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

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

The Addicks’ last home match of an underwhelming season ended in a win. KEVIN NOLAN kept an eye on the desperate battle to finish 12th in League One.

It’s been obvious for some time that Charlton have not been remotely good enough to sustain a challenge for promotion from League One. On their day they were capable of giving most teams in the division a decent game; unfortunately that “day” became all too rare as the pressure mounted. You could say they came up a day late and a dollar short when it mattered.

At the same time, there’s been only a fleeting fear of relegation and it can be safely stated that the Addicks proved they don’t belong in that unseemly struggle to avoid demotion to League Two. They are, in fact, destined to finish where they belong – squarely among the mid-table nonentities, if less grateful than the clubs around them to be considered also-rans. Charlton could’ve – should’ve – been the contenders Nigel Adkins promised they’d be last summer.

An impressive return of 16 points from the eight league games which preceded the visit of Shrewsbury Town had fans studying the table and wistfully indulging “what might have been” daydreams. In the middle of that run, inexplicable home defeats to Lincoln City (1-2) and Morecambe (2-3) brought them down to earth. And those two results drove home, with sobering impact, the chronic inconsistency which undid them.

Still we are where we are and it is what it is. There remain 12th and 13th positions to sort out and the race between Charlton, Cambridge United, Cheltenham Town and Accrington Stanley, easily dismissed as a losers’ repechage, was hotter than a pistol on Saturday. Fair enough, nobody else gave a flying farquhar but on this parochial level, it mattered a great deal.

In midweek, the Addicks had done their hopes no harm by leapfrogging Cambridge after beating them 2-0 at their place. They started Saturday two points ahead of United, who faced a daunting and ultimately fruitless trip to Sunderland (1-5). That removed Cambridge from the equation which switched attention to Cheltenham, beaten at home by Bolton Wanderers, and Accrington, home winners over Lincoln City. Both trailed Charlton by one point so only Stanley can catch Johnnie Jackson’s men now. The tension’s ratcheting up and some of us can hardly wait till next Saturday. There’s everything – well, not everything but definitely something – left to play for this season. You just have to know where to look.

The importance of Shrewsbury’s visit, to be brutally frank, seemed to have escaped Charlton’s attention in a dreadful first half at a less than impressed Valley. Dealt a pre-kick-off blow when dynamic Corey Blackett-Taylor was taken ill during warm-up, they were compensated by a lively contribution by Diallang Jaiyesimi, who stepped in and answered Jackson’s call admirably. It was Jaiyesimi, whose fierce drive after cutting in from the left, was capably saved at his near post by Marko Marosi in the 3rd minute.

In reply, Tyrese Fornal half-volleyed narrowly wide but the Addicks edged what were admittedly tepid exchanges. They looked likelier to score but Conor Washington shot too close to Marosi when sent clear by Jayden Stockley’s flick and Alex Gilbey tamely headed Albie Morgan’s inswinging corner straight at the Slovakian keeper. The interval arrived as a relief to our suffering.

Two minutes into the second period, breathtaking brilliance by Craig McGillivray denied Town a surprise lead. Put through by Luke Leahy’s pass, Ryan Bowman shot hard and low for the bottom right corner. His shot was instinctively parried by McGillivray, who regained his feet in time to block Joshua Daniels’ point blank attempt to convert the rebound. This was the keeper’s 16th clean sheet of an ever-present league season.

Morgan’s beautifully-judged ball over the top promptly sent Washington through again to confront Marosi but the big Slovak came out on top once more and saved the Northern Irishman’s angled effort. Something more precise was clearly necessary to beat him and Stockley duly delivered by meeting Morgan’s corner and heading unstoppably into the roof of the net.

Scorer of the added-time goal which beat the Addicks 1-0 in frigid Shropshire last November, Daniel Udoh took matters in his own hands as the Shrews sought an instant equaliser. A mazy solo run carried him past a pursuing posse of home defenders but his entry for goal-of-the-season was foiled by McGillivray’s full-length save.

