The Addicks offered little resistance yesterday when Storm Oxford blew into The Valley. KEVIN NOLAN picks up the pieces.
Arriving in the capital just outside the promotion play-off places, Oxford United cruised effortlessly into the top six by becoming the fourth team (Wycombe, Bolton and Wigan are the others) to complete a league double over Charlton.
They barely drew sweat in shrugging aside puny opposition which is rapidly earning a reputation as League One’s softest touches. It will take a dramatic reversal of current form to prevent in-form Milton Keynes from joining the two-timers when they visit on Tuesday evening.
Not that The Valley isn’t a fun place to visit on match days. There’s an abundance of entertainment not only inside but outside the stadium, alongside which the actual game seems almost an afterthought.
On a more clement day than Saturday, you’ve got your trampolining, bouncy castle, disco music and photo ops with a couple of furry mascots. Step inside and Charlton’s starting line-up is announced by a little moppet and a seemingly never-ending list of cuddly birthday dedications is unrolled.
Then just prior to kick-off, you’re treated to the owner’s dreadful heavy metal dirge (self-penned, we assume), which assures fans that it’s “do or die” out there on the pitch. Edge? You want an edge? You’d come across more edge at the Women’s Institute AGM or, as Basil Fawlty famously put it, “the Nell Gwynn Tea Rooms”.
Charlton’s fabled old ground is more playgroup than fortress these days. And don’t get me started on the Crossbar Challenge when you’re two down at half-time!
Well, that’s me done. Rant over. Back to the football, overwhelmingly most of it supplied by Karl Robinson’s smooth, well-organised side.
They calmly weathered a false early storm, during which Alex Gilbey failed crucially to control Jonathan Leko’s dangerous cross and Diallang Jaiyesimi drove an expertly delivered ball from Adam Matthews into the sidenet, before clicking into gear and putting their uppity hosts firmly in their place.
Charlton’s misery began on 21 minutes when prolific marksman Matty Taylor fastened on to Gavin Whyte’s precise pass and from a difficult angle to the right of goal, drove unerringly over Craig McGillivray into the far corner.
The Addicks’ keeper briefly kept the deficit to one by brilliantly saving Sam Baldock’s point-blank diving header after Cameron Brannagan’ s fierce effort rebounded off the bar. Both Baldock and Brannagan set the record straight later on.
Confident and cohesive, the Us and Taylor both doubled their account before the half hour. A bewildering exchange of passes was rounded off by the pass from Ryan Williams which filleted the home defence and set up Taylor to finish precisely across McGillivray and into the far corner. The prowess of Oxford’s number 9 was a chastening reminder for Charlton that all three of the senior strikers were injured and unavailable for selection, an unhappy circumstance out of Johnnie Jackson’s control.
Stepping up to solve at least one of his manager’s headaches, 18 year-old prodigy Mason Burstow replaced the ineffectual Jaiyesimi at the interval and while there was no fairytale ending to this particular story, the kid did OK.
He showed a shell-shocked crowd that spirit and tenacity back up the obvious talent which persuaded Chelsea to add him to their bloated roster. Shortly after the re-start, he supported Elliot Lee as the midfielder brilliantly controlled George Dobson’s ball over the top under severe defensive pressure.
An instinctively toe-poked shot spun off Herbie Kane and inches wide of a post. On an afternoon when visiting goalkeeper Jack Stevens was seriously under-employed, it was as close as Charlton were to come.
💬 "After we conceded, we didn't deal well enough with that setback – we never recovered from that first goal."
Johnnie Jackson speaks to CharltonTV following today's defeat…
— Charlton Athletic FC (@CAFCofficial) February 19, 2022
As though in direct reprisal, the white-clad visitors proceeded up field and increased their advantage. Another of Whyte’s perceptive passes reached Baldock, who cut inside from the left and curled a beauty inside the right hand post.
It was clear by now that Robinson’s rampant side had an answer for everything, a point they forcibly made by adding a fourth goal near the end. Further rapid-fire passing was finished off by Brannagan, whose 25-yard missile gave McGillivray no chance. By that time, Sean Clare had sheepishly departed the debacle after clashing with Taylor in what is known colloquially as a “coming together” – or what used to be known as a bit of a punch-up.
And that was that, except to be reminded, with relentless cheerfulness, that the Addicks are home again, on Tuesday as already mentioned, then again against Sunderland next Saturday week.
When you’ve been embarrassed 4-0 by Oxford United, it might have been more sensitive to understate forthcoming attractions but then again, that’s a trifle curmudgeonly. So expect me at The Valley on Tuesday. No sense, no feeling, that’s me. Open the cage… play the music.
Charlton: McGillivray, Purrington, Dobson, Jaiyesimi (Burstow 46), Morgan, Gilbey, Matthews, Lee (Campbell 88), Leko (Famewo 65), Inniss, Clare. Not used: Harness, Pearce, John, Lavelle. Booked: Purrington, Morgan, Leko, Inniss. Sent off: Clare.
Oxford: Stevens, Long, Moore, Williams, Brannagan, Taylor (Winnall 77), Sykes, McNally (Brown 56), Baldock (McGuane 72), Whyte, Kane. Not used: Eastwood, Forde, Holland, Seddon. Booked: Moore, Sykes, Taylor.
Referee: Carl Boyeson. Att: 14,029 (1,987 away).
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