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

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Yesterday’s lunchtime kick-off was one to forget as the Addicks ground out a goalless draw. KEVIN NOLAN put his shoulder to the wheel at The Valley.

The puzzling conundrum of Charlton’s poor home form appears to have stumped even new manager Nigel Adkins, who put a brave face on this latest disappointment and declared “we’ve got the feel of the place…it’s the first time for me, playing at home at The Valley. It gives me an understanding of where we’ve got to try and keep improving on moving forward because it’s a big, big pitch.”

If he felt the merest hint of frustration, Adkins was at pains to hide it but thousands of fans who coughed up a tenner to endure this scrappy, frankly awful game were under no such constraint. To a man and woman they had burned while Charlton fiddled their way through 90+ minutes of scruffiness.

A game as insipid as this one can be redeemed in only one way – by the winning of it – and that proved beyond the reach of Adkins’ Addicks.

There were times indeed on this sun-drenched Saturday, not least during a torrid opening quarter hour, when out-of-form Ipswich threatened to pinch the point which leaves Charlton hovering just outside the play-off places, two points behind stuttering Portsmouth with a game in hand.

Fortunately, the Tractor Boys’ ambition stretched no further than a draw and they departed for Suffolk as happy as sandboys.

Forced to make one change after Ian Maatsen limped off injured at Sunderland, Adkins recalled Liam Millar in the loanee youngster’s place and deployed his personnel in an attacking 4-3-3 formation. The intention was to carry the fight to the visitors, who responded by dominating the early possession and coming within a whisker of grabbing an early lead.

Ben Amos was forced into immediate action to keep out a fierce header from James Norwood, who met Andre Dozzell’s setpiece at close range. The wrongfooted keeper received stout support from his skipper Jason Pearce, who blocked Keanan Bennetts’ follow-up on the goalline.

As the Addicks struggled to gain a foothold in a game they were expected to control, it became evident how much they miss Conor Washington, whose wholehearted willingness to chase lost causes, run the channels tirelessly and play off the shoulder of target man Jayden Stockley, made him invaluable.

The Northern Irish international’s goals arrived at vital times while, during his absence, they have dried up for the unsupported Stockley. Charlton’s forwards have hit a wall, with the slack picked up recently by unlikely scorers in Maatsen, Alex Gilbey and Diallang Jaiyesimi, all of whom opened their account for the club. Those priceless wins at Doncaster and Sunderland were won by doggedness and guts; Atkins can only dream of resounding victories by three or four-goal margins but no doubt he will deal with it.

It’s surely a matter of time, meanwhile, before Ryan Inniss adds his name to the list of all-time scorers. The opening goal at the Stadium of Light was down to his massive influence on setpieces in the opposition’s box while, against Ipswich, he was foiled only by a sharp save by Thomas Holy after meeting Jake Forster-Caskey’s outswinging corner with a firm downward header. The Czech keeper was less impressive in fumbling Ben Purrington’s deep cross but was bailed out by Mark McGuiness’s goalline clearance from Stockley’s attempt to bury the loose ball.

If this begins to sound like an end-to-end ding-dong, well, to be fair, it staggered along those lines for a while.

With possession exchanged like drunken sailors, it was Town’s turn to go close when Teddy Bishop burst into the penalty area and presented an onrushing Bennetts with a perfectly judged cutback. Staring the gift horse in its mouth, Bennetts kicked it into what would have been an appreciative North Stand. By now it was clear that clinical finishing didn’t feature on the agenda of either side.

Neither Jaiyesimi’s header, forceful enough but directed straight at Holy after being set up by Stockley’s flick, nor the unconvincing shot from Liam Millar routinely saved by Holy, disturbed that impression.

A fine effort from Forster-Caskey narrowly cleared the bar before Purrington created a last chance from which Stockley’s low drive drew a capable save from Holy before this discouraging, disheartening game fizzled into richly-merited obscurity.

