The Addicks kept up their unbeaten run after a trip down the A2 to Gillingham yesterday. KEVIN NOLAN joined those spared the Priestfield’s ‘away end’ by the lockdown and watched from home…
The rivalry between Gillingham and Charlton may be a matter of supreme indifference to the rest of English football but an extra edge definitely attends their infrequent encounters, especially those at Priestfield Road.
The Gills slip comfortably into their portrayal of gritty blue-collar outsiders standing up gallantly to snooty, privileged city slickers. For their part, the Addicks quite enjoy the rare experience of being posh, entitled day trippers to the boondocks. Until the game starts, that is, which is when the roles are often reversed.
As expected, Steve Evans’ Men of Kent gave a stubborn account of themselves in halting Charlton’s run of six consecutive league victories. In fact, they came within eight minutes of throwing an inconvenient spanner into the visiting works.
Lee Bowyer’s boys were staring defeat in its most frustrating face when Ben Amos launched an attack down the left flank, which Andrew Shinnie continued by threading through to Paul Smyth inside the home penalty area. The lively substitute shaped to shoot but instead set up Chuks Aneke in a more promising position. Picking his spot coolly, the deceptively skilful striker fired unstoppably past Jack Bonham and Charlton had themselves a point. That they should have departed with all three will be a subject for animated discussion but one which will presumably be postponed until the midweek trip to Burton is out of the way.
After dominating their hosts in most departments before the interval, the Addicks retired for their half-time cuppa surprisingly still on level terms. At times they had toyed with Gillingham, with Shinnie and Albie Morgan pulling the midfield strings, but clearly lacked the cutting edge belatedly supplied by substitutes Smyth and Aneke. Had they converted the penalty awarded them seven minutes before the break, of course, their shortcomings might have passed unnoticed. But that particular gift horse was looked disastrously in the mouth.
Drifting to the far post to meet Adam Matthews’ searching cross, Omar Bogle was unceremoniously bundled to the ground by his over-aggressive marker. Conor Washington’s match winning spotkick which beat Fleetwood recently made him the obvious candidate to take the clearcut penalty but Bogle, anxious to add his name to the scorers’ list, was having none of it. An unseemly disagreement was eventually resolved in Washington’s favour but, possibly distracted by Bogle’s intervention, the Northern Irishman struck a weak shot too close to Bonham, who saved easily. It’s unlikely that Charlton took the field with the identity of their penalty-taker unspecified. Explanations will be demanded.
Earlier in the first half, a pair of enterprising efforts illuminated this otherwise routine game. First, the quick-thinking Shinnie returned Bonham’s wayward clearance first-time from fully 40 yards but with the goalkeeper retreating desperately, the ball shaved his crossbar on its way to safety. Three minutes later, Marcus Maddison again reduced Bonham to panic with a brilliant 35-yard free kick which the scrambling keeper fingertipped over the bar. Bonham reacted with similar alertness to keep out an accurate drive from Ben Watson. At the other end, meanwhile, Amos
responded to Bonham’s defiance by incredibly blocking Vadaine Oliver’s point-blank volley at the far post.
The Addicks continued their assault after the break but Bonham adjusted superbly to save Ian Maatsen’s wickedly deflected low drive. He had less trouble in dealing with a poor effort from Ryan Gilbey, who shot straight at him after moving on to Aneke’s pass. As the Addicks gathered themselves for a final push, they were suddenly shocked to find themselves behind in contentious circumstances. Briefly goalside of Chris Gunter, who was deputising for thigh injury victim Ryan Inniss, substitute John Akinde tumbled dramatically as his heels were (or were not) clipped by the veteran defender.Unsure initially of Gunter’s guilt, referee Lewis took advice from a far distant fourth official and pointed without conviction to the spot. Jordon Graham put Gillingham ahead despite Amos’ valiant attempt to reach his penalty.
Stunned by the setback, Charlton had Amos to thank for keeping them in the hunt. His superb save in one-on-one confrontation with Oliver swelled in importance when Aneke equalised.
One point gained? Definitely. Two points lost? Just as definitely. But You can’t win’ em all. Not at this discouraging venue, that’s for sure. And at least, Charlton’s travelling fans, all toasty-warm in their living rooms, were spared the ordeal of possibly the most inhospitable away end in League One. There’s always a silver lining if you know where to look for it.
Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Ogilvie, Tucker, Medley, Dempsey, Samuel, Graham, McKenzie, Oliver (Coyle 86), Robertson (Akinde 63). Not used: Walsh, Willock, Eccles, Woods, Meghoma. Booked: Oliver, Dempsey, Samuel, McKenzie.
Charlton: Amos, Matthews, Gunter, Pratley, Maatsen (Purrington 88), Watson, Shinnie, Morgan, Maddison (Gilbey 66), Bogle (Aneke 66), Washington (Smyth 66). Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Pearce, Levitt. Booked: Maddison, Gilbey, Maatsen.
Referee: R. Lewis.
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