Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 3-1 Luton Town

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

The Addicks notched up a crucial win against relegation contenders Luton Town yesterday. KEVIN NOLAN was there for The Charlton Champion.

The plaudits and headlines saluting Charlton’s crucial victory over gritty Luton Town will, in time-honoured fashion, be claimed by goal machine Lyle Taylor and battery-powered George Lapslie. Quite right too, of course, given Taylor’s prodigious return of 11 goals from just 14 starts plus five substitute appearances. And not to mention the lift to the whole stadium provided by Lapslie, who marked his return from a lengthy injury absence by easing the tension with the rare luxury of a game-clinching goal.

Newly named as captain, Taylor justified his promotion with yet another inspirational performance, which he crowned with a superbly-taken opening goal and the latest of his patented “walking football” spotkicks. He illuminates an otherwise honest-to-goodness side with his insatiable will-to-win and in-opponents’-face chutzpah.

Lapslie took over from a struggling Deji Oshilaja ten minutes into the second half to make his first appearance since November 9th. Knuckling down immediately, he supplied energy and wholehearted commitment to the cause.

As “one of their own” there could no more popular a goalscorer at a nervous Valley than blond-haired George. This was his first goal in a serious Charlton game. His recall to the colours provides Lee Bowyer with a perfectly timed boost ahead of a tricky 12-game run-in.

Improbably sharp

Another Addick with a case to be regarded as home grown is pocket-sized Erhun Oztumer, who was released at 16 from the academy set-up and has spent several somewhat aimless seasons in virtual exile. Given a second chance with Charlton, he is making the most of it. Until he was replaced by the excellent Macauley Bonne with 12 minutes left, Oztumer was a ballplaying delight, his subtle passing, long or short where the situation dictated, driving more than one Hatter mad. It was his cross, following a short corner routine worked with Josh Cullen, which Naby Sarr drove powerfully against the underside of Simon Sluga’s crossbar. The keeper temporarily preserved equality by alertly tipping Alfie Doughty’s ripsnorter to safety but ran out of luck just past the half-hour mark.

Another short corner, delivered by Cullen and half-=cleared from the visiting penalty area was picked up by David Davis and slipped forward to Taylor, lurking among a posse of white-shirted defenders. The striker’s turn was improbably sharp, the low drive he whiplashed into the bottom left corner an unstoppable force of nature. Ironic that such a marvellously-taken goal was cancelled out within two minutes.

Town had acquitted themselves well and had been unlucky when Luke Berry’s fierce shot deflected harmlessly over the bar off Tom Lockyer. They hit back gamely and were gifted their equaliser by David Davis, whose disastrously scuffed clearance of Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu’s low centre was crisply driven past Dillon Phillips by an impressively cool Harry Cornick. The interval provided timely relief for Bowyer’s rattled Addicks but they re-grouped admirably and went in search of the coup-de-grace.

Oztumer’s understated influence was quickly in evidence, his craftily weighted pass sending Taylor rampaging through to deliver hard and low from the left. Sliding in, Andre Green seemed certain to score but prodded wide from six yards. “Harder to miss” was Bowyer’s unkind but hastily mitigated reaction to the squandered chance.

Premature Luton celebrations

Ten minutes after resumption, Cornick crossed from the right, James Collins tapped in at the far post and the packed Jimmy Seed Stand celebrated wildly. Prematurely, as it turned out. A linesman’s flag ruled Collins offside, much to the chagrin and bitterly-expressed displeasure of Hatters boss Graeme Jones. He might have had a point but that’s how it so often goes when you’re looking up from the bottom of the league.

Insult was added to Jones’s perceived injury when Charlton regained the lead on the hour. Lapslie was proving a persistent thorn in their side and after picking up the pieces left by the latest of Cullen’s short corners he let fly uninhibitedly, his shot blocked by Collins’ carelessly outflung hand inside the area. Taylor walked the walk to convert the inevitable penalty, then talked the talk to remind Luton’s ill-advised fans of the foulmouthed abuse they had heaped on him before he scored in the first half. Lyle isn’t one to forgive or forget.

Hardly overworked while his colleagues coped with the visitors’ rare attacks, Phillips did his bit by spectacularly tipping George Moncur’s potent drive over his bar. Lapslie promptly stepped up to settle the nerves. Urged by Bowyer to “get into the box”, he was in the right place at the right time to convert Bonne’s low ball in from the right byline. Made by Bonne, finished by Lapslie, two players fresh from Sparrows Lane Infirmary; it’s been Bowyer’s frequently stated belief that as the injuries began to clear up, Charlton would thrive. This goal bears him out.

Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Oshilaja (Lapslie 55), Sarr, Doughty, Davis, Cullen, Oztumer (Bonne 78), Green (Pearce 88), Taylor. Not used: Amos, McGeady, Smith, Hemed. Booked: Oshilaja, Taylor.

Luton: Sluga, Potts, Pearson, Tunnicliffe, Bree (Bolton 82), Carter-Vickers, Cornick (Moncur 70), Rea (McManaman 70), Berry, Mpanzu, Collins. Not used: Stech, Cranie, Hylton, Shinnie. Booked: Tunnicliffe.

