Boos rang around The Valley yesterday as an underwhelming Charlton side lost 2-0 to Wigan. KEVIN NOLAN rakes up the painful memories of an afternoon to forget.
There were just two minutes of regulation time left when Charlton snatched defeat from the jaws, to bend a phrase, of a more than useful draw. Thanks to the brilliance of goalkeeper Craig McGillivray, they were in touching distance of a precious point; just a little more mopping up was required before, deserved or not, scoreless equality was theirs.
Visitors Wigan, unfortunately, were less than satisfied with their share of the spoils and went looking for more. Picking up Ben Amos’ clearance near the halfway line, Max Power produced a devastating cross which his skipper Tendayi Darikwa bravely headed past McGillivray at the far post. The perfect fusion of deadly delivery and efficient finish were too much for even Charlton’s defiant goalkeeper. And despite the lateness of Darikwa’s decisive strike, it arrived in an atmosphere of palpable inevitability.
The Latics were not quite finished. There was still time for substitute James McLean, harnessing the kneejerk abuse he uses as motivation, to skip through the remnants of a bedraggled home defence, smoothly round McGillivray and finish into an empty net. To the Republic of Ireland stalwart belonged the last laugh.
Wigan’s late salvo obscured the uncomfortable fact that the Addicks were second best to a side which would undoubtedly have felt the rough side of manager Leam Richardson’s tongue had they not added goals to their superiority. Which makes Nigel Adkins’ assertion that “we were knocking on the door but didn’t work their goalkeeper enough” hard to credit. Truth is his popgun-wielding attack actually failed to work Amos at all. They produced only three efforts worthy of mention, none of them on target.
The first of them featured Diallang Jaiyesimi, who fired narrowly over the bar after cutting inside Kell Watts; shortly after Jaiyesimi’s effort, full debutant Charlie Kirk made painstaking space for a low, left-footed drive which caught a gentle deflection on its way wide of the right post; Kirk then made an unseemly mess of converting the chance created for him by the strength and persistence of Jayden Stockley on the right byline. Surrounded by a posse of brawny Latics, Stockley somehow improvised an inviting cutback which Kirk haplessly miskicked.
In the home goal, meanwhile, McGillivray was a hive of industry. His busy afternoon began as a helpless spectator when Jordan Jones headed Callum Lang’s cross against his crossbar but got underway in earnest with the plunging save he made to keep out Kells’ attempt to glance Jones’ whipped free kick inside the right post. McGillivray also distinguished himself by keeping out Tom Naylor’s point blank header from another of Jones’ dangerous deliveries. After the break, his trio of outstanding saves was completed by his gymnastic response to tip Charlie Wyke’s bullet header over the bar. But his finest moment was in reacting instinctively to parry Wyke’s three-yard sure thing. The fact that Wyke was ruled offside is immaterial.
Despite Adkins’ optimistic utterances that “there is obviously a lot for us to go and work on”, he must have noticed that his disjointed side is already in a deal of trouble. Following this second home game, the locals were mutinous and repeated the accusation made at MK Dons in midweek that his players “weren’t fit to wear the shirt”. A bit harsh, perhaps, but their anger needs to be addressed. These are admittedly early days but the Addicks are already looking downwards while they lose touch with the promotion contenders escaping above them.
While hoping that the likes of Jake Forster-Caskey and Alex Gilbey will soon be available to him, the beleaguered manager is entitled to some assistance before the transfer window slams shut. His new signings, notably Kirk and newest Addick Corey Blackett-Taylor were added to a squad clearly lacking cohesion and confidence; neither of them exactly hit the ground running. Comprehensively outclassed in midfield, where Power and Jones called the tune while Darikwa, Lang and Jones provided intelligent width on the flanks, the Addicks somehow took the issue into the late stages before capitulating. For that moderate success, look no further than McGillivray’s excellence.
Elsewhere, Jaiyesimi faded after a promising start (“We knew DJ wouldn’t last more than, probably, 45 minutes” was Adkins puzzling comment) and Albie Morgan, though he worked hard, lacks the tools to be the midfield organiser his No. 10 implies. George Dobson was again disappointing, maligned veteran Ben Watson and the irrepressible Stockley Charlton’s best outfield players. They were operating in a dull team, lacking spark and, crucially, leadership. A team which, without wishing to be unduly unkind, is spectacularly uninteresting.
Promises of a five year plan heading inexorably for the Premier League and Europe have been all heard before. And as before, they were treated with long-suffering scepticism. They’ve all been heard before. The only plan which appeals to Charlton fans is one which gets them out of this depressing division. Which looks ominously unlikely this season.
Charlton: McGillivray, Gunter, Famewo, Inniss, Matthews, Dobson (Washington 73), Morgan, Watson, Kirk (Davison 90), Jaiyesimi (Blackett-Taylor 69), Stockley. Not used: Harness, Pearce, Clayden, Elewere. Booked: Jaiyesimi, Inniss, Watson.
Wigan: Amos, Watts, Naylor, Whatmough, Cousins, Power, Wyke, Keane (Humphrys 90), Jordan Jones (Massey 62), Lang
(McLean 62), Darikwa. Not used: Jamie Jones, Pearce, Edwards, Aasgard. Booked: Jordan Jones.
Attendance: 13,839 (711 visiting). Referee: Craig Hicks.
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