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

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

The Addicks kept up their unbeaten run after a trip down the A2 to Gillingham yesterday. KEVIN NOLAN joined those spared the Priestfield’s ‘away end’ by the lockdown and watched from home…

The rivalry between Gillingham and Charlton may be a matter of supreme indifference to the rest of English football but an extra edge definitely attends their infrequent encounters, especially those at Priestfield Road.

The Gills slip comfortably into their portrayal of gritty blue-collar outsiders standing up gallantly to snooty, privileged city slickers. For their part, the Addicks quite enjoy the rare experience of being posh, entitled day trippers to the boondocks. Until the game starts, that is, which is when the roles are often reversed.

As expected, Steve Evans’ Men of Kent gave a stubborn account of themselves in halting Charlton’s run of six consecutive league victories. In fact, they came within eight minutes of throwing an inconvenient spanner into the visiting works.

Lee Bowyer’s boys were staring defeat in its most frustrating face when Ben Amos launched an attack down the left flank, which Andrew Shinnie continued by threading through to Paul Smyth inside the home penalty area. The lively substitute shaped to shoot but instead set up Chuks Aneke in a more promising position. Picking his spot coolly, the deceptively skilful striker fired unstoppably past Jack Bonham and Charlton had themselves a point. That they should have departed with all three will be a subject for animated discussion but one which will presumably be postponed until the midweek trip to Burton is out of the way.

After dominating their hosts in most departments before the interval, the Addicks retired for their half-time cuppa surprisingly still on level terms. At times they had toyed with Gillingham, with Shinnie and Albie Morgan pulling the midfield strings, but clearly lacked the cutting edge belatedly supplied by substitutes Smyth and Aneke. Had they converted the penalty awarded them seven minutes before the break, of course, their shortcomings might have passed unnoticed. But that particular gift horse was looked disastrously in the mouth.

Drifting to the far post to meet Adam Matthews’ searching cross, Omar Bogle was unceremoniously bundled to the ground by his over-aggressive marker. Conor Washington’s match winning spotkick which beat Fleetwood recently made him the obvious candidate to take the clearcut penalty but Bogle, anxious to add his name to the scorers’ list, was having none of it. An unseemly disagreement was eventually resolved in Washington’s favour but, possibly distracted by Bogle’s intervention, the Northern Irishman struck a weak shot too close to Bonham, who saved easily. It’s unlikely that Charlton took the field with the identity of their penalty-taker unspecified. Explanations will be demanded.

Earlier in the first half, a pair of enterprising efforts illuminated this otherwise routine game. First, the quick-thinking Shinnie returned Bonham’s wayward clearance first-time from fully 40 yards but with the goalkeeper retreating desperately, the ball shaved his crossbar on its way to safety. Three minutes later, Marcus Maddison again reduced Bonham to panic with a brilliant 35-yard free kick which the scrambling keeper fingertipped over the bar. Bonham reacted with similar alertness to keep out an accurate drive from Ben Watson. At the other end, meanwhile, Amos
responded to Bonham’s defiance by incredibly blocking Vadaine Oliver’s point-blank volley at the far post.

The Addicks continued their assault after the break but Bonham adjusted superbly to save Ian Maatsen’s wickedly deflected low drive. He had less trouble in dealing with a poor effort from Ryan Gilbey, who shot straight at him after moving on to Aneke’s pass. As the Addicks gathered themselves for a final push, they were suddenly shocked to find themselves behind in contentious circumstances. Briefly goalside of Chris Gunter, who was deputising for thigh injury victim Ryan Inniss, substitute John Akinde tumbled dramatically as his heels were (or were not) clipped by the veteran defender.Unsure initially of Gunter’s guilt, referee Lewis took advice from a far distant fourth official and pointed without conviction to the spot. Jordon Graham put Gillingham ahead despite Amos’ valiant attempt to reach his penalty.

Stunned by the setback, Charlton had Amos to thank for keeping them in the hunt. His superb save in one-on-one confrontation with Oliver swelled in importance when Aneke equalised.

One point gained? Definitely. Two points lost? Just as definitely. But You can’t win’ em all. Not at this discouraging venue, that’s for sure. And at least, Charlton’s travelling fans, all toasty-warm in their living rooms, were spared the ordeal of possibly the most inhospitable away end in League One. There’s always a silver lining if you know where to look for it.

Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Ogilvie, Tucker, Medley, Dempsey, Samuel, Graham, McKenzie, Oliver (Coyle 86), Robertson (Akinde 63). Not used: Walsh, Willock, Eccles, Woods, Meghoma. Booked: Oliver, Dempsey, Samuel, McKenzie.

Charlton: Amos, Matthews, Gunter, Pratley, Maatsen (Purrington 88), Watson, Shinnie, Morgan, Maddison (Gilbey 66), Bogle (Aneke 66), Washington (Smyth 66). Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Pearce, Levitt. Booked: Maddison, Gilbey, Maatsen.

