Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 1-0 Hull City

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

The Addicks signed off for the season with a win – but KEVIN NOLAN fretted at The Valley as Charlton fell short of the play-offs on goal difference.

It was always a tough ask for Charlton to make good on the last day of an unusually fraught season. A far-fetched farrago of favourable results was needed to creep into sixth place. And while we’re giving what HG Wells’ Mr Polly referred to as “allitrition’s artful aid”, an outing, the Addicks were relying on Portsmouth and Oxford to feel the fear factor and freeze while they themselves knocked over champions Hull City.

As it turned out, Charlton gallantly delivered the first part of the three-part survival programme by squeezing past Grant McCann’s pressure-free Tigers. That they did so by virtue of a late own goal is neither here nor there. They went toe-to-toe with the champs and saw them off. They could do no more than that and deserve credit for taking it to the wire.

On the South Coast, meanwhile, serial chokers Portsmouth did their bit by failing miserably to beat nothing-to-play-for Accrington Stanley. Which left the reasonable hope that Burton Albion might similarly do the business against Oxford at the Kassam Stadium. Winners twice over Charlton during the season, the Brewers had performed superbly under new manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to stave off the relegation which seemed certain at one point.

Possibly they intended to go out with a bang, or so we deluded ourselves. We should have known better. A goal down in 10 minutes, Burton ended the first half 2-0 in arrears, then slipped tamely to 4-0 defeat. They “didn’t turn up” according to their unapologetic gaffer, with no word of explanation as to why that had been the case.

Hardly the most popular of ex-players during his irritating spell with Charlton, Hasselbaink earned a reputation as a pain in the rear end, which had as much to do with his burgeoning undercarriage as it did to his grovelling attitude after scoring for Charlton against his former club Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Uriah Heep couldn’t have prostrated himself more obsequiously than the conscience-stricken Hasselbaink. No chance of a repeat performance after Burton went AWOL at Oxford.

Instead, the thick-skinned Dutchman added fuel to the flames by airily commenting that “you need to find a different edge for these games. In a way, sometimes it’s good to lose and today was a good day to lose and put things into perspective.” To which the only response appears to be “Twerp!”

Charlton’s failure to make the top six in a below-average League One was not, of course, based on the events of one disappointing day; nor did it come down entirely to their ironic missing of a last kick penalty at, of all places, Oxford, on March 6th.

Their failure was corporate, not individual, with regular self-inflicted setbacks causing their downfall. Feel free to pick your own cock-up from the many on offer.

With the tension removed from a potentially see-saw afternoon by Burton’s meek capitulation, Adkins’ Addicks dispassionately took care of their all-conquering visitors.

There was a distinct lack of drama inside The Valley as a solid defence denied the Brewers only rare glimpses of their goal, the clearest of which ex-Addick Josh Magennis enjoyed after only five minutes. Slipped through a square defence by Gavin Whyte’s razor-sharp pass, the burly striker was foiled at close range by Ben Amos’ expertly deployed left leg.

City were never to come as close again as Ryan Inniss and Akin Famewo barred entry to their penalty area. The mastery of Ian Maatsen over danger man Mallik Wilks , meanwhile, was equally impressive. As the Addicks dominated the second half in front of their favoured Covered End, Maatsen found time and space to link up with Liam Millar, whose searing runs sapped Hull’s resolve and ultimately led to the winning goal.

It was Maatsen’s first-half delivery that set up a chance for Conor Washington to claim what would have been a viable candidate for Charlton’s goal of the season. His soaring ball over the top was treated to a magical first touch which set up an instinctive volley only inches wide of the target.

With the Tigers admittedly toothless and apparently looking forward to their post-whistle celebrations, the Addicks finally made the breakthrough with a quarter of an hour left.

Another of Millar’s right-footed crosses after cutting in from the left landed wickedly in the six-yard area and was desperately palmed away by Matt Ingram.

Unfortunately for the scrambling keeper, his weak clearance hit Jacob Greaves and rolled over the line. It was a scruffy goal entirely suited to an inelegant game. But for a change, it was Charlton who scored it.