It was then time to check elsewhere what damage had been done by Charlton’s failure to beat the misfiring Tractor Boys. And reassuringly, the Addicks are still in with a solid chance of crawling into the play-offs.

Lincoln City have inconveniently pulled themselves together, Sunderland lost to Blackpool but probably have enough points already while the Seasiders have hit form at the right time. But here’s a reason to be cheerful… Milton Keynes 1 Portsmouth 0, which leaves Pompey two points ahead of us in sixth place but with one more game played.

But wait up, there’s Oxford United to worry about as well. They beat Gillingham 3-2 in the last minute and leapfrogged us into sixth place, two points ahead. But we have two games in hand on them. Still with me?

Charlton: Amos, Matthews, Inniss, Pearce, Purrington, Pratley (Watson 61), Jaiyesimi, Forster-Caskey, Gilbey, Millar, Stockley. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Gunter, Oshilaja, Famewo, Shinnie, Schwartz. Booked: Jaiyesimi, Watson.

Ipswich: Holy, McGuiness, Ward (Kenlock 70), Woolfenden, Edwards, Norwood (Jackson 25), Bishop (Sears 70), Bennetts, Downes, Dozzell, Vincent-Young. Not used: Cornell, Chambers, Skuse, Dobra. Booked: Dozzell.

Referee: Craig Hicks.


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

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

“HERE’S JOHNNNNEEEEEEEEE!!!” The Charlton Champion’s KEVIN NOLAN cheers Johnnie Jackson’s thrilling managerial debut and doesn’t find himself pining for the previous incumbent.

The King is dead. Long live Johnnie Jackson. Actually, belay that, the king isn’t dead. He’s very much alive and was spotted in the St Andrews district of Birmingham. Had his agent with him, if reports are accurate. But long live Johnnie Jackson anyway.

You know how football works. It’s like show business: the show has to go on. It waits for no manager. No more than 48 hours after Lee Bowyer was carried shoulder high out of The Valley – figuratively at least – he was supervising training at Birmingham City and assuring the blue side of Brum that “I’m absolutely delighted and it’s great to be back”. It seems he was always one of them, not one of us.

For their part, City can’t wait to benefit from his “man-management skills and motivational qualities”, Er, good luck with that, chaps. He can be like a bear with a grudge. And he’d been borrowing time for several weeks before he bailed.

Another of football’s enfant terribles arrived in charge of Bristol Rovers on Tuesday evening, hoping to benefit from Charlton’s obvious disarray. Joey Barton must have thought it was the perfect time to be playing the Addicks and during an opening half hour of defensive chaos, he saw nothing to discourage that belief. The Gas sliced through their bewildered hosts and in addition to compiling a two-goal lead, they went uncomfortably close to doubling their advantage. It threatened to be a nightmare start to Jackson’s tenure.

The 18th minute penalty which began Charlton’s problems was of the avoidable kind which has frequently blighted this disastrous season. Jonah Ayunga was persistent but not especially menacing as he squeezed between Ian Maatsen and Jason Pearce into the area. But the unnecessary shove in the back he received from Maatsen was all he needed to hit the ground and earn the penalty correctly awarded by referee Madeley. Left back Luke Leahy made easy work of drilling his spotkick down the middle as Ben Amos dived fruitlessly to his left.

Jackson’s sinking feeling, one which Bowyer would have recognised, was all too familiar. A sharp intake of breath united homebound fans and their caretaker as Ayunga beat Akin Famewo to a long ball, sensed that Amos was off his line and chipped cleverly from the right flank. On one bounce, his effort drifted, happily for the horrified hosts, inches wide of his target. They were still exhaling when Sam Nicholson slipped through their ranks to shoot on the run. Amos’ desperately deployed right leg kept the midfielder’s effort out, not that Rovers had long to wait for a second breakthrough.

Former Addick Brandon Hanlan was proving an awkward handful and it was his short pass which persuaded Ed Upson to try his luck from fully 30 yards. Completely deceived by the flight of the shot, Amos flopped and flapped as the defender’s long range potshot beat him.

