Kevin Nolan’s Locked-Down Valley View: Charlton Athletic 0-1 Millwall

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

A south-east London derby behind closed doors ended in all-too familiar fashion for the Addicks last night. KEVIN NOLAN watched as the neighbours walked away with three points again…

Forget the law of averages. There’s no such thing. Or if there is, it gets broken every time Charlton play Millwall. Whatever the circumstances, whatever rests on the result, Charlton lose to Millwall. That’s just the way it is. The rare draws – and there was a priceless point on offer here – are exceptions which prove the rule.

In all the frustration and pain which followed yet another late defeat, let’s be be fair, the dogged determination and brave resistance, which came close to seeing the Addicks over the line to hard won parity, shouldn’t be overlooked. They swapped punch for punch in coping with a primitive if energy-sapping aerial onslaught, stood their ground gamely and had their own chances to snatch a winner.

What they didn’t have, unfortunately, is a forward capable of converting any of those rare opportunities. Two goals in four post-lockdown games, both of them scored by non-strikers, tells its own misfiring story. The pressure on a superb defence, which conceded for the first time since the season was resumed, eventually brought them to their knees.

At this point I’m tempted to mention Lyle Taylor. But I promised myself I wouldn’t go there.

The line-up which faced Millwall featured seven changes and was faithful to Lee Bowyer’s stated intention to use his entire squad during the nine-game mini-season. Results have vindicated him but Charlton simply ran out of steam against their noisome neighbours. And sad to say it was an error – no howler but an error nonetheless – by Dillon Phillips, their outstanding young goalkeeper – which disastrously ended their string of clean sheets. Covering his near post to deal with Connor Mahoney’s forceful shot, he parried to Jake Cooper, who beat a sliding Tom Lockyer to the loose ball and smashed it into the roof of the net.

A clearly distraught Phillips had previously kept his side in contention with a typically fine first half save from Millwall’s danger man Jed Wallace. Played clear by Ryan Woods’ deft pass, Wallace closed in to confront the advancing keeper but was unable to lift his shot over him. At the other end, Bartosz Bialkowski had already done his bit by narrowing the angle as Macauley Bonne seized on an opening created by Lockyer’s crunching midfield tackle and charging down the forward’s unconvincing effort.

In a game of fleeting half-chances, both saves seemed likely to feature as highlights in a keenly fought scoreless stalemate. Until the Addicks finally buckled with the finishing line in sight.

Gary Rowett’s tactics, meanwhile, were uncomplicated. They entailed getting the ball to Jed Wallace in enough space for the wideman -with 10 goals and 10 assists to his credit this season – to place one of his superbly delivered crosses on the lofty, 6’6″ head of target man Matt Smith. The plan had worked perfectly at the Den in November where Wallace’s added time corner was headed past Phillips to steal the points. This time Lockyer, Jason Pearce and Darren Pratley were equal to the task and physically denied Smith a clear sight of goal. They were doing fine until towering centreback Cooper found another way another way to break their hearts.

With five crucial games left – the first of them a daunting midweek trip to form team Brentford – in the battle for Championship survival, Bowyer will be called upon to make a little go a long way. Charlton will score few many goals and whatever they can muster must count. Bonne hasn’t found the net in 10 games, while Hemed, who hooked a pre-interval chance weakly off target, still seeks his first Charlton goal. Chuks Aneke replaced Bonne just past the hour and bustled the Lions effectively but like Bonne and Hemed, proved shot-shy.

A non-scoring midfield, in which even Josh Cullen struggled to impress, must step up and contribute. Albie Morgan drove one early effort into Cooper’s midriff, Cullen skied his only shot while Aidan McGeady pottered his way through 75 meaningless minutes, during which he scrupulously avoided physical contact and regularly supplied the Lions with possession. Bowyer clearly sees something in the ex-Celtic winger. That something remains a mystery to your reporter, who stands ready to be convinced otherwise. Alfie Doughty or Jonny Williams must surely see out the rest of the campaign.

Silver lining? It’s hard to see one right now, except to remind ourselves that we’re finished with Millwall until, hopefully, next season. That six-point handicap was already factored in pre-season. The same number of points from the eighteen still available might do the business. And let’s not forget Wigan might be in serious trouble. I’m not one for gloating but one dog eats any other dog in this ultra-competitive division.

Better them than us. And you may quote me on that.

Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce, Oshilaja (Doughty 75), Cullen, Pratley (Sarr 90), Morgan (Field 46), McGeady (Williams 75), Bonne (Aneke 64), Hemed. Not used: Amos, Purrington, Forster-Caskey, Green.

Millwall: Bialkowski, Romeo (Mitchell 75), Hutchinson, Cooper, Pearce, Murray Wallace, Leonard (Mahoney 75), Jed Wallace (Williams 85), Smith (Bradshaw 64), Woods, Molumby (Thompson 46). Not used: Steele, Pearce, Skalak, Ferguson.

Referee: Dean Whitestone.