Under Nigel Adkins’ guidance and a hopefully shrewd recruitment programme, the future looks bright. As they say in football, we go again in three months. See you there.

Charlton: Amos; Matthews, Inniss, Famewo, Maatsen; Morgan, Watson (Shinnie 69), Gilbey; Washington (Aneke 57), Stockley, Millar. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Gunter, Pearce, Pratley, Jaiyesimi. Booked: Gilbey, Innis.

Hull City: Ingram; Coyle, Jones, Greaves, Elder (Emmanuel 34); Slater (Wood 80), Docherty (Smallwood 80); Wilks, Whyte, Lewis-Potter (Crowley 57); Magennis (Scott 80) Not used: Long, Burke. Booked: Docherty, Wood


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Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 2-2 Crewe Alexandra

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

The Addicks’ push for the play-offs took another stumble last night thanks to a last-minute equaliser for Crewe Alexandra. An increasingly anxious KEVIN NOLAN was at The Valley.

With the five allotted stoppage minutes already played, Charlton were hanging on by a badly-chewed fingernail to the 2-1 lead given them by Alex Gilbey’s apparently decisive late goal.

To say they were doing it comfortably would be abusing the truth. They were, in fact, a panic-stricken rabble incapable of making clean contact with a ball which caromed, ricocheted and otherwise awkwardly skittered around their penalty area. The confusion was awe-inspiring but the Addicks appeared to have staggered to the line unscathed.

Referee Trevor Kettle – Whistling T Kettle to his chums around the league – begged to differ. He had nowhere to be, nothing to do, no promises to keep. “The man that made time made plenty of it,” was his attitude, so “take as much of it as you need” became his message to never-say-die Crewe.

Midfielder Owen Dale needed no such encouragement and sorted out an ugly scramble in Charlton’s six-yard box by hammering an unstoppable volley past a helpless Ben Amos.

Dale’s overtime equaliser was the second sickening body-blow suffered by Charlton in the dying embers. News had filtered through that up in Accrington, John Marquis had completed Portsmouth’s recovery from 2-0 down by firing Pompey ahead 3-2 in the 90th minute. Abruptly, the situation flip-flopped in favour of the South Coasters but wait… Marquis wasn’t through for the night. In the 7th minute of added time, he’d slipped down the other end and put through his own goal. You just gotta love this guy!

With the dust nicely settled, the equation is now starkly simple. Charlton are trailing Portsmouth and Oxford by two points and one points respectively. But they have a game in hand over both of their rivals. Win all three of their remaining games and they’re in the play-offs, it’s as easy as that. And the three games? They line up as follows – Accrington (a), play-off certs Lincoln (h) and finally, champions-elect Hull City (h).

A difficult task becomes more daunting when their home record (25 points) is weighed against their away record (42 points). In other words, they’re nearly twice as effective on the road. Making it into the play-offs ranks among the longest of longshots but, c’mon, that’s better than no shot at all.

Of urgent concern to Nigel Adkins must be the manner in which his side was comfortably handled by modest achievers Crewe, eight of whose starters were academy graduates. The sinister story of abuse which temporarily destroyed the club’s splendid record is history now and needs no repetition here. The kids and management who ran Charlton ragged on Tuesday evening are untainted by the scandal and did Alex proud. They could even afford to spot their hopeful hosts an early lead.

Making their first inroads into the visitors’ territory, the Addicks turned their defence on the left flank. Liam Millar’s measured pass played Alex Gilbey in behind Harry Pickering to cross head-high on the run. Stealing a critical half-yard on marker Donervon Daniels, Jayden Stockley’s brave diving header beat Will Jaaskalainen and Charlton were off to an important, tension-easing start. Or so it seemed.

The truth was somewhat different. Far from calming local nerves, the first half was spent in jittery defence of the lead. Crewe lived up to their reputation for neat, constructive football and threatened occasionally to haul themselves level. Centre forward Mikael Madron wasted a couple of chances, while the persistent Dale curled narrowly wide after fine wing play by Callum Ainley.

All style in their approach but little substance in the final third where it matters – that was the dismissive opinion along the press ranks as Crewe dominated possession without end product. Until, of course, 22-year old Dale, from nearby Warrington, put that notion to the sword.

