United and Charlton will have to do it all over again after a pulsating third round FA Cup tie at the Valley. First half goals from Johnny Mullins and Scott Davies looked to have set United on course for a famous cup win but second half goals from Michael Morrison and Yann Kermorgant pulled Charlton level and forced a replay at the Kassam Stadium next Tuesday evening.
There were changes – there are always changes in the FA Cup. Davies, Josh Ruffels and Ty Marsh all came into the line-up after the draw with Portsmouth on Saturday but the new-look United quickly found a rhythm that had deserted them in that game. Far from overawed to be facing a Championship side, United went on the attack from the off.
That bravery was rewarded on 13 minutes as they took the lead. Davies recycled a corner and swung in a cross. Mullins latched on to it around the penalty spot and fired a low shot at goal. It was heading for the right-hand corner but struck Michael Morrison and with keeper Ben Hamer stranded the ball trickled through the mud to nestle in the bottom left corner and give United a 1-0 lead.
It was already all set for FA Cup stories to be told of puddled pitches and plucky underdogs and that early goal set things up nicely. Charlton started to find their feet and play some neat football as they began to trust the surface, but United were working like demons and on 24 minutes were 2-0 up.
Mullins made it, storming in to win a 40-60 ball as Jordan Cousins dawdled in midfield. Mullins strolled on and fed Constable. As the Charlton defence backed off and waited for United’s top scorer to shoot he instead rolled a perfect pass to his right for the flying Davies. His shot was low and true and past Hamer in a flash to double the lead.
It could have been three on 35 as Rigg’s rising right-footer cleared the bar from the edge of the box but the only danger to United in the first half came on 42 when a fairly blatant handball by the otherwise faultless Jake Wright went unnoticed inside the area.
Charlton, celebrating Manager Chris Powell’s third year in charge, will have been told in no uncertain terms to raise their game in the second half and it took them eight minutes of the second period to get back into the game. It was a goal which will annoy United, a simple left-wing corner which centre-half Morrison crashed home unmarked and suddenly the home fans were roaring and the cup tie was alive again.
Captain Jackson planted a shot into the arms of Ryan Clarke on 57 as the Addicks started to apply pressure but back came the U's and on the hour it took a flying stop from Hamer to tip a Constable header round the post as the striker tried to guide Rigg’s perfect cross inside the left-hand post.
It was proper cup football with crosses flying across both boxes and no challenge being shirked. Sean Rigg was causing Charlton no end of problems on the left, Davies was tireless on the right, while Mullins and Ruffels looked as though they had played hundreds of games together in the middle. Credit also to full backs David Hunt and Tom Newey who got forward when they could and made the right challenges and interceptions when they needed to in defence. It had been stirring stuff and United can take enormous credit for their part in a fine game of football in difficult conditions.
However, having got back to 2-1 Charlton gradually pushed the purple-shirted U's back. There was a let off on 80 as Jackson powered a header from Callum Harriott's cross just wide but two minutes later it was all square as another cross, this time from the right, picked out Kermorgant just inside the area. He showed excellent technique to volley down and into the bottom left corner with Clarke helpless. Harsh on United who had certainly done enough to get through.
2-2 then and a rematch at the Kassam Stadium next Tuesday to try and win a trip to Huddersfield in the next round. If the replay is as good as this then it should be a great evening of FA Cup football. Book your place and come and join us.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
See highlights and reaction in Yellow Player (FA Cup highlights are not permitted on YouTube)