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

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

A confused and incoherent performance saw the Addicks slump to an embarrassing defeat at The Valley yesterday. KEVIN NOLAN took his stopwatch.

Cheltenham Town turned up at The Valley on Saturday as rank outsiders in more ways than one and did a neat number on the locals.

Cor, they marvelled, look at that stadium! Get a load of the dressing rooms! Can’t wait to have a go under those shower baths just as soon as we find out how they work! Gosh, it’s a bit different and no mistake from last season at Chippenham and Tiverton. I’m loving this, Jethro.

At 3pm, the Robins – their nickname and they’re welcome to it – emerged into the sunlight, not a bumpkin among them, and proceeded to play Charlton off their carefully barbered pitch. Urged on by precisely 511 yokels who knew all the songs, including the one about being in a library, they were two in front on the half hour and already planning their getaway to the boondocks with all three points.

Slightly rocked by Charlton’s early second half reply, they weathered a brief flurry before, in manager Michael Duff’s words, “seeing it out with a calmness and a clarity of what they wanted to do. Their supporters won’t have known much about us because it’s little old Cheltenham – we have to use that as fuel to show the rest of the country we can compete at this level. We managed the game superbly.”

What we did learn about “little old Cheltenham” was that their “game management” was as cynical as any you’ll find anywhere in the big city. They wasted time while wasting time, if you catch the drift.

Led by a goalkeeper who moved with all the urgency of a garden slug, they condensed the playing time after the interval to what seemed no more than a handful of minutes.

That’s not meant as a complaint, by the way, more as a backhanded compliment to a focused, united side denied a much larger winning margin by the brilliance of Craig McGillivray. And, anyway, the addition of six paltry minutes justified their methods. It took their three substitutes half of those minutes to hitchhike off the field.

Understandably irritated by the supposedly shock outcome, Nigel Adkins pulled no punches. “First half for me the team was unrecognisable [from the side which comfortably disposed of Crewe Alexandra, presumably] – unrecognisable from what we’ve done. It’s more like hoof-ball and I don’t want that.”

Adkins was reacting to an opening period in which the Addicks were jaw-droppingly abysmal and during which the visitors scored their decisive goals. After just six minutes, the home defence was cut to pieces but temporarily rescued by McGillivray, who saved magnificently at close range from Town debutant Taylor Perry. Unhappily for the defiant keeper, Matty Blair slammed the rebound into the bottom left corner.

Disastrous as it was, Charlton’s start would have deteriorated but for McGillivray, who kept out Alfie May’s fierce drive with his feet. But the Westcountrymen were not detained long before doubling their lead. It was Blair’s turn to make the running as he beat Chris Gunter on the right flank and crossed waist-high for Perry to slam home from six yards.

On the end of a torrid seeing-to, and with wide men Diallang Jaiyesimi and Charlie Kirk both grave disappointments, Charlton resorted to the “hoof-ball” deplored by their manager.

Jayden Stockley laboured alone up front, while Albie Morgan showed again that, despite his appetite for work, he lacks the gravitas to quarterback between defence and attack. Some hope was offered by Elliott Lee and Ben Watson who strove to restore some order to the general chaos but these were 45 excruciating minutes only an evening spent with Michael McIntyre could hope to match.

Just two down and technically still in with a chance, the Addicks improved after the break and briefly bothered their country cousins.

Stockley caught Scott Flinders in even more glacial motion than normal near the penalty spot, robbed the complacent keeper and square-passed to Jonathan Leko, an interval substitute for Kirk. Leko skilfully teed up Jaiyesimi, who blasted an inviting chance wildly over the bar. Jaiyesimi was promptly replaced by Conor Washington who, with Leko, made a huge difference. A flying save by McGillivray kept out a point-blank connection by Callum Wright before Stockley’s diving header sent Morgan’s cross over the bar.

But Charlton’s best period produced the goal which inspired brief thoughts of revival. Both substitutes were involved with Washington cleverly controlling Morgan’s perfect delivery and setting up Leko to finish crisply past Flinders.

With a half hour left, there was ample time to find an equaliser, an ambition which reckoned without the crafty connivings of Duff’s time bandits. It’s hard to recall anything of significance apart from May’s incredible two-yard miss and the feeling that, in the words of the Willie Nelson song, “Funny how time slips away…”

Charlton: McGillivray, Gunter, Famewo, Lavelle (Souare 80), Matthews, Watson, Jaiyesimi (Washington 58), Lee, Kirk (Leko 46), Morgan, Stockley. Not used: Harness, Dobson, Pearce, Blackett-Taylor. Booked: Famewo, Stockley.

Cheltenham: Flinders, Long, Hussey, Pollock (Freestone 72), Thomas, May (Joseph 76), Chapman, Boyle, Wright, Blair, Perry (Sercombe 64). Not used: Evans, Williams, Bonds, Horton. Booked: Long.

Referee: Andy Davies. Att: 13,790 (511 visiting).


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Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 2-0 Crewe Alexandra

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

The Addicks’ season finally cranked into life yesterday with a home win over Crewe. KEVIN NOLAN enjoyed a novel emotion at The Valley.

