Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 2-0 Burton Albion

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

KEVIN NOLAN was at the Valley to witness a second Addicks victory in a week.

Bathed in early spring sunshine, The Valley was a pleasant, relaxed place to be on Saturday. There was an agreeable atmosphere inside the fabled old ground, a bit like that carefree feeling you enjoyed at school during those dog days between exams and breaking up for the summer holidays.

There was always a price to pay, of course, namely the report you had to explain away to your parents. It came with hurtful comments such as “needs to concentrate”, “must decide whether or not he is the class clown” or that old cliched chestnut “could do better with more effort.” The latter was a time-honoured classic that could apply to just about every kid who went through the educational system. It was once the bane of my life – still is, come to think of it.

Charlton could – and should – certainly have done better during this irritating 2021-22 campaign. They got off to a miserable start, with only a 2-0 win over Crewe interrupting an otherwise dismal string of nine opening games, until they managed a 2-1 victory at Fleetwood on October 2nd. Defeat at Lincoln two weeks later plunged them into 22nd place and prospects were grim.

Form has been in-and-out since that abject surrender at Sincil Bank, with consecutive 2-0 home wins over Ipswich and Cambridge rare highlights. Promotion disappeared as a realistic ambition weeks ago but, until Gillingham were vanquished last Tuesday, relegation hovered over the Addicks like that sword dangled over some bloke’s head by another bloke called Damocles. Be fair, there’s not been much to e-mail home about this season.

Burton Albion arrived in SE7 four points better off than their hosts but departed with that advantage cut to one after becoming Charlton’s second “double” victims. They lost 1-0 to Johnnie Jackson’s men on a bitterly cold afternoon in November and never looked likely to gain revenge in this reverse fixture. Falling behind to a 12th minute sucker punch was no way to start but they weren’t the first victims of a well-rehearsed routine. Morecambe were knocked temporarily bandy by it back on a bleak evening in November.

It wasn’t too smart of Saturday’s visitors to leave Ciaran Gilligan on his own, policing Conor Washington near the halfway line as they poured forward to exploit one of Tom Hamer’s huge throw-ins. They were caught horribly under-manned as Craig McGillivray fielded Sam Hughes’ tame header, sprinted to his 18-yard line and released a long, flat clearance, which pitted Washington against Gilligan in a one-on-one footrace along the striker’s preferred left channel. There was only one winner in their All-Ireland duel and it was the Northern Irishman who forged ahead, spotted Ben Garratt’s rash advance off his line and lifted a shrewdly judged lob over the keeper’s head on its way into his vacated net. Washington’s 10th goal in his 21st start (six substitute appearances) somewhat explodes the theory that his finishing lacks the clinical touch. He’s dynamite playing “off the shoulder”.

Shaken by their early setback, the Brewers had little to offer in return except Hamer’s crudely effective throws, under which they gathered in search of rebounds and ricochets. The burly defender was fortunate to be around to deliver them after a vicious foul on George Dobson as early as the 9th minute was deemed by referee Rebecca Welch to deserve a yellow rather than the red card it merited. Hamer’s was the first of six cautions meted out to the visitors, who were clearly operating a “no prisoners” policy. Former Addick Deji Oshilaja’s second half caution for chopping down Jayden Stockley might have earned him a second booking; his 2nd minute foul on Stockley was brutal enough to have been similarly punished. Oshilaja and Stockley were both sent off at Burton in November. It’s fair to say they don’t get along.

It was Deji who came closest to equalising for the Brewers during a brief pre-interval purple patch. His ferocious drive from outside the penalty area beat McGillivray but rebounded harmlessly from the crossbar. Oshilaja’s near miss was quickly followed by Omar Niasse’s skilful turn to elude Sam Lavelle in dispute of John Brayford’s long ball but, with the hard part done, the Senegalese fired his self-made chance narrowly over the bar.

Having failed to draw level, the Trentsiders fell further behind before the break. They seemed in no great danger as Corey Blackett-Taylor meandered infield from the left touchline before unleashing a low, speculative drive which squeezed inside Garratt’s right-hand post despite the keeper’s full length effort to reach it. Blackett-Taylor’s first league goal rewarded his have-a-go attitude. Unhappily, after going close with a second half bid to double his tally, the bright young winger limped off with a worrying injury.

Blackett-Taylor departed after having left the Addicks in a dominant position. They spent the second half in complete control, if troubled occasionally by Hamer’s dangerous throws. Stockley headed Scott Fraser’s fine cross straight at Garratt as they pottered through what remained. At the other end, Conor Shaughnessy blasted proverbial miles over the bar, his waywardness typifying the visitors’ feeble contribution.

Burton were pretty lightweight…in fact they were awful. Brewers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink could only envy Jackson the inexhaustible energy of the consistent Dobson, Blackett-Taylor’s explosive pace and the impressive sang froid shown by Washington. There’s also the promise of more to come from classy Scott Fraser and his midfield ally Alex Gilbey as Charlton seek to finish this disappointing season strongly. It’s a work in progress which begins all over again in late July.

Charlton: McGillivray, Clare, Matthews, Lavelle, Purrington, Dobson, Gilbey, Fraser (Lee 81), Blackett-Taylor (Jaiyesimi 54), Stockley, Washington. Not used: Harness, Gunter, Famewo, Leko, Burstow.
Burton: Garratt, Brayford, Borthwick-Jackson, Oshilaja, Powell (Saydee 64), Smith (Chapman 64), Hughes, Shaughnessy, Niasse, Gilligan (Guedioura 70). Not used: Ahadme, Moult, Mancienne, Lakin.
Referee: Rebecca Welch. Att: 11,348 (320 visiting).


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