Dark clouds gathered over The Valley once again yesterday – delivering hailstones and a disappointing draw. KEVIN NOLAN returned to the press box for The Charlton Champion.
A dreadful game that frankly set teeth on edge ended in a draw which kept Charlton at least technically in the hunt for promotion. The point was probably of more use to Shrewsbury in their fight to avoid relegation. They were entitled to feel pleased with themselves.
Not so Charlton, who continue to squander the chances offered them by the indifferent form of their rivals. The race for the last two playoff positions is currently as riveting as an evening spent with Michael McIntyre: well-intended but best given a miss by people in need of a laugh.
Still hovering in seventh position, the Addicks show no sign of mounting a serious bid to break into the play-off places. Two gilt-edged chances to redeem a performance of depressing drabness were spurned, the second of them a dog’s dinner by Chuks Aneke which seemed easier to convert than miss.
From almost under the crossbar, he contrived to blast Conor Washington’s crisp low cross against the woodwork. There are misses and even worse misses. This one belonged in a category of its own. You have to be there to miss ’em, though, it’s only fair to say.
Mention of Washington presents an opportunity to recognise the Northern Ireland international’s wholehearted contribution which stood out like a hitchhiker’s thumb in the dross surrounding it. Frequently overlooked are his insatiable work rate and willingness to carry out the unglamorous tasks beneath the dignity of others.
Refusing to be discouraged by Aneke’s miss, he produced a pearl of an equaliser from unlikely circumstances. Cutting in from left to right, he burrowed into the visitors’ penalty area, where tackles necessarily become more circumspect. On the turn, he finished firmly past Harry Burgoyne into the bottom left corner to save Charlton a point which might yet affect their season.
Washington was undoubtedly one of the “positives” referenced by Lee Bowyer in his post-match summation. He should start each and every game until this disappointing season disappears in the rear view mirror.
So should Andrew Shinnie, who replaced an anonymous Liam Millar, his early promise in Charlton’s colours an already-fading memory. Shinnie brings with him quality and bite; his 63rd-minute introduction changed the momentum of a game which was drifting out of the Addicks’ reach. The skilful Scot is wasted on the bench. He’s more than good enough for a place in this team.
Enlivening a gusty, hailstones-battered first half were the occasional forays made along the left flank of Ian Maatsen. Sometimes erratic but admirably persistent, the Chelsea loanee laid on two marvellous chances, the second and better of them cut back from the byline for Jayden Stockley. Falling backwards as he shot, the big striker should still have managed better than the meek effort he directed straight at a relieved Burgoyne. A similar opening was made for Albie Morgan, who forced a more awkward parry from Burgoyne.
Though far from outplayed, the visitors failed to trouble Ben Amos until the second half was under way. Growing in confidence as their hosts began to run out of steam (“we were sluggish, run off our feet” concluded Bowyer), Town ‘s 56th minute counterpunch knocked the stuffing out of the Addicks. Right back Matthew Pennington joined in a rare raid and delivered a precise cross which Sean Goss dived to head beyond Amos.
💬 "We started well, but everything slowed down in the second half."
— Charlton Athletic FC (@CAFCofficial) March 13, 2021
Delighted to score a rare away goal, the Shropshire boys’ next task was to protect their lead, something they found impossible as Charlton threw off their torpor and at last came after them. But they proved far from finished themselves as they proved by recovering from Washington’s equaliser and twice threatening to restore their advantage.
Bowyer’s “fatigued” troops offered only token opposition as substitute Daniel Odoh soloed through them from the halfway line, pursued resolutely by Jason Pearce. As Odoh prepared to finish at close range, he was caught and channelled out of harm’s way by Charlton’s no-nonsense captain. It was defending of the highest quality and was duly singled out by Bowyer in a surprisingly sunny-natured reaction to a disheartening result.
His mood might have altered had Dave Edwards made the most of the last gasp chance laid on for him by fellow substitute David Davis, who pounced on Akin Famewo’s vaguely directed backpass and set him up to finish into a gaping net from 20 yards. Least said (about Edwards’ hopelessly spooned effort) soonest mended might be the wisest advice to follow for Shrews’ deputy boss Aaron Wilbraham, standing in for Covid-stricken Steve Cotterill.
If Bowyer could maintain his poise after the mess his side served up for him, Wilbraham no doubt found words of solace and forgiveness for the hapless Edwards. A newly-upbeat Bowyer would have found the right words of consolation. To be honest, his recently acquired bonhomie is more than a little disconcerting.
Charlton: Amos, Gunter, Famewo, Pearce, Maatsen, Pratley (Smith 63), Morgan (Jaiyesimi 78), Watson, Millar (Shinnie 63), Stockley (Aneke 63), Washington. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Oshilaja, Schwartz. Booked: Pratley, Maatsen.
Shrewsbury: Burgoyne, Williams, Goss (Davis 78), Vela, Ogbeta, Walker (Whalley 90), Main (Odoh 78), Daniels, Ebanks-Landell, Pennington, Chapman (Edwards 70). Not used: Sarkic, Pyke, Sears. Booked: Williams, Walker.
Referee: Declan Bourne.
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