Referee: R. Lewis.


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Kevin Nolan’s Valley View on the road: Portsmouth 0-2 Charlton Athletic

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Times may be tough, but the Addicks showed their resilience on the south coast yesterday. KEVIN NOLAN made the trip for The Charlton Champion to see Charlton overcome Portsmouth.

Weakened by injuries and suspensions, Charlton didn’t so much arrive at Fratton Park as hobble into the famous arena. Every game brings further depletion of their resources, on this otherwise auspicious occasion by the suspected hamstring damage sustained by Akin Famewo. The outstanding centre-back’s 74th minute departure removed at a stroke the second of the twin towers (Ryan Inniss was serving a one-game ban) so vital to the Addicks’ amazing run of clean sheets.

The problem caused by Inniss’s worrying absence was an easy one for Lee Bowyer to solve. He was able to call on his timely new signing Adam Matthews to cover fellow Welshman Chris Gunter at right back, with the latter moving inside to partner Famewo. Elsewhere, Jonny Williams and Jake Forster-Caskey replaced the suspended Ben Watson and rotated Paul Smyth as the manager’s marvellously resilient squad demonstrated their readiness to step up for the cause. This recently-assembled mixture of newcomers and loanees shows a unique team spirit, which must be down to their no-nonsense manager.

Typical of their refusal to be cowed by adversity was the superb contribution made by Gunter, by trade a right-back of impeccable credentials. The multi-capped Welsh international performed to the manner born alongside Famewo before being capably partnered by Darren Pratley for the last, tense quarter-hour.

Williams, meanwhile, chose the ideal time to score his first Charlton goal, while Foster-Caskey capped a hardworking shift with the raking crossfield pass to Ian Maatsen, which played a significant part in Williams’ opportunistic opener. Having replaced the scorer with 19 anxious minutes remaining, Smyth stepped off the bench to supply the precise cross which Chuks Aneke headed in to provide the visitors with a decisive two-goal cushion.

Not one wearer of Charlton’s grey away shirt let his manager down. Tuesday’s hero Andrew Shinnie turned in another influential shift, while Omar Bogle, though battered throughout, defiantly soldiered on and was denied a penalty when brought down by Rasmus Nicolaisen in the first half.

Left-back Maatsen has been a pleasure to watch since Chelsea sent him along to gain experience. Say one thing for Frank Lampard’s big-time Charlies; when they loan Charlton a player, he arrives with guaranteed quality. Conor Gallagher was different class, as is the diminutive but tough Maatsen. The cross he delivered for Williams to ram home the Addicks’ first goal at the far post was surgically precise. And he was another to show versatility by moving seamlessly into midfield after Ben Purrington relieved the unlucky Famewo.

The post-game statistics revealed that Pompey enjoyed a 57-43 advantage in possession and earned eight corners to their visitors’ none. That tells only part of Saturday’s story because the mess made by Ronan Curtis in converting Marcus Harness’ early cutback from 10 yards was the closest Kenny Jackett’s side came to scoring. They were taught a lesson in clinical finishing by their confident opponents.

Midway through the first half, the Addicks emerged from a period of modest pressure to stun Portsmouth with a goal of simple efficiency. Forster-Caskey’s diagonal crossfield pass from right to left was caught at the byline by Maatsen, whose only option was to cross on the volley as he ran out of space. Attacking the ball inside the six-yard box, Williams rammed his first goal for the club into the roof of the net. A grin as wide as the Severn Bridge marked the important occasion.

Eight minutes from the end of an increasingly anxious game, Charlton finished off their victims with second strike, which handsomely rewarded Bowyer for his bold introduction of two attacking substitutes to finish the job. The move was started by the tireless Conor Washington, who emulated Forster-Caskey’s accuracy in picking out Smyth, unmarked on the right flank, with a raking delivery. The gritty Northern Irishman took a touch before his soaring centre arrived at the far post, where Aneke leapt prodigiously to head the all-important clincher.

Aneke’s goal brought huge relief but was probably a flourish added to an already done-and-dusted result. There was nothing backs-to-the wall or lucky about it except perhaps, for the break handed out by referee Craig Boyeson to Pratley, whose sliding, studs-up challenge on Callum Johnson incredibly escaped a card of any colour. That made an enormous difference. Stand on me about that!

Portsmouth: MacGillivray, Johnson, Brown, Naylor, Whatmough (Nicolaisen 46), Williams, Marquis, Curtis, Cannon, Harness (Harrison 63), Raggett. Not used: Bass, Chase, Morris, Pring, Hiwula. Booked: Nicolaisen.

Charlton: Amos, Matthews, Famewo (Purrington 74), Maatsen, Pratley, Gunter, Williams (Smyth 71), Forster-Caskey, Shinnie, Bogle (Aneke 71), Washington. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Morgan, Levitt, Vennings. Booked: Amos, Maatse, Aneke.

