Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 3-2 AFC Wimbledon

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

The Addicks overcame south London rivals AFC Wimbledon at The Valley yesterday – leaving KEVIN NOLAN with a sense of relief.

A frantic, see-saw shootout, in which four of the five goals were direct results of setpieces, saw Charlton banish, once and for all, irritating worries about relegation.

Over the last few weeks, with three consecutive league victories, they have pulled themselves together and proved that they are too good to go down. They are, in fact, a match for any team in the division but have left themselves too much ground to make up. Their inconsistency has probably sentenced them to another exhausting season in the quagmire that is League One.

Narrowly beaten, meanwhile, Wimbledon face an uphill, though far from impossible, task to finish above the dreaded drop. They showed spirit and togetherness in taking the Addicks to the wire and will have a chance to avenge this defeat when the sides clash again at Plough Lane on March 22nd in the rearranged Boxing Day fixture.

And though it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of two little clubs don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, it’s a matter of urgency in the blinkered world of football. Not to mention parochial pride. Full of confidence and unchanged from their excellent midweek win at Portsmouth, Charlton made an already tough chore that much tougher by handing their visitors a 3rd minute lead. Ryan Inniss’ foul on Anthony Hartigan allowed his victim to deliver a deep free kick beyond the far post, where Will Nightingale headed back into Craig McGillivray’s briefly safe hands.

Under modest pressure from Ethan Chislett, unfortunately, the normally reliable keeper fumbled possession to Ayaoub Assal, who set up Chislett to shoot into a vacated net. Protest was inevitable but referee Brett Huxtable was unmoved. The goal stood and Charlton were on the wrong end of it.

It says much for the character of Johnnie Jackson’s evolving side that within 28 minutes of the setback, they had not only equalised but taken the lead themselves. The visitors had enjoyed their lead for only a quarter of an hour when substitute Diallang Jaiyesimi combined with Alex Gilbey to earn a right wing corner, which Albie Morgan sent hard and head-high to the near post. Inniss nodded down and in off a wrongfooted Hartigan, with Nikola Tzanev helpless to intervene.

Jaiyesimi had been an early replacement for the desperately unlucky Cory Blackett-Taylor and no disrespect for the latter is implied in observing that the Addicks were galvanised by the newcomer’s impact. Just past the half hour, Charlton’s mercurial No 7 produced a visionary pass which will be unrivalled as the assist of the season.

Caressed with the outside of his right foot from a position just near the halfway line, it sent Conor Washington sprinting through a shredded defence with only the advancing Tzanev to beat. Frequently criticised for his “unclinical” finishing, the Northern Irishman calmly slotted past the despairing keeper; his record of 20 goals from 48 starts plus 16 substitute appearances disproves the theory that he lacks coolness under pressure.

A rip-roaring first half, which delighted the few neutrals among another bumper Valley crowd but was the despair of Jackson and his opposite number Mark Robinson, had a last twist in its tail before the break.

Yet another free kick conceded in front of the East Stand was lofted to the far post by Hartigan, cleared even Inniss’ commanding brow and was headed back and in, a la text book, by visiting skipper Ben Heneghan. Before delivery, Heneghan was being monitored by Chuks Aneke; at the point of impact, he was completely unmarked. A Sparrows Lane post-mortem will no doubt sort out defensive culpability.

A more sedate second period was almost inevitable. It featured a winning goal for the Addicks on the hour mark, scored by Akin Famewo and duly celebrated by fans and players as his first for the club. Another of Morgan’s whiplash corners from the left was met at the far post and emphatically bulleted home by the no-nonsense centre back.

The rest was relatively routine, or as close to routine as Charlton get in protecting a lead and managing a game. McGillivray made his only save from Nightingale, George Marsh shot uncomfortably wide and Heneghan headed off target as the Dons optimistically sought an equaliser.

For the victorious Addicks, George Dobson and Sean Clare maintained their recent excellence but were edged out as Charlton’s man of the match by Jaiyesimi.

Quick feet, adhesive touch and decent defensive work, the tricky winger has the tools; all he needs is a shot of acceptable arrogance and his name could be the first on Jackson’s team sheet. Mind you, Bolton on a cold Tuesday night can separate the men from the boys.

Make ’em have it, DJ… here’s looking at you, kid!

Charlton: McGillivray, Matthews, Inniss, Famewo, Clare, Dobson, Morgan (Fraser 73), Gilbey, Blackett-Taylor (Jaiyesimi 12), Washington, Aneke (Burstow 69). Not used: Henderson, Pearce, Lee, Purrington Booked: Clare, Inniss, Gilbey, Jaiyesimi.

AFC Wimbledon: Tzanev, Nightingale, Marsh, Hartigan, Cosgrove (Cosgrave 62), Assal, Chislett (McCormack 76), Rudoni (Ablade 76), Osew, Brown, Heneghan. Not used: Broome, Csóka, Guinness-Walker, Mebude

Referee: Christopher Pollard Official attendance: 22,486 (1,233 visiting)


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