An unfamiliar sensation united players and crowd at a buoyant Valley on Saturday. It’s called the feel-good factor and it’s been a stranger during Charlton’s fumbling start to the season. But it was all the more keenly appreciated when it showed up.

It felt good that each member of Nigel Adkins’ 14-man squad contributed to this workmanlike victory over spirited Crewe; it felt good too that the Addicks scored for the first time at home; and it felt better than good to celebrate a win at last. It remains to be seen whether a corner has been turned, but as Adkins reminded us: “We’ve got good players and we’ve got a good team.”

And that, in itself, is something to feel good about.

This was a comfortable, but never easy, victory. As always, Crewe were well-schooled, bright on the ball and dangerous from time to time. In preserving his second clean sheet, Craig McGillivray was called upon to make a handful of saves, the pick of them his stunning reaction to prevent substitute Chris Porter’s point-blank certainty from crossing the goalline. McGillivray did his bit and had a case to be considered Charlton’s unofficial man-of-the match. That would, however, overlook the credentials of Diallang Jaiyesimi, who added an excellent goal to his best game in a Charlton shirt.

Making an aggressive, positive start, Adkins’ Addicks were quick out of the blocks. As early as the third minute, Jayden Stockley crossed from the left for Ryan Inniss to beat Luke Offord in the air and test Will Jaaskelainen at his near post. The homeboys’ intentions were already clear, with fullbacks Adam Matthews and Chris Gunter regularly crossing the halfway line to join up with their forwards, while Albie Morgan called the shots in central midfield.

The visitors buckled under the pressure but a goal eluded their tormentors; as the opening salvo abated, they emerged from their defensive ramparts and hit back; Callum McFadzean should, in fact, have done better than turn Callum Ainley’s cutely dinked cross tamely into McGillivray’s hands. Their chances were improving when they fell behind shortly after the half hour mark.

Picking up possession from Stockley on the left flank, Gunter’s centre seemed certain to be met by McFadzean until Jaiyesimi stole an important step on his marker and headed emphatically into the roof of Jasskalainen’s net. The winger’s repertoire of tricks and flicks provide his bread and butter; his newly-discovered aerial power adds jam to his tasty menu.

Shaken by their concession, the Railwaymen were hit by a second blow just five minutes later. Again Jaiyesimi was involved, his awareness of Connor Washington’s run into space matched by the swooping crossfield pass which arrived slightly behind its intended target. Superb control with the outside of his foot provided Washington with the time he needed to find Stockley in space inside him. Forced wide as he rounded Jasskalainen, the big striker finished into the bottom left corner from a dwindling angle.

Sandwiched between the goals, academy graduate Ainley had stung McGillivray’s palms with a fiercely-struck drive. But the second setback placed the outcome beyond them. The industry of Morgan was backed up by Ben Watson’s cool commonsense.

And when Inniss departed just past the hour, 17-year old Deji Elewere stepped up to prove again that if you’re good enough, you’re also old enough. This kid is, impressively, the business, but will be brought along cautiously and responsibly. We can only hope he doesn’t have an agent yet but that horse might already have bolted. Best enjoy him while we can.

Though conclusively two down, David Artell’s side refused to surrender. Kayne Ramsay’s blistering drive brought the best out of McGillivray, as did McFadzean’s effort from the edge of the penalty area. Charlton’s capable keeper was almost beaten by Akin Famewo’s panicky slice but survived at the expense of a corner. At the other end, Jaaskalainen foiled Washington in one-on-one confrontation, then saved magnificently from Stockley.

An entertaining encounter careered along until Adkins no doubt prescribed a course of game management. Gunter and Matthews duly curbed their attacking enthusiasm; Elewere and Famewo clamped down on excessive frills; Watson’s experience blended nicely with Morgan’s youthful flair and Washington and Stockley, as usual, chased everything.

The manager might also have noticed Charlie Kirk’s growing confidence – more will be expected from Charlie as the season develops. It didn’t harm the feelgood factor, meanwhile, to introduce Elliott Lee to an appreciative crowd.

The last word belongs, as it should, with Adkins. “All in all, we’ve got to be pleased with a 2-0 victory and a great atmosphere at The Valley”, he declared. Amen to that, Nigel, a heartfelt amen to that. Feels good, don’t it?

Charlton: McGillivray, Matthews, Famewo, Inniss (Lee 76), Gunter, Watson, Morgan, Jaiyesimi (Clare 80), Kirk (Lee 76), Stockley, Washington. Not used: Harness, Pearce, Blackett-Taylor, Davison. Booked: Gunter.

Crewe: Jaaskalainen, Adebisi, Thomas, Offord, Knight (Ramsay 66), Ainley, Mandron, Finney (Porter 66), McFadzean (Griffiths 83), Murphy, Lundstram. Booked: Adebisi, McFadzean.

Referee: James Bell. Attendance: 13,167 (498 visiting).


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Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 0-2 Wigan Athletic

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Boos rang around The Valley yesterday as an underwhelming Charlton side lost 2-0 to Wigan. KEVIN NOLAN rakes up the painful memories of an afternoon to forget.