Poker-faced on the sideline, Jackson almost instantly received the boost he urgently needed before despair set in. His own good judgement in restoring Andrew Shinnie to the starting line-up was rewarded as the Scotsman reduced the arrears two minutes after Amos’ howler. The scorer was part of the build-up with a shrewd pass which Conor Washington chased before crossing from the left byline. Upson’s headed clearance was chested down by Shinnie and brilliantly volleyed past Joe Day into the bottom right corner.

An equally fine equaliser extended Charlton’s spirited rally four minutes before the break. Preferred to Chuks Aneke up front, Jayden Stockley was ruthlessly chopped down by Jack Baldwin two yards outside Rovers’ penalty area. With the angle favouring Jake Forster-Caskey’s left-footed skills, it was he rather than Shinnie who stepped up to curl an absolute beauty into the top left corner. Charlton are well served in attacking midfield by Shinnie and Forster-Caskey; a conclusion Jackson reached without resort to Bowyer’s often needless rotation.

The second half initiative belonged to Jackson’s resurgent Addicks. Inspired by Washington’s insatiable appetite for work, they ran Rovers ragged until they ran out of, er, gas. Still, the relegated haunted visitors came within four minutes of departing with a precious point until rubber legged and out on their feet, they succumbed. A hit-and-hope lob from Shinnie was weakly headed back by Alfie Kilgour to Day but intercepted by Washington en route to the advancing keeper. The forward’s instinctive low volley hit the right post but rebounded kindly to be tapped into a vacated net. Day’s added-time dismissal for clobbering substitute Chuks Aneke outside his penalty area made lighter work of managing what remained of Jackson’s triumphant debut.

Victory over one of League One’s weaker entries is, on the face of it, no cause for excessive celebration. It will be remembered, nonetheless, as the evening on which Johnnie Jackson emerged from Lee Bowyer’s shadow and took control of Charlton for the first time in his own right. We won’t have long to wait before Thomas Sandgaard decides whether his appointment is made permanent.

Bowyer has seen fit to move to Birmingham. Better him than me. In Jackson, meanwhile, Charlton might have traded up.

Time will tell. But only if this genuine article is given time.

Charlton: Amos, Gunter, Famewo, Pearce, Maatsen, Forster-Caskey, Shinnie (Pratley 90), Morgan, Washington, Millar (Jaiyesimi 66), Stockley (Aneke 73). Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Oshilaja, Watson, Schwartz. Booked: Shinnie, Morgan.

Bristol Rovers: Joe Day, Leahy, Upson (Van Stappershoef 90), Westbrooke (Little 82), Hanlan (James Day 82), Nicholson (Hargreaves 65), McCormick, Kilgour, Ayunga, Baldwin, Williams. Not used: Ehmer, Martinez, Walker. Booked: Upson. Sent off: Joe Day.

Referee: Robert Madeley.

Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 1-1 Shrewsbury Town

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Dark clouds gathered over The Valley once again yesterday – delivering hailstones and a disappointing draw. KEVIN NOLAN returned to the press box for The Charlton Champion.

A dreadful game that frankly set teeth on edge ended in a draw which kept Charlton at least technically in the hunt for promotion. The point was probably of more use to Shrewsbury in their fight to avoid relegation. They were entitled to feel pleased with themselves.

Not so Charlton, who continue to squander the chances offered them by the indifferent form of their rivals. The race for the last two playoff positions is currently as riveting as an evening spent with Michael McIntyre: well-intended but best given a miss by people in need of a laugh.

Still hovering in seventh position, the Addicks show no sign of mounting a serious bid to break into the play-off places. Two gilt-edged chances to redeem a performance of depressing drabness were spurned, the second of them a dog’s dinner by Chuks Aneke which seemed easier to convert than miss.

From almost under the crossbar, he contrived to blast Conor Washington’s crisp low cross against the woodwork. There are misses and even worse misses. This one belonged in a category of its own. You have to be there to miss ’em, though, it’s only fair to say.

