Kevin Nolan’s Locked-Down Valley View: Charlton Athletic 0-3 Blackpool

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Charlton fans had to endure another embarrassing capitulation on Saturday – KEVIN NOLAN watched the latest Valley debacle through his hands.

There was much more than a comprehensive thumping by far superior Blackpool going on at The Valley on Saturday. Much more alarming was the total breakdown of morale and discipline which destroyed Lee Bowyer’s side and made this defeat a deeply damaging experience. Owner Thomas Sandgaard, as a Dane, is better qualified than most to explain what appears to be “something rotten in the state of Charlton.”

Strip away all the kneejerk controversy surrounding two penalties, two dismissals and a disallowed goal and what’s left are the bare bones of one of the most embarrassing surrenders in Charlton’s recent history. The Seasiders won as they pleased once they realised they had nothing to beat. And in this bedraggled, acquiescent aggregation of Addicks, there was certainly nothing to beat.

It’s become an almost tongue-in-cheek joke, during Charlton’s steady deterioration, that it was just as well they already had enough points to keep them out of relegation trouble. Right now they’re stuck on 44 points, with 45 points still to play for. Piece of cake, you would reasonably conclude and under normal circumstances, your confidence would be justified. Watch a tape of this game, however, and that confidence might be shaken.

Not that I’m predicting relegation. Even Saturday’s craven crew should be able to scrape together the necessary total to survive. It won’t be easy or pretty but League One seems a beguiling prospect when compared with the horrors and rigours of life in a bottom tier which they climbed out of in the 1930s and to which they have never returned. T.G. as my Mum would say.

Bereft of on-pitch leadership and apparently lacking motivation from the sideline, where Bowyer watched in sullen detachment, the Addicks lurched through 10 ominous minutes before their collapse began. A well-judged pass from Sully Kaikai sent Ellis Sims haring past a struggling Deji Oshilaja until the desperate centre back’s petulant reaction hauled him to the ground. The penalty award seemed straightforward and Jerry Yates made the most of it by drilling the spotkick out of Ben Amos’ reach. Charlton were off and stumbling on their way to humiliation.

Shortly after Yates’ opener came an unpleasant reminder for the beleaguered home side that the “rub of the green” was not about to bail them out of the trouble they were in. When Jayden Stockley expertly headed past Chris Maxwell, he looked as onside as offside, which is another way of stating that the evidence was subjective and inconclusive to all but one of referee Huxtable’s linesmen, who flagged in Blackpool’s favour. The put-upon Stockley was similarly victimised four days previously during the 2-1 defeat by Burton Albion. Right now, the big striker just can’t catch a break.

The price paid for Stockley’s misfortune increased on 38 minutes when the Tangerines doubled their lead. Simms fed Virtue, who made ground as the Addicks melted before him. From outside the penalty area, the midfielder launched a fierce drive which eluded Amos on its way, off an upright, into the left corner. Darren Pratley hadn’t exactly distinguished himself in his less than diligent pursuit of Virtue, turned instead to Vice, and picked up what turned out to be a costly yellow card before the break.

Re-emerging after the interval with no fewer than four substitutes, Charlton’s clearly expressed intentions to have a go were immediately undermined by Pratley’s almost instant dismissal. With the situation clearly demanding that his captain be among the replaced quartet, Bowyer’s ill-advised faith left him available to clash with defender Jordan Gabriel on the left byline. Capable of falling out with himself in an empty room, Pratley’s excesses earned him a second caution and summary dismissal.

Down to 10 men, the Addicks wasted little time in making their plight even more daunting by conceding a second penalty, this one donated by deputy captain Ben Watson, who illegally halted Yates’ progress inside the penalty area. Having artfully exploited fleeting contact, Yates brushed himself off before squeezing a less impressive second spotkick past Amos. So far, the home side had received less than exemplary service from either of their skippers.

Now 3-0 in arrears and without a hope in heaven or hell of making any inroads on them, Charlton did the next best thing and found yet another foot through which to shoot themselves. There was probably minimal malice in the arm Chuks Aneke carelessly threw into the face of centre back Dan Ballard as they disputed a high ball, but intent played no part in Huxtable’s decision to produce a straight red card. Both Aneke and Pratley were dismissed for the second time this season.

With games blending into each other as this miserable season winds down, there is little time to agonise over Saturday February 27th, a day of infamy in Charlton’s chequered history. Unplumbed depths of ineptitude were tapped but we move on – as they say – to Wigan on Tuesday evening, where the only way – as again they say – is up.

Courage, mes braves…

Charlton: Amos, Gunter, Oshilaja, Famewo, Purrington (Maatsen 46), Shinnie, Jaiyesimi (Smith 46), Millar (Watson 46), Pratley, Stockley (Schwartz 82), Washington (Aneke 46). Not used: Harness, Pearce. Booked: Oshilaja, Famewo, Shinnie. Sent off: Pratley, Aneke.

