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

Kevin Nolan's Valley View
The Addicks hosted a Premier League side at home for the first time in 15 years, but couldn’t quite finish off top-tier strugglers Norwich City. KEVIN NOLAN was in the press box.

A single flash of Premier League quality, with only 11 minutes remaining in this FA Cup third round tie, sent Norwich City into Round Four and left Charlton free to concentrate on reaching Wembley via the EFL Trophy.

An away tie at Hartlepool on a Wednesday evening in January lacks obvious appeal but it is, no doubt you agree, better than nothing.

It was Teemo Pukki, summoned from the bench at half-time to replace Greek teenager Christos Tzolis, who supplied that extra something which settled an evenly fought clash which Charlton could – indeed should – have at least drawn.

Sprinting on to a shrewdly weighted through ball from Kenny McLean, he was too quick for a toiling Jason Pearce and, resisting the temptation to shoot, squared unselfishly for fellow substitute Milot Rashica to tap in the winner.

Although a constant menace, Pukki hadn’t exactly terrorised the Addicks but proved to be the difference which separated sides of almost identical merit.

If Jonathan Leko had made more of a similar chance from four yards, created for him just past the half hour by Elliot Lee, an honourable draw would have meant extra-time and potentially penalties.

But Leko snatched at the opportunity, spooned it horribly over the bar and reminded home fans that while Dean Smith could call on the likes of Pukki and Rashica, Johnnie Jackson was cruelly deprived of both Conor Washington and Jayden Stockley. His striker-less selection’s inability to score was hardly difficult to predict.

Not that Jackson’s otherwise strong side were easy marks for their soon-to-be Championship opponents. An early, bone-crunching challenge by Ryan Inniss on marauding Turkish defender Ozan Kabak signalled an intent that was easy to read.

To his credit, Kazan neither crumpled nor complained and battle was joined. Until the interval, Charlton enjoyed an edge and with better finishing and, it must be said, the occasional intervention of luck, might have retired for refreshment in the lead.

Lee was a restless bundle of energy and when set up by the equally hardworking Alex Gilbey, curled narrowly wide. After Leko missed the best chance of all, Gilbey chanced his arm from distance to produce an unorthodox but effective save from Tim Krul, who somehow shovelled his 25-yarder up and over the bar.

The visitors were always in contention but Charlton opened the second period still marginally on top. Receiving from George Dobson, Lee closed in from the flank but was foiled by Krul’s astutely outstretched right foot. The Canaries’ vastly experienced Dutch stopper was proving that it’s not how, but whether, you keep ’em out that matters. He’s been doing it long enough.

The introduction of Pukki was, meanwhile, greeted with mild apprehension among home fans. The simultaneous introduction of 25-year-old Kosovan Rashica caused no similar disquiet but Smith was royally served by both his half-time substitutions.

In response to Krul’s eccentric heroics, meanwhile, Stephen Henderson did his bit to keep the Addicks in the tie. His saves from McLean’s crisp drive and Max Aaron’s low effort, which was sneaking inside his left hand post, were at least expected of him.

At the other end, however, he wrongfooted everyone by charging upfield to take a last chance free kick to the left of City’s penalty area. Waving aside objections, including those voiced by regular setpiece specialist Lee, his delivery was surprisingly delicate and well judged. Leaping high at the far post, Pearce nodded back across goal and Ben Purrington’s six-yard header rebounded off the bar.

(We apologise if readers, at this point, detect any bad language lurking between the lines of this report. It’s entirely uncalled for but, honestly, you had to be there. And, be fair, it was enough to make a saint swear. We are unable to guarantee it won’t happen again.)

Charlton: Henderson; Clare, Pearce, Inniss (Gunter 70); Jaiyesimi (Blackett-Taylor 71), Gilbey (Kirk 87), Dobson, Lee, Purrington; Leko, Burstow (Davison 70). Not used: MacGillivray, Matthews, Souaré, Morgan, Watson. Booked: Inniss, Purrington, Dobson, Gilbey. Booked: Inniss, Purrington, Dobson, Gilbey.

Norwich City: Krul; Byram (Aarons 71), Hanley, Kabak, Giannoulis (Williams 46); Lees-Melou, Sørensen, McLean; Dowell (Rashica 46), Sargent (Idah 85), Tzolis (Pukki 46). Not used: Gunn, Gibson, Gibbs, Płacheta. Booked: Hanley, Pukki, Sørensen.

Referee: Joshua Smith

Attendance: 13,825 (2,260 visiting)

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Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 4-0 Havant & Waterlooville

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

The Addicks notched up their first FA Cup win in three years yesterday – but managed to make hard work of it for much of the match. KEVIN NOLAN breathes a sigh of relief.

Still on the right side of 40, Johnnie Jackson has more than a little of the old school about him.

He’s no dyed-in-the-wool reactionary but comes across as a straightforward bloke who calls it as he sees it. And when he claimed during the week to respect the FA Cup and all it once stood for, he was taken at face value. His own failure to make it as far as the semi-finals apparently still rankles.

For this first-round tie against Havant & Waterlooville, who currently sit in 10th place in the National League South table, Jackson boldly named a side which featured nine changes from the team which went toe-to-toe with Rotherham United three days previously.

Akin Famewo and Jayden Stockley were the sole survivors but all nine newcomers were unarguably first team squad members.

On paper, at least, his team had more than enough about it to see off H&W comfortably. In no way was Jackson showing disrespect to either Saturday’s visitors or the competition itself.

