Charlton 2 (Tucudean 29, Jackson 51) Bolton Wanderers 1 (Moxey 54).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Charlton did it again on Tuesday evening. They entertained second-from-bottom Bolton, invited a wave of steady pressure from their struggling visitors (which included an adverse corner count of 13-2) and won 2-1. Their reactive tactics are making nervous wrecks of their fans, not to mention self-confessed heart attack candidate Bob Peeters, but somehow they continue to get the job done.
For three blissful second half minutes last night, there was even the briefly tantalising prospect of a comfortable victory to savour. Skipper Johnnie Jackson's reliable left foot had just doubled the lead provided by George Tucudean's wonderful opener and the customary, palpable tension eased. You hear tell of teams winning by exotic margins like 3-0 or even 4-0, with their crowds actually managing to enjoy themselves. So The Valley was still settling back for a novel experience when, wouldn't you know it, an ex-Crystal Palace left back called Dean Moxey threaded Jay Spearing's partially cleared corner inside the right post through a thicket of legs. With over a half hour left, that familiar old pit-of-the-stomach apprehension was back.
It was all very infuriating but there just has to be some method in Charlton's apparent madness. As usual, they started in reverse, with Bolton's outstanding midfield general Lee Chung-Yong forcing an unconvincing save from Stephen Henderson, then providing an opening for Jermaine Beckford to shoot tamely at the in-form keeper. Jackson's careless loss of possession to Kevin McNaughton conceded the first of Wanderers' spate of corners as the Addicks gave ground. The nerves were beginning to kick in when, on the half hour, the enigma that is George Tucudean lifted the siege and the mood with a quite marvellous goal.
Shadowed by Moxey as he made himself a target forYoni Buyens' delicately flighted pass through the inside left channel, the Bulgarian's finely feathered touch made all the space he needed to swivel outside the outmanouevred defender and shoot crisply across Andrew Lonergan into the far bottom corner. Having already irritated the home fans by making a habit of crumpling under the most innocuous of challenges, Tucudean was their new darling as he earned a booking for joining them in illegal celebration. He's not your bustling Nat Lofthouse type but he can play a bit and his talent must be cut some slack.
No doubt stung by perceived injustice, the Trotters kept their heads admirably, stuck to their constructive guns and went looking for equality. Centre back Matt Mills headed Spearing's corner narrowly over the bar and the former Liverpool starlet's daisycutter tested Henderson's alertness from distance. The visitors' domination of possession, however, didn't really amount to much trouble for a home defence, in which seen-it-all Andre Bikey and Tal Ben Haim were in typically obdurate form and Lawrie Wilson stepped in as a capable deputy for right back Chris Solly.
Five minutes after the interval, a second goal, as admirable in its own way as the opener, sent the stadium into temporary nirvana. Tucudean was again at the heart of it, his brisk one-two exchange with Franck Moussa carving open Bolton's floundering defence before a shrewdly weighted pass sent Jackson clear to his left. From 15 yards, the captain coolly drilled a low shot past Lonergan; there was never any doubt that he would score, as he had on 45 previous occasions for the club.
Bolton's seventh corner, awkwardly conceded by Rhoys Wiggins and swung out from the right by the persistent Spearing, soon halved the two-goal advantage. Charlton's chronic weakness in dealing with setpieces was exposed again as a scruffy sequence of weak clearances allowed Moxey to whiplash a low drive into the bottom right corner.
His side's calm reaction to adversity was rightly pointed out by new Bolton manager Neil Lennon, a figure of boiling hate for many, a viciously maligned hero to others. He's no better nor worse than any other bloke, really, but the myth has taken over from reality and gained unstoppable momentum by now. Anyway, his hardworking chaps certainly didn't look like a side destined for relegation, not with the skills of Chung-Yong and ceaseless industry of Spearing driving them onwards. They beavered away gamely and were entitled to curse their luck when Wiggins popped up under his crossbar to clear Beckford's looping header off the line following, it hardly needs saying, another of Spearing's corners. The chunky midfielder's late low drive zipped past Henderson's right post as an increasingly frazzled Valley bayed for referee Hooper's final whistle.
The sight of a completely sold-out Jordan Cousins, a player from whom all-out effort is taken for granted, slumping to the turf in exhilaration and exhaustion, spoke volumes for this determined, bloodyminded team. Resurgent Fulham might have their work cut out for them on Friday; but so will their tightrope-walking visitors from down river. Should be interesting -and anxious - again.
Charlton: Henderson, Wilson, Ben Haim, Bikey, Wiggins, Bulot (Fox 78), Moussa (Ahearne-Grant 86), Buyens, Jackson, Cousins, Tucudea (Harriott 90). Not used: Pope, Morrison, Ansah, Munns.
Booked: Tucudean, Buyens.
Bolton: Lonergan, McNaughton, Mills, Dervite, Moxey (Ream 81), Danns, Pratley (Clayton 81), Spearing, Feeney (Mark Davies 63), Chung-Yong, Beckford. Not used: Kenny, Hall, Vela, Craig Davies.
Referee: S. Hooper. Att: 13,433 (473 visiting).
The centenary of World War One has been on many people’s mind for some time and across the Royal Borough of Greenwich residents felt that restoring our war memorials was the absolute minimum required to commemorate the sacrifice of so many people one hundred years ago. I thought the Council agreed with me on this, but as the centenary came and went, the memorials across the borough were not restored, so I launched a petition to help remind Councillors how important this issue is to residents from communities across our Borough – you can sign at http://spencerdrury.com/warmemorials/.
To give some context, the request and concerns about war memorials are not recent. A few landmarks include:
I really don’t view this as a party political issue (as everyone seemed to agree with the basic principle of restoring the war memorials). Instead I see this as an issue of competence. The Council Leader agreed with me in December 2013 that “there was a desire to address the issue of the condition of the Memorials effectively and quickly” (Minutes of December 2013 Council meeting) and on we were promised that the Greenwich Heritage Trust would provide the way forward, but still nothing has happened. Indeed worse than that the Council has now admitted that it will have to restore at least some of the memorial before handing them over to the Heritage Trust.
