Peterborough United’s decline might not yet be terminal, but they’re on a slope so slippery Franz Klammer would struggle to stay upright.
Of course Capital One Cup drubbings at the hands of slick Championship sides - even one that rested half their first-choice team - will not define a season, but there appears to be little confidence on the pitch or withiin the dwindling fanbase that a run of three wins in the last 15 competitive matches is about to be magically transformed.
It’s already a severe test of rookie manager Dave Robertson’s ability - League One leaders Gillingham are the next opponents - and the patience of his chairman. Darragh MacAnthony has dumped managers after short spells in charge before, including left-field appointments like Robertson, so if the players want to avoid further upheaval they might like to start cutting out the horrible individual errors that have helped deliver a most miserable start to the season.
It’s not Robertson’s fault that goalkeeper Ben Alwnick has developed fingers made of butter in the last couple of matches. It’s not Robertson’s fault that key defenders have picked up injuries and that there isn’t a senior player who should be satisfied with his input in the opening six games of this campaign. Even Marcus Maddison’s outstanding goal output is masking some indifferent passing and poor decision-making.
But the manager and his chairman both claimed this squad was going to be serious promotion contenders, a tough ask when it lacks pace at the back, poise and creativity in midfield and a presence all over the park, but particularly up front where trapping a ball has suddenly become a difficult skill.
Posh played some decent football at times last night as they recovered reasonably well from Alnwick’s third-minute blunder when he dropped a harmless low cross at the feet of Mikhail Kennedy to enable the debutant to open the scoring.
But Robertson’s men lacked composure after working themselves into good positions. Maddison’s early effort from 25 yards was a good one, but strikers Conor Washington (looking anything but a 20-goal-a-season man) and Souleymane Coulibaly (a player capable of breaking Andy Clarke’s record of most offsides in a season) wasted promising bursts to the edge of the area with wayward shots.
But one suspected Charlton, who often broke out of defence with pace and style, had plenty in reserve if threatened, and so it proved after the break
A second-half penalty controversially awarded for a foul by Alex Davey on 53 minutes, a quite brilliant 45-yard strike from Algerian international Ahmed Kashi and a close-range finish four minutes from time ensured the Championship side enjoyed a smooth ride into the third round.
Jermaine Anderson headed home Marcus Maddison’s cross to give Posh a meagre consolation in the third minute of injury time.
Posh enjoyed some good moments, but failed to force visiting goalkeeper Nick Pope into a single difficult save until the 80th minute when he rushed out of his goal to thwart Washington. The final ball and the shooting from around the edge of the area were woefully inaccurate.
Kennedy was one of six Academy graduates in the Charlton starting line-up as manager Guy Luzon made seven changes to the team that extended a bright start in the Championship with a win over Hull at the weekend.
Robertson made five changes to his side, but more because he is still striving to find a winning formula.
He tried a 3-4-1-2 system last night with summer signing Kieran Sadlier handed a debut as a left wing-back. Jon Taylor started on the other flank, while Jack Collison returned in an attempt to add quality and intelligence to the midfield.
Teenage midfielder Anderson again played with plenty of energy and commitment and deserved his goal, while central defender Ricardo Santos at times suggested there is a decent footballer lurking within that massive frame. He would be even better if he received protection from his midfielders.
Callum Harriett and Jordan Cousins wasted close-range chances for a second early Charlton goal and any chance of a Posh recovery disappeared when one of a pair of busy assistant officials decided that Davey had clipped Zakarya Bergdich in the area and Karlan Ahearne-Grant converted from the spot with ease.
Substitute Khasi made the game completely safe with his audacious long-range strike that whistled over Alnwick into the roof of the net.
And to rub salt into very tender wounds another substitute Igor Vetokele tapped in a fourth goal in the 86th minute following a left-wing cross.
There appears to be a curse that comes with the Posh captaincy this season.
Michael Bostwick shed the armband after four games to concentrate on his own form and goalkeeper Alnwick, who also spilled a shot that led to a decisive Burton Albion goal on Saturday (August 22), might be considering the same after two games as skipper.
Posh: Ben Alnwick: Kieran Sadlier (sub Harry Anderson, 70 mins), Ricardo Almeida Santos, Shaun Brisley (sub Michael Bostwick, 46 mins), Alex Davey, Jon Taylor, Marcus Maddison, Jermaine Anderson, Jack Collison, Conor Washington, Souleymane Coulibaly (sub Joe Gormley, 80 mins). Unused substitutes: Dion-Curtis Henry, Harry Anderson, Tobi Adebayo-Rowling, Kyle Vassell, Lee Angol.
Charlton: Nick Pope, Regan Charles-Cook, Patrick Bauer, Naby Sarr, Harry Lennon, Callum Harriott (sub Igor Vetokele, 59 mins), El Hadji Ba, Jordan Cousins (sub Ahmed Kashi, 65 mins), Zakara Bergdich (sub, Oliver Muldoon, 78 mins), Mikhail Kennedy, Karlan Ahearne-Grant. Unused substitutes: Dimitar Mitov, Callum Thomas, Morgan Fox, Johann Berg Gudmundsson.
Goals: Posh - J. Anderson (90 + 3 mins).
Charlton - Kennedy (3 mins), Ahearne-Grant (pen, 53 mins), Kashi (76 mins), Vetokele (86 mins).
Cautions: Posh - Bostwick (foul).
Charlton - Lennon (foul), Bergdich (foul).
Referee Gary Sutton 7
Attendance: 2,771 (679 Charlton).