Kevin Nolan’s Locked-Down Valley View: Charlton Athletic 0-1 Millwall

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

A south-east London derby behind closed doors ended in all-too familiar fashion for the Addicks last night. KEVIN NOLAN watched as the neighbours walked away with three points again…

Forget the law of averages. There’s no such thing. Or if there is, it gets broken every time Charlton play Millwall. Whatever the circumstances, whatever rests on the result, Charlton lose to Millwall. That’s just the way it is. The rare draws – and there was a priceless point on offer here – are exceptions which prove the rule.

In all the frustration and pain which followed yet another late defeat, let’s be be fair, the dogged determination and brave resistance, which came close to seeing the Addicks over the line to hard won parity, shouldn’t be overlooked. They swapped punch for punch in coping with a primitive if energy-sapping aerial onslaught, stood their ground gamely and had their own chances to snatch a winner.

What they didn’t have, unfortunately, is a forward capable of converting any of those rare opportunities. Two goals in four post-lockdown games, both of them scored by non-strikers, tells its own misfiring story. The pressure on a superb defence, which conceded for the first time since the season was resumed, eventually brought them to their knees.

At this point I’m tempted to mention Lyle Taylor. But I promised myself I wouldn’t go there.

The line-up which faced Millwall featured seven changes and was faithful to Lee Bowyer’s stated intention to use his entire squad during the nine-game mini-season. Results have vindicated him but Charlton simply ran out of steam against their noisome neighbours. And sad to say it was an error – no howler but an error nonetheless – by Dillon Phillips, their outstanding young goalkeeper – which disastrously ended their string of clean sheets. Covering his near post to deal with Connor Mahoney’s forceful shot, he parried to Jake Cooper, who beat a sliding Tom Lockyer to the loose ball and smashed it into the roof of the net.

A clearly distraught Phillips had previously kept his side in contention with a typically fine first half save from Millwall’s danger man Jed Wallace. Played clear by Ryan Woods’ deft pass, Wallace closed in to confront the advancing keeper but was unable to lift his shot over him. At the other end, Bartosz Bialkowski had already done his bit by narrowing the angle as Macauley Bonne seized on an opening created by Lockyer’s crunching midfield tackle and charging down the forward’s unconvincing effort.

In a game of fleeting half-chances, both saves seemed likely to feature as highlights in a keenly fought scoreless stalemate. Until the Addicks finally buckled with the finishing line in sight.

Gary Rowett’s tactics, meanwhile, were uncomplicated. They entailed getting the ball to Jed Wallace in enough space for the wideman -with 10 goals and 10 assists to his credit this season – to place one of his superbly delivered crosses on the lofty, 6’6″ head of target man Matt Smith. The plan had worked perfectly at the Den in November where Wallace’s added time corner was headed past Phillips to steal the points. This time Lockyer, Jason Pearce and Darren Pratley were equal to the task and physically denied Smith a clear sight of goal. They were doing fine until towering centreback Cooper found another way another way to break their hearts.

With five crucial games left – the first of them a daunting midweek trip to form team Brentford – in the battle for Championship survival, Bowyer will be called upon to make a little go a long way. Charlton will score few many goals and whatever they can muster must count. Bonne hasn’t found the net in 10 games, while Hemed, who hooked a pre-interval chance weakly off target, still seeks his first Charlton goal. Chuks Aneke replaced Bonne just past the hour and bustled the Lions effectively but like Bonne and Hemed, proved shot-shy.

A non-scoring midfield, in which even Josh Cullen struggled to impress, must step up and contribute. Albie Morgan drove one early effort into Cooper’s midriff, Cullen skied his only shot while Aidan McGeady pottered his way through 75 meaningless minutes, during which he scrupulously avoided physical contact and regularly supplied the Lions with possession. Bowyer clearly sees something in the ex-Celtic winger. That something remains a mystery to your reporter, who stands ready to be convinced otherwise. Alfie Doughty or Jonny Williams must surely see out the rest of the campaign.

Silver lining? It’s hard to see one right now, except to remind ourselves that we’re finished with Millwall until, hopefully, next season. That six-point handicap was already factored in pre-season. The same number of points from the eighteen still available might do the business. And let’s not forget Wigan might be in serious trouble. I’m not one for gloating but one dog eats any other dog in this ultra-competitive division.

Better them than us. And you may quote me on that.

Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce, Oshilaja (Doughty 75), Cullen, Pratley (Sarr 90), Morgan (Field 46), McGeady (Williams 75), Bonne (Aneke 64), Hemed. Not used: Amos, Purrington, Forster-Caskey, Green.

Millwall: Bialkowski, Romeo (Mitchell 75), Hutchinson, Cooper, Pearce, Murray Wallace, Leonard (Mahoney 75), Jed Wallace (Williams 85), Smith (Bradshaw 64), Woods, Molumby (Thompson 46). Not used: Steele, Pearce, Skalak, Ferguson.

Referee: Dean Whitestone.

Kevin Nolan’s Locked-Down Valley View: Cardiff City 0-0 Charlton Athletic

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Thought a 0-0 draw would be a disappointment? Not when you’re fighting relegation and up against one of the division’s top teams. KEVIN NOLAN, still locked down in Grove Park, watched the Addicks take on the Bluebirds in the Welsh capital.

If one volunteer is worth two conscripts, as they preach in the Army, Charlton’s Championship future rests in willing hands. Showing seven changes to the side which squeezed past QPR just three days previously, they still had enough about them to hold in-form play-off hopefuls Cardiff to an honourable, if forgettable, draw.

Having shuffled his pack astutely, Lee Bowyer was dealt a fresh blow – in a season pockmarked by similar pitfalls – when West Brom loanee Sam Field was forced off in the first half following a head clash with Robert Glatzel. Having already missed most of the season through injury, Field had been anxious to make a belated contribution and his distress was obvious. The knock he received prior to his collision with Glatzel was clearly of more concern to the back room boys than the head wound.

Intending to rest veteran Darren Pratley in readiness for Friday evening’s visit of Millwall, Lee Bowyer’s schemes were again disrupted. But there was little cause for immediate alarm. Up stepped 35 year-old warhorse Pratley to take over in a defensive formation designed to reduce this game to one of little incident and fewer chances. His reassuring presence fitted in seamlessly to the game plan.

Though hugely encouraging, Charlton’s post-lockdown results won’t blind Bowyer to one worrying reality. Though pleased with the third consecutive clean sheet achieved by his bloody-minded defence and, when called upon, by his outstanding goalkeeper Dillon Phillips, he must face the uncomfortable fact that the goals which edged Hull and QPR resulted from setpieces created for Pratley and centreback Jason Pearce.

His forwards, meanwhile, have laboured fitfully without suggesting they might score. At the moment, you could say Charlton are operating with non-striking strikers.

Against Neil Harris’ high-flying Bluebirds, Chuks Aneke and Andre Green met mixed fortunes in their first starts since the campaign resumed. Aneke was a muscular handful for the Welsh defence, backing in, holding the ball up and providing a useful outlet up front for beleaguered colleagues. Green, on the other hand, proved too easy to dispossess and unhappily dithered too long over the early chance fashioned for him by Aneke’s persistence.

Perhaps surprisingly, it was Aneke who gave way to Macauley Bonne around the hour mark, with Green eventually replaced by Ben Purrington as a precious point became the priority. Bonne has shown only flashes of the form which brought him eight goals before intermission but an overdue goal could change that. Then it’ll be c’est si Bonne again.

Elsewhere, Bowyer will have found it difficult to name a stand-out contributor to a character-full performance by this battered but admirable squad. The impressive passing and renewed responsibility of Naby Sarr shone in a rock-hard back three alongside redoubtable warriors Pearce and Tom Lockyer. George Lapslie, another vitual newcomer, grafted tirelessly until replaced by Deji Oshilaja at right wingback while fellow Academy graduate Alfie Doughty, the latest cab off the Sparrows Lane rank, frequently left flustered Bluebirds in his wake as he broke out, with pace and uquenchable optimism, from defence.

In front of Pearce’s defensive line, the Addicks were well served by a stubborn, competitive midfield, in which Josh Cullen was, as can by now be assumed, excellent. The West Ham loanee has bought into Charlton’s all-for-one ethos and is indispensable in their hectic schedule, playing every minute so far. Pratley, as already observed, still has an impressive engine which shows no sign of misfiring.

Throw late substitute Albie Morgan into the equation and the Addicks are well served in a midfield where new starter Jake Forster-Caskey alone struggled to impress.

Cardiff’s chances were rare, the best of them created for Albert Adomah by Joe Ralls’ defence-splitting diagonal pass. Shooting across Dillon Phillips, Adomah’s low drive was brilliantly tipped away by the full length keeper. Apart from one or two bits and pieces, Phillips was capably shielded by Charlton’s blanket-like resistance. Doing sterling work for City, centre back Curtis Nelson was alive to the visitors’ most promising chances.

