Last night’s defeat to Accrington Stanley left Nigel Adkins’ career as Charlton manager hanging by a thread. KEVIN NOLAN watched another humiliating night for the Addicks at an angry Valley.
In the 9th minute of this desperately fraught game, a thoughtless foul by Albie Morgan on towering Accrington midfielder Harry Pell conceded a free kick 25 yards from Craig McGillivray’s goal.
Its victim deliberated long and hard over a setpiece he clearly fancied, drew a careful bead and arrowed a perfect shot over Charlton’s wall into the top left corner.
Abruptly, an already simmering atmosphere erupted into naked anger. “Sacked in the morning” and “you don’t know what you’re doing” were among the politest of protests on an otherwise balmy Tuesday evening.
The target for the tide of profanity was, of course, manager Nigel Adkins, who must have dreaded such an early concession. Even the hardest of hearts surely felt a twinge of sympathy for Charlton’s beleaguered boss. It was Morgan, after all, who had needlessly fouled Pell and the buck for Stanley’s early breakthrough surely stopped with him. But in the overall scheme of things, it’s the manager who carries the can.
Listening to the foul-mouthed abuse in the VIP section of the lower West Stand was owner Thomas Sandgaard, his presence confirmed by the endless pre-match onslaught of heavy metal served up as entertainment.
Be thankful for small mercies, though. He could have been a Cliff Richard fan.
Hailed as something of a Messiah as recently as March, Adkins already seems on borrowed time. Clearly struggling to find a settled side, he surprisingly restored Morgan as his midfield orchestrator, relied on speedsters Jonathan Leko and Corey Blackett-Taylor to provide width but left hard-running Conor Washington on the bench.
Up front, Jayden Stockley was preferred to Josh Davison in a side geared for pace and aggression. Of Ben Purrington, George Dobson, Harry Arter and Charlie Kirk there was no sign.
After some 20 minutes of ceaseless opprobrium, Adkins was handed brief respite by an unexpected, but welcome, equaliser. The determination of Tuesday’s best Addick, Alex Gilbey, won him space near the right byline to send over a low, drilled cross. First to the dangerous ball was Morgan – Stanley’s David, not the homeboys’ Albie – who turned it neatly past Toby Savin. The pressure on Adkins eased slightly.
Before the interval, Charlton provided proof that they hadn’t absorbed the lesson handed out earlier by Pell. An ill-advised foul by Sean Clare gave the former Charlton academy pupil a second chance from a similar position as his first success. A wicked delivery again cleared the wall, left McGillivray grasping at air, but crashed down from the underside of the bar; also over the line, as it happens, but who could begrudge Adkins a break?
A smart save by Savin from the busy Gilbey concluded a fractious first half, leaving the Addicks level but their manager still squarely in the firing line.
Smartly out of the blocks in the second period, the Addicks briefly held sway. Blackett-Taylor’s fine cross was swept wide by Gilbey before Stockley’s far-post header from Morgan’s inswinging corner beat Savin but was booted off the line by Colby Bishop.
Recovering their poise, the visitors produced the ideal riposte by taking the lead for a second time before the hour mark.
Again it was Pell who did the damage by timing his run to the far post and turning in Sean McConville’s low centre. Having taken on the North Stand after scoring earlier, he was by now on his best behaviour and celebrated more discreetly with the 128 hardy pilgrims who had journeyed down from Lancashire.
They had further cause for joy when, nine minutes later, Ethan Hamilton embarked on a solo run, with Pape Souare in unconvincing pursuit, and found the bottom left corner from outside the penalty area.
💬 Nigel Adkins speaks to CharltonTV following this evening's defeat to Accrington Stanley at The Valley…
— Charlton Athletic FC (@CAFCofficial) October 19, 2021
There were now no holds barred in the personal vituperation heaped on Adkins’ head; his response remained stoical and not without dignity. Whether that earns him more time from the fun-loving owner remains to be seen.
Or indeed, whether he wants more time. A quieter life without Metallica caterwauling in his ear must have its attractions. Music might be the food of love, as the Bard claims, but they didn’t have junk food in his day.
In the shorter term, meanwhile, Adkins’ replacement of a subdued Clare by Washington paid immediate dividends. The irrepressible Northern Irishman refused to accept as inevitable Sam Sherring’s shepherding of the ball over the left byline.
Dispossessing the complacent defender, he contrived a swinging cross which centre back Michael Nottingham clumsily shanked to Stockley’s feet. From 12 yards, Charlton’s top scorer swivelled to reduce the deficit to one goal again.
In a frantic, spirited conclusion to a poisonous game, Leko shot into the sidenet and Washington squirted an angled effort wide.
The was one more scare for John Coleman’s men as substitute Davison met Leko’s measure cross with a firm volley but was foiled by Savin’s prudently deployed right leg. That left a wounded, disconsolate Adkins with one more toxic gauntlet to run.
It might be that Sandgaard spares him next Saturday’s trip to Sunderland. Every cloud, Nigel, every cloud…
Charlton: McGillvray, Gunter, Famewo, Lavelle, Souare (Jaiyesimi 90+1), Leko, Gilbey, Clare (Washington 73), Blackett-Taylor (Davison 73), Stockley. Not used: Henderson, Pearce, Matthews, Watson. Booked: Morgan, Souare, Clare.
Accrington: Savin, Sherring, Hamilton, Butcher, Pell, Bishop, McConville, Nottingham, Conneely, Morgan, Amankwah. Not used: Trafford, O’Sullivan, Procter, Leigh, Mansell, Nolan, Malcolm. Booked: Sherring, Pell, Morgan.
Referee: Sam Allison. Attendance: 11,183 (128 visiting).
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