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Kevin Nolan’s Locked-Down Valley View: Cardiff City 0-0 Charlton Athletic

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Thought a 0-0 draw would be a disappointment? Not when you’re fighting relegation and up against one of the division’s top teams. KEVIN NOLAN, still locked down in Grove Park, watched the Addicks take on the Bluebirds in the Welsh capital.

If one volunteer is worth two conscripts, as they preach in the Army, Charlton’s Championship future rests in willing hands. Showing seven changes to the side which squeezed past QPR just three days previously, they still had enough about them to hold in-form play-off hopefuls Cardiff to an honourable, if forgettable, draw.

Having shuffled his pack astutely, Lee Bowyer was dealt a fresh blow – in a season pockmarked by similar pitfalls – when West Brom loanee Sam Field was forced off in the first half following a head clash with Robert Glatzel. Having already missed most of the season through injury, Field had been anxious to make a belated contribution and his distress was obvious. The knock he received prior to his collision with Glatzel was clearly of more concern to the back room boys than the head wound.

Intending to rest veteran Darren Pratley in readiness for Friday evening’s visit of Millwall, Lee Bowyer’s schemes were again disrupted. But there was little cause for immediate alarm. Up stepped 35 year-old warhorse Pratley to take over in a defensive formation designed to reduce this game to one of little incident and fewer chances. His reassuring presence fitted in seamlessly to the game plan.

Though hugely encouraging, Charlton’s post-lockdown results won’t blind Bowyer to one worrying reality. Though pleased with the third consecutive clean sheet achieved by his bloody-minded defence and, when called upon, by his outstanding goalkeeper Dillon Phillips, he must face the uncomfortable fact that the goals which edged Hull and QPR resulted from setpieces created for Pratley and centreback Jason Pearce.

His forwards, meanwhile, have laboured fitfully without suggesting they might score. At the moment, you could say Charlton are operating with non-striking strikers.

Against Neil Harris’ high-flying Bluebirds, Chuks Aneke and Andre Green met mixed fortunes in their first starts since the campaign resumed. Aneke was a muscular handful for the Welsh defence, backing in, holding the ball up and providing a useful outlet up front for beleaguered colleagues. Green, on the other hand, proved too easy to dispossess and unhappily dithered too long over the early chance fashioned for him by Aneke’s persistence.

Perhaps surprisingly, it was Aneke who gave way to Macauley Bonne around the hour mark, with Green eventually replaced by Ben Purrington as a precious point became the priority. Bonne has shown only flashes of the form which brought him eight goals before intermission but an overdue goal could change that. Then it’ll be c’est si Bonne again.

Elsewhere, Bowyer will have found it difficult to name a stand-out contributor to a character-full performance by this battered but admirable squad. The impressive passing and renewed responsibility of Naby Sarr shone in a rock-hard back three alongside redoubtable warriors Pearce and Tom Lockyer. George Lapslie, another vitual newcomer, grafted tirelessly until replaced by Deji Oshilaja at right wingback while fellow Academy graduate Alfie Doughty, the latest cab off the Sparrows Lane rank, frequently left flustered Bluebirds in his wake as he broke out, with pace and uquenchable optimism, from defence.

In front of Pearce’s defensive line, the Addicks were well served by a stubborn, competitive midfield, in which Josh Cullen was, as can by now be assumed, excellent. The West Ham loanee has bought into Charlton’s all-for-one ethos and is indispensable in their hectic schedule, playing every minute so far. Pratley, as already observed, still has an impressive engine which shows no sign of misfiring.

Throw late substitute Albie Morgan into the equation and the Addicks are well served in a midfield where new starter Jake Forster-Caskey alone struggled to impress.

Cardiff’s chances were rare, the best of them created for Albert Adomah by Joe Ralls’ defence-splitting diagonal pass. Shooting across Dillon Phillips, Adomah’s low drive was brilliantly tipped away by the full length keeper. Apart from one or two bits and pieces, Phillips was capably shielded by Charlton’s blanket-like resistance. Doing sterling work for City, centre back Curtis Nelson was alive to the visitors’ most promising chances.

Responsible for smothering Green’s early effort to convert Aneke’s set-up, much later he alertly read the low ball sent in by Sarr fom the left byline, sliding in to whisk the ball off Forster-Caskey’s toes as a tap-in seemed likely. Like Phillips, Alex Smithies had little to do as a dour stalemate developed.

One or two more of these uneventful “clashes”, to be honest, and Charlton will be home and dry. But then Millwall are due at The Valley on Friday evening. That’s a whole different ballgame. There goes the neighbourhood!

Cardiff: Smithies, Sanderson, Bennett, Nelson, Morrison, Ralls (Vaulks 88), Bacuna (Tomlin 65), Pack, Adomah, Mendez-Laing (Hoilett 65), Glatzel (Paterson 46),. Not used: Etheridge, Bamba, Flint, Smith, Whyte. Booked: Sanderson.

Charlton: Phillips, Lapslie (Oshilaja 63), Lockyer, Pearce, Sarr, Doughty, Field (Pratley 36), Cullen, Forster-Caskey (Morgan 79), Aneke (Bonne 63), Green (Purrington 79). Not used: Amos, Williams, Davison, McGeady. Booked: Purrington.