I want to be clear that this is a personal issue rather than a political one. For me the war memorials are a really important part of our heritage, especially in a military borough like Greenwich. I am simply gutted that the Council has failed to restore the damage to our existing war memorials prior to the centenary of World War One despite myself and others pressuring them to do so for many years.
I do not want to let another year drift past without a proper commitment to restore and update them. I would also like the Council to add the names of those who have died in the service of their country since World War One to the memorials. As a local teacher, I believe these monuments are not just historical but should be relevant to current and future generations.
I am so grateful to those people, who regardless of their political views, have agreed to support this campaign, including Alan Tizzard Chair of the National Service Veterans Alliance, Barry Nugent, Chair of the Eltham and Well Hall British Legion, and Steve Mann from the 28th West Kent Boys Brigade who have taken part in the Remembrance Day Parades in Eltham and at the Cenotaph.
While many people are trying to do really good work to look after their own war memorials, including a petition to replace the plaque on the Plumstead War Memorial by the Woolwich Scouts and raising money to try and repair the monument in Eltham High Street, I want a commitment from the Council, whose responsibility it is, to sort our all the war memorials across the borough.
If you have the time, please do look at this excellent video on one of our local memorials which ironically is not maintained by the Council. This really matters and I would appreciate everyone’s support through signing my petition at http://spencerdrury.com/warmemorials/
AFC Bournemouth 1 (Wilson 3) Charlton 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from Goldsands Stadium.
A disorganised rabble, bizarrely dressed up as orange-flavoured ice lollies, turned out for Charlton at Bournemouth and tamely surrendered their frankly deceptive unbeaten record. It had to happen some time, of course, and there was some consolation in knowing that technically at least they were the last Championship side to have their colours lowered, Nottingham Forest having lost their lunchtime fixture at Cardiff earlier in the day. So the losing cloud was ringed by a silver lining. Some cloud. Not much of a lining.
After falling behind to Callum Wilson's third minute goal, these desperatedly disappointing Addicks managed to create just one genuine chance in their hapless search for an equaliser. Admittedly, the spectacular save Artur Boruc made to divert Johann Gudmundsson's terrific free kick to safety midway through the first half was world class but it stood alone during an afternoon the keeper could safely have spent with his feet up and a cigar on. It's certainly hard to recall anything else that inconvenienced him.
It was a second minute error committed by Gudmundsson, gifting Matt Ritchie a clearcut shooting chance from 25 yards and indirectly leading to Wilson's opener, that began gormless Charlton's downfall. Stephen Henderson's excellent reactions kept out Ritchie's low drive at the expense of a corner but his relief was shortlived. Ritchie's inswinging delivery from the right was retrieved from beyond the far post by Marc Pugh, who skinned Jordan Cousins before whipping in a dangerous low cross from the left byline. Sharp as a tack recently, Wilson flicked past Henderson from close range and though there were lengthy motions to be gone through, the Addicks were already on their way to their first defeat.
Bournemouth's clever young manager Eddie Howe, though pleased with the result, will be questioning how his dominant side neglected to polish off their passive visitors. A three or four goal margin wouldn't have flattered them.
Ritchie's alert interception of Gudmundsson's careless square pass was clearly part of Howe's tactical plan to disrupt Charlton's often ponderous build-up from the back. Wilson, supported by eager beavers Ritchie and Charlie Daniels consistently threw awkward spanners into the machinery. Henderson was denied opportunity to play short to his back four, Andre Bikey and Tal Ben Haim were forced to resort to long ball clearances, plan A wasn't supported by a viable plan B. In the ensuing mayhem, the Addicks' midfield found themselves ineffective onlookers, while up front, Igor Vetokele could last only 45 minutes, leaving far too much asked of richly promising 17 year-old full debutant Karlan Ahearne-Grant.
There was another explanation for the Cherries' failure to press home the early advantage given them by the prolific Wilson. In Henderson, they came up against a bang in-form goalkeeper, who defied them with a string of superb saves. His early defiance of Ritchie was followed by a sprawling effort to keep out Andrew Surman's raking drive and instinctive bravery at Wilson's feet. He also showed his savvy in forcing Wilson wide when sent through by Simon Francis, without fouling the nippy forward, and was rewarded when the danger man managed only to hit the sidenet from a diminishing angle. Henderson also deserved the luck he received when Wilson hit the base of a post following Ritchie's short free kick. Under less pressure in the second period, he managed another superb stop from Ritchie's blockbuster, with Harry Arter ballooning the rebound.
Charlton actually improved slightly in the second half, without suggesting they had enough about them to rescue even a point. Vetokele and Johnnie Jackson had been withdrawn during the interval, the former due to some niggling injury or other, the latter possibly to protect him from a second yellow card but just as possibly as a reaction to an anonymous first period. Gudmundsson joined them on 67 minutes, yet again failing to go the distance.
With their goals rationed to one per game, the Addicks are facing the first serious questions of a reasonably successful season. An outstanding back four, anchored by the inspired goalkeeping of Henderson, has kept them afloat but their midfield is too easily overpowered. And a counterpunching style, which invites the opposition forward in the hope of catching them on the break, contains the seeds of its own destruction. The bulk of the action at Bournemouth took place in Charlton's half. That's been the case in nearly every game this season, in several of which they've been outclassed.
Still, one defeat hardly represents a crisis and they have the opportunity to bounce back at home to Bolton on Tuesday evening. We'll know a bit more about them after that game. It might be nice, though, if they actually took it to the Trotters. Make the opposition soak it up for a change. Bit revolutionary, perhaps, but worth trying.
Bournemouth: Boruc, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Daniels, Arter, Surman, Ritchie, Pitman, Pugh, Wilson. Not used: Camp, Harte, Gosling, Smith, Stanislas, Fraser, Rantie. Booked: Surman.
Charlton: Henderson, Solly, Ben Haim, Bikey, Wiggins, Gudmundsson (Wilson 67), Buyens, Jackson (Moussa 46), Cousins, Vetokele (Harriott 46), Ahearne-Grant. Not used: Pope, Morrison, Fox, Tucudean. Booked: Jackson, Solly, Henderson.
Referee: James Linington. Att: 10,360 (1,388 visiting).
New on Greenwich.co.uk - Check out the Charlton Athletic collectibles.
