Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 2-0 Cambridge United

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

KEVIN NOLAN was at The Valley as Charlton continued a run of home victories.

Buoyed by 2-0 victories in the first two of Charlton’s imaginative Fill The Valley offers, Charlton eagerly looked forward to making it an impressive hat-trick when Cambridge provided the opposition at The Valley on Saturday. It’s no co-incidence that the players again responded to a nearly full stadium, even if the crowd was boosted by ersatz fans. Lukewarm support is better than no support at all.

There was no room, of course, for over-confidence. A glance at the clubs’ mutual records shows that United have won seven and drawn five of their eighteen previous league meetings. They did the double over the Addicks during the 1991-92 season, winning 2-1 at Upton Park under the Stone Age management of John Beck. The memory of that dreadful afternoon still triggers uncontrollable facial tics among Charlton supporters still struggling to forget. Samaritans had to take the phone off the hook and leave a voicemail message until the calls subsided that evening.

Needless to say, the chaps who represent Cambridge these days owe nobody an apology for Beck’s dismal excesses. They have made a decent job of building on their promotion from League Two last season and arrived in SE7 after sticking five past Cheltenham on Tuesday evening. They duly contributed to a testy, tetchy encounter, during which the Addicks were themselves hardly likely to be mistaken for Westminster Abbey choristers, as they fought fire with fire and outbooked their visitors 5-4.

Had referee Benjamin Speedie applied the letter of the law, Jayden Stockley’s second half card might have been red rather than yellow. The feisty striker was standing up for Jason Pearce, who had been mowed down by Joe Ironside. He needn’t have bothered because this was exactly the kind of game the skipper relishes; he and Ironside walked off together at the final whistle, happily comparing bruises.

Unlike Tuesday’s visitors Ipswich Town, who played attractively without once troubling Craig McGillivray, the U’s breached the home defence on several occasions but found Craig McGillivray in outstanding form. Two one-on-one saves from Adam May and Sam Smith stood out but the in-form keeper also protected the clean sheet with his clean handling of other strikes. “Doing his job” was Johnnie Jackson’s tongue-in-cheek tribute. McGillivray has been doing it brilliantly in recent weeks.

Another Addick who went over and above the call of duty in securing this important victory was Conor Washington, scorer of both goals and indefatigable chaser of lost causes. Alongside Stockley, he gave the Addicks a potent edge up front and answered critics of his finishing ability with two strikes of predatory opportunism.

Mark Bonner’s men had twice threatened to snatch an early lead before the first of Washington’s brace. First, Ironside reacted to James Brophy’s deflected shot by heading wide as the ball, happily for Charlton, arrived slightly behind him. Then Smith shot weakly past the left post when ideally placed.

United’s misses were punished by Washington’s opener on the half hour. Receiving Alex Gilbey’s sharp pass to feet with his back to goal, the Irishman turned on what old-timers would recognise as a sixpence before placing a low drive across Dimitar Mitov and neatly into the far bottom corner. His sixth league goal of the season was to be later followed by his seventh – a more than decent return from fourteen starts.

Charlton’s encouraging commitment to attack was exemplified by the appearance of left wingback Ben Purrington, who moved on to Elliot Lee’s pass before shooting powerfully wide. Ex-Addick Mitov followed with a fine save at his near post from Jonathan Leko, a sporadic threat before he faded and was replaced by Diallang Jaiyesimi in a like-for-like second half exchange.

Lee, meanwhile, was part of a hardworking midfield which, along with McGillivray’s defiance and Washington’s goalscoring heroics, provided the platform for this vital victory. Gilbey’s elegant playmaking was complemented by George Dobson’s shoulders-hunched urgency between both penalty areas. Dobson put his foot in regularly, breaking up the visitors’ rhythm and spreading the play sensibly with unflashy distribution. An unsung hero you could say. But deeply appreciated by Jackson, it’s also safe to say.

