Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 0-0 Sunderland

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

After the turmoil of recent weeks, a goalless draw with Sunderland came as a relief for The Charlton Champion‘s KEVIN NOLAN…

No doubt you’ll have noticed that Charlton never lose any of those past games they show on the big screen before kick-off. They win ’em all.

It must rankle among fans in the adjoining Jimmy Seed Stand to be force-fed so much failure. Having said that, it was hard to identify what games they picked when Millwall were the visitors a couple of years ago; those grainy pre-war pictures are tough to make out.

Be fair though, what brings a glow of pleasurable nostalgia to SE7 is still a bitter pill to swallow on Wearside; no wonder Sunderland live and breathe vengeance, with those play-off finals sticking in their craw.

They came south on Saturday, confident that revenge was there for the taking against their nemesis but instead met a side prepared to dig in and redeem themselves after a miserable run of results; a modest side (with much to be modest about recently) but one with their backs to the wall and spoiling for a fight. The point they took from this dour but competitive encounter will be of more satisfaction to Charlton than the one taken home by Sunderland, who slipped from sixth to no-account seventh in the table.

Heartened by the return from injury of Jayden Stockley and by the eagerly anticipated full debut of Scott Fraser, worried manager Johnnie Jackson will draw quiet encouragement from the excellent contribution made by Diallang Jaiyesimi. The mercurial No 7 only rarely crossed the halfway line but tackled, intercepted and read the game like a seasoned defender. His was an unselfish, disciplined, performance which placed his team’s needs above his natural impulse to go forward.

Also worthy of special mention in a generally solid display were Jason Pearce and Craig McGillivray. You know what’s on offer from the redoubtable skipper and he invariably delivers. There’s nothing he relishes more than a no quarter-asked-or given encounter with a physical opponent and, in prolific Scot Ross Stewart, he was evenly matched.

With 22 goals already this season, Stewart was unable to add to his tally but posed a constant threat. Several chances were either directed wide or saved by McGillivray. But Pearce kept him relatively quiet, something few centre backs have achieved this season.

McGillivray’s excellent statistics took a battering in February, during which Charlton shipped 14 goals in six games, the last three of which yielded 8 of those goals. Those statistics, however, don’t register the often stunning saves he made to make the margin of defeat manageable.

Against free-scoring Sunderland, he made a string of defiant stops to keep the Addicks level. The best of them was the athletic tip-over which kept out Bradley Pritchard’s swerving first half free kick, though the full length dive he made to tip Stewart’s corner-bound shot to safety had its admirers.

In between the spectacular was the competence he showed in repelling Patrick Roberts’s one-on-one effort and the sound positioning which made Elliot Embleton’s crisp daisycutter a matter of routine to handle.

The Addicks’ chances were fewer, though they came close to collaring all three points in a hectic finish to an otherwise attritional struggle. Stronger than their visitors during the closing minutes, they forced a series of setpieces which had the Black Cats wilting. Elliot Lee’s much-improved performance culminated in a salvo of late free kicks conceded by the tiring Wearsiders.

Following Roberts’ foul on substitute Jonathan Leko, Lee’s inswinging delivery from the left was headed narrowly wide by an unmarked Sam Lavelle. A mere minute later, Bailey Wright wearily impeded Stockley in the same area and Lee’s free kick picked out the blond centre forward wide of the far post. A venomous volley whistled across the six-yard area, left Anthony Patterson helpless, but eluded the sliding Lavelle by agonising inches. “Would have been harsh on Sunderland,” admitted Jackson. Be honest, John, would you have cared? Or shown a grain of sympathy?

Jackson was easier to believe in his comments about his side’s performance. “It came from hard work and heart”, he remarked, “and they showed that in abundance.” They did indeed, boss, none more so than Pearce, whose defiance inspired Chris Gunter to resourcefully clear off the goalline from Dennis Cirkin during a period of Sunderland pressure early in the second half. Also, George Dobson kept hustling, as did Lee and Ben Purrington.

This was a worthy point, with Mason Burstow’s extreme youth mitigating the tame finish he applied to Stockley’s deftly headed flick. Mason’s not the finished article but he put in the same effort as his more experienced colleagues.

Anyway, I think we can safely say this point – and other results – remove any possibility of relegation. That’s not something we should be celebrating but it’s some sort of relief.

At least we can embark on our owner’s five-year plan from a League One, rather than League Two, starting point, something he hasn’t mentioned lately. Probably in the recording studio. Anyone know if we’re still on?

Charlton: McGillivray, Gunter, Lavelle, Pearce, Purrington, Jaiyesimi, Dobson, Lee, Fraser (Gilbey 66), Stockley, Burstow (Leko 73). Not used: Harness, Famewo, Morgan, John, Matthews. Booked: Purrington, Dobson, Lavelle, Lee.

Sunderland: Patterson, Evans, Broadhead (Clarke 70), Gooch (Roberts 81), Stewart, Winchester, Cirkin, Xhemajli, Pritchard (Embleton 75), Wright, Matete. Not used: Hoffmann, Doyle, Neil, Hume. Booked: Clarke, Cirkin, Wright

Referee: Anthony Backhouse Attendance: 13,716 (2,702 visiting).


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