Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Ipswich Town 4-0 Charlton Athletic

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

A deeply disappointed KEVIN NOLAN saw a 12th place finish in League One cruelly snatched from Charlton’s grasp on the last day of a season of stifling mediocrity. He gamely removed his tongue from his cheek and came up with the following report.

Sinking to previously unplumbed depths of ineptitude, not to mention incompetence, Charlton inflicted on nearly 2,000 followers a performance which should live in club history as a “day of infamy”. They were almost comically bad but were spared a hiding of historic proportions by their hit-or-miss tormentors, who squandered a lorry load of chances on their way to an emphatic 4-0 victory.

To be scrupulously fair, the Addicks might have scored one or two themselves. Town keeper Christian Walton pulled off a superb save to keep out Jayden Stockley’s first half header but should subsequently have been given no chance by Stockley, who managed to hit the bar from two yards in the second session.

And before moving on, we can’t overlook the mess Conor Washington concocted when presented with a gaping net by Walton and his dithering defenders as they treated Chuks Aneke’s lofted ball like a live grenade. Washington helpfully defused the danger by lobbing tamely over the top.

That last paragraph might have left readers with the impression that at some point during this acutely embarrassing exercise, Charlton actually made a decent fight of it. The uncomfortable truth is they were never in with a chance once their hosts sprinted into a two-goal lead within 11 minutes of the start.

Hungrier, sharper, quicker to every ball, the Tractor Boys were superior in every department. Their victims were no more than acquiescent dupes. Or dopes – take your pick.

At the painful end of Town’s opening onslaught was 22 year-old league debutant Nathan Harness, who had good reason to curse his luck. Young Nathan was horribly exposed as Tyreeq Bakinson was allowed time and space to tee up an unencumbered shot from just outside the penalty area and made the most of abysmal marking to find the top right corner.

Still reeling from the nightmare start, Harness, who was deputising for off-colour first choice Craig McGillivray, then left his line to confront Wes Burns, who was sent through the middle by Conor Chaplin’s defence-splitting pass, but was beaten by the lively wide man’s coolly slotted finish. At that exact point in the lopsided proceedings, only the hardest of hearts would have begrudged the novice keeper at least a grain of sympathy. It’s likely that his confidence had already been compromised by the clearance he shanked into touch while dealing with a criminally under-hit back pass before the first goal.

With friends like those he found in front of him, Harness had no need to look far for enemies. He’s young, he’ll get over it.

The instinctive reaction Walton produced to turn aside Stockley’s clever header from Adam Matthews’ perfect cross was the visitors’ only positive contribution to the first half.

Five minutes after the interval, they made a chaotic start to the second period by conceding for the third time. Largely responsible for their downfall was ex-Addick Macauley Bonne, regularly undermined during his stay at The Valley by the harsh criticism of his manager Lee Bowyer.

Possibly with a point to make and a score to settle, Bonne was a lively thorn in Charlton’s flesh and laid on Burns’ second strike with a perfect low ball from the left which gave Burns the easy task of sweeping home from close range. Bonne had already netted similarly in the first half but was ruled offside.

Blundering from one mini-crisis to the next, meanwhile, Charlton were woeful. Second balls were passively conceded, clearances were panicky and passing was, shall we say, less than precise. Substitutes Jake Forster-Caskey and Aneke replaced ineffectual midfielders Albie Morgan and Alex Gilbey to marginally positive effect but nothing really worked.

So devastating while rampaging down the left flank recently, Corey Blackett-Taylor was re-deployed at right wingback and, apart from delivering the delicious cross which Stockley wastefully headed against the bar, got nowhere. On an afternoon when none of Johnnie Jackson’s troops stood out, neither Akin Famewo nor Ryan Inniss put a foot right.

Skipper Jason Pearce at least cleared heroically off the goalline from Luke Woolfenden, whose talented skipper Sam Morsy contrived to scuff wide from 10 yards when neatly set up by Burns. Not that Ipswich were denied a fourth goal.

Blameless for the first three goals, poor Harness carried some of the blame for the shot which Bonne’s 85th minute replacement, James Norwood, squeezed home off the far post from a seemingly impossible position on the right byline. In mitigation, Charlton’s beleaguered debutant had received less than sturdy support from Famewo.

Norwood’s coup-de-grace provided a fitting end, not only to this dismal game, but to an equally dismal season.

Except to gratuitously single out Elkan Baggott. Youthful Tractor Boy Elkan put in a steady shift at the back but admittedly did nothing to warrant special recognition. But come on… Elkan Baggott – how often do you come across a magnificent name like that? So in he goes, lump it or like it.

Anyway, that’s me about done until we pick it up again in July. So unless you have something to add… that’s all folks!

Ipswich: Walton, Penney, Woolfenden, Burns, Bakinson, Bonne (Norwood 85), Chaplin (Humphrys 76), Celina, Donacien (Vincent-Young 56), Baggott, Morsy. Not used: Hladky, Pigott, El Mizouni, Aluko.

Charlton: Harness, Blackett-Taylor, Pearce, Famewo, Inniss, Morgan (Forster-Caskey 68), Gilbey (Aneke 54), Matthews, Dobson, Stockley, Washington (Lee 75). Not used: Henderson, Jaiyesimi, Burstow, Elerewe. Booked: Dobson.

Referee: Charles Breakspear. Att: 26,002 (1,972 visiting).

Thanks to Kevin for his reports this season. We’re glad to say he’ll be back next season, which begins on July 30.


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Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 2-0 Shrewsbury Town

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

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.

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

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Morecambe were the visitors at the Valley for the penultimate home game of the season. KEVIN NOLAN was there to witness another frustrating afternoon for the Addicks.