Charlton 1 (Vetokele 11) Birmingham City 1 (Davis 53).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
A seventh draw of the season, five of them by this routine 1-1 scoreline, accompanied Charlton’s unbeaten record into the international break. They deserved no more than a point but then, despite the post-game bellyaching of Lee Clark, neither did Birmingham City. That’s not to deny the Midlanders were the better side but though they gave their hosts a severe going-over, they couldn’t add to David Davis’ second half equaliser. With just 11 previous goals to their credit, Davis’ excellent strike predictably maintained their one-goal-per-game ratio.
No jolly japester even in his merrier moments, Clark’s latest onset of monosyllabic gloom focused on the 30th minute incident which denied the Blues an earlier equaliser. While the details are in the eye of the beholder (bearing in mind, of course, that managerial beholders are often boss-eyed), the legalities of the so-called flashpoint seemed fairly clearcut.
Defensively undermined when Paul Caddis skipped through their ranks to cut back from the right byline, the Addicks were wrongfooted by elusive teenager Koby Arthur, who stabbed a low shot past Stephen Henderson. Unhappily for the visitors, Clayton Donaldson, while loitering behind Henderson on the goalline, couldn’t resist helping the ball on its way into the net. It was a figment of Clark’s imagination to detect two defenders (one of whom was certainly not Henderson) playing Donaldson onside. His spleen might have been better vented on the emptyheaded selfishness of his centre forward, who was required to do no more than stand stock still, instead of sticking his oar in. The “goal” was correctly disallowed.
In asserting City’s overall superiority, Clark was on more solid ground. His busy side belied their lowly league position with a chirpy, cohesive performance, combining pace, movement and no little imagination. The aggressive running of wingers Arthur and David Cotterill gave Charlton’s outstanding full backs Chris Solly and Rhoys Wiggins regular problems, Davis was a creative bundle of energy inside them, while overlapping full back Caddis constantly found space in support. Too often, however, their neat approach play foundered in sight of goal. Like Charlton, goals don’t come easy to them. And there was always the formidable barrier presented by human roadblock Andre Bikey and his reliably professional sidekick Michael Morrison to negotiate.
By now settled into a familiar groove, the Addicks willingly conceded territory in the expectation that their resistance would pay dividends further down the line. With the exception of the usual lapse -this one committed by Yoni Buyens- their game plan worked. Well, sort of.
It was the home side who seized the early initiative. Goalstarved in five games since his blistering start to the campaign, Igor Vetokele fastened on to Jordan Cousins’ pass, sidestepped David Edgar but narrowly missed the far post with a cutely curled effort. The talented Angolan wasn’t required to wait long before ending his drought.
An unproven force since breaking into the starting line-up, Frederic Bulot made progress on the left flank before delivering a perfect cross. Surprisingly effective in the air, Vetokele made mincemeat of City’s marking to head firmly past Darren Randolph.
Charlton were off and running although Buyens seemed at pains to cancel their advantage. Caught dawdling aimlessly in his own half by Arthur, he was reduced to spectating as the kid set up Donaldson to chip inches over the bar. Too much of Buyens’ playmaking is limited to meaningless exchanges in positions too deep to matter. His undoubted passing ability hasn’t, if memory serves (and it doesn’t always these days), included any decisive deliveries which destroy opposing defences and provide the assists he needs to compensate for his own lack of goals from open play.
A minute after the break, Vetokele’s persistence created a chance which Lawrie Wilson awkwardly shovelled over the bar but City promptly took control. Cotterill’s free kick picked out Paul Robinson at the far post but, despite moving in the opposite direction, Henderson’s instinctively outflung left hand kept out the old warhorse’s header.
The Brummies were hard to discourage and drew level five minutes later. Cotterill’s outswinging corner skidded out to Davis, who turned sharply to find the bottom right corner with a superbly struck daisycutter.
The situation was ripe for the the visitors to take over but, against the odds, Bob Peeters’ resilient men responded positively. Unlikely raiders Chris Solly and Bikey each embarked on sinuous solo runs without producing equally unlikely finishes. In response, burly substitute Wes Thomas broke clear, slipped inconveniently and fired into the sidenet. So the game drifted into 1-1 stalemate, as statistics suggested it would. Woulda been 2-1 Birmingham, though, if Donaldson had resisted temptation, a point his mournful manager might be making in a painful, private interview. Should be a barrel of laughs!
Charlton: Henderson, Solly, Morrison, Bikey, Wiggins, Wilson (Tucudean 70), Buyens, Jackson (Moussa 58), Cousins (Fox 90), Bulot, Vetokele. Not used: Pope, Harriott, Ahearne-Grant, Thomas.
Birmingham: Randolph, Caddis, Edgar, Robinson, Grounds, Davis,Cotterill, Gleeson, Arthur (Thomas 79), Donaldson. Not used: Doyle, Packwood, Hall, Johnstone, Lee. Booked: Gleeson.
Referee: Paul Tierney. Att: 16,369 (1,500 visiting).
Norwich City 0 Charlton 1 (Jackson 86).
Kevin Nolan reports from Carrow Road.
You know something, it could be time to take Charlton seriously. Unbeaten throughout August and September, they have settled into a hardboiled, disciplined side – a tough nut to crack with table topping Norwich City the latest to try their luck but fail. In impressively short order, Bob Peeters has welded together what looks like the real deal.
This outstanding victory at Carrow Road was achieved with backs to the wall, every man standing firm as City came at them with everything they had. There were bumps and scrapes, blocks and tackles, inspired goalkeeping from Stephen Henderson, a stroke of luck here and there, all the ingredients of a smash-and-grab victory. As such it was. Because these indomitable Addicks smashed Norwich’s resistance, then grabbed all three points. Which brings us to Johnnie Jackson, the essential heartbeat of this remarkable team.
Ever-present during Charlton’s 10-game unbeaten run, Jackson clearly has the confidence of his volatile manager. It’s safe to say his name would be first on the teamsheet. It might help the cause, therefore, if the captain’s increasingly vocal detractors put a sock in in it. Constructive criticism is one thing, dog’s abuse from the safety of a grandstand quite another. Cool, composed and confident, this admirable professional hardly needs the likes of me to defend him but I’ll give it a go anyway.