Mention of Washington presents an opportunity to recognise the Northern Ireland international’s wholehearted contribution which stood out like a hitchhiker’s thumb in the dross surrounding it. Frequently overlooked are his insatiable work rate and willingness to carry out the unglamorous tasks beneath the dignity of others.

Refusing to be discouraged by Aneke’s miss, he produced a pearl of an equaliser from unlikely circumstances. Cutting in from left to right, he burrowed into the visitors’ penalty area, where tackles necessarily become more circumspect. On the turn, he finished firmly past Harry Burgoyne into the bottom left corner to save Charlton a point which might yet affect their season.

Washington was undoubtedly one of the “positives” referenced by Lee Bowyer in his post-match summation. He should start each and every game until this disappointing season disappears in the rear view mirror.

So should Andrew Shinnie, who replaced an anonymous Liam Millar, his early promise in Charlton’s colours an already-fading memory. Shinnie brings with him quality and bite; his 63rd-minute introduction changed the momentum of a game which was drifting out of the Addicks’ reach. The skilful Scot is wasted on the bench. He’s more than good enough for a place in this team.

Enlivening a gusty, hailstones-battered first half were the occasional forays made along the left flank of Ian Maatsen. Sometimes erratic but admirably persistent, the Chelsea loanee laid on two marvellous chances, the second and better of them cut back from the byline for Jayden Stockley. Falling backwards as he shot, the big striker should still have managed better than the meek effort he directed straight at a relieved Burgoyne. A similar opening was made for Albie Morgan, who forced a more awkward parry from Burgoyne.

Though far from outplayed, the visitors failed to trouble Ben Amos until the second half was under way. Growing in confidence as their hosts began to run out of steam (“we were sluggish, run off our feet” concluded Bowyer), Town ‘s 56th minute counterpunch knocked the stuffing out of the Addicks. Right back Matthew Pennington joined in a rare raid and delivered a precise cross which Sean Goss dived to head beyond Amos.

Delighted to score a rare away goal, the Shropshire boys’ next task was to protect their lead, something they found impossible as Charlton threw off their torpor and at last came after them. But they proved far from finished themselves as they proved by recovering from Washington’s equaliser and twice threatening to restore their advantage.

Bowyer​’s “fatigued” troops offered only token opposition as substitute Daniel Odoh soloed through them from the halfway line, pursued resolutely by Jason Pearce. As Odoh prepared to finish at close range, he was caught and channelled out of harm’s way by Charlton’s no-nonsense captain. It was defending of the highest quality and was duly singled out by Bowyer in a surprisingly sunny-natured reaction to a disheartening result.

His mood might have altered had Dave Edwards made the most of the last gasp chance laid on for him by fellow substitute David Davis, who pounced on Akin Famewo’s vaguely directed backpass and set him up to finish into a gaping net from 20 yards. Least said (about Edwards’ hopelessly spooned effort) soonest mended might be the wisest advice to follow for Shrews’ deputy boss Aaron Wilbraham, standing in for Covid-stricken Steve Cotterill.

If Bowyer could maintain his poise after the mess his side served up for him, Wilbraham no doubt found words of solace and forgiveness for the hapless Edwards. A newly-upbeat Bowyer would have found the right words of consolation. To be honest, his recently acquired bonhomie is more than a little disconcerting.

Charlton: Amos, Gunter, Famewo, Pearce, Maatsen, Pratley (Smith 63), Morgan (Jaiyesimi 78), Watson, Millar (Shinnie 63), Stockley (Aneke 63), Washington. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Oshilaja, Schwartz. Booked: Pratley, Maatsen.

Shrewsbury: Burgoyne, Williams, Goss (Davis 78), Vela, Ogbeta, Walker (Whalley 90), Main (Odoh 78), Daniels, Ebanks-Landell, Pennington, Chapman (Edwards 70). Not used: Sarkic, Pyke, Sears. Booked: Williams, Walker.

Referee: Declan Bourne.


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