A harum-scarum, knockabout collision between two sides destined to finish in the lower half of League One entertained the few neutrals present, while providing painful confirmation that both of them belong among the division’s also-rans. That verdict will not bother Morecambe, for whom safety from relegation after reaching English football’s third tier via the play-offs last season qualifies as a success. Under the shrewd stewardship of Derek Adams, the Shrimpers are nailed on to survive after outlasting – and at times outclassing – their hapless hosts.

Already sporting the world-weary appearance of a man who expects little and is rarely disappointed, Charlton boss Johnnie Jackson will understandably look forward to the end of this miserable campaign. To say his side has been a massive let-down would be to stretch understatement to unplumbed depths. Inconsistency has been their benchmark, one they have paradoxically made easy to predict.

Just seven days before tumbling to this defeat, Jackson took his team to Rotherham, where they were entertained by opponents fresh from a Wembley triumph and strategically positioned to make a run for automatic promotion to the Championship. Depleted by injury and suspension of his first choice centre backs, Jackson rang the changes and was rewarded by a spirited, heartening performance and an odds-busting 1-0 victory. Stepping in to replace Sam Lavelle and Ryan Inniss, both veteran Jason Pearce and novice Akin Famewo made sterling contributions, while goalkeeper Craig McGillivray kept his fifth clean sheet in eight games, having conceded only three goals in the process.

Presumably buoyed by the solid nature of the win in South Yorkshire, The Addicks started brightly on Saturday, created but missed several half-chances, then found themselves two down at half-time after conceding a pair of well-taken but poorly defended goals.

The first of them was claimed by the ultra-prolific Cole Stockton, who made it 23 in the league and was a lively, physical handful for Pearce throughout a testing afternoon. Built like the proverbial outhouse, Stockton regularly roughed up Pearce, who was booked for an exasperated second half foul on his nemesis. Stockton also found time shortly after scoring to exchange barbs with the covered end; his detractors were doubtless reminding him of the dubious part he’d played in winning and converting a penalty, with Pearce his outwitted dupe, during the 2-2 draw back in October. They were definitely not congratulating the old-fashioned centre forward on his clever movement in finding space to meet Greg Leigh’s cutback from the right byline, nor saluting the marksmanship he showed in steering a low drive in off McGillivray’s right hand post. It was a chance he was never likely to miss.

Supporting Stockton up front, meanwhile, was lesser known quantity Arthur Gnahoua, more athletically built than his colleague, more mobile and, based on what he showed, on Saturday at least, equally ruthless in front of goal. Two minutes before the break, he picked up his skipper Aaron Wildig’s flick, cut inside from the right flank and found the same bottom corner as Stockton with a crisp low drive which gave McGillivray no chance. There was still time for visiting keeper Trevor Carson to protect his side’s interval lead by spectacularly tipping Jayden Stockley’s point blank header over the bar.

Possibly feeling some responsibility for his failure to track back in the build-up to the visitors’ opening goal, Corey Blackett-Taylor made an indelible impression on the second half. Having already established his domination of Leigh along Charlton’s left flank, he proceeded to tease and taunt the visitors to distraction as he saw more and more of the ball. Eight minutes after resumption his dynamic run to the left byline spreadeagled a posse of Shrimpers, who proved helpless to prevent him from crossing precisely to Mason Burstow at the far post. Unselfishly, the youngster headed back across goal for Stockley to prod past Carson and the Addicks were back in business – until, that is, a disastrous misjudgement by McGillivray, barely six minutes later, restored Morecambe’s two-goal lead.

Seeking to release quickly after gathering a loose ball, McGillivray’s delivery, intended for Adam Matthews, was intercepted by Dylan Connolly and promptly moved on to Gnahoua. The rangy Frenchman made use of the room given him by a hesitant Sean Clare, moved the ball on to his left foot and thundered it into the top left corner, with McGillivray no more than a guilty spectator. The Addicks had not so much shot themselves in the foot as blown all their toes off.

There were, to their credit, no signs of surrender, particularly with Blackett-Taylor in such mesmerising form. Lending him sturdy support was never-say-die George Dobson, who exploded into the visitors’ penalty area, where he was bundled off the ball by Rhys Bennett. Not quite blatant enough to warrant a penalty, decided on-the-spot referee Marc Edwards – and he was probably right. But the Addicks weren’t quite finished and came back into contention with a second goal nine minutes before the end.

Again the mercurial Blackett-Taylor was the catalyst with another twisting, stop-and-go solo run cutting through Morecambe’s resistance and carrying him to the left byline. Checking back on to his right foot, he calmly placed a dinked cross on to substitute Chuks Aneke’s head and from nine yards, the powerful striker directed a deliberate, standing header beyond Carson. With the relegation-haunted visitors in a state of panic by now, Dobson’s Cruyff turn sent Bennett on his way east while he himself headed west and should have been crowned by a superb equaliser. Unfortunately, the eager midfielder’s hurried shot cleared the bar and it was time for the fat lady to burst into song. And as far as this miserable season is concerned, not before time…

Charlton: McGillivray, Clare, Pearce, Famewo, Matthews, Dobson, Morgan (Forster-Caskey 69), Gilbey (Washington 60), Blackett-Taylor, Burstow (Aneke 75). Not used: Harness, Purrington, Jaiyesimi, Leko. Booked: Pearce.

Morecambe: Carson, Leigh, Bedeau, Wildig (McLoughlin 88), Connolly (O’Connor 82), Phillips, Gibson (Conney 77), Gnahoua, Fane, Bennett, Stockton. Not used: Smith, Diagouraga, Ayunga, McCalmont.

Referee: Marc Edwards. Att: 10,700 (350 visiting).


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