The Addicks’ season finally cranked into life yesterday with a home win over Crewe. KEVIN NOLAN enjoyed a novel emotion at The Valley.
An unfamiliar sensation united players and crowd at a buoyant Valley on Saturday. It’s called the feel-good factor and it’s been a stranger during Charlton’s fumbling start to the season. But it was all the more keenly appreciated when it showed up.
It felt good that each member of Nigel Adkins’ 14-man squad contributed to this workmanlike victory over spirited Crewe; it felt good too that the Addicks scored for the first time at home; and it felt better than good to celebrate a win at last. It remains to be seen whether a corner has been turned, but as Adkins reminded us: “We’ve got good players and we’ve got a good team.”
And that, in itself, is something to feel good about.
This was a comfortable, but never easy, victory. As always, Crewe were well-schooled, bright on the ball and dangerous from time to time. In preserving his second clean sheet, Craig McGillivray was called upon to make a handful of saves, the pick of them his stunning reaction to prevent substitute Chris Porter’s point-blank certainty from crossing the goalline. McGillivray did his bit and had a case to be considered Charlton’s unofficial man-of-the match. That would, however, overlook the credentials of Diallang Jaiyesimi, who added an excellent goal to his best game in a Charlton shirt.
Making an aggressive, positive start, Adkins’ Addicks were quick out of the blocks. As early as the third minute, Jayden Stockley crossed from the left for Ryan Inniss to beat Luke Offord in the air and test Will Jaaskelainen at his near post. The homeboys’ intentions were already clear, with fullbacks Adam Matthews and Chris Gunter regularly crossing the halfway line to join up with their forwards, while Albie Morgan called the shots in central midfield.
The visitors buckled under the pressure but a goal eluded their tormentors; as the opening salvo abated, they emerged from their defensive ramparts and hit back; Callum McFadzean should, in fact, have done better than turn Callum Ainley’s cutely dinked cross tamely into McGillivray’s hands. Their chances were improving when they fell behind shortly after the half hour mark.
Picking up possession from Stockley on the left flank, Gunter’s centre seemed certain to be met by McFadzean until Jaiyesimi stole an important step on his marker and headed emphatically into the roof of Jasskalainen’s net. The winger’s repertoire of tricks and flicks provide his bread and butter; his newly-discovered aerial power adds jam to his tasty menu.
Shaken by their concession, the Railwaymen were hit by a second blow just five minutes later. Again Jaiyesimi was involved, his awareness of Connor Washington’s run into space matched by the swooping crossfield pass which arrived slightly behind its intended target. Superb control with the outside of his foot provided Washington with the time he needed to find Stockley in space inside him. Forced wide as he rounded Jasskalainen, the big striker finished into the bottom left corner from a dwindling angle.
Sandwiched between the goals, academy graduate Ainley had stung McGillivray’s palms with a fiercely-struck drive. But the second setback placed the outcome beyond them. The industry of Morgan was backed up by Ben Watson’s cool commonsense.
And when Inniss departed just past the hour, 17-year old Deji Elewere stepped up to prove again that if you’re good enough, you’re also old enough. This kid is, impressively, the business, but will be brought along cautiously and responsibly. We can only hope he doesn’t have an agent yet but that horse might already have bolted. Best enjoy him while we can.
Though conclusively two down, David Artell’s side refused to surrender. Kayne Ramsay’s blistering drive brought the best out of McGillivray, as did McFadzean’s effort from the edge of the penalty area. Charlton’s capable keeper was almost beaten by Akin Famewo’s panicky slice but survived at the expense of a corner. At the other end, Jaaskalainen foiled Washington in one-on-one confrontation, then saved magnificently from Stockley.
An entertaining encounter careered along until Adkins no doubt prescribed a course of game management. Gunter and Matthews duly curbed their attacking enthusiasm; Elewere and Famewo clamped down on excessive frills; Watson’s experience blended nicely with Morgan’s youthful flair and Washington and Stockley, as usual, chased everything.
The manager might also have noticed Charlie Kirk’s growing confidence – more will be expected from Charlie as the season develops. It didn’t harm the feelgood factor, meanwhile, to introduce Elliott Lee to an appreciative crowd.
The last word belongs, as it should, with Adkins. “All in all, we’ve got to be pleased with a 2-0 victory and a great atmosphere at The Valley”, he declared. Amen to that, Nigel, a heartfelt amen to that. Feels good, don’t it?
Charlton: McGillivray, Matthews, Famewo, Inniss (Lee 76), Gunter, Watson, Morgan, Jaiyesimi (Clare 80), Kirk (Lee 76), Stockley, Washington. Not used: Harness, Pearce, Blackett-Taylor, Davison. Booked: Gunter.
Crewe: Jaaskalainen, Adebisi, Thomas, Offord, Knight (Ramsay 66), Ainley, Mandron, Finney (Porter 66), McFadzean (Griffiths 83), Murphy, Lundstram. Booked: Adebisi, McFadzean.
Referee: James Bell. Attendance: 13,167 (498 visiting).
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