Yesterday’s lunchtime kick-off was one to forget as the Addicks ground out a goalless draw. KEVIN NOLAN put his shoulder to the wheel at The Valley.
The puzzling conundrum of Charlton’s poor home form appears to have stumped even new manager Nigel Adkins, who put a brave face on this latest disappointment and declared “we’ve got the feel of the place…it’s the first time for me, playing at home at The Valley. It gives me an understanding of where we’ve got to try and keep improving on moving forward because it’s a big, big pitch.”
If he felt the merest hint of frustration, Adkins was at pains to hide it but thousands of fans who coughed up a tenner to endure this scrappy, frankly awful game were under no such constraint. To a man and woman they had burned while Charlton fiddled their way through 90+ minutes of scruffiness.
A game as insipid as this one can be redeemed in only one way – by the winning of it – and that proved beyond the reach of Adkins’ Addicks.
There were times indeed on this sun-drenched Saturday, not least during a torrid opening quarter hour, when out-of-form Ipswich threatened to pinch the point which leaves Charlton hovering just outside the play-off places, two points behind stuttering Portsmouth with a game in hand.
Fortunately, the Tractor Boys’ ambition stretched no further than a draw and they departed for Suffolk as happy as sandboys.
Forced to make one change after Ian Maatsen limped off injured at Sunderland, Adkins recalled Liam Millar in the loanee youngster’s place and deployed his personnel in an attacking 4-3-3 formation. The intention was to carry the fight to the visitors, who responded by dominating the early possession and coming within a whisker of grabbing an early lead.
Ben Amos was forced into immediate action to keep out a fierce header from James Norwood, who met Andre Dozzell’s setpiece at close range. The wrongfooted keeper received stout support from his skipper Jason Pearce, who blocked Keanan Bennetts’ follow-up on the goalline.
As the Addicks struggled to gain a foothold in a game they were expected to control, it became evident how much they miss Conor Washington, whose wholehearted willingness to chase lost causes, run the channels tirelessly and play off the shoulder of target man Jayden Stockley, made him invaluable.
The Northern Irish international’s goals arrived at vital times while, during his absence, they have dried up for the unsupported Stockley. Charlton’s forwards have hit a wall, with the slack picked up recently by unlikely scorers in Maatsen, Alex Gilbey and Diallang Jaiyesimi, all of whom opened their account for the club. Those priceless wins at Doncaster and Sunderland were won by doggedness and guts; Atkins can only dream of resounding victories by three or four-goal margins but no doubt he will deal with it.
It’s surely a matter of time, meanwhile, before Ryan Inniss adds his name to the list of all-time scorers. The opening goal at the Stadium of Light was down to his massive influence on setpieces in the opposition’s box while, against Ipswich, he was foiled only by a sharp save by Thomas Holy after meeting Jake Forster-Caskey’s outswinging corner with a firm downward header. The Czech keeper was less impressive in fumbling Ben Purrington’s deep cross but was bailed out by Mark McGuiness’s goalline clearance from Stockley’s attempt to bury the loose ball.
If this begins to sound like an end-to-end ding-dong, well, to be fair, it staggered along those lines for a while.
With possession exchanged like drunken sailors, it was Town’s turn to go close when Teddy Bishop burst into the penalty area and presented an onrushing Bennetts with a perfectly judged cutback. Staring the gift horse in its mouth, Bennetts kicked it into what would have been an appreciative North Stand. By now it was clear that clinical finishing didn’t feature on the agenda of either side.
Neither Jaiyesimi’s header, forceful enough but directed straight at Holy after being set up by Stockley’s flick, nor the unconvincing shot from Liam Millar routinely saved by Holy, disturbed that impression.
A fine effort from Forster-Caskey narrowly cleared the bar before Purrington created a last chance from which Stockley’s low drive drew a capable save from Holy before this discouraging, disheartening game fizzled into richly-merited obscurity.
It was then time to check elsewhere what damage had been done by Charlton’s failure to beat the misfiring Tractor Boys. And reassuringly, the Addicks are still in with a solid chance of crawling into the play-offs.
Lincoln City have inconveniently pulled themselves together, Sunderland lost to Blackpool but probably have enough points already while the Seasiders have hit form at the right time. But here’s a reason to be cheerful… Milton Keynes 1 Portsmouth 0, which leaves Pompey two points ahead of us in sixth place but with one more game played.
But wait up, there’s Oxford United to worry about as well. They beat Gillingham 3-2 in the last minute and leapfrogged us into sixth place, two points ahead. But we have two games in hand on them. Still with me?
Charlton: Amos, Matthews, Inniss, Pearce, Purrington, Pratley (Watson 61), Jaiyesimi, Forster-Caskey, Gilbey, Millar, Stockley. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Gunter, Oshilaja, Famewo, Shinnie, Schwartz. Booked: Jaiyesimi, Watson.
Ipswich: Holy, McGuiness, Ward (Kenlock 70), Woolfenden, Edwards, Norwood (Jackson 25), Bishop (Sears 70), Bennetts, Downes, Dozzell, Vincent-Young. Not used: Cornell, Chambers, Skuse, Dobra. Booked: Dozzell.
Referee: Craig Hicks.
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