Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 2-1 Barnsley

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

KEVIN NOLAN was at The Valley on Saturday to report on a vital win for Charlton.

Whether you’re in a title race or a relegation dogfight, concentrate on your own game and don’t be worrying about other results you can’t control. That’s a piece of advice old-timers used to hand out (they would also quaintly advise never to pass across your own penalty area – a practice more or less coached into players in these enlightened times).

Time – and football – moves on and in this digital age, it’s become impossible to be unaware within your own bubble of events elsewhere in the country. You can bet that Lee Bowyer’s immediate priority, once this nerve-shredding victory over fellow-strugglers Barnsley was in the bag, was to find out how the others had got on. He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t.

The good news was that Stoke, Huddersfield and Luton had lost. The only fly in a soothing ointment was the news that serial-chokers Leeds had dismally failed to oblige at home to Wigan. But the Addicks had moved up to 19th position and had Middlesbrough and Birmingham in their sights above them. The more the merrier in a survival battle, there’s another sage bit of advice for you.

Squad improvements

With his squad stiffened by a few canny loan signings and by the return from injury of several key players, Bowyer has every reason to expect an improvement in results in the near future. This faltering, often chaotic, win over surprisingly resilient Barnsley provided an important first step. It also emphasised how vital the continued good health of Lyle Taylor will be to Charlton’s immediate prospects.

There’s no such thing, of course, as a one-man team but Taylor is almost indispensable. During the Addicks’ dreary winless run, his personality, charisma, not to mention his regular goals, were sorely missed. It’s hardly a coincidence that after he was withdrawn in the 68th minute of this crucial clash, Barnsley flooded forward and took over. Glad to see an end to Charlton’s Taylor-led restless chivvying, they reduced their two-goal arrears three minutes after his departure and went looking for parity. Only desperate defending and two enormous strokes of luck saw Bowyer’s beleaguered braves over the line.

It was inevitably Taylor who shot Charlton into an early lead. A cynical foul on Josh Cullen gave its victim the opportunity to dink a clever free kick into the danger area, where Jason Pearce contributed a key header, to which Taylor reacted sharply in stabbing his eighth goal of an injury-blighted season past Samuel Sahin-Radlinger. The goal was initiated by a marvellously indefatigable midfielder, carried forward by an uncomplicated battler and finished by a cold-eyed predator.

Pearce had already cleared up a mess of Charlton’s own making when defensive indecision allowed Jacob Brown to set up Luke Thomas inside the home penalty area. Making ground quickly, Pearce legally smothered the busy midfielder as he prepared to shoot. Bleeding profusely, Thomas must have wondered what hit him.

Essential save

Midway through the first half, Dillon Phillips made what is now recognised as a Banksesque save to maintain the lead. Meeting Clarke Odour’s left-sided free kick, Danish defender Mads Andersen directed a downward header destined for the bottom left corner until Phillips scrambled across his goalline to athletically conjure the ball to temporary safety. He deserved the good fortune he enjoyed as Aapo Halme blasted the rebound against the outside of the post. A rare standing ovation from the Covered End saluted Phillips’ outstanding save.

Comfortably on top otherwise, Charlton doubled their lead in added time. A right wing corner swung in by Alfie Doughty was returned to its young taker, whose second delivery from an improved angle picked out Pearce at the far post. The captain’s deliberate header eluded Naby Sarr but was emphatically drilled inside the left post by Andre Green. His second goal for the club capped an impressive shift put in by the Aston Villa loanee, who showed class and tenacity.

The 57th minute departure of a predictably battered Jonny Williams was followed eleven minutes later by the withdrawal of Taylor, himself the recipient of some illegally heavy treatment. The momentum promptly changed as the Addicks retreated deep into their own half. While they wavered, Andersen’s ferocious drive almost knocked Phillips off his feet, with Cauley Woodrow sending the rebound crashing against the bar.

Often Charlton’s nemesis in previous encounters, Woodrow refused to be discouraged. Played into space following Thomas’ fine run and through pass, the Tykes’ leading scorer halved the lead with a crisp rising drive beyond Phillips’ reach.

The spectacle of rampant visitors besieging the Jimmy Seed end, where the vast majority of 20 goals conceded at home this season have been scored, was now familiar.  Blind panic and sheer desperation to hang on unnerved The Valley with luck playing another priceless part as Brown rattled the bar for a second time and Halme’s late shot was hacked off the line by an unidentified but heroic red shirt. Six added minutes were actually negotiated with uncharacteristic efficiency.

So much for the five-year plan (funny how it’s always five years) to secure Charlton’s place in the Premier League. More to the point, this precious victory might prove to be the first step in a five-week plan to keep the Addicks in the Championship. Bring on the long-term dream by all means but spare us a short-term nightmare in League One. But it’s so far so good, Tahnoon, welcome aboard. Make yourself at home…spit on the floor… call the cat names.

Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce. Sarr, Doughty (Purrington 90), Cullen, Williams (Forster-Caskey 57), Pratley, Green, Taylor (Hemed 68). Not used: Amos, McGeady, Field, Oztumer.