Responsible for smothering Green’s early effort to convert Aneke’s set-up, much later he alertly read the low ball sent in by Sarr fom the left byline, sliding in to whisk the ball off Forster-Caskey’s toes as a tap-in seemed likely. Like Phillips, Alex Smithies had little to do as a dour stalemate developed.

One or two more of these uneventful “clashes”, to be honest, and Charlton will be home and dry. But then Millwall are due at The Valley on Friday evening. That’s a whole different ballgame. There goes the neighbourhood!

Cardiff: Smithies, Sanderson, Bennett, Nelson, Morrison, Ralls (Vaulks 88), Bacuna (Tomlin 65), Pack, Adomah, Mendez-Laing (Hoilett 65), Glatzel (Paterson 46),. Not used: Etheridge, Bamba, Flint, Smith, Whyte. Booked: Sanderson.

Charlton: Phillips, Lapslie (Oshilaja 63), Lockyer, Pearce, Sarr, Doughty, Field (Pratley 36), Cullen, Forster-Caskey (Morgan 79), Aneke (Bonne 63), Green (Purrington 79). Not used: Amos, Williams, Davison, McGeady. Booked: Purrington.


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Neighbours angry after mystery explosions rock doomed Morris Walk Estate

Morris Walk Estate
The Morris Walk Estate was fenced off last autumn

Residents were left furious after emergency services carried out exercises in the boarded-up Morris Walk Estate on Tuesday evening – but both Greenwich Council and the developer who will rebuild the estate have denied responsibility for the incident.

People who live close to the estate, on the Charlton/Woolwich border, were disturbed by two loud explosions and other noise during the afternoon and evening, with one blast happening at 10.50pm.

Some reported seeing the army on the estate, which is to be knocked down as part of a £269m deal with the developer Lovell, which is also rebuilding the Connaught Estate in Woolwich. The estate was emptied last year and hoardings have been erected ahead of demolition.

Both the council and Lovell have insisted they were not responsible for allowing the exercise to take place on the estate. Neither party can even agree on which emergency services were on the estate, with Lovell insisting the army were not involved but the police and fire brigade were.

The incident came three days after an attack in Reading in which three people died, after which a man was arrested under the Terrorism Act.

Woodland Terrace/ Prospect Vale
Residents in Woodland Terrace, Charlton, back onto the doomed estate

Helen Jakeways, who lives next to the estate, told this website: “The disturbances started yesterday mid-afternoon with a huge bang that sounded like a bomb going off which shook the walls of my house. This was followed by a series of smaller bangs and what sounded like an intermittent stream of fireworks or firecrackers. It took me over an hour to stop my terrified dogs from shaking.

“I was then woken up at 10.50pm to the sound of another huge explosion which shook the house again and resulted in yet more terrified and shaking dogs.

“On all fronts this exercise was absolutely unforgivable, especially given the anxiety and stress many people are experiencing right now. My inboxes have been full of comments from really concerned neighbours today – this shook everyone up round here, especially those who are feeling vulnerable at the moment, and I’m not surprised.”

Another resident, Ed Simmons, said on Twitter: “So the MoD are blowing stuff up on the estate behind our house whilst engaging in urban combat training at 11pm in a derelict estate, 100 metres from my open window. The house shook, the machine gun isn’t so bad in comparison!”

Fenced off Morris Walk
Some work is already taking place behind the hoardings

Greenwich Council said it had not been informed of the exercises on the estate. A spokesperson said: “The council understands that was some activity by the MoD and police which caused some disruption and concern to local residents. The council was unaware this was taking place and had not been notified by Lovell, the council’s developer partner for the redevelopment of this estate.

“The council has made clear to all parties this is unacceptable and is sorry that this has happened causing concern for local residents. The council will carefully review any further requests and in the event permission is given that there is clear communication with residents in advance of any activity being undertaken.”

However, a spokesperson for Lovell said that the police and fire brigade were on site, and it had not allowed the exercises on site either.

A spokesperson for Lovell said: “Following the activities reported on the evening of Tuesday 23 June on the Morris South Estate, Lovell can confirm that no such similar activity will take place after the company takes ownership and control of the land from Monday 29 June.

“Going forward, if Lovell has to conduct any activity which may cause a disturbance outside the agreed construction hours, the company will consult first with local residents to make sure local residents are fully aware.”


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