Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 3-0 Derby County

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Charlton’s 3-0 win over Derby County on Saturday was one to relive over and over again. The Charlton Champion‘s KEVIN NOLAN takes us through a memorable afternoon at The Valley.

The Valley was the place to be on Saturday afternoon, a joyous arena where fans and team came together in the common cause. At least it was for Charlton’s fans whose exuberance contrasted significantly with the sullen, library-like silence at the away end which spoke volumes about a club ill-at-ease with itself.

The steady erosion of Derby supporters well before the final whistle was a harbinger for a winter of discontent. It confirmed that all is not well at Pride Park, where Phillip Cocu faces an uphill task to sweep away an ominously toxic atmosphere. But that’s quite enough about Derby County for the time being.

Just one absentee short of 3,000 visitors had seen their team start with ephemeral style, fall behind after only six minutes to a superb opener, then get played off the park; their buoyant hosts could even afford to lose wretchedly unlucky Jonny Williams, the effervescent creator of that first goal, after just 31 minutes. His replacement, Sam Field, stepped in to ensure a seamless transition in midfield quality, his all-round contribution another measure of the impressive depth at Lee Bowyer’s disposal.

Cool confidence

The Addicks were fired in front by Macauley Bonne, whose third goal in only four starts, was taken with the cool confidence of a player now persuaded he belongs among Bowyer’s talented corps. His guv’nor’s patient handling of an initially diffident Bonne has been a masterclass in man-management.

Stealing a yard on marker Matt Clarke, Bonne was ideally placed to finish off a flowing move begun by Naby Sarr’s imperious pass which sent Williams haring down the left flank. The scurrying Welshman ended his run with a perfect cutback which Bonne’s left foot cracked first-time past Kelle Roos. The ex-Leyton Orient marksman is now very much one of the chaps with his own “Macauley Bonne-Bonne-Bonne” ditty to make him feel at home.

Before Williams hobbled off, he was a straining toecap away from converting Bonne’s crisp low cross before the scorer himself forced a flying save from Roos with a ferociously struck drive. In effortless control, only a second home goal was needed, an oversight the excellent Josh Cullen should have corrected when sent through by Jonathan Leko and Conor Gallagher shortly before the break. Confronted by Roos, tireless Cullen was foiled by the rapidly advancing keeper.

Any anxiety touchline exile Bowyer might have been feeling was alleviated three minutes into the second half. Cullen’s wickedly inswinging corner from the left, cleverly engineered by Leko off Jayden Bogle, reached the towering Sarr beyond the far post. With Roos lured off his line in a hesitant quest for the ball, Sarr followed text-book guidance in directing a looping header back over the stranded keeper and gently into the opposite corner.

Goal of the season

At 2-0, the hapless visitors were effectively done and dusted with the truly outstanding Darren Pratley ruthlessly supervising their disintegration from central defence. With lone striker Chris Martin safely tucked away in his back pocket, Pratley, arguably Bowyer’s shrewdest signing, found room there for the petulant Tom Lawrence and any other wayward Ram he found straying too close to Charlton’s penalty area. He received sturdy support from Chris Solly and Tom Lockyer among a side without a weakness. Even an underworked Dillon Phillips preserved the clean sheet, his smart block denying substitute Mason Bennett near the end.

With his usual football-daft zest, meanwhile, Gallagher was running Pratley close for man-of-the match honours. On 67 minutes, he sealed Charlton’s complete superiority with a marvellous third goal – his fifth of the season – which stands unopposed at this early stage as their goal of the season. Taking a square pass from Field, whose typical tenacity had won possession from Graeme Shinnie, he used a steadying touch before curling a 25-yard drive over the startled keeper and sweetly under the bar. The kid’s been good for Charlton. And Charlton have been good for him.

Simple maths tell us that the Addicks need ten more victories from thirty four remaining league games to reach nominal safety in the Championship. That’s the negative view. But sunny-side up, their prospects reach higher and farther. This whistle-to-whistle, bell-to-bell, tape-to-tape domination of one of the Championship’s hotly-tipped pre-season promotion favourites raises the bar.

Bowyer will keep their feet firmly grounded but it costs nothing to dream. Er, I’ll stop now before I get ahead of myself… there’s Bristol City to worry about on Wednesday. They lost 3-0 at Luton and they’ll be looking to take it out on us. Does it ever end?

Charlton: Phillips, Solly, Lockyer, Pratley, Sarr, Forster-Caskey, Cullen, Gallagher (Kayal 78), Williams (Field 31), Leko, Bonne (Hemed 75). Not used: Amos, Oshilaja, Pearce, Oztumer. Booked: Forster-Caskey.

Derby: Roos, Bogle, Davies, Clarke, Malone, Shinnie, Bielik (Holmes 60), Waghorn (Jozefzoon 60), Lawrence, Paterson (Bennett 76), Martin. Not used: Hamer, Wisdom, Dowell, Lowe.

Referee: Stephen Martin. Att: 19,408 (2,999 visiting).


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