Precariously a goal in front, the Addicks lived dangerously as McGillivray saved magnificently from Smith and again when Smith was put through by May, outwitted substitute Pape Souare but sidefooted tamely off target. Having replaced an inconveniently injured Purrington, Souare drew a few sharp intakes of The Valley’s breath with careless inattention in possession but, with one minute of regulation time remaining, redeemed himself by laying on Washington’s clincher.

Showing an encouraging readiness to support the front runners, Souare accelerated down the left touchline, leaving bedraggled defenders in his wake, before crossing low into the visitors’ six-yard area. An obliging deflection off Stockley fell nicely for Washington to drill home a perfect example of an opportunistic goal. The home crowd’s exhalation of relief was heartfelt, then they hung around to enjoy the traditional tunnel jumps. Even Addicks to Victory was excusable in the euphoria. Sometimes you can forgive anything.

Charlton: McGillivray, Clare, Pearce, Famewo, Purrington (Souare 72), Dobson, Gilbey, Lee, Leko (Jaiyesimi 68), Washington, Stockley.
Not used: Henderson, Morgan, Davison, Watson, Elerewe. Booked: Famewo, Pearce, Stockley, Lee, Clare.

Cambridge: Mitov, Williams, Iredale, Digby, Brophy, Ironside, Smith (Worman 90+4), Dunk (Lankester 88), Okedina, Weir (Knibbs 77), May.
Not used: McKenzie-Lyle, Masterson, Yearn, McConnell. Booked: Digby, Ironside, Dunk, May.

Referee: Benjamin Speedie. Att: 24,886 (1698 visiting).


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

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Johnnie Jackson’s dominant Addicks notched up another convincing win at The Valley last night. KEVIN NOLAN reports.

After tasting the novel experience of cup success twice last week, Charlton returned to the bread and butter of League One competition to host Ipswich Town at a bouncing Valley.

A second Fill The Valley offer meant another bumper crowd was on hand to celebrate a repetition of the imperious performance which saw off Plymouth Argyle nearly three weeks ago.

The right result is always the priority on occasions like this and the Tractor Boys received the same short shrift as the Pilgrims. Only the lateness of Alex Gilbey’s clincher gave cause for concern but without an effort on target, Suffolk’s finest, supported by a subdued, sold-out Jimmy Seed stand, were second best throughout.

On Saturday, for the third of the club’s enterprising Fill The Valley initiatives, Cambridge United, themselves impressive 5-0 winners at Cheltenham last night, will provide the opposition. There’s no such thing as a walkover but they will have their hands full if the Addicks are in this mood again.

In this clash of interim managers, meanwhile, Johnnie Jackson’s men made an uneven start but still created what few chances there were. A restless bundle of fizzing energy, Conor Washington sent an optimistic lob over Christian Walton’s crossbar, Eliot Lee headed tamely wide and Diallang Jaiyesimi nodded Ben Purrington’s cross off target.

As Town’s early resistance crumbled, Jayden Stockley continued his hot streak in front of goal to put the Addicks ahead. The spadework was provided by George Dobson, who neatly evaded a midfield tangle to send Washington haring through the inside-left channel, with Sam Morsy in fruitless pursuit.

Opening his body to shoot right-footed for the opposite corner, Washington was foiled by Walton’s excellent save; following up alertly, Stockley confidently drilled the rebound through the goal area confusion and claimed his 13th goal of a productive season.

Charlton’s perfect evening was off and running and though the coup-de-grace eluded them for a further hour, they remained in effortless control.

The visitors were comprehensively outclassed, with the exception of the outstanding Walton, whose defiance kept his side in with a notional chance. During a one-sided second half, the big keeper made a string of superb saves to introduce an element of doubt.

In the home goal, Craig McGillivray sailed through 90+ minutes of complete unemployment, protected by the old-pro/young gun combination of skipper Jason Pearce and Akin Famewo.

