Times may be tough, but the Addicks showed their resilience on the south coast yesterday. KEVIN NOLAN made the trip for The Charlton Champion to see Charlton overcome Portsmouth.
Weakened by injuries and suspensions, Charlton didn’t so much arrive at Fratton Park as hobble into the famous arena. Every game brings further depletion of their resources, on this otherwise auspicious occasion by the suspected hamstring damage sustained by Akin Famewo. The outstanding centre-back’s 74th minute departure removed at a stroke the second of the twin towers (Ryan Inniss was serving a one-game ban) so vital to the Addicks’ amazing run of clean sheets.
The problem caused by Inniss’s worrying absence was an easy one for Lee Bowyer to solve. He was able to call on his timely new signing Adam Matthews to cover fellow Welshman Chris Gunter at right back, with the latter moving inside to partner Famewo. Elsewhere, Jonny Williams and Jake Forster-Caskey replaced the suspended Ben Watson and rotated Paul Smyth as the manager’s marvellously resilient squad demonstrated their readiness to step up for the cause. This recently-assembled mixture of newcomers and loanees shows a unique team spirit, which must be down to their no-nonsense manager.
Typical of their refusal to be cowed by adversity was the superb contribution made by Gunter, by trade a right-back of impeccable credentials. The multi-capped Welsh international performed to the manner born alongside Famewo before being capably partnered by Darren Pratley for the last, tense quarter-hour.
Williams, meanwhile, chose the ideal time to score his first Charlton goal, while Foster-Caskey capped a hardworking shift with the raking crossfield pass to Ian Maatsen, which played a significant part in Williams’ opportunistic opener. Having replaced the scorer with 19 anxious minutes remaining, Smyth stepped off the bench to supply the precise cross which Chuks Aneke headed in to provide the visitors with a decisive two-goal cushion.
Not one wearer of Charlton’s grey away shirt let his manager down. Tuesday’s hero Andrew Shinnie turned in another influential shift, while Omar Bogle, though battered throughout, defiantly soldiered on and was denied a penalty when brought down by Rasmus Nicolaisen in the first half.
Left-back Maatsen has been a pleasure to watch since Chelsea sent him along to gain experience. Say one thing for Frank Lampard’s big-time Charlies; when they loan Charlton a player, he arrives with guaranteed quality. Conor Gallagher was different class, as is the diminutive but tough Maatsen. The cross he delivered for Williams to ram home the Addicks’ first goal at the far post was surgically precise. And he was another to show versatility by moving seamlessly into midfield after Ben Purrington relieved the unlucky Famewo.
The post-game statistics revealed that Pompey enjoyed a 57-43 advantage in possession and earned eight corners to their visitors’ none. That tells only part of Saturday’s story because the mess made by Ronan Curtis in converting Marcus Harness’ early cutback from 10 yards was the closest Kenny Jackett’s side came to scoring. They were taught a lesson in clinical finishing by their confident opponents.
Midway through the first half, the Addicks emerged from a period of modest pressure to stun Portsmouth with a goal of simple efficiency. Forster-Caskey’s diagonal crossfield pass from right to left was caught at the byline by Maatsen, whose only option was to cross on the volley as he ran out of space. Attacking the ball inside the six-yard box, Williams rammed his first goal for the club into the roof of the net. A grin as wide as the Severn Bridge marked the important occasion.
Eight minutes from the end of an increasingly anxious game, Charlton finished off their victims with second strike, which handsomely rewarded Bowyer for his bold introduction of two attacking substitutes to finish the job. The move was started by the tireless Conor Washington, who emulated Forster-Caskey’s accuracy in picking out Smyth, unmarked on the right flank, with a raking delivery. The gritty Northern Irishman took a touch before his soaring centre arrived at the far post, where Aneke leapt prodigiously to head the all-important clincher.
Aneke’s goal brought huge relief but was probably a flourish added to an already done-and-dusted result. There was nothing backs-to-the wall or lucky about it except perhaps, for the break handed out by referee Craig Boyeson to Pratley, whose sliding, studs-up challenge on Callum Johnson incredibly escaped a card of any colour. That made an enormous difference. Stand on me about that!
Portsmouth: MacGillivray, Johnson, Brown, Naylor, Whatmough (Nicolaisen 46), Williams, Marquis, Curtis, Cannon, Harness (Harrison 63), Raggett. Not used: Bass, Chase, Morris, Pring, Hiwula. Booked: Nicolaisen.
Charlton: Amos, Matthews, Famewo (Purrington 74), Maatsen, Pratley, Gunter, Williams (Smyth 71), Forster-Caskey, Shinnie, Bogle (Aneke 71), Washington. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Morgan, Levitt, Vennings. Booked: Amos, Maatse, Aneke.
Referee: Craig Boyeson.
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