The Addicks’ last home match of an underwhelming season ended in a win. KEVIN NOLAN kept an eye on the desperate battle to finish 12th in League One.
It’s been obvious for some time that Charlton have not been remotely good enough to sustain a challenge for promotion from League One. On their day they were capable of giving most teams in the division a decent game; unfortunately that “day” became all too rare as the pressure mounted. You could say they came up a day late and a dollar short when it mattered.
At the same time, there’s been only a fleeting fear of relegation and it can be safely stated that the Addicks proved they don’t belong in that unseemly struggle to avoid demotion to League Two. They are, in fact, destined to finish where they belong – squarely among the mid-table nonentities, if less grateful than the clubs around them to be considered also-rans. Charlton could’ve – should’ve – been the contenders Nigel Adkins promised they’d be last summer.
An impressive return of 16 points from the eight league games which preceded the visit of Shrewsbury Town had fans studying the table and wistfully indulging “what might have been” daydreams. In the middle of that run, inexplicable home defeats to Lincoln City (1-2) and Morecambe (2-3) brought them down to earth. And those two results drove home, with sobering impact, the chronic inconsistency which undid them.
Still we are where we are and it is what it is. There remain 12th and 13th positions to sort out and the race between Charlton, Cambridge United, Cheltenham Town and Accrington Stanley, easily dismissed as a losers’ repechage, was hotter than a pistol on Saturday. Fair enough, nobody else gave a flying farquhar but on this parochial level, it mattered a great deal.
In midweek, the Addicks had done their hopes no harm by leapfrogging Cambridge after beating them 2-0 at their place. They started Saturday two points ahead of United, who faced a daunting and ultimately fruitless trip to Sunderland (1-5). That removed Cambridge from the equation which switched attention to Cheltenham, beaten at home by Bolton Wanderers, and Accrington, home winners over Lincoln City. Both trailed Charlton by one point so only Stanley can catch Johnnie Jackson’s men now. The tension’s ratcheting up and some of us can hardly wait till next Saturday. There’s everything – well, not everything but definitely something – left to play for this season. You just have to know where to look.
The importance of Shrewsbury’s visit, to be brutally frank, seemed to have escaped Charlton’s attention in a dreadful first half at a less than impressed Valley. Dealt a pre-kick-off blow when dynamic Corey Blackett-Taylor was taken ill during warm-up, they were compensated by a lively contribution by Diallang Jaiyesimi, who stepped in and answered Jackson’s call admirably. It was Jaiyesimi, whose fierce drive after cutting in from the left, was capably saved at his near post by Marko Marosi in the 3rd minute.
In reply, Tyrese Fornal half-volleyed narrowly wide but the Addicks edged what were admittedly tepid exchanges. They looked likelier to score but Conor Washington shot too close to Marosi when sent clear by Jayden Stockley’s flick and Alex Gilbey tamely headed Albie Morgan’s inswinging corner straight at the Slovakian keeper. The interval arrived as a relief to our suffering.
Two minutes into the second period, breathtaking brilliance by Craig McGillivray denied Town a surprise lead. Put through by Luke Leahy’s pass, Ryan Bowman shot hard and low for the bottom right corner. His shot was instinctively parried by McGillivray, who regained his feet in time to block Joshua Daniels’ point blank attempt to convert the rebound. This was the keeper’s 16th clean sheet of an ever-present league season.
Morgan’s beautifully-judged ball over the top promptly sent Washington through again to confront Marosi but the big Slovak came out on top once more and saved the Northern Irishman’s angled effort. Something more precise was clearly necessary to beat him and Stockley duly delivered by meeting Morgan’s corner and heading unstoppably into the roof of the net.
💬 "I'm really pleased that we managed to send the supporters home happy…"
Johnnie Jackson speaks to CharltonTV following today's victory over @shrewsweb…
— Charlton Athletic FC (@CAFCofficial) April 23, 2022
Scorer of the added-time goal which beat the Addicks 1-0 in frigid Shropshire last November, Daniel Udoh took matters in his own hands as the Shrews sought an instant equaliser. A mazy solo run carried him past a pursuing posse of home defenders but his entry for goal-of-the-season was foiled by McGillivray’s full-length save.
The 75th minute replacement of Gilbey by Chuks Aneke was the straw that broke Shrewsbury’s back. Aneke’s incredible scoring record as a late substitute is an article of faith around SE7 and almost inevitably he delivered again. Before he did so, he missed a sitter when feebly heading Jaiyesimi’s carefully dinked cross from the left into Marosi’s hands. His confidence remained intact and he made no mistake in powering Morgan’s precise free kick past the helpless keeper to seal the points with four regulation minutes left on the clock.
Marosi might understandably have been distracted by the ignorance of the mentally challenged “hero” who verbally abused him from behind his goal. But then again, Aneke’s header was goalbound as soon as it left his brow.
Their ninth 2-0 win of a generally dismal season at least puts the Addicks in the catbird seat as the battle for 12th place in League One climaxes next weekend. This season ain’t over – not while finishing above Accrington Stanley is at stake. Let’s hope Wimbledon can do us a favour and beat Stanley – unless they’ve still got the needle for letting them down against Morecambe recently.
It’s all about pressure in the middle of the table. Remember what they say: there ain’t no disgrace in thirteenth place!
Charlton: McGillivray, Clare, Pearce, Famewo, Matthews (Kanu 90+7), Dobson, Morgan, Gilbey (Aneke 75), Jaiyesimi, Washington, Stockley. Not used: Harness, Forster-Caskey, Leko, Inniss.
Shrewsbury: Marosi, Leahy, Pennington, Whalley, Fornah, Vela, Udoh (Bloxham 90+4), Bowman, Daniels, Nurse, Flanagan. Not used: Burgoyne, Pierre, Caton, Craig, Janneh, Barlow.
Referee: Sam Purkiss. Att: 11,207 (667 visiting).
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