Charlton were growing steadily more anxious as the second half wore on and it was no surprise when Alex equalised midway through the session. Exchanging passes with diminutive Tom Lowery in the inside right channel, Dale shifted the ball on to his left foot before bending a cunning shot into the far corner. It was a goal that Charlton’s passive attitude had been inviting since Stockley opened the scoring.

Conor Washington had already replaced Ian Maatsen soon after the break to protect the youngster from a second yellow card. When he was joined by Chuks Aneke on for the ineffectual Millar, the Addicks at last took the fight to their well-drilled opponents. Aneke’s powerful running produced a ball in from the left which barely eluded Washington as the pendulum briefly swung. And with seven minutes left, Gilbey was on hand to head through Jaaskalainen’s legs after Aneke nodded down Jake Forster’s outswinging corner.

Both Aneke and Washington brought new menace and fresh legs with them. The latter’s forceful run down the middle looked likely to produce a clinching third goal until he was overwhelmed by force of numbers; Aneke also went close but his powerful low cross was claimed by Jaaskalainen, with Washington in predatory attendance.Still, Crewe persisted with admirable patience which brought its reward as the Addicks degenerated into blind panic.

“I enjoyed watching my side tonight,” remarked visiting gaffer David Artell. Under different circumstances, Dave, we couldn’t agree more. But don’t hurry back. You can get too much of a good thing…

Charlton: Amos; Matthews, Famewo, Pearce, Purrington, Gilbey, Watson (Pratley 75), Forster-Caskey, Maatsen (Washington 54), Millar (Aneke 68), Stockley (Innis 75). Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Gunter, Morgan. Booked: Maatsen, Gilbey, Pearce

Crewe: Jaaskelainen; Adebisi, Wood, Danels, Pickering, Lowery Wintle, Ainley (Porter 86), Dale, Mandron, Kirk. Not used: Richards, Lancashire, Johson, Beckles, Walker, Evans. Booked: Dale, Wood 45

Referee: Trevor Kettle


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Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 0-1 Peterborough United

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

How do you follow up a thumping 6-0 victory on the road? By sliding to defeat at The Valley, of course. KEVIN NOLAN watched from the press box.

After the feast…famine. Fresh from filling their boots with six goals at Plymouth in midweek, Charlton fought gamely against automatic promotion certainties Peterborough United but were unable to find to find the one goal they needed to earn a valuable point. A missed penalty by Jayden Stockley was as close as they came with the Posh using all their nous and an occasional stroke of luck to shut them out.

On the positive side, Charlton matched – and during a spirited second half performance often more than matched – their talented visitors but fell just short. While play-off rivals Oxford United were finishing off what was left of Plymouth Argyle and Portsmouth were ponderously squeaking past hapless Bristol Rovers, the Addicks slipped down to 8th place. Tuesday’s game in hand at home to Crewe looks like defining, if not deciding, their incident-packed season. They are overdue to put right the indifferent home form which has stunted their progress.

This hectic, evenly-contested duel hinged on the coolness shown by Johnson Clarke-Harris in converting what was his only clearcut chance and the subsequent failure, by Stockley, to equalise from the penalty spot. The prolific Clarke-Harris capitalised on Charlton’s customary tepid start to fire his side in front after just nine minutes. A needless foul by Liam Millar on Frankie Kent conceded a free kick which keeper Josef Bursik took quickly to Kent; the defender kept the ball moving to Sammie Szmodics, who slipped a promising pass in to Clarke-Harris. One touch of his left foot set up an unstoppable low shot which beat Ben Amos on its way into the bottom corner. It was a fine strike by a player brimming with confidence who expects to convert every chance.

Szmodics has almost kept pace with Clarke-Harris in providing United with a lethal scoring partnership this season. It was his quick-fire double which overhauled Charlton’s one-goal lead back in January and shortly after his partner scored, he should have increased his side’s advantage. Skilfully put through by Kent, he confronted Amos one-on-one near the penalty spot. Shooting hurriedly, he was foiled by the keeper’s instinctive touch which carried the ball wide.