Barnsley: Sahin-Radlinger, Jordan Williams (Simoes 68), Sollbauer, Andersen, Odour (Ludewig 68), Thomas, Halme, Mowatt, Brown, Woodrow, Chaplin. Not used: Walton, Ben Williams, Dougal, Schmidt, Styles.

Referee: John Brooks.  Att: 19,870 (1,083 visiting).


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Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 2-2 West Bromwich Albion

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Saturday saw West Bromwich Albion back in SE7 for the second time in a week. KEVIN NOLAN reports from the first Championship game at The Valley since new owners East Street Investments completed their takeover.

Nursing a strong sense of entitlement, West Bromwich Albion returned to the Midlands clutching the point which, along with Leeds United’s home defeat by Sheffield Wednesday, moved them back on top of the Championship. They departed convinced they had somehow been robbed of all three.

The Baggies had been marginally the better team. They had enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and had managed more attempts on goal. Slaven Bilic’s experienced side also dominated a couple of other important statistics; they committed 14 fouls to 10 by Charlton, while picking up six of the eight yellow cards issued by referee Jarred Gillet. Recipient himself of one of those cautions, Hal Robson-Kanu pointed out plaintively that Charlton “had been very physical throughout.” They certainly absorbed some crude buffeting. Occasionally gave a little bit back, more power to their elbows..

Bilic was not similarly deluded. His tribute to the still sorely depleted Addicks was generous. “Charlton fought and competed and ran until the end. They never gave up. But we had many chances to score the third. That was disappointing.” It was not Bilic’s place to add that Charlton’s crucial result was achieved with the assistance of three recent academy graduates; so consider this a salute to fledglings Ben Dempsey, Josh Davison and Alfie Doughty, who stood up to be counted as Albion dished out the rough stuff.

Early action

Roared on by a bumper crowd – their second largest of the season – Charlton might have grabbed a first minute lead if Conor Gallagher had returned Sam Johnstone’s errant clearance with slightly more accuracy. The young loanee’s low shot whistled inches the wrong side of a post. At the other end, Dillon Phillips was forced down low to his left to scramble Kenneth Zohore’s bouncing header to safety. It was the Danish forward’s enterprise which won the Baggies an early lead.

Alertly closing Tom Lockyer down as the defender spurned the opportunity to clear his lines in favour of playing out from the back, Zohore anticipated his move back towards goal and neatly relieved him of possession on the right touchline. Bearing down on a wrongfooted defence, the rangy striker’s first effort was bravely charged down by Deji Oshilaja but he made no mistake as the rebound sat up kindly for him.

Away end antics

Heads dropped only briefly because the Addicks were level again six minutes later. Their recovery was begun by impressive league debutant Andre Green, whose persistence earned a corner on the left. The setpiece was delayed as those scamps behind the away goal refused to return the ball. How we chuckled as they larked about and how the hilarity increased as Gallagher’s short corner routine with Doughty improved the angle for a soaring cross which Naby Sarr effortlessly headed down for Davison to calmly nod in his first senior goal from five yards. By now they were in stitches in the Jimmy Seed stand. Bless ’em, the little rascals. They certainly know how to have fun.

A minute after the break, they were chortling again as their heroes regained the lead. In space to the right, Matt Phillips supplied a hard-driven low centre which Robson-Kanu, getting the better of Lockyer at the near post, flicked home off Sarr. For the fourth time in their two-game, eight-goal league saga, the ex-Throstles led the battling Addicks. And yet again, they proved unable to retain their lead.

No own goal

Albion’s excessive testosterone was almost inevitably their undoing. A crude push in the back of substitute Jonny Williams – one of three returning patients from long-term injury – conceded a free kick which Gallagher fed out to Doughty, who crossed from the left touchline. Timing his leap perfectly to outjump Kyle Bartley, Lockyer powered an unstoppable header past Johnstone, with assistance from the right post. Any nonsense about the keeper being debited with an own goal should be treated as pedantic piffle. Lockyer emulated Davison in notching his first goal for the Addicks because no keeper was about to save that header.

We can also dismiss all that meaningless debate concerning what you “deserve” from a football game. You deserve nothing. What you GET is what the final scoreline gives you. It’s the only statistic that matters. There’s nothing else to discuss. If you  fail to grasp that concept, you’re doomed to frequent disappointment. It’s football, not a morality play.

Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Oshilaja (Williams 62), Sarr, Pratley, Dempsey (Forster-Caskey 62), Doughty, Gallagher, Green, Davison (Hemed 74). Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Purrington, Pearce, Morgan. Booked: Locker, Green.

WBA: Johnstone, Furlong, Ajayi, Bartley, Townsend, Livermore Sawyers, Phillips (Edwards 86), Robson-Kanu (Austin 73), Pereira, Zohore (Diangana 73). Not used: Bond, Krovinovic, Brunt, Hegazi. Booked: Robson-Kanu, Ajayi,Phillips, Pereira, Sawyers, Diangana.

Referee: Jarred Gillet.  Att: 19,270 (3,154 visiting).


