Saturday saw West Bromwich Albion back in SE7 for the second time in a week. KEVIN NOLAN reports from the first Championship game at The Valley since new owners East Street Investments completed their takeover.
Nursing a strong sense of entitlement, West Bromwich Albion returned to the Midlands clutching the point which, along with Leeds United’s home defeat by Sheffield Wednesday, moved them back on top of the Championship. They departed convinced they had somehow been robbed of all three.
The Baggies had been marginally the better team. They had enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and had managed more attempts on goal. Slaven Bilic’s experienced side also dominated a couple of other important statistics; they committed 14 fouls to 10 by Charlton, while picking up six of the eight yellow cards issued by referee Jarred Gillet. Recipient himself of one of those cautions, Hal Robson-Kanu pointed out plaintively that Charlton “had been very physical throughout.” They certainly absorbed some crude buffeting. Occasionally gave a little bit back, more power to their elbows..
Bilic was not similarly deluded. His tribute to the still sorely depleted Addicks was generous. “Charlton fought and competed and ran until the end. They never gave up. But we had many chances to score the third. That was disappointing.” It was not Bilic’s place to add that Charlton’s crucial result was achieved with the assistance of three recent academy graduates; so consider this a salute to fledglings Ben Dempsey, Josh Davison and Alfie Doughty, who stood up to be counted as Albion dished out the rough stuff.
Roared on by a bumper crowd – their second largest of the season – Charlton might have grabbed a first minute lead if Conor Gallagher had returned Sam Johnstone’s errant clearance with slightly more accuracy. The young loanee’s low shot whistled inches the wrong side of a post. At the other end, Dillon Phillips was forced down low to his left to scramble Kenneth Zohore’s bouncing header to safety. It was the Danish forward’s enterprise which won the Baggies an early lead.
Alertly closing Tom Lockyer down as the defender spurned the opportunity to clear his lines in favour of playing out from the back, Zohore anticipated his move back towards goal and neatly relieved him of possession on the right touchline. Bearing down on a wrongfooted defence, the rangy striker’s first effort was bravely charged down by Deji Oshilaja but he made no mistake as the rebound sat up kindly for him.
Away end antics
Heads dropped only briefly because the Addicks were level again six minutes later. Their recovery was begun by impressive league debutant Andre Green, whose persistence earned a corner on the left. The setpiece was delayed as those scamps behind the away goal refused to return the ball. How we chuckled as they larked about and how the hilarity increased as Gallagher’s short corner routine with Doughty improved the angle for a soaring cross which Naby Sarr effortlessly headed down for Davison to calmly nod in his first senior goal from five yards. By now they were in stitches in the Jimmy Seed stand. Bless ’em, the little rascals. They certainly know how to have fun.
A minute after the break, they were chortling again as their heroes regained the lead. In space to the right, Matt Phillips supplied a hard-driven low centre which Robson-Kanu, getting the better of Lockyer at the near post, flicked home off Sarr. For the fourth time in their two-game, eight-goal league saga, the ex-Throstles led the battling Addicks. And yet again, they proved unable to retain their lead.
No own goal
Albion’s excessive testosterone was almost inevitably their undoing. A crude push in the back of substitute Jonny Williams – one of three returning patients from long-term injury – conceded a free kick which Gallagher fed out to Doughty, who crossed from the left touchline. Timing his leap perfectly to outjump Kyle Bartley, Lockyer powered an unstoppable header past Johnstone, with assistance from the right post. Any nonsense about the keeper being debited with an own goal should be treated as pedantic piffle. Lockyer emulated Davison in notching his first goal for the Addicks because no keeper was about to save that header.
We can also dismiss all that meaningless debate concerning what you “deserve” from a football game. You deserve nothing. What you GET is what the final scoreline gives you. It’s the only statistic that matters. There’s nothing else to discuss. If you fail to grasp that concept, you’re doomed to frequent disappointment. It’s football, not a morality play.
Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Oshilaja (Williams 62), Sarr, Pratley, Dempsey (Forster-Caskey 62), Doughty, Gallagher, Green, Davison (Hemed 74). Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Purrington, Pearce, Morgan. Booked: Locker, Green.
WBA: Johnstone, Furlong, Ajayi, Bartley, Townsend, Livermore Sawyers, Phillips (Edwards 86), Robson-Kanu (Austin 73), Pereira, Zohore (Diangana 73). Not used: Bond, Krovinovic, Brunt, Hegazi. Booked: Robson-Kanu, Ajayi,Phillips, Pereira, Sawyers, Diangana.
Referee: Jarred Gillet. Att: 19,270 (3,154 visiting).
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