Jackson’s influence on the Addicks is profound on several levels. His accurate passing, positional sense and competitive edge are only faintly diminished by reduced mobility, attributes recently acknowledged by his midfield partner Yoni Buyens. And if you’re looking for someone to convert a dramatic, late chance, then you turn to Johnnie Jackson. He’s done it before and on Tuesday evening, he did it again.
The Addicks had soaked up almost continuous pressure for 86 tumultuous minutes when Jackson popped up like Sylvester in Tweetie Pie’s cage to break the Canaries’ hearts. Drifting instinctively into space, he let fly from 20 yards, caught a helpful deflection off Russell Martin’s foot and sent John Ruddy the wrong way as the ball found the bottom left corner. Delirium erupted among the pocket of wayfarers to the left of Ruddy’s goal as
differences between Jackson’s many admirers and his far fewer doubters were temporarily shelved in mutual joy. Amazing how a goal brings people together.
Roared on by a committed crowd, City will wonder how they finished on the wrong end of this pulsating game. Driven on by restlessly energetic playmaker Wes Hoolahan, they created enough chances to turn Jackson’s late strike into little more than a consolation.
Bristling with menace up front, Lewis Grabban began the siege by moving on to Hoolahan’s glorious through ball before stinging Henderson’s strong hands from an angle. Hoolahan promptly worked another opening for City’s prolific goalscorer but Grabban fired narrowly wide.
With Jackson’s off-target free kick and Igor Vetokele’s snapshot capably saved by Ruddy comprising the visitors’ puny response, Norwich turned the screw, with Bradley Johnson shaving a post from 30 yards. Hoolahan’s inswinging corner before the interval was prodded past Henderson by Johnson but Martin’s sly foul on Henderson hadn’t escaped referee Mick Russell’s eagle-eyed attention. The break was welcome but it did little to ease the tension. City simply took up where they’d left off.
Coming into his own, left-sided wide man Nathan Redmond began the second period by cutting in to shoot but was crowded out by an eager posse of Addicks, then crossed accurately for Grabban to glance tamely wide of the left post. The one-way traffic continued to roll Henderson’s way, with Redmond sending a drive whistling over the bar and Andre Bikey surviving a confident penalty appeal after Jackson’s sliced clearance hit his hand. Lawrie Wilson’s last ditch block on Hoolahan was heroic enough but it took the combination of Henderson’s sharp reactions and Rhoys Wiggins’ resourceful goalline defiance to keep Charlton level. The busy keeper parried Redmond’s point-blank drive, Hoolahan’s effort from the rebound flicked off Bikey but Wiggins cleared acrobatically from under the crossbar. It was hearts-in-mouth stuff but you just had to love these Addicks for their dogged refusal to buckle. Centre backs Bikey and Tal Ben Haim were immense, full backs Joe Gomez and Wiggins equally superb. Come to think of it, every manjack of them deserved to be mentioned in dispatches. So consider them mentioned.
A late scare when Grabban’s deliberate curler squeezed uncomfortably past the right post seemed to confirm a bitterly earned point. But that was to overlook the exquisite timing of Charlton’s stylish skipper who, truth told, was no more impressive than his colleagues, but brings with him an indefinable ability to deliver when it most matters.
In the late mayhem, there was still time for Karlan Ahearne-Grant, 17 on September 18th, to mark his debut by standing up for himself in a post-whistle fracas involving a bunch of Canaries with their feathers in a twist. With 20 year-old Jack Munns making his first appearance on the bench, Charlton’s academy marches on. As do their elders but not necessarily betters. Still a bit short of Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles but moving in the right direction.
Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Turner, Martin, Olsson, Tettey (Howson 82), Johnson, Hoolahan (Murphy 84), Redmond, Jerome, Grabban (Loza 84). Not used: Rudd, Hooiveld, Garrido, O’Neil.
Charlton: Henderson, Gomez, Ben Haim, Bikey, Wiggins, Wilson, Bulot (Ahearne-Grant 88), Buyens, Jackson, Cousins, Vetokele (Fox 90). Not used: Pope, Morrison, Moussa, Harriott, Munns.
Booked: Wiggins, Bikey, Vetokele.
Referee: Mick Russell. Att: 25,983.
Charlton 0 Middlesbrough 0
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Stretching now to nine games, Charlton’s unbeaten record was extended in this dull encounter with Middlesbrough. Their recent progress has resembled not so much a glamorous cavalry charge as the painful footslogging of the Poor Bloody Infantry. But Boro joined eight other sides who, to date, have failed to lower the Addicks’ colours. Which is impressive but just a little misleading.
A sixth draw of this still embryonic season followed familiar lines. Over an hour was spent wearing down opponents wearied by their midweek Cup exploits before finally erupting into a period of steady late pressure, which had the Teessiders hanging on for the final whistle. But a recent lack of punch up front, where the early season threat of Igor Vetokele has been blunted, meant this goalless stand-off came as no surprise. And when a stroke of luck might have come in handy, Charlton ended up empty-handed.
The first half shouldn’t have been inflicted on either purist or philistine. Fully committed to their new, deliberate policy of keep-ball, Charlton passed ponderously among themselves, sporadically crossing the halfway line with all the momentum of trench-sapped veterans. At least this time they stepped on no self-laid mines. But during a tedious 45 minutes, the equally methodical if uninspired visitors looked marginally likelier to score.
Opening with the temporary confidence derived from taking Liverpool all the way to an epic penalty shoot-out, Boro made all the early running. Dangerous wide man Albert Adomah began a personally eventful afternoon by combining with Adam Reach to lash an inviting chance into the sidenet, then tested Stephen Henderson’s reactions from 30 yards. Sandwiched between Adomah’s efforts, Adam Reach was awkwardly brought down by Johnnie Jackson near the left byline; as The Valley gulped collectively, referee Gavin Ward took a benign view of a “seen “em given” penalty.