Encouraged by their escape, the Addicks hit back through Millar, whose angled pass sent Alex Gilbey briefly clear of Kent, whose panicky challenge brought down the rapidly improving midfielder inside the penalty area. Referee Keith Stroud pointed to the spot which left Charlton to decide who would take the decisive kick. Hindsight is, of course, never wrong but the choice of Stockley, whose six goals have all been headers, seemed a curious one. An unconvincing effort cleared off the line by Ipswich a week earlier ranks as a rare shot delivered by an honest-to-goodness trier, who spends most games with his back to the opposition goal and thrives on headed chances. Sure enough, Stockley’ s shot was comfortably saved by Bursik and Charlton’s best chance had already come and gone. Jake Forster-Caskey might have been a better bet. That’s hindsight talking, of course. And hindsight’s always got something to say.

Before the interval, Millar’s miscued cross had Bursik scrambling back on his goalline to conjure the ball to safety. In response, Amos alertly narrowed the angle as Szmodics played in Joe Ward and hurried the midfielder into shooting over the bar. The Addicks retired for their break still in with a chance of salvaging something from a nip-and-tuck game. It was certainly not lack of effort which denied them. Instead there were grounds for optimism in their second half performance which, if they can carry it into the huge game against Crewe, might change the mood in SE7.

At the heart of the rally was Gilbey, whose form since Nigel Adkins arrived, has blossomed. A diffident figure under Lee Bowyer, who clearly didn’t rate him, the big midfielder was bristling for the fight. His powerful runs, seen to advantage when winning the penalty, troubled the visitors and inspired anxiety in their ranks. It was clearly no reflection on his contribution that he was replaced by Chuks Aneke with a quarter hour left. With Tuesday the priority, the caution he’d picked up made it a sensible move to withdraw him.

Entering the fray in the 77th minute, meanwhile, Aneke showed enough to suggest a start against Crewe is on the cards, possibly alongside Conor Washington, whose late appearance was a subtle nudge on Adkins’ elbow. Diallang Jaiyesisi’s premature departure probably frees up one place, while the ever willing Stockley might prosper, temporarily at least, as an impact sub. So with a touch of foresight, hindsights’s bitter rival, it’s predicted that an Aneke-Washington forward line could feature against Crewe. Unless, of course, Adkins goes for broke, includes Stockley and plays three up front. That’s probably pushing it but the prospect is appealing.

Adkins has other problems to solve before Tuesday, not least of which is the enigma called Liam Millar. The Liverpool loanee teased and taunted an above average Peterborough rearguard, marshalled superbly by Mark Beevers. On seemingly countless occasions, he twinkle-toed past an ever-growing posse of defenders, had their goal in his sights but just as regularly failed to exploit his advantage by poor decision-making. Crosses were tamely directed into Bursik’s hands, killer passes were constantly cut out by Beevers and his mates. A midfield comprising Millar, Gilbey and Jake Forster-Caskey should be a match for any in the division but only if the talented Canadian adds substance to his undeniable style, something he did brilliantly when setting up Gilbey for the penalty.

So it comes down to Tuesday and a nothing-to-lose, everything-to-gain engagement with the Railwaymen of Crewe. The crabbed, fear-filled progress of Oxford, Portsmouth, not to mention the continuing vulnerability of Blackpool, offers genuine hope of a play-off slot. It’s time to hold your nerve. Though they lost, Charlton held theirs against Posh. Four more times, Nigel, if you please…

Charlton: Amos, Matthews, Pearce, Innis (Famewo 83), Purrington, Forster-Caskey, Watson, Jaiyesimi (Morgan 24, Washington 83), Gilbey (Aneke 77), Millar, Stockley. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Gunter, Pratley. Booked: Gilbey

Peterborough: Bursik; Thompson (Mason 71), Kent, Beevers, Butler, Hamilton (Reed 68), Taylor, Ward, Szmodics, Dembele (Burrows 87), Clarke-Harris. Not used: Gyollai, Eisa, Ricky-Jade Jones, Kanu. Booked: Thompson

Referee: Keith Stroud.


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