A grim afternoon behind closed doors at The Valley. KEVIN NOLAN watched so you don’t have to, and makes a few suggestions…
A tortuous exercise in pure frustration, which featured two unfavourable penalty decisions and a first half goal contentiously ruled out for offside, prolonged Charlton’s relegation agony in Saturday’s lunchtime clash with Reading at The Valley.
Their ordeal began as early as the second minute when Deji Oshilaja needlessly cut across Andy Rinomhota, bundling him over as they disputed John Swift’s sharp pass into the penalty area. His zeal was misplaced and referee Darren Bond dutifully operated within the law to penalise him. George Puscas drilled his spotkick down the middle as Dillon Phillips gambled to his right.
Scorers themselves only three times in five post-lockdown games, the Addicks could ill afford Oshilaja’s rush of blood. They battled on doggedly but powderpuff finishing again proved their undoing. Up front, Macauley Bonne went close with a couple of half-chances but looked out of his depth while Chuks Aneke was fortunate to escape a caution for persistent fouling. It was Aneke, however, who appeared to have equalised shortly before the first drinks break when he turned home the rebound after Rafael saved Aiden McGeady’s crisp snapshot at full length. Referee Bond clearly saw nothing wrong with the “goal” but, reasonably enough, deferred to his linesman’s upraised flag. Charlton can’t catch a break at the minute; Reading’s penalty follows hard on the heels of the dubious decision which helped Brentford to overcome their stout resistance in midweek.
Much later, Bond was required to adjudicate a similar tangle between substitutes Jake Forster-Caskey and Jon Obita inside the area. Obita’s challenge, like Oshilaja’s in almost the same spot, seemed excessively physical but again the full force of the law came down on the home side. Forster-Caskey was not only denied a penalty but was unfairly booked for “simulation” while Obita escaped scot-free.
Later defeats for Middlesbrough and Hull City mitigated the damage done by this demoralising setback but Charlton would be unwise to rely on the continued ineptitude of others as they enter a critical three-game micro-season. Their current inability to score promises to be their downfall. Bonne is the only recognised striker with a goal to his credit, while a popgun-firing midfield, in which Darren Pratley has been the sole scorer, consistently fails to contribute. The four goals grudgingly conceded by the defence in six games (one of them the penalty generously awarded to Brentford), meanwhile, stands comparison with sides at the top of the division. No team has recently rolled over Charlton, as has happened to their relegation rivals and that jealously guarded goal difference may yet enter the equation.
An increasingly careworn Lee Bowyer will weigh the pluses and minuses in selecting his sides for the upcoming clashes with fellow strugglers Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic. He must surely concede that Oshilaja, a right-footed left back, is a square peg looking for a suitably square hole. His advances along the left flank invariably end in him checking infield on to his right foot before passing either square or backwards, a consequent loss of momentum not common to Alfie Doughty or, indeed, to the totally overlooked Ben Purrington.
The manager will also have been quietly pleased with the first half shift contributed by McGeady who, besides producing Charlton’s most effective shot on target, probed and passed intelligently. The Scottish playmaker’s clever cross created a near-post chance which Bonne screwed harmlessly across the face of Rafael’s goal before, as usual, he faded dramatically after the interval. McGeady should have been substituted long before his 79th-minute departure in favour of anonymous Tomer Hemed.
An interval replacement for ineffective Albie Morgan, Jonny Williams made a determined effort to establish a new personal best for free kicks earned. Another non-scoring midfielder, Williams might be encouraged to spend more time inside opponents’ penalty area, where his propensity to attract fouls could pay off. Like McGeady, he’s good for no more than 45 minute stints. Perhaps they should alternate to good effect.
And in a Charlton side beginning to present a jaded, colourless persona, should room be made for Naby Sarr, a charismatic player hard to ignore and even harder to overlook? Maybe he could even make a difference up front, where he’s been known to cause havoc. Bowyer will probably opt for caution at this late stage -and he might well be right -which will mean more bad news for the diminutive Erhun Oztumer, who seems to be surplus to the manager’s requirements. Oztumer and Sarr, the unused Little and Large pistols in Bowyer’s armoury, might well be worth a look, though. After all, when it’s broke, fix it!
Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce, Oshilaja (Doughty 46), Cullen, Pratley (Forster-Caskey 84), McGeady (Hemed 79), Morgan (Williams 46), Aneke, Bonne. Not used: Amos, Sarr, Purrington, Field, Oztumer. Booked: Doughty, Cullen, Forster-Caskey.
Reading: Rafael, Cabral, Blackett, McIntyre, Morrison, Osho (Gunter 74), Pele (Obita 46), Olise (Richards 61), Rinomhota, Swift (Moore 74), Meite, Puscas (Baldock 56). Not used: Walker, Miazga, McCleary, Boye. Booked: Blackett, Osho, Baldock.
Referee: Darren Bond.