Kevin Nolan’s Locked-Down Valley View: Charlton Athletic 3-2 Bristol Rovers

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

“HERE’S JOHNNNNEEEEEEEEE!!!” The Charlton Champion’s KEVIN NOLAN cheers Johnnie Jackson’s thrilling managerial debut and doesn’t find himself pining for the previous incumbent.

The King is dead. Long live Johnnie Jackson. Actually, belay that, the king isn’t dead. He’s very much alive and was spotted in the St Andrews district of Birmingham. Had his agent with him, if reports are accurate. But long live Johnnie Jackson anyway.

You know how football works. It’s like show business: the show has to go on. It waits for no manager. No more than 48 hours after Lee Bowyer was carried shoulder high out of The Valley – figuratively at least – he was supervising training at Birmingham City and assuring the blue side of Brum that “I’m absolutely delighted and it’s great to be back”. It seems he was always one of them, not one of us.

For their part, City can’t wait to benefit from his “man-management skills and motivational qualities”, Er, good luck with that, chaps. He can be like a bear with a grudge. And he’d been borrowing time for several weeks before he bailed.

Another of football’s enfant terribles arrived in charge of Bristol Rovers on Tuesday evening, hoping to benefit from Charlton’s obvious disarray. Joey Barton must have thought it was the perfect time to be playing the Addicks and during an opening half hour of defensive chaos, he saw nothing to discourage that belief. The Gas sliced through their bewildered hosts and in addition to compiling a two-goal lead, they went uncomfortably close to doubling their advantage. It threatened to be a nightmare start to Jackson’s tenure.

The 18th minute penalty which began Charlton’s problems was of the avoidable kind which has frequently blighted this disastrous season. Jonah Ayunga was persistent but not especially menacing as he squeezed between Ian Maatsen and Jason Pearce into the area. But the unnecessary shove in the back he received from Maatsen was all he needed to hit the ground and earn the penalty correctly awarded by referee Madeley. Left back Luke Leahy made easy work of drilling his spotkick down the middle as Ben Amos dived fruitlessly to his left.

Jackson’s sinking feeling, one which Bowyer would have recognised, was all too familiar. A sharp intake of breath united homebound fans and their caretaker as Ayunga beat Akin Famewo to a long ball, sensed that Amos was off his line and chipped cleverly from the right flank. On one bounce, his effort drifted, happily for the horrified hosts, inches wide of his target. They were still exhaling when Sam Nicholson slipped through their ranks to shoot on the run. Amos’ desperately deployed right leg kept the midfielder’s effort out, not that Rovers had long to wait for a second breakthrough.

Former Addick Brandon Hanlan was proving an awkward handful and it was his short pass which persuaded Ed Upson to try his luck from fully 30 yards. Completely deceived by the flight of the shot, Amos flopped and flapped as the defender’s long range potshot beat him.

Poker-faced on the sideline, Jackson almost instantly received the boost he urgently needed before despair set in. His own good judgement in restoring Andrew Shinnie to the starting line-up was rewarded as the Scotsman reduced the arrears two minutes after Amos’ howler. The scorer was part of the build-up with a shrewd pass which Conor Washington chased before crossing from the left byline. Upson’s headed clearance was chested down by Shinnie and brilliantly volleyed past Joe Day into the bottom right corner.

An equally fine equaliser extended Charlton’s spirited rally four minutes before the break. Preferred to Chuks Aneke up front, Jayden Stockley was ruthlessly chopped down by Jack Baldwin two yards outside Rovers’ penalty area. With the angle favouring Jake Forster-Caskey’s left-footed skills, it was he rather than Shinnie who stepped up to curl an absolute beauty into the top left corner. Charlton are well served in attacking midfield by Shinnie and Forster-Caskey; a conclusion Jackson reached without resort to Bowyer’s often needless rotation.

The second half initiative belonged to Jackson’s resurgent Addicks. Inspired by Washington’s insatiable appetite for work, they ran Rovers ragged until they ran out of, er, gas. Still, the relegated haunted visitors came within four minutes of departing with a precious point until rubber legged and out on their feet, they succumbed. A hit-and-hope lob from Shinnie was weakly headed back by Alfie Kilgour to Day but intercepted by Washington en route to the advancing keeper. The forward’s instinctive low volley hit the right post but rebounded kindly to be tapped into a vacated net. Day’s added-time dismissal for clobbering substitute Chuks Aneke outside his penalty area made lighter work of managing what remained of Jackson’s triumphant debut.

Victory over one of League One’s weaker entries is, on the face of it, no cause for excessive celebration. It will be remembered, nonetheless, as the evening on which Johnnie Jackson emerged from Lee Bowyer’s shadow and took control of Charlton for the first time in his own right. We won’t have long to wait before Thomas Sandgaard decides whether his appointment is made permanent.

Bowyer has seen fit to move to Birmingham. Better him than me. In Jackson, meanwhile, Charlton might have traded up.

Time will tell. But only if this genuine article is given time.

Charlton: Amos, Gunter, Famewo, Pearce, Maatsen, Forster-Caskey, Shinnie (Pratley 90), Morgan, Washington, Millar (Jaiyesimi 66), Stockley (Aneke 73). Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Oshilaja, Watson, Schwartz. Booked: Shinnie, Morgan.

Bristol Rovers: Joe Day, Leahy, Upson (Van Stappershoef 90), Westbrooke (Little 82), Hanlan (James Day 82), Nicholson (Hargreaves 65), McCormick, Kilgour, Ayunga, Baldwin, Williams. Not used: Ehmer, Martinez, Walker. Booked: Upson. Sent off: Joe Day.

Referee: Robert Madeley.