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

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

The Addicks’ push for the play-offs took another stumble last night thanks to a last-minute equaliser for Crewe Alexandra. An increasingly anxious KEVIN NOLAN was at The Valley.

With the five allotted stoppage minutes already played, Charlton were hanging on by a badly-chewed fingernail to the 2-1 lead given them by Alex Gilbey’s apparently decisive late goal.

To say they were doing it comfortably would be abusing the truth. They were, in fact, a panic-stricken rabble incapable of making clean contact with a ball which caromed, ricocheted and otherwise awkwardly skittered around their penalty area. The confusion was awe-inspiring but the Addicks appeared to have staggered to the line unscathed.

Referee Trevor Kettle – Whistling T Kettle to his chums around the league – begged to differ. He had nowhere to be, nothing to do, no promises to keep. “The man that made time made plenty of it,” was his attitude, so “take as much of it as you need” became his message to never-say-die Crewe.

Midfielder Owen Dale needed no such encouragement and sorted out an ugly scramble in Charlton’s six-yard box by hammering an unstoppable volley past a helpless Ben Amos.

Dale’s overtime equaliser was the second sickening body-blow suffered by Charlton in the dying embers. News had filtered through that up in Accrington, John Marquis had completed Portsmouth’s recovery from 2-0 down by firing Pompey ahead 3-2 in the 90th minute. Abruptly, the situation flip-flopped in favour of the South Coasters but wait… Marquis wasn’t through for the night. In the 7th minute of added time, he’d slipped down the other end and put through his own goal. You just gotta love this guy!

With the dust nicely settled, the equation is now starkly simple. Charlton are trailing Portsmouth and Oxford by two points and one points respectively. But they have a game in hand over both of their rivals. Win all three of their remaining games and they’re in the play-offs, it’s as easy as that. And the three games? They line up as follows – Accrington (a), play-off certs Lincoln (h) and finally, champions-elect Hull City (h).

A difficult task becomes more daunting when their home record (25 points) is weighed against their away record (42 points). In other words, they’re nearly twice as effective on the road. Making it into the play-offs ranks among the longest of longshots but, c’mon, that’s better than no shot at all.

Of urgent concern to Nigel Adkins must be the manner in which his side was comfortably handled by modest achievers Crewe, eight of whose starters were academy graduates. The sinister story of abuse which temporarily destroyed the club’s splendid record is history now and needs no repetition here. The kids and management who ran Charlton ragged on Tuesday evening are untainted by the scandal and did Alex proud. They could even afford to spot their hopeful hosts an early lead.

Making their first inroads into the visitors’ territory, the Addicks turned their defence on the left flank. Liam Millar’s measured pass played Alex Gilbey in behind Harry Pickering to cross head-high on the run. Stealing a critical half-yard on marker Donervon Daniels, Jayden Stockley’s brave diving header beat Will Jaaskalainen and Charlton were off to an important, tension-easing start. Or so it seemed.

The truth was somewhat different. Far from calming local nerves, the first half was spent in jittery defence of the lead. Crewe lived up to their reputation for neat, constructive football and threatened occasionally to haul themselves level. Centre forward Mikael Madron wasted a couple of chances, while the persistent Dale curled narrowly wide after fine wing play by Callum Ainley.

All style in their approach but little substance in the final third where it matters – that was the dismissive opinion along the press ranks as Crewe dominated possession without end product. Until, of course, 22-year old Dale, from nearby Warrington, put that notion to the sword.

Charlton were growing steadily more anxious as the second half wore on and it was no surprise when Alex equalised midway through the session. Exchanging passes with diminutive Tom Lowery in the inside right channel, Dale shifted the ball on to his left foot before bending a cunning shot into the far corner. It was a goal that Charlton’s passive attitude had been inviting since Stockley opened the scoring.

Conor Washington had already replaced Ian Maatsen soon after the break to protect the youngster from a second yellow card. When he was joined by Chuks Aneke on for the ineffectual Millar, the Addicks at last took the fight to their well-drilled opponents. Aneke’s powerful running produced a ball in from the left which barely eluded Washington as the pendulum briefly swung. And with seven minutes left, Gilbey was on hand to head through Jaaskalainen’s legs after Aneke nodded down Jake Forster’s outswinging corner.

Both Aneke and Washington brought new menace and fresh legs with them. The latter’s forceful run down the middle looked likely to produce a clinching third goal until he was overwhelmed by force of numbers; Aneke also went close but his powerful low cross was claimed by Jaaskalainen, with Washington in predatory attendance.Still, Crewe persisted with admirable patience which brought its reward as the Addicks degenerated into blind panic.

“I enjoyed watching my side tonight,” remarked visiting gaffer David Artell. Under different circumstances, Dave, we couldn’t agree more. But don’t hurry back. You can get too much of a good thing…

Charlton: Amos; Matthews, Famewo, Pearce, Purrington, Gilbey, Watson (Pratley 75), Forster-Caskey, Maatsen (Washington 54), Millar (Aneke 68), Stockley (Innis 75). Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Gunter, Morgan. Booked: Maatsen, Gilbey, Pearce

Crewe: Jaaskelainen; Adebisi, Wood, Danels, Pickering, Lowery Wintle, Ainley (Porter 86), Dale, Mandron, Kirk. Not used: Richards, Lancashire, Johson, Beckles, Walker, Evans. Booked: Dale, Wood 45

Referee: Trevor Kettle


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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.