A late equaliser spared Addicks manager Nigel Adkins from the wrath of the Valley crowd at full-time yesterday. KEVIN NOLAN tried to make sense of his latest line-up.
A much-needed interval was offering welcome respite to Charlton, who were a goal down and being completely outclassed by Portsmouth at an increasingly surly Valley.
Only an astonishing miss by old adversary John Marquis had spared them the two-goal deficit, which would more than likely have proved conclusive as they teetered on collapse. The discontent around three sides of the ground was palpable and opprobrium began to rain on the already toilworn shoulders of manager Nigel Adkins.
Featuring five changes from the side which drew at Gillingham in midweek – Pompey were unchanged – his latest in-crowd was struggling to find rhythm or cohesion.
Most baffling was the relegation to the bench of Corey Blackett-Taylor, who had reduced the Gills to distraction and was almost as impressive at Wycombe a week earlier. With the bit between his teeth, so to speak, the youngster needed to play, not rest, or so it seemed to many dedicated observers.
Falling behind after just six minutes was hardly guaranteed to bond disgruntled supporters and a cautious manager but, with almost eerie inevitability, that was exactly what happened.
Receiving Mahlon Romeo’s pass to the left of goal, Ronan Curtis used Lee Brown’s overlap to make space for a superb, dipping drive over Craig McGillivray into the top corner; no challenge was offered by marker Adam Matthews or any of his backtracking colleagues.
Matthews gained partial redemption almost immediately with a fine recovery tackle to halt Marquis in the act of point-blank shooting. And it was Marquis who squandered the chance to put early daylight between the teams.
Marcus Harness’ quick feet turned Sam Lavelle on the left, with his clever pass picking out Marquis, whose heavy touch and ponderous turn had the unexpected effect of placing Jason Pearce on his backside. With the goal now at his mercy, the hapless striker incredibly shovelled a seven-yard shot wide of the right post. It was a miss of breathtaking ineptitude and something of a turning point.
The first shoots of recovery had been provided by Elliot Lee, who surged on to Jonathan Leko’s through pass but was thwarted by Gavin Bazunu’s legs. The Dublin-born keeper also saved at full length from Leko and used his legs again to keep out Alex Gilbey’s angled effort before the break.
Charlton’s undeniable improvement, however, failed to placate the mutinous locals whose chorus of disapproval escorted Adkins down the tunnel. The beleaguered manager didn’t get where he is today, of course, without having something up his sleeve.
His interval replacement of the deeply disappointing Harry Arter with recently-neglected Sean Clare was instantly rewarded in the most satisfying way. A clumsy foul by Sean Raggett on Lee close to the right byline conceded an unnecessary free kick which his victim prepared to take from a dangerous position between touchline and penalty area.
Cleverly disguising his intent, the quick-thinking Lee cut the setpiece back to Clare, who barrelled into the area and lashed an unstoppable drive inside the right post. Planned in SE9, executed in SE7, the equaliser temporarily lifted the pressure off an anxious Adkins.
As the momentum briefly switched, Lee broke away, with excellent advantage applied by referee Coggins, to test Bazunu before Leko turned sharply to draw a fine, fingertip save from the suddenly busy keeper.
But it didn’t last and Pompey were back in front with 18 minutes left. Ryan Tunnicliffe’s piercing pass was deftly flicked on by Marquis and slotted efficiently past McGillivray by the irrepressible Harness.
The influential goalscorer’s prompt replacement by the pleasingly anonymous ex-Addick Reece Hackett-Fairchild was not only a huge relief to the Addicks but evidence that Pompey manager Danny Cowley is hardly a genius.
💬 "It's a good point. We got off to a poor start, but we changed shape, showed some resilience and grew into the game."
Watch Nigel Adkins' full post-match interview with CharltonTV following today's draw with Portsmouth… pic.twitter.com/eFGBV5T90m
— Charlton Athletic FC (@CAFCofficial) September 25, 2021
It was Adkins’ introduction of Blackett-Taylor and Josh Davison that paid off spectacularly as his substitutes combined to produce Charlton’s second equaliser.
A significant contribution was made by steady-as-a-rock Ben Watson, his accurate diagonal ball taken in stride by Blackett-Taylor, who outpaced Romeo before crossing for Davison to sweep home at the far post.
Expect Clare, Blackett-Taylor and Davison to start on Tuesday evening against Bolton – but don’t assume they will.
Funny how grizzled veterans like Pearce and Watson can manage back-to-back games but effervescent kids like Blackett-Taylor and Davison need to put their feet up. It’s one of life’s little mysteries…
Charlton: McGillivray, Matthews, Pearce, Lavelle, Watson, Arter (Clare 46), Leko, Gilbey, Lee (Blackett-Taylor 82), Souare, Stockley (Davison 82). Not used: Henderson, Dobson, Famewo, Kirk. Booked: Souare, Clare.
Portsmouth: Bazunu, Brown, Williams, Tunnicliffe, Marquis (Hirst 82), Curtis, Harness (Hackett-Fairchild 78), Freeman, Romeo, Raggett, Morill. Not used: Bass, Harrison, Thompson, Downing, Azeez. Booked: Raggett, Brown.
Referee: Anthony Coggins. Att: 16,278 (2,995 visiting).
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