Referee: Andre Marriner. Attendance: 18,969 (2,785 visiting).

This one’s for Les Turner, who is seriously ill in hospital. Fight on, Les. We can’t do it without you.

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

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

KEVIN NOLAN was at The Valley on Saturday to report on a vital win for Charlton.

Whether you’re in a title race or a relegation dogfight, concentrate on your own game and don’t be worrying about other results you can’t control. That’s a piece of advice old-timers used to hand out (they would also quaintly advise never to pass across your own penalty area – a practice more or less coached into players in these enlightened times).

Time – and football – moves on and in this digital age, it’s become impossible to be unaware within your own bubble of events elsewhere in the country. You can bet that Lee Bowyer’s immediate priority, once this nerve-shredding victory over fellow-strugglers Barnsley was in the bag, was to find out how the others had got on. He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t.

The good news was that Stoke, Huddersfield and Luton had lost. The only fly in a soothing ointment was the news that serial-chokers Leeds had dismally failed to oblige at home to Wigan. But the Addicks had moved up to 19th position and had Middlesbrough and Birmingham in their sights above them. The more the merrier in a survival battle, there’s another sage bit of advice for you.

Squad improvements

With his squad stiffened by a few canny loan signings and by the return from injury of several key players, Bowyer has every reason to expect an improvement in results in the near future. This faltering, often chaotic, win over surprisingly resilient Barnsley provided an important first step. It also emphasised how vital the continued good health of Lyle Taylor will be to Charlton’s immediate prospects.

There’s no such thing, of course, as a one-man team but Taylor is almost indispensable. During the Addicks’ dreary winless run, his personality, charisma, not to mention his regular goals, were sorely missed. It’s hardly a coincidence that after he was withdrawn in the 68th minute of this crucial clash, Barnsley flooded forward and took over. Glad to see an end to Charlton’s Taylor-led restless chivvying, they reduced their two-goal arrears three minutes after his departure and went looking for parity. Only desperate defending and two enormous strokes of luck saw Bowyer’s beleaguered braves over the line.

It was inevitably Taylor who shot Charlton into an early lead. A cynical foul on Josh Cullen gave its victim the opportunity to dink a clever free kick into the danger area, where Jason Pearce contributed a key header, to which Taylor reacted sharply in stabbing his eighth goal of an injury-blighted season past Samuel Sahin-Radlinger. The goal was initiated by a marvellously indefatigable midfielder, carried forward by an uncomplicated battler and finished by a cold-eyed predator.

Pearce had already cleared up a mess of Charlton’s own making when defensive indecision allowed Jacob Brown to set up Luke Thomas inside the home penalty area. Making ground quickly, Pearce legally smothered the busy midfielder as he prepared to shoot. Bleeding profusely, Thomas must have wondered what hit him.

Essential save

Midway through the first half, Dillon Phillips made what is now recognised as a Banksesque save to maintain the lead. Meeting Clarke Odour’s left-sided free kick, Danish defender Mads Andersen directed a downward header destined for the bottom left corner until Phillips scrambled across his goalline to athletically conjure the ball to temporary safety. He deserved the good fortune he enjoyed as Aapo Halme blasted the rebound against the outside of the post. A rare standing ovation from the Covered End saluted Phillips’ outstanding save.

Comfortably on top otherwise, Charlton doubled their lead in added time. A right wing corner swung in by Alfie Doughty was returned to its young taker, whose second delivery from an improved angle picked out Pearce at the far post. The captain’s deliberate header eluded Naby Sarr but was emphatically drilled inside the left post by Andre Green. His second goal for the club capped an impressive shift put in by the Aston Villa loanee, who showed class and tenacity.

The 57th minute departure of a predictably battered Jonny Williams was followed eleven minutes later by the withdrawal of Taylor, himself the recipient of some illegally heavy treatment. The momentum promptly changed as the Addicks retreated deep into their own half. While they wavered, Andersen’s ferocious drive almost knocked Phillips off his feet, with Cauley Woodrow sending the rebound crashing against the bar.

Often Charlton’s nemesis in previous encounters, Woodrow refused to be discouraged. Played into space following Thomas’ fine run and through pass, the Tykes’ leading scorer halved the lead with a crisp rising drive beyond Phillips’ reach.

The spectacle of rampant visitors besieging the Jimmy Seed end, where the vast majority of 20 goals conceded at home this season have been scored, was now familiar.  Blind panic and sheer desperation to hang on unnerved The Valley with luck playing another priceless part as Brown rattled the bar for a second time and Halme’s late shot was hacked off the line by an unidentified but heroic red shirt. Six added minutes were actually negotiated with uncharacteristic efficiency.

So much for the five-year plan (funny how it’s always five years) to secure Charlton’s place in the Premier League. More to the point, this precious victory might prove to be the first step in a five-week plan to keep the Addicks in the Championship. Bring on the long-term dream by all means but spare us a short-term nightmare in League One. But it’s so far so good, Tahnoon, welcome aboard. Make yourself at home…spit on the floor… call the cat names.

Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce. Sarr, Doughty (Purrington 90), Cullen, Williams (Forster-Caskey 57), Pratley, Green, Taylor (Hemed 68). Not used: Amos, McGeady, Field, Oztumer.

Barnsley: Sahin-Radlinger, Jordan Williams (Simoes 68), Sollbauer, Andersen, Odour (Ludewig 68), Thomas, Halme, Mowatt, Brown, Woodrow, Chaplin. Not used: Walton, Ben Williams, Dougal, Schmidt, Styles.

Referee: John Brooks.  Att: 19,870 (1,083 visiting).


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Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 2-2 West Bromwich Albion

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Saturday saw West Bromwich Albion back in SE7 for the second time in a week. KEVIN NOLAN reports from the first Championship game at The Valley since new owners East Street Investments completed their takeover.

Nursing a strong sense of entitlement, West Bromwich Albion returned to the Midlands clutching the point which, along with Leeds United’s home defeat by Sheffield Wednesday, moved them back on top of the Championship. They departed convinced they had somehow been robbed of all three.

The Baggies had been marginally the better team. They had enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and had managed more attempts on goal. Slaven Bilic’s experienced side also dominated a couple of other important statistics; they committed 14 fouls to 10 by Charlton, while picking up six of the eight yellow cards issued by referee Jarred Gillet. Recipient himself of one of those cautions, Hal Robson-Kanu pointed out plaintively that Charlton “had been very physical throughout.” They certainly absorbed some crude buffeting. Occasionally gave a little bit back, more power to their elbows..

Bilic was not similarly deluded. His tribute to the still sorely depleted Addicks was generous. “Charlton fought and competed and ran until the end. They never gave up. But we had many chances to score the third. That was disappointing.” It was not Bilic’s place to add that Charlton’s crucial result was achieved with the assistance of three recent academy graduates; so consider this a salute to fledglings Ben Dempsey, Josh Davison and Alfie Doughty, who stood up to be counted as Albion dished out the rough stuff.

Early action

Roared on by a bumper crowd – their second largest of the season – Charlton might have grabbed a first minute lead if Conor Gallagher had returned Sam Johnstone’s errant clearance with slightly more accuracy. The young loanee’s low shot whistled inches the wrong side of a post. At the other end, Dillon Phillips was forced down low to his left to scramble Kenneth Zohore’s bouncing header to safety. It was the Danish forward’s enterprise which won the Baggies an early lead.

Alertly closing Tom Lockyer down as the defender spurned the opportunity to clear his lines in favour of playing out from the back, Zohore anticipated his move back towards goal and neatly relieved him of possession on the right touchline. Bearing down on a wrongfooted defence, the rangy striker’s first effort was bravely charged down by Deji Oshilaja but he made no mistake as the rebound sat up kindly for him.

Away end antics

Heads dropped only briefly because the Addicks were level again six minutes later. Their recovery was begun by impressive league debutant Andre Green, whose persistence earned a corner on the left. The setpiece was delayed as those scamps behind the away goal refused to return the ball. How we chuckled as they larked about and how the hilarity increased as Gallagher’s short corner routine with Doughty improved the angle for a soaring cross which Naby Sarr effortlessly headed down for Davison to calmly nod in his first senior goal from five yards. By now they were in stitches in the Jimmy Seed stand. Bless ’em, the little rascals. They certainly know how to have fun.

A minute after the break, they were chortling again as their heroes regained the lead. In space to the right, Matt Phillips supplied a hard-driven low centre which Robson-Kanu, getting the better of Lockyer at the near post, flicked home off Sarr. For the fourth time in their two-game, eight-goal league saga, the ex-Throstles led the battling Addicks. And yet again, they proved unable to retain their lead.

No own goal

Albion’s excessive testosterone was almost inevitably their undoing. A crude push in the back of substitute Jonny Williams – one of three returning patients from long-term injury – conceded a free kick which Gallagher fed out to Doughty, who crossed from the left touchline. Timing his leap perfectly to outjump Kyle Bartley, Lockyer powered an unstoppable header past Johnstone, with assistance from the right post. Any nonsense about the keeper being debited with an own goal should be treated as pedantic piffle. Lockyer emulated Davison in notching his first goal for the Addicks because no keeper was about to save that header.

We can also dismiss all that meaningless debate concerning what you “deserve” from a football game. You deserve nothing. What you GET is what the final scoreline gives you. It’s the only statistic that matters. There’s nothing else to discuss. If you  fail to grasp that concept, you’re doomed to frequent disappointment. It’s football, not a morality play.

Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Oshilaja (Williams 62), Sarr, Pratley, Dempsey (Forster-Caskey 62), Doughty, Gallagher, Green, Davison (Hemed 74). Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Purrington, Pearce, Morgan. Booked: Locker, Green.

WBA: Johnstone, Furlong, Ajayi, Bartley, Townsend, Livermore Sawyers, Phillips (Edwards 86), Robson-Kanu (Austin 73), Pereira, Zohore (Diangana 73). Not used: Bond, Krovinovic, Brunt, Hegazi. Booked: Robson-Kanu, Ajayi,Phillips, Pereira, Sawyers, Diangana.

Referee: Jarred Gillet.  Att: 19,270 (3,154 visiting).


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