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

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

How do you follow up a thumping 6-0 victory on the road? By sliding to defeat at The Valley, of course. KEVIN NOLAN watched from the press box.

After the feast…famine. Fresh from filling their boots with six goals at Plymouth in midweek, Charlton fought gamely against automatic promotion certainties Peterborough United but were unable to find to find the one goal they needed to earn a valuable point. A missed penalty by Jayden Stockley was as close as they came with the Posh using all their nous and an occasional stroke of luck to shut them out.

On the positive side, Charlton matched – and during a spirited second half performance often more than matched – their talented visitors but fell just short. While play-off rivals Oxford United were finishing off what was left of Plymouth Argyle and Portsmouth were ponderously squeaking past hapless Bristol Rovers, the Addicks slipped down to 8th place. Tuesday’s game in hand at home to Crewe looks like defining, if not deciding, their incident-packed season. They are overdue to put right the indifferent home form which has stunted their progress.

This hectic, evenly-contested duel hinged on the coolness shown by Johnson Clarke-Harris in converting what was his only clearcut chance and the subsequent failure, by Stockley, to equalise from the penalty spot. The prolific Clarke-Harris capitalised on Charlton’s customary tepid start to fire his side in front after just nine minutes. A needless foul by Liam Millar on Frankie Kent conceded a free kick which keeper Josef Bursik took quickly to Kent; the defender kept the ball moving to Sammie Szmodics, who slipped a promising pass in to Clarke-Harris. One touch of his left foot set up an unstoppable low shot which beat Ben Amos on its way into the bottom corner. It was a fine strike by a player brimming with confidence who expects to convert every chance.

Szmodics has almost kept pace with Clarke-Harris in providing United with a lethal scoring partnership this season. It was his quick-fire double which overhauled Charlton’s one-goal lead back in January and shortly after his partner scored, he should have increased his side’s advantage. Skilfully put through by Kent, he confronted Amos one-on-one near the penalty spot. Shooting hurriedly, he was foiled by the keeper’s instinctive touch which carried the ball wide.

Encouraged by their escape, the Addicks hit back through Millar, whose angled pass sent Alex Gilbey briefly clear of Kent, whose panicky challenge brought down the rapidly improving midfielder inside the penalty area. Referee Keith Stroud pointed to the spot which left Charlton to decide who would take the decisive kick. Hindsight is, of course, never wrong but the choice of Stockley, whose six goals have all been headers, seemed a curious one. An unconvincing effort cleared off the line by Ipswich a week earlier ranks as a rare shot delivered by an honest-to-goodness trier, who spends most games with his back to the opposition goal and thrives on headed chances. Sure enough, Stockley’ s shot was comfortably saved by Bursik and Charlton’s best chance had already come and gone. Jake Forster-Caskey might have been a better bet. That’s hindsight talking, of course. And hindsight’s always got something to say.

Before the interval, Millar’s miscued cross had Bursik scrambling back on his goalline to conjure the ball to safety. In response, Amos alertly narrowed the angle as Szmodics played in Joe Ward and hurried the midfielder into shooting over the bar. The Addicks retired for their break still in with a chance of salvaging something from a nip-and-tuck game. It was certainly not lack of effort which denied them. Instead there were grounds for optimism in their second half performance which, if they can carry it into the huge game against Crewe, might change the mood in SE7.

At the heart of the rally was Gilbey, whose form since Nigel Adkins arrived, has blossomed. A diffident figure under Lee Bowyer, who clearly didn’t rate him, the big midfielder was bristling for the fight. His powerful runs, seen to advantage when winning the penalty, troubled the visitors and inspired anxiety in their ranks. It was clearly no reflection on his contribution that he was replaced by Chuks Aneke with a quarter hour left. With Tuesday the priority, the caution he’d picked up made it a sensible move to withdraw him.

Entering the fray in the 77th minute, meanwhile, Aneke showed enough to suggest a start against Crewe is on the cards, possibly alongside Conor Washington, whose late appearance was a subtle nudge on Adkins’ elbow. Diallang Jaiyesisi’s premature departure probably frees up one place, while the ever willing Stockley might prosper, temporarily at least, as an impact sub. So with a touch of foresight, hindsights’s bitter rival, it’s predicted that an Aneke-Washington forward line could feature against Crewe. Unless, of course, Adkins goes for broke, includes Stockley and plays three up front. That’s probably pushing it but the prospect is appealing.

Adkins has other problems to solve before Tuesday, not least of which is the enigma called Liam Millar. The Liverpool loanee teased and taunted an above average Peterborough rearguard, marshalled superbly by Mark Beevers. On seemingly countless occasions, he twinkle-toed past an ever-growing posse of defenders, had their goal in his sights but just as regularly failed to exploit his advantage by poor decision-making. Crosses were tamely directed into Bursik’s hands, killer passes were constantly cut out by Beevers and his mates. A midfield comprising Millar, Gilbey and Jake Forster-Caskey should be a match for any in the division but only if the talented Canadian adds substance to his undeniable style, something he did brilliantly when setting up Gilbey for the penalty.

So it comes down to Tuesday and a nothing-to-lose, everything-to-gain engagement with the Railwaymen of Crewe. The crabbed, fear-filled progress of Oxford, Portsmouth, not to mention the continuing vulnerability of Blackpool, offers genuine hope of a play-off slot. It’s time to hold your nerve. Though they lost, Charlton held theirs against Posh. Four more times, Nigel, if you please…

Charlton: Amos, Matthews, Pearce, Innis (Famewo 83), Purrington, Forster-Caskey, Watson, Jaiyesimi (Morgan 24, Washington 83), Gilbey (Aneke 77), Millar, Stockley. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Gunter, Pratley. Booked: Gilbey

Peterborough: Bursik; Thompson (Mason 71), Kent, Beevers, Butler, Hamilton (Reed 68), Taylor, Ward, Szmodics, Dembele (Burrows 87), Clarke-Harris. Not used: Gyollai, Eisa, Ricky-Jade Jones, Kanu. Booked: Thompson

Referee: Keith Stroud.


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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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