Total midfield control was guaranteed by the tigerish Dobson, Lee and Gilbey, whose first goal of the campaign rewarded a tireless box-to-box contribution.

Supported by Jaiyesimi, versatile Sean Clare put in a faultless shift at right wingback with Purrington providing balance on the opposite flank.

The latter was among Walton’s second half victims, his point blank header somehow conjured clear by Town’s brilliant keeper. Stockley, Lee and Washington were also denied by Walton as the Addicks sought the security of that elusive second goal.

Aware of football’s axiom that you inevitably pay for your failure to seal an issue, The Valley shifted uncomfortably as the second half wore on without resolution of the problem. Not that the visitors looked even remotely likely to produce an equaliser, but you know how it is – you worry. Until, that is, Gilbey stepped up to lower a satisfying boom on the outclassed Tractor Boys.

Never one to hide, Lee’s had been a performance of uneven impact. One of his precise passes put Washington through, to be foiled by George Edmundson’s great recovery tackle. With a minute of normal time left on referee Sarginson’s watch, he produced another peach to send Gilbey accelerating through a square defence and into the penalty area.

A clever feint earned him room to pick an inviting spot and nonchalantly slot right-footed past the desperately advancing Walton. The tall playmaker’s first goal of an injury-hit season was saluted by a relieved crowd, fully aware that Gilbey’s form is vital to the second stage of Charlton’s mediocre campaign.

The injuries are healing, the squad seems strong, the future seems suddenly brighter… what could possibly go wrong?

Charlton: McGillivray, Clare, Pearce, Famewo, Purrington. Jaiyesimi (Leko 69), Gilbey, Dobson, Lee, Stockley, Washington. Not used: Henderson, Elewere, Souare, Watson, Kirk, Davison. Booked: Pearce.

Ipswich: Walton, Vincent-Young, Nsiala, Edmundson, Donacien, Evans, Morsy, Aluko (Chaplin 69), Fraser (Pigott 64), Edwards, Bonne. Not used: Hladky, Penney, El Mizouni, Burgess. Booked: Donacien.

Referee: Christopher Sarginson. Att: 26,272 (3,159 visiting).


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Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 2-0 Plymouth Argyle

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

A packed Valley roared on Johnnie Jackson’s Addicks as they took the League One leaders apart yesterday. KEVIN NOLAN was there.

With the faithful Green Army at their back, Plymouth Argyle swept into The Valley on Saturday as confident table-toppers, unbeaten in sixteen league games since losing their opening fixture.

Not numbered among the pre-season promotion favourites, the Pilgrims have surprised the pundits by setting the pace in League One with fluent, easy-on-the-eye football. Scoring at a rate of nearly two goals a game, their blistering start is no flash in the pan. Argyle seem capable of going the distance.

No slouches themselves under rookie managers Johnnie Jackson and Jason Euell, Charlton have turned their miserable, early season form on its head. Since Nigel Adkins was handed his P45, 13 points have been won from five league games; whether Jackson has convinced owner Thomas Sandgaard to make his position permanent remains to be seen. He certainly did his chances no harm by masterminding this magnificent victory.

Boosted by the club’s bold offer to season ticket holders of free seats (buy one, get three free), The Valley was a heaving, pulsating wave of passion before kick-off. There was unmistakably something in the air, a surge of irresistible partisanship driving Jackson and his boys.

In a packed Jimmy Seed Stand, the visiting Westcountrymen did their best to stem the vocal tide but their task was hopeless. Saturday’s home crowd was having none of it.

Riding a wave of raw emotion, the Addicks responded with a stirring, cocklewarming performance to which each individual contributed. From the dependable Craig McGillivray in goal to the bravery of Josh Davison up front, and in every position between them, each player found an extra yard and ounce of energy for the cause.

