Saturday 22nd February 2021, 1300 KO
Charlton Athletic U23 vs Colchester United U23
The build up
A rare opportunity to get in a midweek lunchtime match saw me travel to Dartford’s Princes Park Stadium to take in Charlton Athletic versus Colchester United in the Professional Development League 2 South. The competition hosts the U23 sides of clubs with Category Two Academies, and therefore sits below the Premier League 2, which involves the Category One clubs.
Coming into the match, hosts Charlton were 4th, ten points behind runaway leaders Bristol City, whilst Colchester were involved in a tough scrap at the bottom – 7th of nine teams, but with both QPR and Swansea below only one win away. Last season the visitors finished bottom of the league, but an influx of some talented U18s such as Jake Hutchinson (10 goals last season, had seen Richard Hall’s side improve their fortunes this time around. Charlton have also dipped into the nonleague system to bolster their ranks, signing the likes of Lucas Ness from the Met Police, and Hady Ghandour from Tooting & Mitcham United. Charlton finished 4th last season, and were coming into this match on the back of two straight losses, against Bristol City and Swansea.
Managed by Jason Euell, the former Charlton fan favourite, the Addicks have an Academy that has produced many players for the first team over the years, including the likes of Chris Solly, Karlan Grant, and Rochester born midfielder Albie Morgan. Last year’s U23 squad, however, has seen a number of players leave the club looking for opportunities, with the Taylor Maloney moving to National League Bromley, whilst Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu departed in the summer for today’s opponents.
It was the hosts who took the lead after only nine minutes, through Richard Afrane-Kesey, with his third league goal of the campaign. Kingstonian left back, Samuel Oguntayo, currently on trial at Crystal Palace, broke through the midfield and set Afrane-Kesey free down the left with an outside of the foot pass. The striker, drove past his man, then cut back onto his right foot, curling a shot around the dive of Callum Coulter in the Colchester goal.
So far so good for the young Addicks, and Oguntayo was settling in very nicely indeed. He almost added to the tally on 18 minutes when played a one-two with Junior Quitirna from a throw in. He struck a right footed effort towards Coulter’s goal, and the ‘keeper got down well to tip it wide. Colchester should have heeded the warning, but they didn’t, and when the resulting corner skimmed through the packed penalty area, Terrell Agyemang picked it up wide on the left, set it back to Oguntayo, and the triallist did his chances of a contract no harm at all, with a beautiful curled effort right into the top corner.
Quitirna, signed from AFC Hornchurch almost three years ago now, came close on half an hour, when his speculative effort clipped a Colchester heel and spun against the post. It was very much one way traffic in the first half, and when the U’s did manage to get forward, they were easily rebuffed by the centre back pairing of Lucas Ness and Harry Taylor. It’s a little over a year now since Ness made the move to Charlton from Imber Court, and having made a first team debut already, he looks a cut above U23 level.
On 50 minutes, Ness set Afrane-Kesey free over the top, and his half chance was saved low by Coulter. The former Crystal Palace prospect, who has done remarkably to progress in professional football after a serious road accident aged 13, was by far the busier of the ‘keepers at this point, and had kept the scoreline sensible on a few occasions.
His teammates did create their first real chance around 58 minutes through Tom Stagg. Another non-league find, formerly of Maldon & Tiptree, Stagg picked the ball up from a loose Charlton pass and struck an effort from around 25 metres. Joe Osaghae in the Charlton goal dived full stretch, but will have been relieved to see it skim just wide of the post and hit the stanchion.
This chance seemed to precipitate a Colchester fight-back, though the pace of Afrane-Kesey – who was only promoted from the U18s this season – was keeping them honest on the counter. On 70 minutes they did halve the deficit though, and it came from Jake Hutchinson. Signed from Brighton & Hove Albion, Hutchinson has a first team squad number this season, but is having to bide his time for minutes. He made and finished the goal himself, breaking through a tackle, and firing home past Osaghae.
The feel good from the goal lasted less than a minute, however. As Agyemang sent Afrane-Kesey chasing after another ball into the channels, former Leyton Orient man Charles Clayden was busting a lung to get into the box. Afrane-Kesey waited until the perfect moment, then slipped a pass through the legs of Frankie Terry, just as Clayden arrived to lash it into the net – also his third of the season.
The game became a lot more even after that. A fantastic block by Emmanuel Martins prevented Clayden grabbing a second after Ruben Carvalho did well to beat Lordon Akolbire down the right. Carvalho did less well moments later when he blazed a rebound over from around five yards. There were chances at the other end too, Hutchinson, Stagg and Josh Bohui started to get on the ball more and force Osaghae into the action. Stagg hit the post from a Bohui cross, whilst Hutchinson and Bohui both drew good saves out of the Addicks ‘keeper.
However, despite a frenetic last ten, it wasn’t to be for Colchester, who would head back across the Dartford Bridge with nothing to show for a good second half. Jason Euell’s side deserved the three points though, and with them leapfrogged Millwall into third, after their south London rivals lost away to Watford.
Line Ups – Charlton Athletic
1. Joe Osaghae – Having made 19 appearances for the U18s last season, Osaghae is now well established at U23 level and this season received a first team squad number. 20 years old, Osaghae had less to do than his opposite number, but still made some key stops.
