A Friday night match on the telly brings little but dread to Addicks fans – and so it proved. KEVIN NOLAN wisely stayed on the sofa for a sharp reminder of Charlton’s current status…
Nothing more acutely reminds a club like Charlton where they stand in English football’s league pyramid than a visit from Accrington Stanley. No disrespect should be inferred in remarking that the lower division stalwart has toiled away without ever suggesting they had it in them to break into the upper echelons of the system.
If Stanley are part of your fixture list, then you’ve probably fallen from grace. As Charlton did recently from the Championship, a division in which they seem incapable of securing a foothold.
No strangers to trouble themselves, Charlton have tasted success more obviously than Friday evening’s TV visitors. They are, however, currently rivals in the same division and no amount of smug “back where we belong” rhetoric cuts any ice. The Addicks are exactly where they belong and will stay there they until they prove otherwise.
Already beaten this season by erstwhile minnows Lincoln City and Burton Albion, this sound defeat by yet another of League One’s perennial underdogs hardly inspires confidence that they will be leaving it by way of promotion. Lincoln top the table, Burton are bottom which at least implies that Charlton are equal opportunity patsies.
Crisp, confident and sure of themselves, John Coleman’s boys won this televised encounter with consummate ease. A goal in each half by young striker Colby Bishop proved enough to see off their outclassed hosts and despite goalkeeper Nathan Baxter being called upon to make several competent saves, the result was never in doubt.
The Accies called the shots from whistle to whistle and Charlton were second best throughout to a sharp, hungry side. “Accrington Stanley?!” “Exactly!” Those mickey-taking Scouse kids couldn’t justify it these days.
Showing four changes from the side which lost in similarly depressing fashion to Hull City a week previously, the Addicks began brightly enough with Baxter saving smartly from new boy Liam Millar and Jake Forster-Caskey. The early promise quickly dwindled as the visitors settled into their work and the signs became ominous. Another decent strike from Forster-Caskey, to which Baxter again reacted smartly, signalled an end to Charlton’s opening edge.
As the Addicks began to fade, Stanley took over and it was no surprise when they moved ahead ten minutes before the break. The goal was a personal purgatory for skipper Jason Pearce, who forgot the coaching dictum that long, high clearances should not be allowed to bounce. Caught too far under the dropping ball, he attempted to head Baxter’s huge punt back to Ben Amos but succeeded only in setting up Bishop to flick it over the flailing keeper before nodding the gift into an empty net.
It was an honest mistake by an honest player but it served to emphasise Charlton’s wretched luck in losing both Ryan Inniss and Akin Famewo so early after an initially promising start to a rapidly crumbling season. Like Pearce, Deji Oshilaja gives his all but, frankly, lacks the commanding presence offered by Inniss and Famewo. As expected, Chuks Aneke appeared off the bench after the break and made a big difference. Apparently unable to complete 90 minutes, however, it seems Charlton have signed a part-time performer.
Omar Bogle, meanwhile, was conspicuous by his absence and is probably on his way out of The Valley. Aneke’s hold-up play improved Charlton’s chances which were effectively quashed by Bishop’s second goal. Neat ball play and a calm, composed finish inside the penalty area did the job and allowed the impressive Lancastrians to stroll through what remained of a comfortable assignment.
A disgruntled Lee Bowyer reserved his post-match ire for 62nd-minute substitute Marcus Maddison, who clearly lacked the stomach for what was hardly a full-blooded fight. Maddison’s embarrassing concession in a 50-50 tackle was followed promptly by an injury sustained in no-man’s land which led to his immediate withdrawal.
Asked whether Maddison was seriously injured, the quietly fuming gaffer responded with ill-concealed anger. “I don’t know. I don’t care. You’ve got a player who is jumping out of tackles and then he says he got a knock before that. If you do that again, you’re done. They had more fight, more determination. It summed it up when Maddison jumped out of a tackle.”
Bowyer’s displeasure was palpable; it could mean Bogle holding the exit door open for Maddison.
As Accrington departed with all three points, they leapfrogged Charlton into sixth place and lead the Addicks by a point with no less than three games in hand. Arriving hot on their heels on Tuesday evening will be Rochdale, another of those humble Lancashire clubs overshadowed by the giants surrounding them.
Coleman’s alter ego Keith Hill Brian Barry-Murphy, ‘Dale will be looking to mop up what Stanley left behind them. Let’s hope that’s an end for a while to these pugnacious iconoclasts who punch above their weight but land painfully on the nose.
Charlton: Amos, Gunter, Pearce, Oshilaja, Maatsen, Forster-Caskey, Morgan (Williams 63), Gilbey, Millar (Maddison 63, Purrington 90), Smyth (Schwartz 77), Washington (Aneke 46). Booked: Morgan, Maatsen
Accrington: Baxter, Nottingham, Hughes, Burgess, Pritchard, McConville (Roberts 83), Conneely, Butcher, Rodgers (Cassidy 66), Bishop, Charles. Booked: Pritchard.
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