But while the one-sided scoreline ultimately vindicated his judgement, it took Charlton until deep into the second half to demonstrate their pedigree. And until they did, they were bloody awful. Dreadful. Woeful. Pitiful. Lots of other words which fail me now. Provide your own if you like.

Pokerfaced on the sideline, the Addicks’ youthful boss was facing a gauntlet of disapproving hindsight as an inconvenient replay at the romantically named Draper Tools Community Stadium loomed over him.

Then his inspired introduction of Elliot Lee and Ben Watson for the misfiring Albie Morgan and Harry Arter changed everything. Suddenly the clouds rolled away, Charlton clicked and the Hawks abruptly turned into sitting ducks.

The tempo changed and so did the mood among 2,991 home fans, a meagre gathering which drew the disapproval of H&W manager Paul Doswell, who had been looking forward to a nice little earner as well as an enjoyable day in the capital. He seemed more disappointed by the gate than the result.

The first half can be dealt with briskly. Possession was hogged by the hosts who passed their way painstakingly over the halfway line, horsed around for a while, then headed back to their own territory where they set up again before repeating the process.

There were innocuous shots at goal from Charlie Kirk, with deputy right back Sean Clare the pick of a poor bunch, Arter and Morgan. But the nearest anyone came to a goal was visiting defender Josh Passley, whose shot/cross caused Stephen Henderson brief concern before drifting harmlessly off target. Rarely was an interval more keenly anticipated.

Jackson’s half-time talk was no doubt slightly salty in tone. It certainly galvanised Corey Blackett-Taylor who, after spending the first session in Joe Newton’s pocket, began to terrorise the left back. Electric acceleration set up a venomous drive which grazed the bar.

And when Stockley headed Arter’s cross tamely wide, the Addicks were showing signs of belated life, interrupted only by the fine save Henderson needed to make from Jake McCarthy’s header.

With the Hawks cheerfully wasting as much time as they dared, a daunting midweek trip to Havant – or is it Waterlooville? – was becoming likely. The visitors in the Jimmy Seed Stand were becoming cheekier by the minute when the roof fell in on them.

The first hammer blow was delivered by Josh Davison, whose task in heading home Kirk’s perfect cross at the far post was simplicity itself. With H&W’s rapidly tiring defence breached, a tide of red shirts flooded through.

Old pro Watson had brought with him a sensible, steadying influence; Lee was more dynamic and began to run his bewildered victims ragged. His nimble feet inside the visitors’ penalty area suckered skipper Joe Oastler into lunging in to bring him down and Stockley claimed his ninth goal of the season from the spot.

Nine minutes later, the scorer moved into double figures by prodding home from two yards after Lee’s whiplashed drive crashed off a post and was kept alive by Pape Souare.

The issue was well and truly decided at that point but there was still time for the most romantic conclusion to a troublesome afternoon. It was scored by Mason Burstow, who celebrated the signing of his first professional contract with his first senior goal. He’s unlikely to forget either the goal or the quality of the strike which produced it.

Having replaced Stockley on 86 minutes, 18 year-old Burstow burst over the halfway line, tearing past both exhausted defenders and supporting teammates, with only one thing on his mind. And that was to hammer an unstoppable drive past Mannion into the keeper’s inviting net.

The first of many, we trust… they don’t all have to be so spectacular, Mason.

Charlton: Henderson, Clare, Famewo, Elewere, Souare (Clayden 87), Arter (Watson 70), Morgan (Lee 70), Blackett-Taylor, Kirk, Davison (Washington 90+4), Stockley (Burstow 86). Not used: McGillivray, Dobson, Pearce, Jaiyesimi. Booked: Elewere, Lee.

Havant & Waterlooville: Mannion, Pasley, Oastler, Green, Magri (Rooney 63), McCarthy, Newton (Rendell 77), Collins (Baggie 77), Gobern, Roberts, Chambers-Parillon (Searle 84).

Referee: Carl Brook. Att: 3,865 (874 visiting).


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Charlton’s Bridon Ropes FC bid for FA Cup glory this Saturday

Bridon Ropes v Kent Football United
Bridon Ropes (in blue) take on Kent Football United in September 2015

The FA Cup comes to Charlton this Saturday – but the action won’t be taking place at The Valley.

While the relegated Addicks begin their League One campaign at Bury, hundreds of smaller sides up and down the country will be playing in the Cup’s extra preliminary round.

Making their debut this year will be Bridon Ropes FC, who’ll be playing Canterbury City at Meridian Sports Ground on Charlton Park Lane.

If the Ropes can beat Canterbury, they’ll be 12 more wins away from the Wembley final.

Bridon Ropes FC sign

The side began life in 1935 as the works team of British Ropes, based off Anchor & Hope Lane. The ropeworks are long gone, but the team remains and now plays in the Southern Counties East League Division 1, in the 10th tier of English football.

The Ropes share Meridian Sports with fellow local side Meridian VP. It’s a tidy little ground, recently redeveloped with a small seated stand and a bar close by. I snuck in there last September to see the end of their match against Kent Football United, a late winner grabbing victory for the home team.

Admission was only £5 that day, so it’s a bargain alternative for anyone alienated by the goings-on at The Valley, where Charlton are now charging at least £20 if you buy your ticket in the two hours before kick-off.

So if you’re itching to support your local team in the Cup and can’t wait until November, head to Meridian Sports Club on Saturday.