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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Kevin Nolan’s Locked-Down Valley View: Charlton Athletic 1-2 Burton Albion

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

The Addicks slumped to another home defeat last night, this time to bottom-of-the-table Burton Albion. KEVIN NOLAN wonders what happened to their play-off push.

It was on November 24th last year that Charlton’s bright start to the 2020-21 season began to unravel. Their unbeaten run of eight games was brought to a shattering end by bottom-of-the table Burton Albion, who ruthlessly exposed their victims’ defensive posturing and brushed them aside on their way to an emphatic 4-2 victory. The Addicks’ demoralising defeat set in motion the patchy form that has left them hanging on by their badly chewed fingernails in the promotion play-offs race.

Almost precisely three months later, the Brewers arrived at The Valley still statistically the worst side in League One and did it again. Winners only five times in 27 league games, they reduced Charlton to nerve-shredded losers, for whom the final whistle came as a huge relief. As it was to countless disenchanted Valley Pass customers, who found their team’s feckless, spiritless, ultimately pointless surrender hard to stomach. If there’s such a sound as a barrel being scraped, it was heard in SE7 on Tuesday evening. It makes an ugly noise.

For 20 exhilarating minutes, to be fair, this season-defining result seemed highly unlikely. Making a bright, vibrant start, Charlton swarmed all over their visitors. As early as the 3rd minute, Jayden Stockley climbed high to meet Deji Oshilaja’s precise cross from the left to bullet a header which was goalbound until Ben Garratt spectacularly fingertipped it on to the bar before batting the rebound to safety. Stockley’s disbelief was palpable but he hadn’t long to wait for better luck. Timing Andrew Shinnie’s outswinging corner with stylish ease, this time he gave Garratt no chance with a firm, downward header.

Recent setbacks after taking early leads have made cautious nonbelievers of their supporters but, Charlton briefly seemed capable of making easy work of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s struggling side. They came within inches of doubling their lead when Edwards fouled Liam Millar and Shinnie cannoned the resultant free kick off Garratt’s bar. A second goal might have made all the difference but you know what they say about ifs and ands making pots and pans. It can’t be done.

As it turned out, Charlton’s bolt had already been shot. As good as they’d briefly been, they quickly degenerated into a leaderless rabble, incapable of delivering the simplest of passes to its intended destination or winning the most innocuous of tackles. Their early confidence quickly dissolved into hesitancy and uncertainty, with every decision an energy-sapping effort. There’s a word that covers it all but as you probably witnessed this debacle, you might wish to use your own. In the 24th minute, Albion’s equaliser punctured their pretensions and ended their illusions though, ironically, it could have been stopped almost at source.

It was no secret that a routine throw near the tunnel was intended for Jonny Smith but Diallang Jaiyesimi reacted sluggishly and showed little appetite for the ugly but necessary elements of the game. Smith was allowed to escape to the byline and cross dangerously. Too strong for the posse of Addicks’ defenders surrounding him, Mike Fondop rose imperiously to bully a header past an indecisive Ben Amos. The writing was written clearly on the wall for Charlton and it made depressing reading.

It took the Brewers less than ten second-half minutes to complete their comeback and secure the points they desperately needed to climb off the bottom of the division. And if a slice of good fortune attended their winning goal, it also received a helping hand from the possession Adam Matthews carelessly conceded inside the home half. Substitute Danny Rowe took up the running and tried his luck speculatively from the left. His optimistic shot caught a treacherous deflection off Ben Watson’s hand, changed course and beat Amos’ frantic effort to keep it out of the top right corner.

With more than a half hour remaining, you might suppose that the visitors came under intense pressure to hang on to their lead. Well, you would suppose wrong. The Addicks came closest to equalising when Ben Purrington, their best player on a dreary, demoralising evening, turned on Stockley’s back header to shoot right-footed but was foiled by Garratt’s smart save. Millar’s pass then sent Chuks Aneke through but Edwards’ diligent tracking enabled him to whisk the ball off the big substitute’s toe.

Burton expertly dallied and dillied to the final whistle as Charlton lost their way and didn’t know where to go. Chances are they’re going nowhere; neither up nor down but in stodgy mid-table, grateful for the 44 points they already have.

Charlton: Amos, Matthews, Pearce (Schwartz 72), Pratley, Oshilaja, Purrington (Maatsen 72), Shinnie, Watson (Smith 85), Jaiyesimi (Aneke 56), Stockley, Millar. Not used: Harness, Famewo, Washington.

Burton: Garratt, Hamer, Carter, Bostwick, Gallacher (Brayford 68), Smith, Edwards, Wallace (Rowe 38), Clare, Akins, Fondop (Mancienne 75). Not used: O’Hara, Powell, Varney, Broom.

Referee: Chris Pollard.


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