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 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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