2. Freddy Barton – The Sidcup-based 19 year old is in his 12th season at the club, and was a combative presence at right back. Along with Lucas Ness, is the only ever present for the U23s so far this season.
3. Samuel Oguntayo – On trial from Isthmian League Kingstonian, Oguntayo provided a goal and an assist for the Addicks in his 7th appearance. Aged 18, he had many clubs scrambling for his signature, including Man City and Leeds United, but Charlton seem to be in pole position.
4. Aaron Henry – The deep lying midfielder has made two first team appearances this season, despite being just 17 years of age. With England caps at U16 he is a highly capable player, and provided the link between the defensive and offensive units here. Contracted until 2023 he is highly thought of at the Valley. Had a spell in the spotlight following a kick off goal last season.
5. Lucas Ness – The Charlton skipper was imperious, and seemed able to stroll forward in possession at will. My Man of the Match today, the 19 year old from Surrey has taken to Academy football seamlessly since signing from the Met Police last summer.
6. Harry Taylor – Taylor signed his first professional contract with Charlton in October last year, after initially impressing on trial from National League Aldershot Town. A tall, composed defender, he has already struck up a formidable partnership with Ness at the back.
7. Ruben Carvalho – Carvalho started the season with Enfield Borough, in Step Five of the nonleague system, and has moved to Charlton on an extended trial spell. Opened his goalscoring account against Watford back in September, and dovetailed nicely with Oguntayo down the right.
8. Terrell Agyemang – Agyemang joined the Academy aged 13, having previously been with Brentford. Hailing from south London, Charlton was always a more natural fit, and the 18 year old is now comfortably settled in at U18 level, with 10 appearances this season. In this, his second U23 match of the campaign, he was physically accomplished, and looked comfortable at the level.
9. Richard Afrane-Kesey – Promoted from the U18s this summer, he scored seven for them last season, and has three so far this campaign. The forward from Hackney is eligible for both Ghana and England, and marries his football with studies at Bromley College. He was a livewire presence here and his pace on the break was dangerous.
10. Junior Quitirna – Born in Guinea-Bissau, Quitirna was signed from Hornchurch’s Academy in 2018. Aged 20, Quitirna had the maturity to speak at an anti-violence convention aged 18, having been a victim of knife crime three years earlier. Has made two first team appearances. Quitirna was at the heart of everything good for Charlton here.
11. Charles Clayden – Released by Leyton Orient when they closed their Academy, Clayden has scored three times for the U23s this season, and timed his run to score today to perfection. Clayden gained non-league experience with Harlow Town whilst at Orient.
Line Ups – Colchester United
1. Callum Coulter – Originally with Crystal Palace, Coulter signed for Colchester on a development contract in 2020, and has been involved with the first team squad on a number of occasions. The 20 year old made a number of saves to keep the score down here.
2. Lordon Akolbire – From north London, Akolbire has featured at both U18 and U23 levels this season, since signing from the non-league game. Has played for both Chalfont St Peter and Maldon & Tiptree in the Isthmian League, and joined the Academy aged 15.
3. Emmanuel Martins – An energetic left back, Martins was in a back and forth battle with Charles Clayden throughout, and made one absolutely exception block to prevent the Charlton right winger grabbing his second.
4. Sam Cornish – 19 year old Cornish was in the side in the disruptive midfield role, and is in his first full season with the U23s. Up against the impressive Agyemang and Quitirna in midfield, Cornish was fighting fires throughout.
5. Billy Cracknell – Recently turned 19, Cracknell is a Colchester product through and through, and experienced a short loan with Maldon & Tiptree earlier in the season. After making the bench against Crawley in December, he will be looking to make inroads into the first team squad.
6. Frankie Terry – Still just 17, the Braintree-based defender signed a two year development contract in 2019, and comes from good footballing stock. The nephew of a relatively famous England footballer called John, he has been flitting between U18 and U23 this season.
7. Josh Bohui – Originally from London, Bohui has had quite a career already, including Brentford, Manchester United, and NAC Breda. Eligible for France, England or Ivory Coast, Bohui returned from the Netherlands to Essex in October 2020, and has since made 11 first team appearances.
8. Marley Marshall-Miranda – The captain of the U18s, but has also made four first team appearances this season. Marshall-Miranda is signed to Colchester until 2023 and is highly regarded at the club. Was signed two years ago following release by Brighton & Hove Albion.
9. Jake Hutchinson – Also signed from Brighton & Hove Albion, Hutchinson bagged ten at U18 level last season, and signed a new contract last summer. Picked up his third goal here, and worked hard throughout against tough opposition.
11. Tom Stagg – A long time member of Colchester’s Academy, he first joined the U’s aged 8. Still eligible for the U18s, and has scored 10 league goals in that age group this season. Stagg spent a short loan period with Witham Town last season, along with Sam Cornish,
16. Andre Hasanally – The 19 years old from Waltham Forest joined Colchester aged 11, and has been there ever since, barring a short loan with Maldon & Tiptree. Made his professional debut for Colchester in 2019, and is contracted until summer 2022.