KEVIN NOLAN was at The Valley on Saturday to report on a vital win for Charlton.
Whether you’re in a title race or a relegation dogfight, concentrate on your own game and don’t be worrying about other results you can’t control. That’s a piece of advice old-timers used to hand out (they would also quaintly advise never to pass across your own penalty area – a practice more or less coached into players in these enlightened times).
Time – and football – moves on and in this digital age, it’s become impossible to be unaware within your own bubble of events elsewhere in the country. You can bet that Lee Bowyer’s immediate priority, once this nerve-shredding victory over fellow-strugglers Barnsley was in the bag, was to find out how the others had got on. He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t.
The good news was that Stoke, Huddersfield and Luton had lost. The only fly in a soothing ointment was the news that serial-chokers Leeds had dismally failed to oblige at home to Wigan. But the Addicks had moved up to 19th position and had Middlesbrough and Birmingham in their sights above them. The more the merrier in a survival battle, there’s another sage bit of advice for you.
With his squad stiffened by a few canny loan signings and by the return from injury of several key players, Bowyer has every reason to expect an improvement in results in the near future. This faltering, often chaotic, win over surprisingly resilient Barnsley provided an important first step. It also emphasised how vital the continued good health of Lyle Taylor will be to Charlton’s immediate prospects.
There’s no such thing, of course, as a one-man team but Taylor is almost indispensable. During the Addicks’ dreary winless run, his personality, charisma, not to mention his regular goals, were sorely missed. It’s hardly a coincidence that after he was withdrawn in the 68th minute of this crucial clash, Barnsley flooded forward and took over. Glad to see an end to Charlton’s Taylor-led restless chivvying, they reduced their two-goal arrears three minutes after his departure and went looking for parity. Only desperate defending and two enormous strokes of luck saw Bowyer’s beleaguered braves over the line.
It was inevitably Taylor who shot Charlton into an early lead. A cynical foul on Josh Cullen gave its victim the opportunity to dink a clever free kick into the danger area, where Jason Pearce contributed a key header, to which Taylor reacted sharply in stabbing his eighth goal of an injury-blighted season past Samuel Sahin-Radlinger. The goal was initiated by a marvellously indefatigable midfielder, carried forward by an uncomplicated battler and finished by a cold-eyed predator.
Pearce had already cleared up a mess of Charlton’s own making when defensive indecision allowed Jacob Brown to set up Luke Thomas inside the home penalty area. Making ground quickly, Pearce legally smothered the busy midfielder as he prepared to shoot. Bleeding profusely, Thomas must have wondered what hit him.
Midway through the first half, Dillon Phillips made what is now recognised as a Banksesque save to maintain the lead. Meeting Clarke Odour’s left-sided free kick, Danish defender Mads Andersen directed a downward header destined for the bottom left corner until Phillips scrambled across his goalline to athletically conjure the ball to temporary safety. He deserved the good fortune he enjoyed as Aapo Halme blasted the rebound against the outside of the post. A rare standing ovation from the Covered End saluted Phillips’ outstanding save.
Comfortably on top otherwise, Charlton doubled their lead in added time. A right wing corner swung in by Alfie Doughty was returned to its young taker, whose second delivery from an improved angle picked out Pearce at the far post. The captain’s deliberate header eluded Naby Sarr but was emphatically drilled inside the left post by Andre Green. His second goal for the club capped an impressive shift put in by the Aston Villa loanee, who showed class and tenacity.
The 57th minute departure of a predictably battered Jonny Williams was followed eleven minutes later by the withdrawal of Taylor, himself the recipient of some illegally heavy treatment. The momentum promptly changed as the Addicks retreated deep into their own half. While they wavered, Andersen’s ferocious drive almost knocked Phillips off his feet, with Cauley Woodrow sending the rebound crashing against the bar.
Often Charlton’s nemesis in previous encounters, Woodrow refused to be discouraged. Played into space following Thomas’ fine run and through pass, the Tykes’ leading scorer halved the lead with a crisp rising drive beyond Phillips’ reach.
The spectacle of rampant visitors besieging the Jimmy Seed end, where the vast majority of 20 goals conceded at home this season have been scored, was now familiar. Blind panic and sheer desperation to hang on unnerved The Valley with luck playing another priceless part as Brown rattled the bar for a second time and Halme’s late shot was hacked off the line by an unidentified but heroic red shirt. Six added minutes were actually negotiated with uncharacteristic efficiency.
So much for the five-year plan (funny how it’s always five years) to secure Charlton’s place in the Premier League. More to the point, this precious victory might prove to be the first step in a five-week plan to keep the Addicks in the Championship. Bring on the long-term dream by all means but spare us a short-term nightmare in League One. But it’s so far so good, Tahnoon, welcome aboard. Make yourself at home…spit on the floor… call the cat names.
Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce. Sarr, Doughty (Purrington 90), Cullen, Williams (Forster-Caskey 57), Pratley, Green, Taylor (Hemed 68). Not used: Amos, McGeady, Field, Oztumer.
Barnsley: Sahin-Radlinger, Jordan Williams (Simoes 68), Sollbauer, Andersen, Odour (Ludewig 68), Thomas, Halme, Mowatt, Brown, Woodrow, Chaplin. Not used: Walton, Ben Williams, Dougal, Schmidt, Styles.
Referee: John Brooks. Att: 19,870 (1,083 visiting).
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