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Kevin Nolan’s Locked-Down Valley View: Hull City 0-1 Charlton Athletic

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

It’s been a while, but football has made a midsummer comeback after the coronavirus lockdown. KEVIN NOLAN got his streaming subscription sorted in good time and tried to settle down on the sofa to watch the Addicks notch up a big win…

The light at the end of the tunnel remains dim, but it but glows a little more hopefully after Charlton’s vital victory over Hull City at a cavernous KC Stadium. An early setpiece goal scored by pugnacious Jason Pearce was enough to see off Grant McCann’s toothless Tigers and catapult the visitors out of the relegation zone, where they’d uncomfortably spent the past four months.

Had the Addicks managed to crown their clear superiority with at least one further goal, they might have spared their long-suffering fans the inevitable tension that goes with the territory. As it was, the spectre of the last gasp equaliser haunted the laptop faithful until five intolerable minutes of added time amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. More than one housebound zealot spent them crouched behind the sofa. Count me among them.

Charlton’s solitary goal was a pleasing combination of pinpoint accuracy and good, old-fashioned physicality. Aidan McGeady’s dipping volley from outside the penalty area was initially tipped over his crossbar by George Long but the resultant left wing corner turned out to be the keeper’s undoing. Swung inwards by the outstanding Josh Cullen, Tomas Hemed’s deft front door flick glanced off Long’s groping fingertips before Pearce crashed through the tradesmen’s entrance, bullying Tom Eaves and Jon Toral into the net with him as headed irresistibly inside the far post. The skipper’s “rough and rowdy ways” were exactly what necessity demanded.

Showing his customary boldness, Lee Bowyer caused more than a few eyebrows to raise with the starting line-up he named for the Humberside crunch clash. Preferring Deji Oshilaja to either Ben Purrington or Naby Sarr at left back, he also chose the enigmatic McGeady on the right of midfield, with young Albie Morgan recalled from obscurity to operate on the left. Meanwhile, Hemed got the nod alongside Macauley Bonne up front, with Andre Green a worrying absentee. A routine 4-4-2 formation vindicated his tactical nous and proceeded to outclass their woebegone hosts.

A much improved McGeady and Morgan, with his playmaking ability to pick the right pass, did their bits until replaced around the hour mark. It was in central midfield, though, where Charlton decided the issue. Cullen hardly put a foot wrong apart from wafting an acceptable chance fashioned by rampaging substitute Chuks Aneke over the bar. His blend of tenacity and skill will be crucial during the coming weeks, his contribution including the risky but precisely timed tackle which whisked the ball off Daniel Batty’s toes as the attacking midfielder shaped to shoot inside the penalty area late in the second half.

At Cullen’s elbow, Darren Pratley was his usual combative self. Tackling and covering diligently, he ploughed through his own workload tirelessly and was always available to help elsewhere. Age hasn’t wearied the admirable veteran, nor the years condemned. You’d name him as company in a wartime trench.

There were other positives to warm Bowyer’s cockles. After a shaky start, Oshilaja settled down and combined with McGeady to create a golden opportunity to double the lead two minutes after Pearce’s opener. Sent clear on the left by McGeady’s cleverly disguised backheel, his fiercely driven low cross eluded the sliding Macauley Bonne and Hemed as it flashed to safety across Long’s goal area.

Bonne was on the end of another chance in the second half but misdirected his header wide after lively substitute Alfie Doughty cut City’s right flank open and provided the perfect cross. A second goal continued to elude the Addicks and stirred unpleasant memories that Hull had been one of many late goalscorers to frustrate them earlier in the season.Their unease intensified when Keane Lewis-Potter, scorer of the Tigers’ sickening equaliser at The Valley in December, replaced Batty with over a quarter hour left but there was to be no repetition of that disaster.

Dillon Phillips enjoyed a virtually untroubled afternoon, a routine tip-over of Batty’s drive his only meaningful save until Long’s huge clearance caused havoc between Pearce and Tom Lockyer in the late stages, allowing Danish substitute Samuelson a rare sight of goal. The youngster’s shot on the run was competently fielded by Phillips and the Addicks were home and dry.

With the marathon which we’re regularly reminded constitutes a football season now reduced to a nine-game sprint, Charlton have burst impressively from the starting blocks. Their speed is impressive. Now comes a test of their stamina.

Hull: Long, Pennington, McDonald, De Wijs, Elder, Batty (Lewis-Potter 73), Kane, Bowler (Scott 56), Toral (Honeyman 56), Wilks (Samuelson 85), Eaves (Magennis 56. Not used: Tafazolli, Burke, Stewart, Ingram. Booked: Batty.

Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce, Oshilaja (Purrington 71), McGeady (Field 82), Pratley, Cullen, Morgan (Doughty 61), Bonne (Williams 82), Hemed (Aneke 72). Not used: Amos, Sarr, Oztumer, Davoson. Booked: Oshilaja, Pratley, Williams.

Referee: Darren England.


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