Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 2-0 Plymouth Argyle

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

A packed Valley roared on Johnnie Jackson’s Addicks as they took the League One leaders apart yesterday. KEVIN NOLAN was there.

With the faithful Green Army at their back, Plymouth Argyle swept into The Valley on Saturday as confident table-toppers, unbeaten in sixteen league games since losing their opening fixture.

Not numbered among the pre-season promotion favourites, the Pilgrims have surprised the pundits by setting the pace in League One with fluent, easy-on-the-eye football. Scoring at a rate of nearly two goals a game, their blistering start is no flash in the pan. Argyle seem capable of going the distance.

No slouches themselves under rookie managers Johnnie Jackson and Jason Euell, Charlton have turned their miserable, early season form on its head. Since Nigel Adkins was handed his P45, 13 points have been won from five league games; whether Jackson has convinced owner Thomas Sandgaard to make his position permanent remains to be seen. He certainly did his chances no harm by masterminding this magnificent victory.

Boosted by the club’s bold offer to season ticket holders of free seats (buy one, get three free), The Valley was a heaving, pulsating wave of passion before kick-off. There was unmistakably something in the air, a surge of irresistible partisanship driving Jackson and his boys.

In a packed Jimmy Seed Stand, the visiting Westcountrymen did their best to stem the vocal tide but their task was hopeless. Saturday’s home crowd was having none of it.

Riding a wave of raw emotion, the Addicks responded with a stirring, cocklewarming performance to which each individual contributed. From the dependable Craig McGillivray in goal to the bravery of Josh Davison up front, and in every position between them, each player found an extra yard and ounce of energy for the cause.

Plymouth were clearly more than useful opponents but, as their manager Ryan Lowe graciously conceded, they “were beaten by the better side”. Had Charlton added clinical finishing to their all-round excellence, Lowe’s tribute might have qualified as faint praise.

Despite starting on the front foot, Charlton came close to sustaining an early setback which might have seriously changed things. Conor Grant’s free kick from the right touchline was untouched as it reached Macaulay Gillesphey at the far post, bounced off the left back’s shin and rolled harmless inches wide as McGillivray scrambled across his goal line.

In reply, George Dobson intercepted Dan Scarr’s wayward pass but fired narrowly off target, Purrington’s point blank effort was gamely blocked by Joe Edwards and Alex Gilbey’s header sent Elliot Lee’s outswinging corner goalwards to be blocked almost at source by Panutche Camara.

Charlton’s pressure hardly amounted to a siege of Michael Cooper’s goal but after Josh Davison recycled a right wing centre, Dobson’s cross was headed by Lee into the side net at the far post.

Ending the first half as they’d started it, Plymouth went dangerously close to taking an undeserved lead back into the dressing room with them. Edwards’ subtle pass sent Ryan Hardie through a scattered defence to confront McGillivray. Standing firm, the advancing keeper charged down the forward’s shot and a hugely relieved Valley breathed again.

Mere minutes after resumption, the stadium erupted when Purrington, with his second goal in successive weeks, fired the Addicks into the lead. Drifting intelligently into space on the right of the visitors’ penalty area, the marauding left-back met Dobson’s deep cross from the left and squeezed a bouncing volley between Cooper and the right post.

It wasn’t the cleanest of strikes but was celebrated with an explosion of joy mixed with entirely understandable relief. And appropriately, it was scored in front of the North Stand, where Purrington and his mates gathered to milk the moment until firmly called to order by referee Peter Wright.

Argyle are too good a side to accept defeat until it’s over and hit back spiritedly. Grant shot narrowly over the bar, then drilled over a centre which eluded a posse of straining players but was cleared by Purrington at the far post. A second goal became Charlton’s priority but when Lee combined with Washington to set up a shooting chance for Gilbey, the midfielder was foiled by Cooper’s fine save.

The visiting keeper’s defiance had kept his impressive side in the hunt but with six regulation minutes remaining, Washington eased the tension with his fourth goal of the season. Sent clear down the inside right channel by Lee’s shrewdly judged pass, the Northern Irishman used his deceptive pace to outstrip Gillesphey, closed in on Cooper and crashed an unstoppable drive inside the right hand post.

The coup-de-grace had been delivered but Argyle’s defeat would have been more decisive had Washington and Lee converted simple chances to double their misery. Not that it mattered. A complete team performance had already been delivered to an ecstatic Valley, one marred only by the 55th-minute injury sustained by Jason Pearce. The skipper had been a towering influence and, on an afternoon when every Addick was a hero, was on his way to man-of-the-match recognition.

We’ll settle instead on Akin Famewo, who celebrated his escape from suspension (last week’s referee Trevor Kettle confirmed that his vision is boss-eyed by confusing Famewo with Purrington) with a splendid contribution of responsible defending and enterprising attacking.

On second thoughts, let’s nominate 14 men-of-the-match and say no more about it. This one was that special.

Charlton: McGillivray, Clare, Pearce (Gunter 55), Famewo, Purrington, Gilbey, Jaiyesimi (Blackett-Taylor 83), Lee, Dobson, Davison (Burstow 77), Washington. Not used: Harness, Morgan, Kirk, Watson. Booked: Dobson.

Plymouth: M Cooper, Gillesphey, Houghton, Wilson, Scarr, Broom (Mayor 71), Edwards (G Cooper 88), Hardie (Jephcott 70), Garrick. Grant, Camara. Not used: Burton, Agard, Randell, Galloway. Booked: Gillesphey, Broom.

Referee: Peter Wright.

Attendance: 26,090 (2,846 visiting).


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