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.


LIKE KEVIN’S REPORTS? SUPPORT THE CHARLTON CHAMPION

– We publish Charlton Athletic match reports from home games. You can help us by becoming a supporter at presspatron.com/charltonchampion
– You can also support us via Patreon
– Can your company sponsor these match reports? Get in touch

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).


LIKE KEVIN’S REPORTS? SUPPORT THE CHARLTON CHAMPION

– We publish Charlton Athletic match reports from home games. You can help us by becoming a supporter at presspatron.com/charltonchampion
– You can also support us via Patreon
– Can your company sponsor these match reports? Get in touch

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

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

The Addicks sent their visitors from down the North Kent Line packing on a nervous night at The Valley. KEVIN NOLAN was there.

On a chilly evening when the result was all that mattered, an opportunistic strike by Alex Gilbey – his second goal of a stop-start season – was enough to settle this scruffy game and all but dismiss Charlton’s lingering fears of relegation to the unspeakable horrors of League Two.

Unable to exploit the Addicks’ alarming second-half disintegration, Gillingham were at least favoured by other results, leaving them a precarious fourth from bottom and still under severe pressure to survive the drop.

To be brutally frank, this downmarket clash between substandard teams went largely unnoticed elsewhere. But at The Valley, the nerves were palpable, mistakes rife and the mood tetchy.

A disappointing home crowd, bolstered by a lively contingent from the Orchard of England, saw Charlton start brightly, control much of the first half and take a deserved lead into their dressing room at half-time. The second half told a different story as the Addicks, increasingly aware of the stakes on offer, appeared to freeze. The visitors sensed their vulnerability, grew in confidence but lacked the quality to press home their growing advantage.

As the tension affected Johnnie Jackson’s men, their ability to hold on to the ball disappeared. Clearances were inconclusive and their pre-interval grip on the game loosened. An equaliser seemed, if not inevitable, then more than likely.

As they battled to hang on to their lead, Charlton rediscovered the spirit so frequently lacking during a seven-game winless streak. They ran, pressed and covered for each other with almost manic enthusiasm.

Up front, Conor Washington and Jayden Stockley set an example of unstinting effort, while Corey Blackett-Taylor’s frequent bursts of pace pinned the Gills back and provided respite for his nerve-shredded side. Behind them, George Dobson supplied his usual energy, the often unfairly maligned Gilbey did his bit and Scott Fraser showed enough to suggest there’s more to come from this talented playmaker. His 66th minute substitute, Elliot Lee, shook off a shaky start before providing a masterclass in how to run down the clock with several cameos, of which the storied Tony Watt would have approved.

It was Gilbey, restored to the starting line-up after being dropped for the last two games, who provided the 40th minute breakthrough. He had already gone close by capping a blistering run with a shot which whistled narrowly wide and was clearly in the mood to try his luck. In support as Blackett-Taylor’s drive was spilled by Pontus Dahlberg, he pounced on the rebound when the keeper bravely parried Stockley’s follow-up, and netted on the turn from 14 yards. His goal ended Charlton’s failure to score from open play since Lee headed the Addicks in front at Wigan on February 12th – a barren run of five games.

Though they beavered away industriously, Neil Harris’ men created little of note to bother Craig McGillivray. Top scorer Vadaine Oliver headed Ben Thompson’s first half cross tamely into McGillivray’s hands and Conor Masterson sent a 25-yard snapshot whistling wide after the break.

His keeper’s relative inactivity didn’t dissuade Jackson from singling out McGillivray for special mention. “I thought Craig was excellent. I’m pleased because obviously we’ve conceded a few goals and I know he took that pretty hard so he deserved that clean sheet. And the win came from hard work and heart and they showed that in abundance today.”

It’s been a rough ride recently for Charlton’s popular boss – ringing the changes as his depleted team hit the skids. Seven games without winning sent them into dangerous freefall and Jackson spoke for everyone in stressing the overriding importance of this result.

It hadn’t been about the elegance of the performance – which was just as well – but winning, however ugly it was. “We’ve had important players missing and that’s impacted on results,” he remarked. “We’ve had to try another way and it’s been difficult but I think you saw tonight when we get those guys on the pitch, we’re going to win football matches.” Amen to that, boss.

And a word to the owner. You don’t buy a dog and bark yourself. Johnnie Jackson is the right man for the job. Give him the right tools and he’ll do that job.

Just make sure those tools can play 90 minutes and can turn out regularly. We have more than enough part-time players as it is. We’re lucky to have this bloke in charge. So don’t screw it up.

Charlton: McGillivray, Clare, Lavelle, Purrington, Matthews, Dobson, Gilbey, Fraser (Lee 66), Blackett-Taylor (Pearce 88), Washington, Stockley. Booked: Gilbey, Stockley. Not used: Harness, Gunter, Jaiyesimi, Leko, Burstow.

Gillingham: Dahlberg, Tutonda (Dickson-Peters 81), O’Keefe, Ehmer, Tucker, Thompson, Lee, McKenzie (Lintott 59), Masterson, Oliver, Kelman. Booked: O’Keefe. Not used: Chapman, Maghoma, Akehurst, Chambers.

Referee: Will Finnie. Attendance: 9,728 (1,559 visiting).


LIKE KEVIN’S REPORTS? SUPPORT THE CHARLTON CHAMPION

– We publish Charlton Athletic match reports from home games. You can help us by becoming a supporter at presspatron.com/charltonchampion
– You can also support us via Patreon
– Can your company sponsor these match reports? Get in touch