With the Addicks struggling to find a foothold, left back George Friend twice met inswinging corners from Adam Clayton but headed narrowly wide at the far post on each occasion. Hot prospect Patrick Bamford’s 25 yard snapshot on the turn was deflected too close for comfort while, before the break, Kike Garcia’s lob skimmed the bar. What sounds deceptively like incessant pressure amounted, in fact, to no more than a slight edge during which Charlton, for all their studied possession, failed dismally to trouble Dimi Konstantopoulos.
No doubt feeling the effects of their Anfield exertions, Middlesbrough began to give ground in the second period, though initially the alert attentions of Andre Bikey were required to check Adomah, after possession was conceded by the disappointing Yoni Buyens. Franck Moussa had replaced desperately unlucky Johann Berg Gudmundsson at the interval but it was the introduction of George Tucudean for an out-of-touch Jackson, with Jordan Cousins moving infield from the left, which launched Charlton’s determined bid for all three points.
Hardworking Cousins had already created his side’s first chance by burrowing in from the right byline to deliver a low cross which Daniel Ayala hacked desperately clear before Vetokele could pounce. But it was aggressive Rhoys Wiggins who pierced Boro’s penalty box to provide Frederic Bulot with space for a cleverly improvised sideways-on volley which beat Konstantopoulos but rebounded harmlessly off the keeper’s left-hand post.
Boro were beginning to creak and it was Adomah who most notably succumbed to the pressure. Already booked for a clumsy foul on Cousins, the winger’s violent assault on Wiggins actually qualified for a straight red card but, alarmingly, referee Ward first indicated a foul by Wiggins before coming to his senses and issuing Adomah with a second, fateful yellow. With eight minutes remaining, the Northeasterners were in serious trouble.
Perhaps a little fortunate to be still around himself following a spiteful “elbowing” spat with Bamford, Bikey escaped the relentless booing of his former Riverside fans by advancing upfield for an abortive free kick from Buyens and being ordered to stay put by positive boss Bob Peeters. Showing nimble feet in unfamiliar territory, the big centre back picked out Bulot, who quickly transferred the ball to the onrushing Lawrie Wilson. Shooting on the run from 10 yards, the substitute’s apparent sure thing was denied by Konstantopoulos’ superb, spreadeagled block superb at his near post. Charlton weren’t quite finished yet and it took Clayton’s alert reactions to scrape Wiggins’ last minute header off the line.
So an unbeaten run, owing more to dogged determination than to seamless brilliance, continues. Peeters has knitted together a solid, unspectacular side in an impressively short time but before we get carried away, check this space on Wednesday morning, in the wake of a tricky visit to table-topping Norwich City. You never know, the Addicks might just turn out to be cats among canaries at Carrow Road. One thing’s for sure. Either fur or feathers will fly. Possibly both if they draw yet again.
Charlton: Henderson, Solly, Ben Haim, Bikey, Wiggins, Gudmundsson (Moussa 46), Buyens, Bulot (Wilson 85), Jackson (Tucudean 69), Cousins, Vetokele. Not used: Pope, Morrison, Fox, Ahearne-Grant. Booked: Solly.
Boro: Konstantopoulos, Nue, Ayala, Omeruo (Gibson 71), Friend, Adomah, Clayton, Tomlin (Wildschut 88), Reach, Bamford, Garcia Martinez (Leadbitter 76). Not used: Blackman, Fredericks, Ledesma, Husband. Sent off (two bookings): Adomah.
Referee: Gavin Ward. Att: 16,110 (1,967 visiting).
Royal Greenwich’s Tall Ships Regatta may have been and gone but there’s still been plenty of tall ships to see on the Thames over the past week and also the arrival of a Royal Navy frigate.
On Monday, the Lord Nelson tall ship came down the river after being in the Upper Pool since Friday. The vessel, owned by the Jubilee Sailing Trust and able to be crewed by disabled sailors, had arrived in London last week upon her return from a two-year, 50,000 nautical mile voyage around the world. Here’s a photo of her heading down river last Monday lunchtime.
Tuesday saw the arrival on the Thames of HMS Westminster, a Duke-class frigate that was last in the capital just about eighteen months ago. She came up Bugsby’s Reach on the eastern side of the Greenwich Peninsula on Tuesday at about lunchtime and entered West India Dock, where she will remain until Monday.
On Wednesday, it was the turn of yet another tall ship to make an appearance on the Thames. This time it was the Stavros S Niarchos – the training ship owned by the Tall Ships Youth Trust. With a crew of young people sponsored by HSBC, the Voyage of Achievement came up the river, going up to Tower Bridge where the young sailors manned the yard arms as she entered the Upper Pool. Here’s a photo of Stavros S Niarchos coming past Greenwich with the power station behind her.
Also back in London is the Shtandart – the impressive Russian replica of Peter the Great’s ship. She was here for the Tall Ships Regatta and after going down to Ramsgate following the festival, she is now back in London, currently at Hermitage Moorings in Wapping (pictured below).
Last week I went to a conference on gasholders. I have been researching gas industry history for many, many years and we have a large and important (and probably doomed) holder just down the road. I used to sit at Council meetings with a little paper model of a gas holder on my desk – the only person who noticed it was Chris Roberts (and he laughed, he did, honestly).
The conference was organised by the Institution of Gas Engineers — and the industry is one that doesn’t really recognise people who don’t work for it (never has) but they did allow specialist historians like me to go. But they did get us all to stand up at the start so we could be identified as the aliens among them.
The speakers were all gas industry professionals – engineers who had risen to become regional heads of this or that, they spoke on issues of demolition, remediation and much else. They clearly all felt a bit guilty – one of them said that they had make it clear how much they loved the holders they were pulling down – and then ran for the door.
There was a film of the very expensive work being done on the reconstructed Kings Cross holders – and details of the interesting things being done round the world with these remarkable structures. At the end we were given a card game ‘gasholder trumps’, and I am sorry to say that it doesn’t include our great East Greenwich holder.
So – we have a remarkable holder here in East Greenwich. We used to have two – but that’s another story. Together they were the biggest concentration of gas storage, world wide, ever.
