And that’s that – the Addicks were relegated last night after one tumultuous season back on the Championship. KEVIN NOLAN reports on a devastating evening for Charlton Athletic.
As their own demolition by champions Leeds United became irrelevant on Wednesday evening, Charlton were left clinging to hope that favourable results elsewhere would spare them the drop to League One. And with the minutes ticking away at Elland Road, where their hosts effortlessly outclassed them, the yearned-for news arrived that Fulham had equalised at Wigan and Brentford had done likewise at home to Barnsley.
All too briefly -and cruelly as it turned out – it seemed the Addicks were safe, at least until Wigan’s appeal against a 12-point deduction comes up before the beaks on July 31st. But there was, needless to say, one last convulsion left in this exhausting slog of a season and it meant that Charlton had finally run out of wriggle room. Barnsley had leapfrogged them by grabbing an added-time winner at Griffin Park, and it’s the Tykes, not the Addicks, who will be anxiously monitoring the EFL’s handling of Wigan’s apparently frivolous appeal next week.
Charlton had, technically if not realistically, kicked off in Yorkshire with their fate in their own hands. Even a draw with hosts, who they hoped might be more interested in partying, would probably suffice. As soon became clear, there was little chance of any such slip in standards under the meticulous stewardship of Marcelo Bielsa. After clinching the title, United had already shown steely resolve by brushing aside Derby County; dismissing puny Charlton was a mere afterthought.
The fateful evening hadn’t started too badly. With nothing tangible at stake for themselves, Blackburn Rovers took an early lead at Luton but promptly remembered their place. Two own goals and a penalty duly restored order and extricated the Hatters from the unpleasant unseemliness beneath them. It was now briefly reduced to a three-cornered fight to survive between Charlton, Wigan and Barnsley, though only two of the trio could summon up any real appetite for the fight.
At Elland Road, the Addicks stood no chance. A stunning volley from Ben White began their slide and Stuart Dallas’ cute finish from Pablo Hernandez’s inspired set-up ended their interest in the contest before the half-hour mark. Alfie Doughty should have reduced the arrears when sent clear by Aiden McGeady’s solitary contribution to the proceedings but shot weakly wide. United completed the rout with two more second half goals from Tyler Roberts and Jamie Shackleton leaving Charlton’s fate in the hands of others… the unreliable hands of Brentford as it turned out.
Bitterly disappointed boss Lee Bowyer confesssed: “I’m not in a good place at the moment. We should have enough points to easily keep us in the division, that’s what hurts me.” A brief recap of the nine-game shoot-out which condemned his side bears out the truth of his claim.
Resuming post-lockdown two points from safety, the Addicks knocked off the deficit with 1-0 victories over Hull and QPR; when they followed those encouraging results with a well-organised goalless draw at promotion hopefuls Cardiff City, they seemed on course to steer clear of the relegation rocks. Then up stepped Millwall.
For nearly 80 minutes, another useful point seemed on offer until Charlton’s baleful nemesis did what they have done regularly over many painful years. Yet again they scrambled a late winner, a sickener to which Brentford added three days laterby coming from behind to overcome heroic resistance and win 2-1 in the closing stages.
If those reverses weren’t damaging enough, the 1-0 defeat by “nothing to play for” Reading piled on the misery. In that benighted game, Charlton reversed the trend and conceded the winner by conceding a completely unnecessary penalty as early as the second minute.
But it was the added time equaliser grabbed by Birmingham City which can be identified as the goal which sent the Addicks down. It was made by 17-year-old substitute Jude Bellingham who, despite being on the brink of a multi-million pound move to Germany, had the old-fashioned character to risk injury and help his club in their fight against relegation. Way to go, kid, you could teach our bloke, who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing, a thing or two about being a responsible adult.
A stirring 2-2 draw with beleaguered Wigan, which featured a belated leveller of their own by Macauley Bonne, set up the heartbreak of Elland Road. But although Charlton gave it their best shot, they simply weren’t good enough – or lucky enough – either on the night or through much of a switchback season.
A crippling injury list eroded the bright start before backroom villainy brought the club to its knees. The pusillanimous defection of their star striker applied the coup-de-grace to a turbulent, troubled campaign and Charlton are once again a League One team. And ain’t that a dog of a league to climb out of? See you next season anyway.
Leeds: Meslier, Cooper, Ayling, White, Struijk, Hernandez (Shackleton 61), Dallas, Harrison (Stevens 72), Alioski (Poveda 61), Klich (Bogusz 72), Bamford (Roberts 46). Not used: Miszek, Douglas, Davis, Casey.
Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce (Morgan 46), Sarr, Doughty, Cullen, Field, McGeady (Williams 46), Davison (Aneke 46), Bonne (Green 78). Not used: Amos, Purrington, Oshilaja, Lapslie, Hemed.
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