The 75th minute replacement of Gilbey by Chuks Aneke was the straw that broke Shrewsbury’s back. Aneke’s incredible scoring record as a late substitute is an article of faith around SE7 and almost inevitably he delivered again. Before he did so, he missed a sitter when feebly heading Jaiyesimi’s carefully dinked cross from the left into Marosi’s hands. His confidence remained intact and he made no mistake in powering Morgan’s precise free kick past the helpless keeper to seal the points with four regulation minutes left on the clock.

Marosi might understandably have been distracted by the ignorance of the mentally challenged “hero” who verbally abused him from behind his goal. But then again, Aneke’s header was goalbound as soon as it left his brow.

Their ninth 2-0 win of a generally dismal season at least puts the Addicks in the catbird seat as the battle for 12th place in League One climaxes next weekend. This season ain’t over – not while finishing above Accrington Stanley is at stake. Let’s hope Wimbledon can do us a favour and beat Stanley – unless they’ve still got the needle for letting them down against Morecambe recently.

It’s all about pressure in the middle of the table. Remember what they say: there ain’t no disgrace in thirteenth place!

Charlton: McGillivray, Clare, Pearce, Famewo, Matthews (Kanu 90+7), Dobson, Morgan, Gilbey (Aneke 75), Jaiyesimi, Washington, Stockley. Not used: Harness, Forster-Caskey, Leko, Inniss.

Shrewsbury: Marosi, Leahy, Pennington, Whalley, Fornah, Vela, Udoh (Bloxham 90+4), Bowman, Daniels, Nurse, Flanagan. Not used: Burgoyne, Pierre, Caton, Craig, Janneh, Barlow.

Referee: Sam Purkiss. Att: 11,207 (667 visiting).


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

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

The Addicks sank back into mediocrity on Saturday with defeat to Lincoln City – but, as KEVIN NOLAN reminds us, at least relegation is off the cards this season…

Charlton’s recent three-game winning streak, during which they disposed of feeble opposition in Gillingham, Burton Albion and Doncaster Rovers, was nothing much to shout about.

But at least their doggedness was impressive as they belatedly removed the last, lingering threat of relegation from a desperately dreary season, over which a veil should be mercifully drawn.

Given their parlous plight in September and October, when they languished in 21st position, their recovery was timely, but hardly worthy of kudos. Unremarkable in a division of stodgy mediocrity, the Addicks found their level among the also-rans.

Saturday’s visitors Lincoln City contributed to Charlton’s discomfort last autumn by beating them 2-1 at Sincil Bank. They arrived at The Valley trailing their hosts by seven points but significantly nine points clear of fourth-from-bottom Wimbledon – not exactly safe from relegation but on course to salvation. In completing a valuable double over Johnnie Jackson’s co-operative side, they virtually assured themselves of League One football next season.

An impressively loud corps of 1,110 pilgrims from Lincolnshire’s cathedral city made it clear, with their jubilant chorus of “the Imps are staying up”, that survival ranks as an achievement to be celebrated.

Watching the owner’s foolhardy “five-year plan” to reach the Premier League reduced to a hollow joke, meanwhile, the locals were in no mood to join the Imps’ party. The 2021-22 season has been, for them, disappointing and no amount of trans-Atlantic razzmatazz will convince them otherwise. Nor will that tone-deaf ditty he inflicts on them before kick-off.

But back, meanwhile, to the entertainment provided by two teams with little or nothing to play for. With seven games left, it was easy to suppose that an encounter of grim stalemate was on the cards but nothing was further from the truth.

These sub-mid-table opponents set about each other with gusto and even cared enough to have a player each sent off by letter-of-the-law referee Bobby Madley. Neither Charlton’s Alex Gilbey nor Lincoln’s Morgan Whittaker could deny their fate was richly deserved but the latter, at least, departed with the satisfaction of having put his side into the lead.

Gilbey’s dismissal was both boneheaded and inexcusable. Having been correctly cautioned for tugging back Jamie Robson, he repeated the offence ten minutes later to prevent Conor McGrandles eluding him in the centre circle. The immediate threat posed by McGrandles was negligible but, as Jackson remarked, referees are quick to book offences which prevent the quick break. Both transgressions were committed under the official’s nose and rendered an alibi defence insupportable.

