Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 2-0 Fleetwood Town

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

It wasn’t the most entertaining of matches, but the Addicks notched up an important win yesterday, as KEVIN NOLAN reports.

Charlton’s vital win over improving Fleetwood Town helped to ease their lingering fears they might be sucked into a late season relegation battle. Second-half goals from Mason Burstow and Albie Morgan were enough to see off the Cod Army, who paid the price for failing to turn their early superiority into an interval lead.

The win, however unevenly it was achieved, was gratefully savoured but a bumper crowd needed no reminding that both scorers were products of the club’s impressive academy system.

Fans enjoy little more than to watch youngsters make it through the various age levels on their way to the first team, and serenaded Burstow, then Morgan, as “one of our own”.

Mason, not 19 until August, tapped into the euphoric mood by turning his 82nd-minute replacement by Conor Washington into an innocently improvised lap of honour; Albie, 22 next week, went quietly berserk after crowning an impressive contribution with an all-too-rare goal in time added on by Billy Bunter-shaped referee Brett Huxtable.

(Billy Bunter? Ask your grandad. Or your grandma, who might get you up to speed about Bessie Bunter, Billy’s sister.)

In the accepted way of things, meanwhile, you’ll find the names of Charlton’s goalscorers at the head of this report. And rightly so. Goals are how games of football are decided.

But there’s more to it than that. There’s the exhausting but ultimately decisive battle to control midfield, the engine room where small battles are won and lost which inexorably influence the outcome.

And at the heart of Charlton’s midfield on Saturday, as he has been since Johnnie Jackson reinstalled him following Nigel Adkins’ departure, was the indefatigable George Dobson.

Hardly a veteran himself at 24, Dobson ploughed through a prodigious workload, which included momentum-changing interceptions, razor-sharp tackles and conscientious tracking.

Most of his unglamorous graft was followed by the appropriate choice of pass to turn defence into attack. Hunch-shouldered, urgent and hardly the most elegant player on the pitch, Dobson had a horse of a game, which won’t have escaped the all-seeing eye of his manager.

Back to the whirlwind start made by Stephen Crainey’s in-form Fishermen’s Friends. As early as the first minute, setpiece expert Danny Andrew sent an ideally placed free kick harmlessly over the bar, Paddy Lane clipped the woodwork with an deceptively drifting cross, then Lane cut inside Aki Famewo but fired tamely into Craig McGillivray’s hands.

The Addicks briefly raised the siege with Diallang Jaiyesimi sending Sean Clare through to sting Alex Cairns’ palms at his near post. Their respite was short-lived as Andrew used a short corner to pick out an onrushing Tom Clarke beyond the far post, but the centre-back headed inches too high.

With the pressure mounting, another free kick conceded just outside the penalty area saw Andrew improve on his earlier effort by shaving the bar. But under the towering influence of Ryan Inniss, the Addicks stayed in the game and significantly came closest to scoring before the break. A subdued Chuks Aneke fashioned a shooting chance for Elliot Lee, which was blocked back to Lee, whose second effort was brilliantly saved by a full-length Cairns.

There was no way of knowing it at the time but the visitors had already blown their best chance of a useful result. Within eight minutes of the restart, they fell behind to Burstow’s second league goal and fifth of a hugely promising career. Jay Matete’s foul on Corey Blackett-Taylor near the left touchline set up Morgan to launch a free kick, which was returned from the far post by Inniss and nodded past Cairns by Burstow.

The kid’s bashful, foot-scuffing departure past the North Stand some 30 minutes later was saluted by his doting fans. The Leaving of Liverpool was only slightly more emotional.

Before Morgan applied the coup-de-grace, Lane came within a whisker of spoiling the party when he failed – by exactly that whisker – to toe-end Shayden Morris’ teasing cross past McGillivray. Morgan responded by quickstepping nimbly through a tiring defence but inexplicably missed a yawning target.

It hardly mattered because less than a minute later, Albie finished clinically from the penalty spot after Zak Jules could only turn Alex Gilbey’s cross from the right into his path.

Great work from Gilbey, by the way. His 20-minute cameo might have earned him a place in the starting line-up at Hartlepool on Tuesday evening, if he’s lucky!

Charlton: McGillivray, Clare, Inniss, Famewo, Dobson, Lee (Gilbey 69), Morgan, Jaiyesimi, Blackett-Taylor (Purrington 86), Burstow (Washington 82), Aneke. Not used: Henderson, Pearce, Leko, Watson. Booked: Dobson, Aneke.

Fleetwood: Cairns, Andrew, Jules, Clarke, Harrison, Camps, Matete, Batty (Pilkington 75), Lane, Johnston (Nsiala 81), Hayes (Morris 62). Not used: Donaghy, Johnson, Biggins, Boyle. Booked: Matete.

Referee: Brett Huxtable. Att: 21,811 (192 visiting).


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