Charlton’s revival under Johnnie Jackson continued last night with a hard-fought draw against form team Rotherham United. KEVIN NOLAN reports from The Valley.
Fresh from demolishing Doncaster Rovers 4-0 – an impressive result which built on their backs-to-the wall heroics at Sunderland – resurgent Charlton confronted sterner opposition at The Valley on Tuesday in their third test under the youthful stewardship of Johnnie Jackson. Rotherham United were themselves riding a wave of confidence after whipping faltering Sunderland and could justifiably claim to be League One’s outstanding team.
Something clearly had to give unless, of course, they settled for a point apiece. And that’s how it turned out – but not before the dust settled on this full-blooded, often controversial meeting and left both sides with nothing but mutual respect for each other.
Most of the controversy centred around the frankly bizarre refereeing of Scott Oldham, who teetered dangerously close to losing control of a fiercely competitive but never violent encounter. It’s only fair to say that Mr Oldham operated throughout on an equal opportunities basis. His democratic incompetence affected both sides and possibly evened out over a hectic, entertaining evening. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, we’ll settle for that.
Mr Oldham started well, his fifth-minute booking of Jayden Stockley for a lusty challenge on Daniel Barlaser was entirely the right decision. Shame he failed to apply the same letter of the law to Michael Ihiekwe early in the second half for an agricultural challenge on Alex Gilbey. Already booked for an earlier offence, Ihiekwe’s fate seemed sealed to everyone but our understanding official, who contented himself with a stern wigging and a meaningless free kick. Relieved Millers manager Paul Warne reacted by almost immediately substituting his errant defender.
Warne’s South Yorkshiremen edged the first half without particularly troubling Craig McGillivray. Half-chances fell to Barlaser, who drove narrowly wide, then Ihiekwe whose close range header veered off target after Akin Famewo’s unwitting deflection fell kindly to him.
For the Addicks, Conor Washington’s glancing header from Chris Gunter’s cross missed by inches; a crisp volley by Diallang Jaiyesimi, named by Jackson as replacement for injury victim Jonathan Leko, tested Josh Vickers’ handling.
Washington’s tame header at Vickers appeared to have closed out a tense first half which, unhappily for the locals, ended in disaster.
Deep into two minutes of added time, United right-back Wes Harding prepared to deliver the latest in a series of long throws from the right corner flag. Instead, he shovelled a questionably foul throw to Oliver Rathbone, accepted the return and hammered over a cross which came perilously to curving in, then out, of play.
At the near post, centre-back Richard Wood, still upfield in anticipation of a long delivery may – or may not – have knocked the ball back to scorer Mickel Miller with an illegal arm.
All three complaints – the iffy throw, the fluctuating cross and Wood’s dodgy assist – were passionately disputed by a posse of angry Addicks but Oldham was unmoved. By cocking a deaf ‘un, he added another temporary handicap to the fleeting myopia which blinded him to Ihiekwe’s later villainy.
It had been vital that Charlton reached the break still level but Miller’s strike was a discouraging development. United had the goal they intended to defend by fair means and less than fair means where necessary.
Employing every trick in the book and some they’d invented themselves, they reduced the second period to a stop-start, stuttering process. The on-field treatment and painstaking departure of Miller took over three minutes, which made nonsense of Oldham’s award of five added minutes. Timewasting pays. Pass the word.
Clearly playing for their caretaker boss, whose bottom line demands “they play for the shirt, that they give everything out on that pitch”, the Addicks “gave the supporters something to be proud of” as they sought an equaliser. Gilbey’s superb pass sent Washington through but an advancing Vickers did enough to smother his shot, with Rarmani Edmonds-Green’s crucial block of Stockley’s follow-up effort typifying the visitors’ determination to hang onto what they had.
At the other end, McGillivray kept his side in the hunt by smartly parrying Michael Smith’s angled blockbuster, then producing a stupendous effort to keep out Freddie Ladapo’s corner-bound header when it appeared to have already beaten him. McGillivray was to be rewarded for his excellence seven minutes before regulation time expired.
Appreciated by fans for his never-say-die spirit, Washington ran on to Elliot Lee’s lofted delivery and was confronted by Edmonds-Green as he moved over the 18-yard line. At which point, Oldham adopted a “boys will be boys” attitude to the Irishman’s er, let’s say hefty removal of the defender from his path. Possibly feeling he owed Charlton one, he beamed benignly as Washington let fly and found the net with the help of a wicked deflection off Wood.
Bless him, he had no way of knowing what the goal meant to Jackson, his gallant men and a profoundly relieved Valley. No hard feelings, Scott, but don’t hurry back. Once is more than enough.
💬 "The aim is to stay in the team, keep playing and keep scoring."
Two in two for @WashingtonConor in front of the Valley faithful ✌️
He spoke to CharltonTV following last night's draw with @OfficialRUFC…
— Charlton Athletic FC (@CAFCofficial) November 3, 2021
Jackson, meanwhile, is moulding a group of talented individuals into a smoothly functioning unit. Clearly no tinkerer, he named the same side which routed Doncaster, with Jaiyesimi for the injured Jonathan Leko an enforced change.
Just as clearly, he feels that two games within three days are negotiable for well-paid professionals, with the admirable Jason Pearce making the case with a second, spirited performance against an aggressive, physical side which included the 6’4″ Michael Smith.
Added to which, we might have seen the last of that ponderous playing out from the back. When you can play through energetic midfielders like Lee, Gilbey and George Dobson, it makes sense to trust them, rather than put pressure on defenders to start the ball rolling. Each to his own, so to speak…
Charlton: McGillivray, Gunter, Famewo, Pearce, Purrington, Dobson, Gilbey, Jaiyesimi (Blackett-Taylor 80), Lee, Stockley, Washington. Not used: Hendrson, Kirk, Davison, Watson, Clare, Elewere. Booked: Purrington, Famewo, Stockley.
Rotherham: Vickers, Harding, Barlaser, Wood, Wiles (Odoffin 82), Ladapo, Miller (Ferguson 68), Rathbone, Ihiekwe (Ogbene 58), Smith, Edmonds-Green. Not used: Johansson, Sadlier, Grigg, Kayode. Booked: Barlaser, Wiles, Ihiekwe, Smith.
Referee: Scott Oldham. Att: 12,592 (371 visiting).
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