We still have East Greenwich No.1. It was built in the early 1880s for South Metropolitan Gas Compay’s shiny new better-than-better-best gas works. It was the conception of the innovation-mad company chair, George Livesey. It is very big – biggest in the world when built, maybe the biggest in Europe now and very plain. It is one of three such holders – a recent report on them by a historical engineering consultant concludes that it is on “George Livesey’s revolutionary cylindrical shell principle …. the structural innovation (set) a new bench-mark for gasholder design… the progression of increasing size and sophistication in design was continued at the East Greenwich site”. In conversation I have heard it said that the three Livesey holders compare to others ‘like Concorde to a bi-plane”.
It is big – because it is cheaper to store in bulk, because it means gas workers have time to go to church on busy Sundays. But it also needs to be safe – safe in high winds, safe while bombs drop round it, and safe in the terrible event of a gas escape – and all of these things have happened. It is also very plain – and that is because it is a very early example of the idea, which became current among artists, architects and designers in following years that a structure must express itself, must be honest with what it is. No more Victorian rosettes and plaques – it is a gas holder and that should be enough. I have tried to describe it as an early modern movement building, but not sure anyone is listening.
Anyway – what is going to happen to it. The Council wanted it down when there were plans for a new school nearby. There would be a lot of teachers coming to Council meetings and bleating on about pollution and danger. I wanted to jump and and say ‘yes, all that, and fair enough – but are you also teaching these children about effective Victorian engineering – about aspiration, innovation, ingenuity and high standards’.
Don’t know what has happened though about discussions on it between its owners and the people from developers and the GLA who run the Peninsula.
It is sort of clear from the Conference that all gas holders are now decommissioned. Or at least some of all of them, because various people kept remembering ones that are still in use. But I think we have run out of gas here in East Greenwich. I did speak to the relevant engineer but he wasn’t at all forthcoming about its future. So – no better informed than we started.
There are very interesting reuse schemes for gas holders all around the world. Many communities are very proud of these structures. If I can quote a very very senior figure in Greenwich Council ‘it is an amazing and outstandingly dramatic structure in its landscape’. It could look wonderful. As ever in Greenwich, we have something outstanding but we don’t seem to know, or care.
I really enjoyed the conference, riveted listening to the speakers – and hope we can repeat it, with an emphasis this time – one what do we do with gas industry heritage
I am available for talks on George Livesey, or the gas industry in Greenwich, or the early London Gas Industry. Happy to pass on info about the conference programme and also on various stuff I have on the East Greenwich holder (including the report quoted above). Happy to pass on the ‘make your own gas holder kit’.
I must work out how to play that little card game – gasholder trumps – any ideas?
Rotherham United 1 (Becchio 70) Charlton 1 (Gudmundsson 27).
Kevin Nolan reports from New York Stadium.
Battered from pillar to post by Rotherham, Charlton staggered unsteadily out of South Yorkshire, still clinging tenaciously to their unbeaten record after ekeing out their fifth draw of the season, four of them by this 1-1 scoreline. They are making a virtue of stubborn resistance to pressure, most of it almost perversely brought on themselves. But it can’t last. Not unless they start to occasionally operate off the front foot for a change.
Ironically, the Addicks might have emerged with their first victory on the road if their new tactic of studious interpassing near goal hadn’t rebounded on them. With 20 minutes left, Tal Ben Haim was caught lollygagging in possession by Luciano Becchio and, seconds later, his carelessness was punished by the substitute’s far post equaliser. A rudimentary clearance of his lines might have been a shrewder idea but what do we philistines know? Well, we do know it’s terrific to have principles but they’re hardly iron-clad and should be adaptable to circumstances. As Tommy Cooper helpfully observed, “if you don’t like my principles… I’ve got others.”
Still on the subject of poncing about at the back, it’s becoming clear that the word is out concerning Charlton’s cerebral approach. Twice in the opening exchanges, the disappointing Yoni Buyens was closed down by Richie Smallwood uncomfortably close to his penalty area. No harm ensued but the message was unmistakeable. Charlton are playing a dangerous game, one at which they are far from experts. And they’ve been rumbled.
Settling down eventually, the South East Londoners edged the first half. Chances were evenly distributed, with long shots from Jordan Cousins and the ever-reliable Johnnie Jackson narrowly off-target; they were countered by Alex Revell’s effort on the turn, saved smartly by Stephen Henderson, and Joe Skarz’s downward header, which directed an accurate cross from Frazer Richardson perilously close to Henderson’s left post. After Rhoys Wiggins had survived a reasonable penalty shout for awkwardly bundling into Paul Green, the Addicks took the lead before the half hour.
There didn’t seem much danger to Scott Loach as Johann Berg Gudmundsson picked up a loose ball on the right, moved inside Smallwood and let fly left-footed from 25 yards. His superbly struck drive left Loach helpless on its unstoppable way into the bottom left corner. Gudmundsson was the pick of the visitors until he tired and was replaced by Callum Harriott, whose bright promise has faded and who might profitably spend less time badgering his boss about playing time and rather more in re-locating his elusive mojo.
Gudmundsson’s excellent goal pointed the way to a reasonably convincing victory. After Revell had forced another save from Henderson, Franck Moussa stung Loach’s hands with a piledriver and both Wiggins and Jackson skimmed the bar from long range. But that was virtually the last heard from the Addicks as an attacking force.
An arduous second period was fought out almost exclusively in Charlton’s half as the Millers ground out pressure on their visitors. Half-time substitute Lee Frecklington sidefooted a point-blank chance at Henderson; Jordan Bowery’s “goal” was correctly ruled out as offside; Paul Taylor made a ballooned mess of converting at the far post after Bowery prodded back another menacing cross from Richardson from the opposite corner.
A rare response saw Andre Bikey head Cousins’ outswinging corner over the bar but an equaliser was, by now, looking inevitable. And when it came, it was largely self-inflicted. With time to launch a clearance downfield in recommended but currently disdained fashion, Ben Haim chose instead to seek out Bikey, dithered vaguely and had his pocked picked by Becchio. Two passes later, Ben Pringle’s cutely delivered cross was nodded past Henderson by Becchio at the far post and Charlton’s unbeaten record was in severe peril.