Plymouth were clearly more than useful opponents but, as their manager Ryan Lowe graciously conceded, they “were beaten by the better side”. Had Charlton added clinical finishing to their all-round excellence, Lowe’s tribute might have qualified as faint praise.

Despite starting on the front foot, Charlton came close to sustaining an early setback which might have seriously changed things. Conor Grant’s free kick from the right touchline was untouched as it reached Macaulay Gillesphey at the far post, bounced off the left back’s shin and rolled harmless inches wide as McGillivray scrambled across his goal line.

In reply, George Dobson intercepted Dan Scarr’s wayward pass but fired narrowly off target, Purrington’s point blank effort was gamely blocked by Joe Edwards and Alex Gilbey’s header sent Elliot Lee’s outswinging corner goalwards to be blocked almost at source by Panutche Camara.

Charlton’s pressure hardly amounted to a siege of Michael Cooper’s goal but after Josh Davison recycled a right wing centre, Dobson’s cross was headed by Lee into the side net at the far post.

Ending the first half as they’d started it, Plymouth went dangerously close to taking an undeserved lead back into the dressing room with them. Edwards’ subtle pass sent Ryan Hardie through a scattered defence to confront McGillivray. Standing firm, the advancing keeper charged down the forward’s shot and a hugely relieved Valley breathed again.

Mere minutes after resumption, the stadium erupted when Purrington, with his second goal in successive weeks, fired the Addicks into the lead. Drifting intelligently into space on the right of the visitors’ penalty area, the marauding left-back met Dobson’s deep cross from the left and squeezed a bouncing volley between Cooper and the right post.

It wasn’t the cleanest of strikes but was celebrated with an explosion of joy mixed with entirely understandable relief. And appropriately, it was scored in front of the North Stand, where Purrington and his mates gathered to milk the moment until firmly called to order by referee Peter Wright.

Argyle are too good a side to accept defeat until it’s over and hit back spiritedly. Grant shot narrowly over the bar, then drilled over a centre which eluded a posse of straining players but was cleared by Purrington at the far post. A second goal became Charlton’s priority but when Lee combined with Washington to set up a shooting chance for Gilbey, the midfielder was foiled by Cooper’s fine save.

The visiting keeper’s defiance had kept his impressive side in the hunt but with six regulation minutes remaining, Washington eased the tension with his fourth goal of the season. Sent clear down the inside right channel by Lee’s shrewdly judged pass, the Northern Irishman used his deceptive pace to outstrip Gillesphey, closed in on Cooper and crashed an unstoppable drive inside the right hand post.

The coup-de-grace had been delivered but Argyle’s defeat would have been more decisive had Washington and Lee converted simple chances to double their misery. Not that it mattered. A complete team performance had already been delivered to an ecstatic Valley, one marred only by the 55th-minute injury sustained by Jason Pearce. The skipper had been a towering influence and, on an afternoon when every Addick was a hero, was on his way to man-of-the-match recognition.

We’ll settle instead on Akin Famewo, who celebrated his escape from suspension (last week’s referee Trevor Kettle confirmed that his vision is boss-eyed by confusing Famewo with Purrington) with a splendid contribution of responsible defending and enterprising attacking.

On second thoughts, let’s nominate 14 men-of-the-match and say no more about it. This one was that special.

Charlton: McGillivray, Clare, Pearce (Gunter 55), Famewo, Purrington, Gilbey, Jaiyesimi (Blackett-Taylor 83), Lee, Dobson, Davison (Burstow 77), Washington. Not used: Harness, Morgan, Kirk, Watson. Booked: Dobson.

Plymouth: M Cooper, Gillesphey, Houghton, Wilson, Scarr, Broom (Mayor 71), Edwards (G Cooper 88), Hardie (Jephcott 70), Garrick. Grant, Camara. Not used: Burton, Agard, Randell, Galloway. Booked: Gillesphey, Broom.

Referee: Peter Wright.

Attendance: 26,090 (2,846 visiting).


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