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).
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