The beleaguered Addicks should have fallen behind but Kari Arnason headed Pringle’s corner wastefully high and lived on their nerves again as Taylor’s hard-driven cross struck Jackson on an unspecified part of his anatomy inside the 18-yard line. United were denied a penalty, according to their wildly-popular Scottish manager Steve Evans, purely down to their small-club status. There was some other puzzling stuff about Jackson being as fat as Evans is because of stuffing the ball inside his shirt. He also moaned a bit mysteriously about the unfairness of Charlton spending money on new players but unhelpfully neglected to reveal who they were. All a bit garbled really but do make allowances. Evans is clearly no Chic Murray and was working without a script.
The stout manager’s mood was hardly improved by the marvellous last minute save made by Henderson to keep out Skarz’s sure thing header but it could have been worse if Loach hadn’t scrambled desperately back to scrape Frederic Bulot’s optimistic effort off his goalline, a close thing which meant honours shared between plucky little Rotherham, their not-so-little boss and Southern fat cats Charlton.
Rotherham: Loach, Richardson, Morgan, Arnason, Skarz, Wordsworth, Smallwood (Frecklington 46), Green, Bowery., Taylor (Pringle 68), Revell (Becchio 39). Not used: Broadfoot, Collin, Derbyshire, Clarke-Harris.
Booked: Morgan, Becchio.
Charlton: Henderson, Solly, Ben Haim, Bikey, Wiggins, Gudmundsson (Harriott 80), Buyens, Jackson, Cousins (Fox 90), Moussa (Bulot 60), Vetokele. Not used: Pope, Wilson, Morrison, Tucudean.
Booked: Moussa, Buyens.
Referee: Darren Deadman. Att: 9,620 (1,106 visiting).
Charlton 1 (Bikey 25) Wolves (Baath 65).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Their perfect home record is no more but Charlton remain unbowed after seven league games. Those are the bare facts after a draw was doggedly earned against newly promoted Wolves, who dominated possession, racked up an overwhelming 11-1 corner count and have only themselves -and a glaring lack of punch up front – to blame for returning to the Black Country searching their kitbag for two missing points.
Relaxed, confident and well-drilled, the visitors subjected the Addicks to a stern examination of their unbeaten credentials, struck the woodwork twice but failed to match their cohesive approach play with accurate finishing. On the rare occasions they hit the target, Stephen Henderson answered the call with several fine saves, his excellence generously if ruefully acknowledged by Wolves manager Kenny Jackett.
Having conceded Wanderers’ overall superiority, any suggestion that Charlton were lucky can be dismissed out of hand. They defended with admirable spirit, made chances of their own and showed, not for the first time this season, a bloodyminded refusal to be beaten. Their counterattacking tactics do, ominously, expose them to long periods of pressure and they will come unstuck eventually. But then, so will every other team in an intensely competitive league. In fact, with Nottingham Forest the exception, they already have.
In this tight, absorbing clash, Charlton actually made the better start. Before Wolves had settled, Jordan Cousins’ cross was headed narrowly off target by George Tucudean, who quickly followed by guiding a crosshot from Igor Vetokele’s perceptive pass wastefully wide. Responding immediately, the consistently dangerous James Henry’s resourceful overhead effort and a blistering drive from Bakary Sako were both thwarted by Henderson’s vigilance. Rangy midfielder Lee Evans then went close from 30 yards before the home side, somewhat against the run of play, moved ahead.
A constant threat to his towering markers, Vetokele pursued Johnnie Jackson’s pass and worried a right wing corner from Danny Baath. Cousins’ outswinger was met at the near post by Andre Bikey, who squeezed an expertly controlled volley inside the right post, helped apparently by Tal Ben Haim’s artful block on the scorer’s delegated marker. Eagle-eyed Jackett was distinctly unimpressed by the Israeli’s dastardly conduct and said as much -with feeling. Leave off, Ken, the penalty area’s a morass of mutual fouls when a corner’s on its way. Ben Haim did his job. Your defender clearly didn’t do his. Move on, mate. Nothing to see here.
A minute after the goal, Tucudean had another chance to double the lead. Slipped through by the mercurial Vetokele, he again shot wide. But it was, by now, the Midlanders who were calling the tune, with Leon Best getting the better of Ben Haim to set up an unmarked George Saville’s low drive from 20 yards. Sprawling to his left, Henderson’s fingertips brilliantly diverted the ball on to his left hand post and, via his entire goalline, back to safety.
The second half largely belonged to Wolves, with the Addicks unapologetically hanging on at times. As the pressure mounted, Sako’s shot was saved by Henderson; Best turned sharply to shave a post; then selfishly shot into the sidenet with Nouha Dicko better placed to his right. Just past the hour, Henderson rescued his side again with a splendid save from Sako but the resultant right wing corner finally brought Charlton’s downfall.
Kevin McDonald’s near post delivery was met by Baath, whose forceful header broke even Henderson’s heroic resistance. All of Baath’s colleagues had, it goes without Jackett saying, behaved with scrupulous fairness in the six-yard box chaos. Of course they did.
There was only one winner now and it wasn’t Charlton. Or, rather more surprisingly, Wolves. Henry did his best to decide the issue but crashed an angled cannonball against a post before Jackson, on the business end of a deftly headed pass from Vetokele, closed in on Carl Ikeme, drew a bead but dragged his crosshot lamely wide of the far post.
A more pressing concern for a relieved Bob Peeters will be the painful arm injury sustained by Vetokele as he disputed Jackson’s through pass with Ikeme in the last minute. The irrepressible Angolan hasn’t scored in the last two home fixtures but his work elsewhere has been priceless. One man doesn’t make a team but this one has made himself almost indispensable to Charlton.
And, by the way, Andre – lovely little somersault after scoring, hugely impressive and all that. But, er, maybe better knocked on the head in case you end up, er, knocked on the head. In the meantime, get plenty of practice. Just in case.
Charlton: Henderson, Gomez, Ben Haim, Bikey, Wiggins, Wilson (Bulot 74), Buyens, Jackson, Cousins, Vetokele, Tucudean (Moussa 61). Not used: Pope, Morrison, Harriott, Church, Fox.
Wolves: Ikeme, Doherty, Stearman, Baath, Golbourne, Henry (Jacobs 87), Saville (Dicko 46), McDonald, Evans,Sako, Clarke (Edwards 81). Not used: McCarey, Rowe, Val La Parra, Ricketts.
