Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 2-2 Portsmouth

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

A late equaliser spared Addicks manager Nigel Adkins from the wrath of the Valley crowd at full-time yesterday. KEVIN NOLAN tried to make sense of his latest line-up.

A much-needed interval was offering welcome respite to Charlton, who were a goal down and being completely outclassed by Portsmouth at an increasingly surly Valley.

Only an astonishing miss by old adversary John Marquis had spared them the two-goal deficit, which would more than likely have proved conclusive as they teetered on collapse. The discontent around three sides of the ground was palpable and opprobrium began to rain on the already toilworn shoulders of manager Nigel Adkins.

Featuring five changes from the side which drew at Gillingham in midweek – Pompey were unchanged – his latest in-crowd was struggling to find rhythm or cohesion.

Most baffling was the relegation to the bench of Corey Blackett-Taylor, who had reduced the Gills to distraction and was almost as impressive at Wycombe a week earlier. With the bit between his teeth, so to speak, the youngster needed to play, not rest, or so it seemed to many dedicated observers.

Falling behind after just six minutes was hardly guaranteed to bond disgruntled supporters and a cautious manager but, with almost eerie inevitability, that was exactly what happened.

Receiving Mahlon Romeo’s pass to the left of goal, Ronan Curtis used Lee Brown’s overlap to make space for a superb, dipping drive over Craig McGillivray into the top corner; no challenge was offered by marker Adam Matthews or any of his backtracking colleagues.

Matthews gained partial redemption almost immediately with a fine recovery tackle to halt Marquis in the act of point-blank shooting. And it was Marquis who squandered the chance to put early daylight between the teams.

Marcus Harness’ quick feet turned Sam Lavelle on the left, with his clever pass picking out Marquis, whose heavy touch and ponderous turn had the unexpected effect of placing Jason Pearce on his backside. With the goal now at his mercy, the hapless striker incredibly shovelled a seven-yard shot wide of the right post. It was a miss of breathtaking ineptitude and something of a turning point.

The first shoots of recovery had been provided by Elliot Lee, who surged on to Jonathan Leko’s through pass but was thwarted by Gavin Bazunu’s legs. The Dublin-born keeper also saved at full length from Leko and used his legs again to keep out Alex Gilbey’s angled effort before the break.

Charlton’s undeniable improvement, however, failed to placate the mutinous locals whose chorus of disapproval escorted Adkins down the tunnel. The beleaguered manager didn’t get where he is today, of course, without having something up his sleeve.

His interval replacement of the deeply disappointing Harry Arter with recently-neglected Sean Clare was instantly rewarded in the most satisfying way. A clumsy foul by Sean Raggett on Lee close to the right byline conceded an unnecessary free kick which his victim prepared to take from a dangerous position between touchline and penalty area.

Cleverly disguising his intent, the quick-thinking Lee cut the setpiece back to Clare, who barrelled into the area and lashed an unstoppable drive inside the right post. Planned in SE9, executed in SE7, the equaliser temporarily lifted the pressure off an anxious Adkins.

As the momentum briefly switched, Lee broke away, with excellent advantage applied by referee Coggins, to test Bazunu before Leko turned sharply to draw a fine, fingertip save from the suddenly busy keeper.

But it didn’t last and Pompey were back in front with 18 minutes left. Ryan Tunnicliffe’s piercing pass was deftly flicked on by Marquis and slotted efficiently past McGillivray by the irrepressible Harness.

The influential goalscorer’s prompt replacement by the pleasingly anonymous ex-Addick Reece Hackett-Fairchild was not only a huge relief to the Addicks but evidence that Pompey manager Danny Cowley is hardly a genius.

It was Adkins’ introduction of Blackett-Taylor and Josh Davison that paid off spectacularly as his substitutes combined to produce Charlton’s second equaliser.

A significant contribution was made by steady-as-a-rock Ben Watson, his accurate diagonal ball taken in stride by Blackett-Taylor, who outpaced Romeo before crossing for Davison to sweep home at the far post.

Expect Clare, Blackett-Taylor and Davison to start on Tuesday evening against Bolton – but don’t assume they will.

Funny how grizzled veterans like Pearce and Watson can manage back-to-back games but effervescent kids like Blackett-Taylor and Davison need to put their feet up. It’s one of life’s little mysteries…

Charlton: McGillivray, Matthews, Pearce, Lavelle, Watson, Arter (Clare 46), Leko, Gilbey, Lee (Blackett-Taylor 82), Souare, Stockley (Davison 82). Not used: Henderson, Dobson, Famewo, Kirk. Booked: Souare, Clare.

Portsmouth: Bazunu, Brown, Williams, Tunnicliffe, Marquis (Hirst 82), Curtis, Harness (Hackett-Fairchild 78), Freeman, Romeo, Raggett, Morill. Not used: Bass, Harrison, Thompson, Downing, Azeez. Booked: Raggett, Brown.

Referee: Anthony Coggins. Att: 16,278 (2,995 visiting).


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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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