bradford City in midweek and were expected to pose a considerable challenge.
With Chris Solly missing, Robinson gave Naby Sarr his first league start in Charlton colours since January 2016 – Ezri Konsa filling in at right-back and Patrick Bauer taking the captain’s armband for the first time. The Frenchman fully justified his recall, looking comfortable on the ball throughout.
Charlton started slowly but went ahead on 13 minutes with their first meaningful attack when the slight Fosu got on the end of an inswinging cross from the right-flank by Ricky Holmes to force the ball home at the far post.
Fosu might have made it two when he blazed over after making room for a shot soon afterwards, before Grant levelled the game up.
However, the Fosu show continued as he was again denied before Holmes produced an even more testing shot from the edge of the box that was turned away by keeper Alex Cairns.
He did make it two on 39 minutes when Amari'i Bell failed to intercept another Holmes cross, this time from the left, and Fosu rounded him before firing past Cairns through a crowded goal area from 10 yards.
On half-time, Sarr too went close with a near-post header, after Charlton had forced a string of corners.
The visitors suffered a blow on 52 minutes when Billy Clarke was forced off with what Robinson later confirmed to be a groin injury, to be replaced by Mark Marshall on his delayed debut after getting injured in pre-season.
Marshall took up his place on the right wing, but just as Fleetwood began to exert more pressure the match was effectively decided by the completion of Fosu’s hat-trick on 71 minutes.
His final goal came on the break after Jay Dasilva carried the ball quickly out of defence down the left hand side and released Fosu to beat Cairns with the confidence that comes when you have already scored three times in five days.
Indeed, Fosu is now the club’s leading scorer with five goals, which suggests that a player signed to act initially as an impact substitute may go some way to answering Robinson’s back-up striker problem.
The former Reading man left the field to a rousing ovation from travelling Addicks eight minutes from time to be replaced by the afternoon’s second debutant, Ben Reeves.
Joe Aribo also stepped up from the bench in stoppage time for his first league appearance of the season.
Charlton had the ball in the net for a fourth time at the death when Jake Forster-Caskey turned home a right-wing Magennis cross from close range, only to be flagged offside.
With a two-week gap before the Addicks face Doncaster Rovers at The Valley, this result was just the tonic Robinson needed after a sequence of two defeats and two draws had raised grave doubts about his side’s potential and it moved the Addicks up to fifth in the table. Had they lost, they would have been 11th.
The performance had been as good as the second half at Walsall had been bad.
Charlton: Amos; Konsa, Bauer, Sarr, Dasilva; Kashi, Forster-Caskey; Clarke (Marshall 52), Fosu (Reeves 82), Holmes (Aribo 90+3); Magennis. Unused subs: Phillips, Dijksteel, Jackson, Dodoo. Att: 3,009.