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

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

Charlton’s last match of 2021 was a frustrating affair – another reminder that League One is not a walk in the park. KEVIN NOLAN was at The Valley to watch the Addicks take on Plymouth.

While appraising Charlton’s progress so far through this eerie, tier-stained campaign, it’s wise to remember the mantra that a football season – especially one spent outside the Premier League – is a marathon, not a sprint. With 18 games completed, the Addicks appear to have hit a metaphorical but negotiable wall.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that only four of those games have been lost. And that this fifth stand-off had the virtue of moving Charlton into the last promotion play-off position. That’s not bad going when weighed against the crippling list of injuries which have undermined them.

For the visit of mid-table aspirants Plymouth Argyle, Lee Bowyer performed his usual juggling trick, involving square pegs and round holes. It was a surprise to find right-back Adam Matthews starting at left-back, where his instinctive move on to his favoured foot had an awkward ripple effect on a defence already struggling to cope without the rock-like solidity of Ryan Inniss and Akin Famewo.

Matthews’ redeployment pushed Ian Maatsen into midfield, where his tireless contribution included a ferocious drive against Argyle’s crossbar in first-half added time. Meanwhile, Darren Pratley continued his yeoman service alongside Jason Pearce in central defence. But a lopsided line-up was still finding its feet when the visitors went in front.

Charlton had already survived a warning shot across their bows fired by Danny Mayor’s perceptive pass and Conor Grant’s dangerous but unrewarded cross, but the Pilgrims proved briefly irresistible. Scottish winger Ryan Hardie picked his way through a ponderous defence to reach the left byline, from which a crisp cutback left Luke Jephcott the easy task of tapping Argyle’s opener past Ben Amos. The Welshman claimed the goal which knocked the Addicks out of the FA Cup in November and was celebrating his 20th birthday on Saturday.

Clearly in relaxed mood, he scored again before the interval, but not before the home side sandwiched a party-pooper between his goals.

The equaliser just past the half hour was scruffy but not entirely unexpected. Charlton were improving but Michael Cooper kept them at bay with a smart save from Conor Washington. From the resultant right-wing corner, Jake Forster-Caskey’s inswinger was nudged on by Chuks Aneke and gleefully biffed home by Chris Gunter from all of two yards. The relief was heartfelt but lasted just four minutes.

A free kick conceded unnecessarily by Ben Watson was the beginning of Charlton’s second downfall. From a promising position on the right, Grant’s delivery was headed down by rangy defender Kelland Watts to Jephcott, who beat Amos to the loose ball and stabbed home a predator’s goal. Before the break, Maatsen’s piledriver unluckily crashed back off the crossbar. Bowyer’s post-game comment that “we played well, the better of the two teams in the first half” was, however, a subjective version of events and hard to credit. Charlton had actually come close to being outclassed and were fortunate to make it to the break just one goal behind.

Bowyer’s remark might have been justified had they been applied to the second period, because his 64th-minute introduction of Marcus Maddison for the tiring Jonny Williams tipped the balance Charlton’s way.

Maddison divides opinion with his infuriating blend of studied nonchalance and effortless class. If you seek indefatigable energy and total commitment from your midfielders, then the tattooed enigma is unlikely to win your favour. Should you, on the other hand, be willing to overlook chronic laziness in the hope of occasional flashes of genius, you’re more likely to overlook the flaws and savour the delicious moments of giddiness. Maddison’s fantastic equaliser, only three minutes after joining the fray, briefly united both schools of thought. His was a goal of unique quality and he was the only Addick capable of scoring it.

Receiving a routine pass from Maatsen. he disposed of his marker Lewis Macleod with an insouciant nutmeg to set up a shooting opportunity from fully 30 yards. The left-footed rocket he uncorked left a vapour trail as it scorched past Cooper on its way into the right corner. How to solve the dilemma that is Marcus Maddison?

In a side not exactly brimming with creative flair, start him -and work openings for his gun of a left foot to exploit. That’s one answer but there are undoubtedly others.

And there you have it at the end of the 21st century’s second decade. Charlton are still driving us nuts but you have to love ’em. We’re in it for the long haul; no sense diving overboard this late in the relationship.

See you in 2021 when the struggle resumes. Because, as they say in football, there’s always next year…

Charlton: Amos, Gunter, Pratley, Pearce, Matthews; Watson (Morgan 64), Forster-Caskey, Maatsen, Williams (Maddison 64); Aneke (Bogle 79), Washington (Smyth 88). Subs not used: Maynard-Brewer, Oshilaja, Gilbey.

Plymouth: Cooper, Aimson, Canavan, Watts, Edwards, Pereira Camara, Macleod (Fornah 70), Mayor, Grant, Jephcott (Moore 88), Hardie (Nouble 79) Subs not used: McCormick, Wootton, Telford, Reeves. Booked: Aimson, Edwards, Macleod.

Andy Woolmer.


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