Kevin Nolan’s Locked-Down Valley View: Charlton Athletic 0-3 Blackpool

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Charlton fans had to endure another embarrassing capitulation on Saturday – KEVIN NOLAN watched the latest Valley debacle through his hands.

There was much more than a comprehensive thumping by far superior Blackpool going on at The Valley on Saturday. Much more alarming was the total breakdown of morale and discipline which destroyed Lee Bowyer’s side and made this defeat a deeply damaging experience. Owner Thomas Sandgaard, as a Dane, is better qualified than most to explain what appears to be “something rotten in the state of Charlton.”

Strip away all the kneejerk controversy surrounding two penalties, two dismissals and a disallowed goal and what’s left are the bare bones of one of the most embarrassing surrenders in Charlton’s recent history. The Seasiders won as they pleased once they realised they had nothing to beat. And in this bedraggled, acquiescent aggregation of Addicks, there was certainly nothing to beat.

It’s become an almost tongue-in-cheek joke, during Charlton’s steady deterioration, that it was just as well they already had enough points to keep them out of relegation trouble. Right now they’re stuck on 44 points, with 45 points still to play for. Piece of cake, you would reasonably conclude and under normal circumstances, your confidence would be justified. Watch a tape of this game, however, and that confidence might be shaken.

Not that I’m predicting relegation. Even Saturday’s craven crew should be able to scrape together the necessary total to survive. It won’t be easy or pretty but League One seems a beguiling prospect when compared with the horrors and rigours of life in a bottom tier which they climbed out of in the 1930s and to which they have never returned. T.G. as my Mum would say.

Bereft of on-pitch leadership and apparently lacking motivation from the sideline, where Bowyer watched in sullen detachment, the Addicks lurched through 10 ominous minutes before their collapse began. A well-judged pass from Sully Kaikai sent Ellis Sims haring past a struggling Deji Oshilaja until the desperate centre back’s petulant reaction hauled him to the ground. The penalty award seemed straightforward and Jerry Yates made the most of it by drilling the spotkick out of Ben Amos’ reach. Charlton were off and stumbling on their way to humiliation.

Shortly after Yates’ opener came an unpleasant reminder for the beleaguered home side that the “rub of the green” was not about to bail them out of the trouble they were in. When Jayden Stockley expertly headed past Chris Maxwell, he looked as onside as offside, which is another way of stating that the evidence was subjective and inconclusive to all but one of referee Huxtable’s linesmen, who flagged in Blackpool’s favour. The put-upon Stockley was similarly victimised four days previously during the 2-1 defeat by Burton Albion. Right now, the big striker just can’t catch a break.

The price paid for Stockley’s misfortune increased on 38 minutes when the Tangerines doubled their lead. Simms fed Virtue, who made ground as the Addicks melted before him. From outside the penalty area, the midfielder launched a fierce drive which eluded Amos on its way, off an upright, into the left corner. Darren Pratley hadn’t exactly distinguished himself in his less than diligent pursuit of Virtue, turned instead to Vice, and picked up what turned out to be a costly yellow card before the break.

Re-emerging after the interval with no fewer than four substitutes, Charlton’s clearly expressed intentions to have a go were immediately undermined by Pratley’s almost instant dismissal. With the situation clearly demanding that his captain be among the replaced quartet, Bowyer’s ill-advised faith left him available to clash with defender Jordan Gabriel on the left byline. Capable of falling out with himself in an empty room, Pratley’s excesses earned him a second caution and summary dismissal.

Down to 10 men, the Addicks wasted little time in making their plight even more daunting by conceding a second penalty, this one donated by deputy captain Ben Watson, who illegally halted Yates’ progress inside the penalty area. Having artfully exploited fleeting contact, Yates brushed himself off before squeezing a less impressive second spotkick past Amos. So far, the home side had received less than exemplary service from either of their skippers.

Now 3-0 in arrears and without a hope in heaven or hell of making any inroads on them, Charlton did the next best thing and found yet another foot through which to shoot themselves. There was probably minimal malice in the arm Chuks Aneke carelessly threw into the face of centre back Dan Ballard as they disputed a high ball, but intent played no part in Huxtable’s decision to produce a straight red card. Both Aneke and Pratley were dismissed for the second time this season.

With games blending into each other as this miserable season winds down, there is little time to agonise over Saturday February 27th, a day of infamy in Charlton’s chequered history. Unplumbed depths of ineptitude were tapped but we move on – as they say – to Wigan on Tuesday evening, where the only way – as again they say – is up.

Courage, mes braves…

Charlton: Amos, Gunter, Oshilaja, Famewo, Purrington (Maatsen 46), Shinnie, Jaiyesimi (Smith 46), Millar (Watson 46), Pratley, Stockley (Schwartz 82), Washington (Aneke 46). Not used: Harness, Pearce. Booked: Oshilaja, Famewo, Shinnie. Sent off: Pratley, Aneke.

Blackpool: Maxwell, Gabriel, Ballard, Thorniley, Garbutt, Stewart, Virtue, Ward (Robson 83), Kaikai (Mitchell 62), Simms (Shaw 83), Yates (Embleton 69). Not used: Moore, Turton, Dougall. Booked: Yates. Referee: F. Huxtable.


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