There were just two minutes of regulation time left when Charlton snatched defeat from the jaws, to bend a phrase, of a more than useful draw. Thanks to the brilliance of goalkeeper Craig McGillivray, they were in touching distance of a precious point; just a little more mopping up was required before, deserved or not, scoreless equality was theirs.

Visitors Wigan, unfortunately, were less than satisfied with their share of the spoils and went looking for more. Picking up Ben Amos’ clearance near the halfway line, Max Power produced a devastating cross which his skipper Tendayi Darikwa bravely headed past McGillivray at the far post. The perfect fusion of deadly delivery and efficient finish were too much for even Charlton’s defiant goalkeeper. And despite the lateness of Darikwa’s decisive strike, it arrived in an atmosphere of palpable inevitability.

The Latics were not quite finished. There was still time for substitute James McLean, harnessing the kneejerk abuse he uses as motivation, to skip through the remnants of a bedraggled home defence, smoothly round McGillivray and finish into an empty net. To the Republic of Ireland stalwart belonged the last laugh.

Wigan’s late salvo obscured the uncomfortable fact that the Addicks were second best to a side which would undoubtedly have felt the rough side of manager Leam Richardson’s tongue had they not added goals to their superiority. Which makes Nigel Adkins’ assertion that “we were knocking on the door but didn’t work their goalkeeper enough” hard to credit. Truth is his popgun-wielding attack actually failed to work Amos at all. They produced only three efforts worthy of mention, none of them on target.

The first of them featured Diallang Jaiyesimi, who fired narrowly over the bar after cutting inside Kell Watts; shortly after Jaiyesimi’s effort, full debutant Charlie Kirk made painstaking space for a low, left-footed drive which caught a gentle deflection on its way wide of the right post; Kirk then made an unseemly mess of converting the chance created for him by the strength and persistence of Jayden Stockley on the right byline. Surrounded by a posse of brawny Latics, Stockley somehow improvised an inviting cutback which Kirk haplessly miskicked.

In the home goal, meanwhile, McGillivray was a hive of industry. His busy afternoon began as a helpless spectator when Jordan Jones headed Callum Lang’s cross against his crossbar but got underway in earnest with the plunging save he made to keep out Kells’ attempt to glance Jones’ whipped free kick inside the right post. McGillivray also distinguished himself by keeping out Tom Naylor’s point blank header from another of Jones’ dangerous deliveries. After the break, his trio of outstanding saves was completed by his gymnastic response to tip Charlie Wyke’s bullet header over the bar. But his finest moment was in reacting instinctively to parry Wyke’s three-yard sure thing. The fact that Wyke was ruled offside is immaterial.

Despite Adkins’ optimistic utterances that “there is obviously a lot for us to go and work on”, he must have noticed that his disjointed side is already in a deal of trouble. Following this second home game, the locals were mutinous and repeated the accusation made at MK Dons in midweek that his players “weren’t fit to wear the shirt”. A bit harsh, perhaps, but their anger needs to be addressed. These are admittedly early days but the Addicks are already looking downwards while they lose touch with the promotion contenders escaping above them.

While hoping that the likes of Jake Forster-Caskey and Alex Gilbey will soon be available to him, the beleaguered manager is entitled to some assistance before the transfer window slams shut. His new signings, notably Kirk and newest Addick Corey Blackett-Taylor were added to a squad clearly lacking cohesion and confidence; neither of them exactly hit the ground running. Comprehensively outclassed in midfield, where Power and Jones called the tune while Darikwa, Lang and Jones provided intelligent width on the flanks, the Addicks somehow took the issue into the late stages before capitulating. For that moderate success, look no further than McGillivray’s excellence.

Elsewhere, Jaiyesimi faded after a promising start (“We knew DJ wouldn’t last more than, probably, 45 minutes” was Adkins puzzling comment) and Albie Morgan, though he worked hard, lacks the tools to be the midfield organiser his No. 10 implies. George Dobson was again disappointing, maligned veteran Ben Watson and the irrepressible Stockley Charlton’s best outfield players. They were operating in a dull team, lacking spark and, crucially, leadership. A team which, without wishing to be unduly unkind, is spectacularly uninteresting.

Promises of a five year plan heading inexorably for the Premier League and Europe have been all heard before. And as before, they were treated with long-suffering scepticism. They’ve all been heard before. The only plan which appeals to Charlton fans is one which gets them out of this depressing division. Which looks ominously unlikely this season.

Charlton: McGillivray, Gunter, Famewo, Inniss, Matthews, Dobson (Washington 73), Morgan, Watson, Kirk (Davison 90), Jaiyesimi (Blackett-Taylor 69), Stockley. Not used: Harness, Pearce, Clayden, Elewere. Booked: Jaiyesimi, Inniss, Watson.

Wigan: Amos, Watts, Naylor, Whatmough, Cousins, Power, Wyke, Keane (Humphrys 90), Jordan Jones (Massey 62), Lang
(McLean 62), Darikwa. Not used: Jamie Jones, Pearce, Edwards, Aasgard. Booked: Jordan Jones.

Attendance: 13,839 (711 visiting). Referee: Craig Hicks.


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