Blackpool: Maxwell, Gabriel, Ballard, Thorniley, Garbutt, Stewart, Virtue, Ward (Robson 83), Kaikai (Mitchell 62), Simms (Shaw 83), Yates (Embleton 69). Not used: Moore, Turton, Dougall. Booked: Yates. Referee: F. Huxtable.


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Kevin Nolan’s Locked-Down Valley View: Charlton Athletic 1-2 Burton Albion

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

The Addicks slumped to another home defeat last night, this time to bottom-of-the-table Burton Albion. KEVIN NOLAN wonders what happened to their play-off push.

It was on November 24th last year that Charlton’s bright start to the 2020-21 season began to unravel. Their unbeaten run of eight games was brought to a shattering end by bottom-of-the table Burton Albion, who ruthlessly exposed their victims’ defensive posturing and brushed them aside on their way to an emphatic 4-2 victory. The Addicks’ demoralising defeat set in motion the patchy form that has left them hanging on by their badly chewed fingernails in the promotion play-offs race.

Almost precisely three months later, the Brewers arrived at The Valley still statistically the worst side in League One and did it again. Winners only five times in 27 league games, they reduced Charlton to nerve-shredded losers, for whom the final whistle came as a huge relief. As it was to countless disenchanted Valley Pass customers, who found their team’s feckless, spiritless, ultimately pointless surrender hard to stomach. If there’s such a sound as a barrel being scraped, it was heard in SE7 on Tuesday evening. It makes an ugly noise.

For 20 exhilarating minutes, to be fair, this season-defining result seemed highly unlikely. Making a bright, vibrant start, Charlton swarmed all over their visitors. As early as the 3rd minute, Jayden Stockley climbed high to meet Deji Oshilaja’s precise cross from the left to bullet a header which was goalbound until Ben Garratt spectacularly fingertipped it on to the bar before batting the rebound to safety. Stockley’s disbelief was palpable but he hadn’t long to wait for better luck. Timing Andrew Shinnie’s outswinging corner with stylish ease, this time he gave Garratt no chance with a firm, downward header.

Recent setbacks after taking early leads have made cautious nonbelievers of their supporters but, Charlton briefly seemed capable of making easy work of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s struggling side. They came within inches of doubling their lead when Edwards fouled Liam Millar and Shinnie cannoned the resultant free kick off Garratt’s bar. A second goal might have made all the difference but you know what they say about ifs and ands making pots and pans. It can’t be done.

As it turned out, Charlton’s bolt had already been shot. As good as they’d briefly been, they quickly degenerated into a leaderless rabble, incapable of delivering the simplest of passes to its intended destination or winning the most innocuous of tackles. Their early confidence quickly dissolved into hesitancy and uncertainty, with every decision an energy-sapping effort. There’s a word that covers it all but as you probably witnessed this debacle, you might wish to use your own. In the 24th minute, Albion’s equaliser punctured their pretensions and ended their illusions though, ironically, it could have been stopped almost at source.

It was no secret that a routine throw near the tunnel was intended for Jonny Smith but Diallang Jaiyesimi reacted sluggishly and showed little appetite for the ugly but necessary elements of the game. Smith was allowed to escape to the byline and cross dangerously. Too strong for the posse of Addicks’ defenders surrounding him, Mike Fondop rose imperiously to bully a header past an indecisive Ben Amos. The writing was written clearly on the wall for Charlton and it made depressing reading.

It took the Brewers less than ten second-half minutes to complete their comeback and secure the points they desperately needed to climb off the bottom of the division. And if a slice of good fortune attended their winning goal, it also received a helping hand from the possession Adam Matthews carelessly conceded inside the home half. Substitute Danny Rowe took up the running and tried his luck speculatively from the left. His optimistic shot caught a treacherous deflection off Ben Watson’s hand, changed course and beat Amos’ frantic effort to keep it out of the top right corner.

With more than a half hour remaining, you might suppose that the visitors came under intense pressure to hang on to their lead. Well, you would suppose wrong. The Addicks came closest to equalising when Ben Purrington, their best player on a dreary, demoralising evening, turned on Stockley’s back header to shoot right-footed but was foiled by Garratt’s smart save. Millar’s pass then sent Chuks Aneke through but Edwards’ diligent tracking enabled him to whisk the ball off the big substitute’s toe.

Burton expertly dallied and dillied to the final whistle as Charlton lost their way and didn’t know where to go. Chances are they’re going nowhere; neither up nor down but in stodgy mid-table, grateful for the 44 points they already have.

Charlton: Amos, Matthews, Pearce (Schwartz 72), Pratley, Oshilaja, Purrington (Maatsen 72), Shinnie, Watson (Smith 85), Jaiyesimi (Aneke 56), Stockley, Millar. Not used: Harness, Famewo, Washington.

Burton: Garratt, Hamer, Carter, Bostwick, Gallacher (Brayford 68), Smith, Edwards, Wallace (Rowe 38), Clare, Akins, Fondop (Mancienne 75). Not used: O’Hara, Powell, Varney, Broom.

Referee: Chris Pollard.


