The Addicks signed off for the season with a win – but KEVIN NOLAN fretted at The Valley as Charlton fell short of the play-offs on goal difference.
It was always a tough ask for Charlton to make good on the last day of an unusually fraught season. A far-fetched farrago of favourable results was needed to creep into sixth place. And while we’re giving what HG Wells’ Mr Polly referred to as “allitrition’s artful aid”, an outing, the Addicks were relying on Portsmouth and Oxford to feel the fear factor and freeze while they themselves knocked over champions Hull City.
As it turned out, Charlton gallantly delivered the first part of the three-part survival programme by squeezing past Grant McCann’s pressure-free Tigers. That they did so by virtue of a late own goal is neither here nor there. They went toe-to-toe with the champs and saw them off. They could do no more than that and deserve credit for taking it to the wire.
On the South Coast, meanwhile, serial chokers Portsmouth did their bit by failing miserably to beat nothing-to-play-for Accrington Stanley. Which left the reasonable hope that Burton Albion might similarly do the business against Oxford at the Kassam Stadium. Winners twice over Charlton during the season, the Brewers had performed superbly under new manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to stave off the relegation which seemed certain at one point.
Possibly they intended to go out with a bang, or so we deluded ourselves. We should have known better. A goal down in 10 minutes, Burton ended the first half 2-0 in arrears, then slipped tamely to 4-0 defeat. They “didn’t turn up” according to their unapologetic gaffer, with no word of explanation as to why that had been the case.
Hardly the most popular of ex-players during his irritating spell with Charlton, Hasselbaink earned a reputation as a pain in the rear end, which had as much to do with his burgeoning undercarriage as it did to his grovelling attitude after scoring for Charlton against his former club Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Uriah Heep couldn’t have prostrated himself more obsequiously than the conscience-stricken Hasselbaink. No chance of a repeat performance after Burton went AWOL at Oxford.
Instead, the thick-skinned Dutchman added fuel to the flames by airily commenting that “you need to find a different edge for these games. In a way, sometimes it’s good to lose and today was a good day to lose and put things into perspective.” To which the only response appears to be “Twerp!”
Charlton’s failure to make the top six in a below-average League One was not, of course, based on the events of one disappointing day; nor did it come down entirely to their ironic missing of a last kick penalty at, of all places, Oxford, on March 6th.
Their failure was corporate, not individual, with regular self-inflicted setbacks causing their downfall. Feel free to pick your own cock-up from the many on offer.
With the tension removed from a potentially see-saw afternoon by Burton’s meek capitulation, Adkins’ Addicks dispassionately took care of their all-conquering visitors.
There was a distinct lack of drama inside The Valley as a solid defence denied the Brewers only rare glimpses of their goal, the clearest of which ex-Addick Josh Magennis enjoyed after only five minutes. Slipped through a square defence by Gavin Whyte’s razor-sharp pass, the burly striker was foiled at close range by Ben Amos’ expertly deployed left leg.
City were never to come as close again as Ryan Inniss and Akin Famewo barred entry to their penalty area. The mastery of Ian Maatsen over danger man Mallik Wilks , meanwhile, was equally impressive. As the Addicks dominated the second half in front of their favoured Covered End, Maatsen found time and space to link up with Liam Millar, whose searing runs sapped Hull’s resolve and ultimately led to the winning goal.
It was Maatsen’s first-half delivery that set up a chance for Conor Washington to claim what would have been a viable candidate for Charlton’s goal of the season. His soaring ball over the top was treated to a magical first touch which set up an instinctive volley only inches wide of the target.
With the Tigers admittedly toothless and apparently looking forward to their post-whistle celebrations, the Addicks finally made the breakthrough with a quarter of an hour left.
Another of Millar’s right-footed crosses after cutting in from the left landed wickedly in the six-yard area and was desperately palmed away by Matt Ingram.
Unfortunately for the scrambling keeper, his weak clearance hit Jacob Greaves and rolled over the line. It was a scruffy goal entirely suited to an inelegant game. But for a change, it was Charlton who scored it.
Under Nigel Adkins’ guidance and a hopefully shrewd recruitment programme, the future looks bright. As they say in football, we go again in three months. See you there.
Charlton: Amos; Matthews, Inniss, Famewo, Maatsen; Morgan, Watson (Shinnie 69), Gilbey; Washington (Aneke 57), Stockley, Millar. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Gunter, Pearce, Pratley, Jaiyesimi. Booked: Gilbey, Innis.
Hull City: Ingram; Coyle, Jones, Greaves, Elder (Emmanuel 34); Slater (Wood 80), Docherty (Smallwood 80); Wilks, Whyte, Lewis-Potter (Crowley 57); Magennis (Scott 80) Not used: Long, Burke. Booked: Docherty, Wood
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