At the point of Gilbey’s shamefaced departure, the visitors were already a goal to the good. Moving laterally from right to left just outside the penalty area, Whittaker benefitted from indecisive tackling and a favourable run of the ball before finding the space he needed to fire a low drive inside Craig McGillivray’s left hand post. His strike was avoidable but clinically executed.

The Addicks could count themselves unlucky to fall behind after controlling the opening half hour. After seven minutes, Conor Washington skilfully chested down Adam Matthews’ hard delivery for his strike partner Jayden Stockley to whip a firm volley narrowly wide. Stockley went closer almost immediately by turning Gilbey’s hard-driven cross against Jordan Wright’s crossbar.

Just nine minutes into the second half, the feeling that this was not to be Charlton’s day hardened into certainty when Stockley rose to meet Ben Purrington’s cleverly flighted cross, momentarily beat Wright but was denied an equaliser as the keeper frantically clawed his header to safety. Your reporter added his partisan two-cent’s worth to the home crowd’s howls for justice but was privately unconvinced that the ball had crossed the goalline. You can’t blame a bloke for trying, of course, but Madley, unassisted by VAR as he was, was justified in cocking a deaf ‘un.

Local frustration continued to grow until Whittaker added his shoulder to the home wheel. His studs-up challenge on Purrington was late and dangerous, which meant his second entry into the official notebook. The most you could say for the young forward is that he wasted no time in arguing the toss. He was bang to rights and knew it.

Heartened by the readjustment in manpower, the Addicks eagerly sought equality and Stockley found space to meet Washington’s cross from the right, directed another header goalward but was again denied by an intelligently positioned Wright. Washington then curled a worthy effort wide and Brooke Norton-Cuffy’s magnificent recovery tackle foiled George Dobson before the Imps apparently quelled the revival with a second goal.

A constant threat to Jackson’s defence, Irish striker Anthony Scully had been working tirelessly with scant reward but kept going optimistically. With less than a quarter of an hour remaining, he cruised in from the left and bent a splendid right-footed drive into the far corner. That seemed to be that but Charlton were not quite finished.

Quickly finding his feet after his lengthy lay-off, Jake Forster-Caskey had replaced the serially disappointing Scott Fraser ten minutes before Scully scored and settled down quickly, with intelligent movement, a range of pinpoint passes and accurate setpieces. His 88th minute corner, swung outward from the left, was headed home by Stockley and City briefly wavered. Substitute Elliot Lee’s searching pass found Washington deep inside their penalty area but the Northern Irishman drove a last-gasp effort agonisingly wide.

Charlton’s threat duly petered out – rather like their season had several weeks ago.

Charlton: McGillivray, Clare, Matthews (Leko 74), Lavelle, Purrington, Dobson (Lee 86), Gilbey, Fraser (Forster-Caskey 65), Blackett-Taylor, Stockley, Washington. Not used: Harness, Famewo, Pearce, Burstow. Sent off: Gilbey.

Lincoln: Wright, Poole, Jackson, Whittaker, Cullen (Marquis 87), Scully (Hopper 82), McGrandles, Fiorini, Norton-Cuffy, Bridcutt (Maguire 70), Robson.

Not used: Sanders, Bishop, Walsh, House. Booked: Fiorini: Sent off: Whittaker.

Referee: Bobby Madley Att: 10,091 (1,110 visiting).

Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 1-0 Gillingham

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

The Addicks sent their visitors from down the North Kent Line packing on a nervous night at The Valley. KEVIN NOLAN was there.

On a chilly evening when the result was all that mattered, an opportunistic strike by Alex Gilbey – his second goal of a stop-start season – was enough to settle this scruffy game and all but dismiss Charlton’s lingering fears of relegation to the unspeakable horrors of League Two.

Unable to exploit the Addicks’ alarming second-half disintegration, Gillingham were at least favoured by other results, leaving them a precarious fourth from bottom and still under severe pressure to survive the drop.

