A big point for the Addicks behind closed doors at The Valley. KEVIN NOLAN watched from the sofa.
Stick the black crepe back in the cupboard. Re-start the clocks. Cancel the wake. Charlton are very much alive. At least they are until Wednesday when the last cards will be dealt. That final game at Elland Road has been an ominous dot on the cards since this tortuous campaign started with a 2-1 victory at Blackburn a year ago.
Whatever their fate, respect the never-say-die courage of Lee Bowyer’s defiant players, who took it to the wire by quarrying a priceless point from this vital game, thanks to a second equaliser deep into six minutes of added time. And give fervent thanks to scorer Macauley Bonne, who stayed admirably calm in the penalty area as rampaging substitute Chuks Aneke rose higher than Cedric Kipre to touch on Adam Matthews’ searching cross. Steadying himself sensibly, the big league rookie potshotted a deliberate low shot beyond David Marshall and neatly inside the keeper’s left hand post.
Bonne’s 11th goal of an injury-interrupted first season makes him joint top scorer alongside a more accomplished striker, whose name need not bother us here. He had missed a golden first half chance with the score 1-1 when sent clear by Naby Sarr’s gloriously flighted long pass. His point blank effort was brilliantly blocked by Marshall and public criticism of his faulty finishing was no doubt due another post-game airing by an exasperated Bowyer But he kept his head in a growing crisis and redeemed himself with a crucial equaliser.
A share of the points was no more than the Addicks deserved for a stirring performance against a super-confident side riding a wave generated by an excellent string of results, culminating in an eight-goal demolition of Hull City in midweek. Still buoyant after that devastating accomplishment, rampant Wigan required only eight minutes to take the lead.
The early goal was an avoidable disaster. Forced inside on to his weaker left foot, Matthews struggled to retain possession under pressure from Antonee Robinson. His weakly dribbled clearance fell conveniently for Kai Naismith to cross for Kieffer Moore, whose header was instinctively parried on to a post by Dillon Phillips. Beating Tom Lockyer to the rebound as it flicked upward off the unlucky keeper, Jamal Lowe nodded in the afternoon’s opening goal.
Wigan’s lead lasted three minutes, all the time it took Alfie Doughty to conjure a candidate for Charlton’s goal of the season. The visitors were sliced open by another of Sarr’s adventuresome diagonal balls to Matthews in space on the opposite flank. The right wingback’s deep cross was met by Doughty beyond the far post and exquisitely cushion-volleyed across Marshall into the far corner. No carefully choreographed celebration from this outstanding prospect -just quiet satisfaction.
Seven minutes before the break, the Addicks fell behind again to their free-scoring visitors. Overpowered by Robinson in a 50-50 duel inside the home half, Josh Cullen was left appealing for a non-existent foul as Robinson outpaced Tom Lockyer and squared hard and low across Charlton’s six-yard area. Sliding in desperately, Sarr was unable to cut out the cross, which was efficiently converted at the far post by Kieran Dowell.
Beginning the second half behind to the Championship’s in-form team was, for a side which had scored only four post-lockdown goals, a discouraging scenario.
Not since their 3-1 victory over Luton Town on February 22nd – ten games ago – had the Addicks managed more than one goal in any game. They plugged away optimistically, though, with the 55th minute introduction of Aneke for the blameless Josh Davison, making a significant difference. Muscular and belligerent, Aneke was, from Wigan’s increasingly weary defenders point of view, the substitute from hell. His superiority in the air eventually laid on Bonne’s late leveller, following which he cheerfully offered out their entire back four after they took exception to him.
And so … on to champions Leeds at Elland Road, with an eye and half an ear on developments elsewhere. Bowyer’s team selection will be of critical importance
in a fixture by no means given up as impossible. Hopefully Sarr will be retained to supply his towering personality; Davison did enough to warrant another start, with Aneke an ideal impact sub. Doughty picks himself, as does Sam Field if fit. Then pray that Charlton’s warrior captain Jason Pearce declares himself fit.
The Charlton Champion, meanwhile, has just one tactical, admittedly crude, suggestion to make to management. When the situation demands our defensive lines be cleared, personnel should be encouraged to do just that … clear your lines, chaps, without fear of criticism. Horsing around at the back is a recipe for disaster. Give it up. And, by the way, good luck and thanks.
Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce (McGeady 82), Sarr, Cullen, Field (Williams 46), Forster-Caskey (Morgan 46), Doughty, Bonne, Davison (Aneke 55). Not used: Amos, Purrington, Oshilaja, Green, Hemed, Booked: Morgan.
Wigan: Marshall, Robinson, Balogun, Kipre, Byrne, Williams, Morsy, Lowe (Roberts 86), Dowell (Evans 68), Naismith, Moore. Not used: Jones, Massey, Pearce, Garner, Dobre, Mlakan, Gelhardt. Booked: Williams, Morsy.
Referee: Gavin Ward.
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