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Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 2-2 Hull City

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Another last-minute goal went the wrong way at The Valley on Friday night. KEVIN NOLAN picks through what went wrong…

Now hovering perilously above the Championship’s relegation basement, Charlton again – yet again! – conceded a vital added time goal which cost them an opportunity to distance themselves from the maelstrom beneath them. And inevitably, they yielded in front of the Jimmy Seed Stand housing the away supporters. The familiar tableau of stricken Addicks falling to their knees while jubilant opponents celebrate wildly with delirious travelling fans is wearing thin. It’s time to change the dynamic.

It might help to consider a few pertinent statistics derived from 12 home games. Charlton have had 14 goals scored against them, of which no fewer than 11 have been registered in the second half at the away end. They’re impressively solid when defending the home goal. Only Stoke, Swansea and Sheffield Wednesday have succeeded in scoring before the home supporters, which means nine other teams have failed to turn the trick in front of the Covered End.

So what can we conclude from these figures? Well, they call into question Charlton’s rigid practice for attacking the visitors’ goal in the first half. Are we meant to assume they win every toss and have their choice of ends? Or is there an unspoken understanding among teams that the hosts get to choose on a turnabout basis?

On too many occasions this season, the Addicks have been called upon to defend a lead with their backs to the away end. And too often they have failed miserably to see the job through to the bitter end. Seven times now they have been caught – on the last two occasions in added time. The squandered points would already have all but secured their place in next season’s Championship. Perhaps they would offer stiffer resistance if the defence – and Dillon Phillips in particular – had a raucous Covered End ranged behind them. There’s a psychological edge to be among friends.

Friday’s hammer-blow was inflicted with the last touch of a see-saw game. Hull were throwing the kitchen sink at their fast unravelling hosts as five minutes of added time extended into a sixth minute. Unwisely, Ben Purrington, who had been drafted into the starting line-up only because Alfie Doughty reported sick, capped an indifferent contribution by committing a needless foul near the halfway line. With every available Tiger crowding the penalty area, goalkeeper George Long hurried forward to send a free kick soaring into the penalty area; Jason Pearce headed clear to playmaker Kamil Grosicki, who controlled neatly, stepped on to his right foot and crossed precisely from the left flank. Leaving Purrington earthbound at the far post, Keane Lewis-Potter directed a clever header inside the right post which Phillips, despite his frantic efforts to save, could only help over the line. The sickening setback was tougher to absorb with Tuesday’s heartbreak still fresh in Valley minds.

Defend the Covered End

There’s no point in speculating, of course, whether the Addicks – and Phillips – would have fared better at the home end but maybe there’s no harm in finding out. The Potters, the Swans and the Owls would confirm it’s harder to score down there.
Setting out in an improvised 3-5-2 formation, meanwhile, Charlton shaded an uneventful first half, from which they emerged a goal to the good. Chances had been few for both sides when Conor Gallagher, having assumed setpiece responsibility, delivered a wind-assisted right wing corner which cleared a congested goal area before being powerfully headed past Long by Darren Pratley. Skipper Eric Lichaj’s ill-starred complaint that he’d been fouled rather than overpowered by Pratley fell on referee Andy Davies’ resolutely deaf ears.

Required to protect their lead in front of the notorious away end, Charlton survived for only two minutes before it was cancelled out. Very much his side’s creative heartbeat, Grosicki found space to send over a dipping ball which Pearce and his defensive colleagues, in fear of an own goal, left untouched as it made its way to the far post. November’s Championship player of the month Jarrod Bowen gleefully bashed the Tigers’ first equaliser into a gaping net.

City’s equality lasted only a couple of minutes before Charlton forged in front again with an outstanding ensemble goal. Starting a flowing move in his own half, Naby Sarr offloaded neatly to Albie Morgan, whose measured pass sent Jonathan Leko running directly at the left side of Hull’s defence. Making mugs of both Reece Burke and Callum Elder, the mercurial WBA loanee ghosted past them and hammered over a low cross which left Sarr, who had alertly followed his initial pass forward, the simple task of finishing from a yard out.

With the second half approaching an apparently happy conclusion, Bowyer’s embattled side seemed to done enough to draw a line under their two-month slump. Phillips played his part with two shap saves from Bowen and Lichaj but otherwise there was little cause for concern which ignored, of course, Charlton’s quite extraordinary inability to see things through to the final whistle. They might possibly find it an easier proposition if they were defending the Covered End. Just saying like…

Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce, Sarr, Purrington, Pratley, Gallagher, Morgan (Oshilaja 67), Bonne (Taylor 80), Leko. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Ledley, Solly, Vennings. Booked: Matthews, Leko.

Hull: Long, Lichaj, De Wis, Burke, Batty (Bowler 46), Eaves (Honeyman 76), Irvine, Da Silva Lopez, Bowen, Grosicki, Elder (Lewis-Potter 64). Not used: Ingram, Tafazolli, Kingsley, Pennington. Booked: Irvine, Da Silva Lopez.

Referee: Andy Davies. Attendance: 14,447 (624 visiting).