Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 0-1 Norwich City

Kevin Nolan's Valley View
The Addicks hosted a Premier League side at home for the first time in 15 years, but couldn’t quite finish off top-tier strugglers Norwich City. KEVIN NOLAN was in the press box.

A single flash of Premier League quality, with only 11 minutes remaining in this FA Cup third round tie, sent Norwich City into Round Four and left Charlton free to concentrate on reaching Wembley via the EFL Trophy.

An away tie at Hartlepool on a Wednesday evening in January lacks obvious appeal but it is, no doubt you agree, better than nothing.

It was Teemo Pukki, summoned from the bench at half-time to replace Greek teenager Christos Tzolis, who supplied that extra something which settled an evenly fought clash which Charlton could – indeed should – have at least drawn.

Sprinting on to a shrewdly weighted through ball from Kenny McLean, he was too quick for a toiling Jason Pearce and, resisting the temptation to shoot, squared unselfishly for fellow substitute Milot Rashica to tap in the winner.

Although a constant menace, Pukki hadn’t exactly terrorised the Addicks but proved to be the difference which separated sides of almost identical merit.

If Jonathan Leko had made more of a similar chance from four yards, created for him just past the half hour by Elliot Lee, an honourable draw would have meant extra-time and potentially penalties.

But Leko snatched at the opportunity, spooned it horribly over the bar and reminded home fans that while Dean Smith could call on the likes of Pukki and Rashica, Johnnie Jackson was cruelly deprived of both Conor Washington and Jayden Stockley. His striker-less selection’s inability to score was hardly difficult to predict.

Not that Jackson’s otherwise strong side were easy marks for their soon-to-be Championship opponents. An early, bone-crunching challenge by Ryan Inniss on marauding Turkish defender Ozan Kabak signalled an intent that was easy to read.

To his credit, Kazan neither crumpled nor complained and battle was joined. Until the interval, Charlton enjoyed an edge and with better finishing and, it must be said, the occasional intervention of luck, might have retired for refreshment in the lead.

Lee was a restless bundle of energy and when set up by the equally hardworking Alex Gilbey, curled narrowly wide. After Leko missed the best chance of all, Gilbey chanced his arm from distance to produce an unorthodox but effective save from Tim Krul, who somehow shovelled his 25-yarder up and over the bar.

The visitors were always in contention but Charlton opened the second period still marginally on top. Receiving from George Dobson, Lee closed in from the flank but was foiled by Krul’s astutely outstretched right foot. The Canaries’ vastly experienced Dutch stopper was proving that it’s not how, but whether, you keep ’em out that matters. He’s been doing it long enough.

The introduction of Pukki was, meanwhile, greeted with mild apprehension among home fans. The simultaneous introduction of 25-year-old Kosovan Rashica caused no similar disquiet but Smith was royally served by both his half-time substitutions.

In response to Krul’s eccentric heroics, meanwhile, Stephen Henderson did his bit to keep the Addicks in the tie. His saves from McLean’s crisp drive and Max Aaron’s low effort, which was sneaking inside his left hand post, were at least expected of him.

At the other end, however, he wrongfooted everyone by charging upfield to take a last chance free kick to the left of City’s penalty area. Waving aside objections, including those voiced by regular setpiece specialist Lee, his delivery was surprisingly delicate and well judged. Leaping high at the far post, Pearce nodded back across goal and Ben Purrington’s six-yard header rebounded off the bar.

(We apologise if readers, at this point, detect any bad language lurking between the lines of this report. It’s entirely uncalled for but, honestly, you had to be there. And, be fair, it was enough to make a saint swear. We are unable to guarantee it won’t happen again.)

Charlton: Henderson; Clare, Pearce, Inniss (Gunter 70); Jaiyesimi (Blackett-Taylor 71), Gilbey (Kirk 87), Dobson, Lee, Purrington; Leko, Burstow (Davison 70). Not used: MacGillivray, Matthews, Souaré, Morgan, Watson. Booked: Inniss, Purrington, Dobson, Gilbey. Booked: Inniss, Purrington, Dobson, Gilbey.

Norwich City: Krul; Byram (Aarons 71), Hanley, Kabak, Giannoulis (Williams 46); Lees-Melou, Sørensen, McLean; Dowell (Rashica 46), Sargent (Idah 85), Tzolis (Pukki 46). Not used: Gunn, Gibson, Gibbs, Płacheta. Booked: Hanley, Pukki, Sørensen.

Referee: Joshua Smith

Attendance: 13,825 (2,260 visiting)

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