Referee: Craig Boyeson.


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

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

A new-look Charlton side took to the field on Saturday as life at The Valley settles down following the Thomas Sandgaard takeover. KEVIN NOLAN was there for another behind-closed-doors match.

With an uprecedented five players making their club debuts, this important win over fellow relegation victims Wigan laid the first building block in Lee Bowyer’s new work in progress. Awkward trips to Blackpool and Northampton will immediately test his ability to juggle his fledgling squad and his hopes of making up ground on the League One pacesetters. But this was a good start.

These evenly matched sides met at The Valley in July in the penultimate game of the nine-game post-lockdown mini-season. Their 2-2 draw briefly kept alive mutual hopes of avoiding the drop but each of them was doomed to disappointment, with gutsy Wigan unable to overcome a disastrous 12-point penalty.

Since that epic but ultimately meaningless fixture, the exodus from both clubs has been staggering if entirely predictable. Only five of the 18 Addicks on duty in July were available to Bowyer on Saturday; four survived to represent the visitors. Footballers and badgers – they’re both subject to periodic culls. Wigan went one better and divested themselves of their manager Paul Cook, a popular, capable veteran who had come within one point of saving them. Charlton showed more commonsense in keeping faith with their boss.

One of the quartet of Addicks who started the July fixture was Jake Forster-Caskey, a relative old-timer among the wave of newcomers who flooded into The Valley during a hectic transfer window. The attacking midfielder has divided opinion during his Charlton career, with an inability to score since November 2017 cited against him. He ended his drought with the goal which sank the visitors, sending them back to Lancashire grumbling about their luck and nursing a sense of injustice.

A series of free kicks which suited Forster-Caskey’s left-footed skill had seen him balloon the first into a non-existent crowd before he adjusted his sights and clipped the bar with a second effort. On 65 minutes, he was crudely chopped down from behind by Lee Evans, who was booked for his villainy and punished further as his victim converted the resultant set-piece. From 30 yards, Forster-Caskey’s low delivery beat the poorly-positioned Jamie Jones and found the net off the right post. It had been a long time coming but when it finally arrived, the scorer made it count.

Charlton hadn’t been entirely convincing but there was further encouragement for Bowyer in the contributions made by the new blood. After negotiating a hesitant start, huge centreback Ryan Inniss settled down and showed enough to suggest that one of Charlton’s centreback problems might be solved; to his right, the vastly-experienced Chris Gunter was an error-free replacement for Adam Matthews. Midfielder Andrew Shinnie was quietly effective and indefatigable forward Paul Smyth worked tirelessly alongside the outstanding Chuks Aneke.

Until he tired and was replaced on the hour by Omar Bogle, Aneke ran the Latics ragged. His deft turn on to Alfie Doughty’s pass bewildered a posse of defenders and it took Jones’s excellent block to keep him off the scoresheet; the second half solo run and subtle pass slid in to Darren Pratley was equally sublime, with Jones again rescuing his side at close range. A fully fit Aneke could be the scourge of League One.

While the recently-assembled Addicks were getting to know each other, Wigan created but wasted several chances to exploit their unfamiliarity. The first of them fell to Darnell Johnson, whose meaty header met Evans’ left wing corner but was instinctively parried by Ben Amos. The best of them was squandered by Joe Garner who cleverly chested down Viv Solomon-Atabor’s cross but hammered an unhindered 10-yard volley hopelessly off target. Before Forster-Caskey scored, Amos fumbled Solomon-Atabor’s low drive but recovered to save follow-up efforts from Kai Naismith and Will Keane. Charlton’s defiant keeper was eventually beaten by Evans’ vicious drive which crashed down off the underside of his bar and was heroically scraped off the line by Ben Purrington. There were loud but optimistic appeals for a penalty as Inniss slid in to dispossess Keane, but referee Ollie Yates was unmoved.

Had the fifth debutant Bogle not scuffed wide the late chance created by a heavily bandaged Doughty, the scoreline would have looked more healthy. As it was, seven added minutes were negotiated without undue drama, a triumph in itself for Charlton. This was all about winning – not exactly ugly but not entirely attractive. Just winning.

Charlton: Amos, Gunter, Famewo, Inniss, Doughty, Pratley, Forster-Caskey, Shinnie (Purrington 73), Doughty, Smyth (Washington 87), Aneke (Bogle 63). Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Williams, Morgan, Levitt. Booked: Gunter, Watson, Smyth.

Wigan: Jones, Massey, Johnson, Tilt, James, Naismith, Gardner, Lee Evans, Solomon-Atabor, Garner, Keane. Not used: Owen Evans, Crankshaw, Joseph, Merrie, Jolley, Aasgard, Long. Booked: Massey, James, Lee Evans, Keane.

Referee: Ollie Yates.


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