Kevin Nolan’s Locked-Down Valley View: Charlton Athletic 1-3 Portsmouth

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Last night’s hastily-rearranged match against Portsmouth ended in more disappointment for the Addicks. KEVIN NOLAN took his lumps from the sofa.

Yet again defensive patsies at The Valley, Charlton were ruthlessly punished by promotion rivals Portsmouth, whose setpiece expertise overpowered them. Their own equaliser soon after the break was, ironically enough, the result of a corner but the brief hope it inspired was cruelly extinguished just three minutes later. This was a sobering experience for Lee Bowyer’s faltering side.

Having lopped the dead wood that was Omar Bogle and Marcus Maddison from his squad and having bid a fonder farewell to Jonny Williams and Paul Smyth, Bowyer made three changes from the side which scraped past Bristol Rovers a week earlier. Among them was his surprising omission of Liam Millar, who scored the winner against Rovers and was, by common consent, Charlton’s best player.

Also left out was Ben Purrington, who deputised for Ian Maatsen and performed capably enough to retain his place, at least until Maatsen recovers his early season sparkle. The three-day postponement of this fixture failed to dissuade the boss from his usual, almost compulsive rotation. He was vindicated, to some extent, by the excellent contribution made by Jayden Stockley, who was handed his first start, opened his scoring account for the Addicks and conducted a masterclass as an unselfish, aggressive target
man.

Bowyer, however, seems no closer to knowing his first XI; likewise his best formation which the visiting press corps helpfully identified as initially 4-1-2-1-2 but which presumably morphed into something equally opaque when things started going wrong. I’m all for progress but the old “W” formation still brings me a pang. We knew where we stood then…

There were few signs of the mess to come when Charlton made a bright, confident start. Stockley was an early thorn in Pompey’s side, his cleverly chested pass setting up Albie Morgan to clip the bar with a firmly-struck volley. The early promise faded as the visitors found their feet and John Marquis should have done better than fire over the bar when set up by Ellis Harrison.

The prolific striker was soon on the end of another chance after Michael Jacobs produced a defence-splitting pass to send him clear but Ben Amos left his line, narrowed the angle and diverted his shot wide. With the Addicks sorely needing half-time sanctuary, they instead conceded to an expertly-worked short corner routine, tapped infield by Charlie Daniels and picked up by Tom Naylor. With the home defence floundering, the skipper slipped a practised pass to Jacobs, who blasted unstoppably into the top left corner.

An out-of-touch Morgan’s interval replacement by Millar was a tacit admission by Bowyer that his starting selection was ill-advised. His simultaneous substitution of Darren Pratley by Ben Watson was forced on him by the belligerent captain’s early booking, with a second yellow card almost a racing certainty. The experienced Watson stepped into a personal nightmare, capped by his absent-minded contribution to Portsmouth’s third goal.

Before all that, however, came the small matter of Stockley’s milestone equaliser. The second of two left wing corners delivered by Andrew Shinnie was headed powerfully past Craig McGillivray and with over a half hour left, there was a sudden but unhappily brief spring in the Addicks’ legs. They were immediately indebted to Amos, who saved improbably from Harrison after Marquis headed Daniels’ free kick into his strike partner’s path. The keeper’s brilliance, unfortunately, inconvenienced the rampant visitors for merely the minute it took Naylor to punish the visitors’ predilection for conceding needless free kicks by bulleting home Marcus Harness’ inswinging delivery from the right.

Just six minutes later, the South Coasters put the result beyond doubt, not that any realistic doubt existed. Thirty yards from Amos’ goal, Andrew Cannon effortlessly relieved Watson of possession, closed in quickly and left the keeper helpless with a vicious drive which found the net off the right post. Charlton’s old stager was left distraught by the error, which proved his fallibility, without compromising his commitment. He won’t need reminding of it. But he will be…

So the points, along with the upward momentum, headed south with old adversaries Portsmouth. Their quirky red socks beneath blue shirts and white shorts always marked them as unique, as did those glorious, spine-tingling Pompey Chimes, which have sadly fallen into disuse. A bit like the “W” formation, it has to be said. And don’t get me started on Billy Eckstine collars.

Charlton: Amos, Matthews, Gunter, Oshilaja, Maatsen, Pratley (Watson 46), Forster-Caskey, Shinnie (Smith 77), Morgan (Millar 46), Schwartz (Aneke 61), Stockley. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Pearce, Purrington. Booked: Oshilaja, Maatsen, Pratley, Watson.

Portsmouth: McGillivray, Johnson, Bolton, Raggett, Daniels, Williams (Harness 53), Naylor, Cannon, Jacobs (White 90), Marquis (Byers 87), Harrison. Not used: Ward, Mnoga, Brown, Curtis. Booked: Naylor, Harrison.

Referee: Lee Swabey.


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