The Addicks notched up a crucial win against relegation contenders Luton Town yesterday. KEVIN NOLAN was there for The Charlton Champion.
The plaudits and headlines saluting Charlton’s crucial victory over gritty Luton Town will, in time-honoured fashion, be claimed by goal machine Lyle Taylor and battery-powered George Lapslie. Quite right too, of course, given Taylor’s prodigious return of 11 goals from just 14 starts plus five substitute appearances. And not to mention the lift to the whole stadium provided by Lapslie, who marked his return from a lengthy injury absence by easing the tension with the rare luxury of a game-clinching goal.
Newly named as captain, Taylor justified his promotion with yet another inspirational performance, which he crowned with a superbly-taken opening goal and the latest of his patented “walking football” spotkicks. He illuminates an otherwise honest-to-goodness side with his insatiable will-to-win and in-opponents’-face chutzpah.
Lapslie took over from a struggling Deji Oshilaja ten minutes into the second half to make his first appearance since November 9th. Knuckling down immediately, he supplied energy and wholehearted commitment to the cause.
As “one of their own” there could no more popular a goalscorer at a nervous Valley than blond-haired George. This was his first goal in a serious Charlton game. His recall to the colours provides Lee Bowyer with a perfectly timed boost ahead of a tricky 12-game run-in.
Another Addick with a case to be regarded as home grown is pocket-sized Erhun Oztumer, who was released at 16 from the academy set-up and has spent several somewhat aimless seasons in virtual exile. Given a second chance with Charlton, he is making the most of it. Until he was replaced by the excellent Macauley Bonne with 12 minutes left, Oztumer was a ballplaying delight, his subtle passing, long or short where the situation dictated, driving more than one Hatter mad. It was his cross, following a short corner routine worked with Josh Cullen, which Naby Sarr drove powerfully against the underside of Simon Sluga’s crossbar. The keeper temporarily preserved equality by alertly tipping Alfie Doughty’s ripsnorter to safety but ran out of luck just past the half-hour mark.
Another short corner, delivered by Cullen and half-=cleared from the visiting penalty area was picked up by David Davis and slipped forward to Taylor, lurking among a posse of white-shirted defenders. The striker’s turn was improbably sharp, the low drive he whiplashed into the bottom left corner an unstoppable force of nature. Ironic that such a marvellously-taken goal was cancelled out within two minutes.
Town had acquitted themselves well and had been unlucky when Luke Berry’s fierce shot deflected harmlessly over the bar off Tom Lockyer. They hit back gamely and were gifted their equaliser by David Davis, whose disastrously scuffed clearance of Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu’s low centre was crisply driven past Dillon Phillips by an impressively cool Harry Cornick. The interval provided timely relief for Bowyer’s rattled Addicks but they re-grouped admirably and went in search of the coup-de-grace.
Oztumer’s understated influence was quickly in evidence, his craftily weighted pass sending Taylor rampaging through to deliver hard and low from the left. Sliding in, Andre Green seemed certain to score but prodded wide from six yards. “Harder to miss” was Bowyer’s unkind but hastily mitigated reaction to the squandered chance.
Premature Luton celebrations
Ten minutes after resumption, Cornick crossed from the right, James Collins tapped in at the far post and the packed Jimmy Seed Stand celebrated wildly. Prematurely, as it turned out. A linesman’s flag ruled Collins offside, much to the chagrin and bitterly-expressed displeasure of Hatters boss Graeme Jones. He might have had a point but that’s how it so often goes when you’re looking up from the bottom of the league.
Insult was added to Jones’s perceived injury when Charlton regained the lead on the hour. Lapslie was proving a persistent thorn in their side and after picking up the pieces left by the latest of Cullen’s short corners he let fly uninhibitedly, his shot blocked by Collins’ carelessly outflung hand inside the area. Taylor walked the walk to convert the inevitable penalty, then talked the talk to remind Luton’s ill-advised fans of the foulmouthed abuse they had heaped on him before he scored in the first half. Lyle isn’t one to forgive or forget.
Hardly overworked while his colleagues coped with the visitors’ rare attacks, Phillips did his bit by spectacularly tipping George Moncur’s potent drive over his bar. Lapslie promptly stepped up to settle the nerves. Urged by Bowyer to “get into the box”, he was in the right place at the right time to convert Bonne’s low ball in from the right byline. Made by Bonne, finished by Lapslie, two players fresh from Sparrows Lane Infirmary; it’s been Bowyer’s frequently stated belief that as the injuries began to clear up, Charlton would thrive. This goal bears him out.
Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Oshilaja (Lapslie 55), Sarr, Doughty, Davis, Cullen, Oztumer (Bonne 78), Green (Pearce 88), Taylor. Not used: Amos, McGeady, Smith, Hemed. Booked: Oshilaja, Taylor.
Luton: Sluga, Potts, Pearson, Tunnicliffe, Bree (Bolton 82), Carter-Vickers, Cornick (Moncur 70), Rea (McManaman 70), Berry, Mpanzu, Collins. Not used: Stech, Cranie, Hylton, Shinnie. Booked: Tunnicliffe.
Referee: Andre Marriner. Attendance: 18,969 (2,785 visiting).
This one’s for Les Turner, who is seriously ill in hospital. Fight on, Les. We can’t do it without you.