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Kevin Nolan’s Locked-Down Valley View: Charlton Athletic 2-3 Gillingham

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Charlton’s poor run of form behind closed doors at The Valley continued with defeat to Gillingham. KEVIN NOLAN suffered on the sofa.

Three magnificent strikes, any of which would have graced the Premier League, proved one hurdle too many for Charlton, who replied twice but finished on the short end of another Valley thriller.

Needless to say, falling behind to frankly moderate opposition invites disaster but recently the Addicks have made it their business to lend a hand to any side with a hard luck story. Still in a parlous plight near League One’s relegation zone, Gillingham performed with the edge they customarily bring to the so-called “A2 derby”, a fixture they tackle with added bite, before heading back into Kent with three priceless points.

Their victory was secured by an 86th minute winner, scored against 10-men hosts who proved yet again vulnerable to the curse of the late goal, having already invented a new wrinkle by conceding an opener while the game’s time clock was still ticking off seconds rather than minutes.

There were, in fact, 45 officially elapsed seconds when Ollie Lee made space for a wonderfully-struck drive from outside Charlton’s penalty area which bent away from Ben Amos’ full length dive and found the right corner of the keeper’s net. The record shows that Lee, son of, er, Rob Lee, aka Robert Lee of this parish, was set up by John Akinde. But it was work born of his own sublime inspiration.

Some 85 minutes later, with the scores level at 2-2, Lee made a significant contribution to Gills’skipper Kyle Dempsey’s brutally struck match-winner. Charlton had been driven back into their own half by mounting pressure, made more intense by the 70th minute dismissal of Chuks Aneke, whose rat-a-tat yellow cards were deserved for careless rather than malicious transgressions. The depleted Addicks appeared to have clung on to a useful point when Lee shuddered the crossbar with a resounding drive but the rebound was recycled through a rattled defence for Dempsey to smash past Amos from a difficult angle. Impressive though Dempsey’s strike was, it qualified in the bronze medal position alongside the visitors’ first and second goals.

To their credit – and Charlton did emerge with some credit from this sickening setback – they fought back with spirit and not a little imagination.

They came agonisingly close to equalising on two occasions; first Aneke flicked Liam Millar through to round Jack Bonham but the winger’s effort from the left byline was cleared off the goalline by Jack Tucker. Then Aneke ghosted past Tucker and Robbie Cundy but crashed an acutely angled shot off the crossbar; he was unlucky to hit the woodwork again following Millar’s clever set-up. His persistence was rewarded three minutes later when Millar’s short cross reached him near the far post. A quick change of feet enabled him to finish with his less favoured left foot. Charlton were level and were good value for equality.

With Gillingham faltering, only Bonham’s splendid, sprawling save from Darren Pratley’s vicious volley kept the startled visitors on terms. Their brief wobble was summarily ended by a wonderfully volleyed goal from left back Ogilvie. His contender for Goal of the Season exploded past a comprehensively beaten Amos from 25 yards and punished several half hearted attempts to clear either Dempsey’s hopeful cross or Lee’s nudged assist.

Panic seems the default setting among a defence capable of caving in under the most modest pressure. Clearances are hurried, possession is surrendered, mistakes have become routine. It’s all a far cry from the tightly-organised rearguard which kept six consecutive clean sheets back in October. The spirit remains intact but a punishing injury list has apparently sapped confidence and resolve. Gillingham were the latest opponents who seemed capable of scoring every time they crossed the halfway line.

It’s only fair to point out that the Addicks are tasty enough going forward. In Aneke and Stockley, they have a lively pair of front runners, who were well served by Andrew Shinnie, Millar and, until his untimely departure on 26 minutes, by the constantly improving Jake Forster-Caskey. Both forwards scored, with Stockley’s fine equaliser shortly after the break inspiring hope that the initiative had been seized by Lee Bowyer’s resurgent side; hope that was extinguished by Aneke’s needless dismissal, at which point the pendulum swung decisively back to Steve Evans’ Medway men. It couldn’t have settled in less popular hands but Evans knew what to do with it.

The Addicks’ second leveller was less spectacular than any of Gills’ goals but it was thoughtfully designed and coolly executed. The creativity was supplied by Shinnie, whose tailored cross from the right practically demanded it be treated accordingly. Timing his jump expertly, Stockley headed deliberately back across Bonham into the right corner.

The Gills were now sitting ducks, with Evans a particularly plump target, oven-ready to be picked off. But thanks to Aneke and Dempsey, it all went wrong again. We should have known better…

Charlton: Amos, Gunter, Oshilaja, Pearce, Purrington (Schwartz 82), Millar, Forster-Caskey (Jaiysimi 25), Pratley (Morgan 90), Shinnie, Stockley, Aneke. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Harness, Matthews, Smith, Watson. Booked: Purrington, Aneke (2).

Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Cundy, Tucker, Ogilvie, Dempsey, O’Keefe, (McKenzie 59), Lee, O’Connor, Oliver (McDonald 90), Akinde. Not used: Bastien, Morton, Willock, Johnson, Maghoma. Booked: Jackson, McKenzie.


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