To be brutally frank, this downmarket clash between substandard teams went largely unnoticed elsewhere. But at The Valley, the nerves were palpable, mistakes rife and the mood tetchy.

A disappointing home crowd, bolstered by a lively contingent from the Orchard of England, saw Charlton start brightly, control much of the first half and take a deserved lead into their dressing room at half-time. The second half told a different story as the Addicks, increasingly aware of the stakes on offer, appeared to freeze. The visitors sensed their vulnerability, grew in confidence but lacked the quality to press home their growing advantage.

As the tension affected Johnnie Jackson’s men, their ability to hold on to the ball disappeared. Clearances were inconclusive and their pre-interval grip on the game loosened. An equaliser seemed, if not inevitable, then more than likely.

As they battled to hang on to their lead, Charlton rediscovered the spirit so frequently lacking during a seven-game winless streak. They ran, pressed and covered for each other with almost manic enthusiasm.

Up front, Conor Washington and Jayden Stockley set an example of unstinting effort, while Corey Blackett-Taylor’s frequent bursts of pace pinned the Gills back and provided respite for his nerve-shredded side. Behind them, George Dobson supplied his usual energy, the often unfairly maligned Gilbey did his bit and Scott Fraser showed enough to suggest there’s more to come from this talented playmaker. His 66th minute substitute, Elliot Lee, shook off a shaky start before providing a masterclass in how to run down the clock with several cameos, of which the storied Tony Watt would have approved.

It was Gilbey, restored to the starting line-up after being dropped for the last two games, who provided the 40th minute breakthrough. He had already gone close by capping a blistering run with a shot which whistled narrowly wide and was clearly in the mood to try his luck. In support as Blackett-Taylor’s drive was spilled by Pontus Dahlberg, he pounced on the rebound when the keeper bravely parried Stockley’s follow-up, and netted on the turn from 14 yards. His goal ended Charlton’s failure to score from open play since Lee headed the Addicks in front at Wigan on February 12th – a barren run of five games.

Though they beavered away industriously, Neil Harris’ men created little of note to bother Craig McGillivray. Top scorer Vadaine Oliver headed Ben Thompson’s first half cross tamely into McGillivray’s hands and Conor Masterson sent a 25-yard snapshot whistling wide after the break.

His keeper’s relative inactivity didn’t dissuade Jackson from singling out McGillivray for special mention. “I thought Craig was excellent. I’m pleased because obviously we’ve conceded a few goals and I know he took that pretty hard so he deserved that clean sheet. And the win came from hard work and heart and they showed that in abundance today.”

It’s been a rough ride recently for Charlton’s popular boss – ringing the changes as his depleted team hit the skids. Seven games without winning sent them into dangerous freefall and Jackson spoke for everyone in stressing the overriding importance of this result.

It hadn’t been about the elegance of the performance – which was just as well – but winning, however ugly it was. “We’ve had important players missing and that’s impacted on results,” he remarked. “We’ve had to try another way and it’s been difficult but I think you saw tonight when we get those guys on the pitch, we’re going to win football matches.” Amen to that, boss.

And a word to the owner. You don’t buy a dog and bark yourself. Johnnie Jackson is the right man for the job. Give him the right tools and he’ll do that job.

Just make sure those tools can play 90 minutes and can turn out regularly. We have more than enough part-time players as it is. We’re lucky to have this bloke in charge. So don’t screw it up.

Charlton: McGillivray, Clare, Lavelle, Purrington, Matthews, Dobson, Gilbey, Fraser (Lee 66), Blackett-Taylor (Pearce 88), Washington, Stockley. Booked: Gilbey, Stockley. Not used: Harness, Gunter, Jaiyesimi, Leko, Burstow.

Gillingham: Dahlberg, Tutonda (Dickson-Peters 81), O’Keefe, Ehmer, Tucker, Thompson, Lee, McKenzie (Lintott 59), Masterson, Oliver, Kelman. Booked: O’Keefe. Not used: Chapman, Maghoma, Akehurst, Chambers.

Referee: Will Finnie. Attendance: 9,728 (1,559 visiting).


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