Referee: P. Miller. Att: 15,973 (1,644 visiting).
Charlton 1 (Buyens 3,pen) Watford O.
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Sticking to a mantra almost as ancient as football itself, Charlton claimed their third consecutive home win in seeing off another pre-season promotion candidate. Win at home, draw away, that’s the well-rehearsed advice being followed to the letter. With all three of their away games finishing level, the Addicks are proceeding neatly and nicely. So far so symmetrically good.
Sturdy defending, helped unapologetically by the occasional stroke of luck, was the key to this important victory. And when that resistance was breached, Stephen Henderson’s excellent goalkeeping did the rest. Several of his saves were outstanding, the sprawling, point-blank block from Lloyd Dyer near the end a matchwinner in its own right. It seems that Bob Peeters’ preference for Henderson’s experience over young Nick Pope’s bright promise was the correct call.
After going ahead through Yoni Buyens’ early spotkick, Charlton protected their lead for 97 frequently nervous minutes as the Hornets (re-branded more glamorously in the programme as the “Golden Boys” by a visiting pressman) pressed anxiously for an equaliser. There were a few close shaves but this was to be a frustrating afternoon for Watford’s debutant manager Oscar Garcia, who raised one or two reasonable beefs later on but didn’t, mercifully, waste time in disputing Charlton’s obvious penalty.
Catching the visitors snoozing complacently, Jordan Cousins won a duel for possession near the centre circle before spotting Igor Vetokele’s typically intelligent run behind a startled defence. In rounding Heurelho Gomes, the alert sharpshooter was unceremoniously chopped down by the panicked goalkeeper. Spared a red card by the proximity of his outmanouevred centre backs, Gomes was sent the wrong way by Buyens, who varied his recent technique and calmly rolled the penalty into the bottom left corner. Some cool character, this Buyens bloke. Not to mention one hell of a player.
Despite the untimely setback, Watford were hardly likely to submit meekly, certainly not with prolific captain Troy Deeney leading their attack. The Addicks were still enjoying their success when a mix-up between Chris Solly and Tal Ben Haim allowed Deeney sight of goal. A deliberately curled effort beat Henderson but clipped the outside of the far post.
A mixture of skill and muscle, Deeney was a restless handful and tested Henderson with a crisp drive after Matej Vydra smartly dummied Almen Abdi’s low centre; as the Addicks struggled to cope, the centre forward eluded Ben Haim, bore down on Henderson but went down under slight contact from the pursuing centre back.
It closely resembled a penalty but we really must trust our officials and referee Andrew Madley saw neither harm nor foul. Be fair, though, Garcia’s post-match gripe had a ring of authenticity to it.
Before the interval, the Hornets (I’ve had a game go but I just can’t get on board this Golden Boys business) stepped up the pressure and a fierce shot from Ikechi Anya produced a plunging save from Henderson. Three bookings within four pre-interval minutes, two of them for deliberate fouls on the unmanageable Vetokele, showed them in a more dubious light even if the Addicks were hardly disciplinary angels themselves.
Little changed after the break. Watford called the tune although Vetokele might have made more of Solly’s cross than head tamely over the bar. Most of the action took place in front of Henderson’s goal, however, with Lewis McGugan blasting Deeney’s clever knockdown wildy high, then substitute Dyer blazing Daniel Tozser’s cross into the sidenet. With time becoming the visitors’ enemy, Henderson came brilliantly into his own.
The defiant keeper’s diving save to keep out Tozser’s vicious drive was superb enough but the block he made on Dyer stood out as special. As the winger sought to finish a move started by Deeney and continued by Joel Ekstrand’s astute pass, Henderson flew off his line, spread himself and superbly charged down the winger’s goalbound effort. An overdue clean sheet was his -and Charlton’s – reward.
With no fewer than six of Saturday’s starters newcomers this season, Peeters earns considerable credit for blending them into a spirited, organised side, clearly capable of standing up to any of the Championship’s fancied contenders. Largely backfoot operators, they invite pressure, draw their opponents’ lead, then counterpunch impressively. It’s too early to tell how far their “clever southpaw” tactics will take them but it seems there’s something happening here…what it is ain’t exactly clear. For what it’s worth, I intend to hang around to find out. But I tend to hang around anyway.
Charlton: Henderson, Solly, Ben Haim, Bikey, Wiggins, Gudmundsson (Wilson 28), Buyens, Jackson (Harriott 77), Cousins, Vetokele, Tucudean (Moussa 55). Not used: Pope, Gomez, Morrison, Church.
Booked: Gudmundsson, Wiggins, Buyens, Cousins.
Watford: Gomes, Hoban (Paredes 46), Ekstrand, Angella, Anya, Abdi, Tozser, McGugan (Ighalo 77), Pudil, Deeney, Vydra (Dyer 61). Not used: Doyley, Cathcart, Fabrini, Bond.
Booked: Gomes, Abdi, Ekstrand, Hoban.
Referee: Andrew Madley. Att: 17,628 (3,199 visiting).
The five day Tall Ships Festival has drawn to a close with a beautiful parade of sail. On a gloriously warm day, the fifty ships that have been in London for the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival mustered up towards Limehouse before being led down river by Polish sail training ship Dar Mlodziezy.
Crowds packed along the riverside to see the parade of barques, brigatines, schooners, sloops, cutters and ketches snake around the bends of the river. Here is a selection of photographs taken over the past few days in Greenwich.
The biggest tall ships event on the Thames for a quarter of a century is getting under way, with about 50 ships in the capital for the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Regatta.
Over the next five days there will be lots to see on the river and also plenty of activities taking place on dry land, too. Today’s events include a parade of traditional Thames Sailing Barges, a spectacular launch performance from a Catalan theatre group at the ORNC and fireworks on the river as tall ships sail by.
The beautiful vessels are moored at Greenwich Pier, Victoria Deep Water (on the Peninsula), Royal Arsenal Pier at Woolwich and at Wood Wharf in Canary Wharf. The stunning Polish sail training ship Dar Mlodziezy is at a mooring just off Enderby Wharf.
As in the past two previous years, Sail Greenwich is offering ticketed sailings from Woolwich Pier – check here for latest availability
Morgenster arriving in London yesterday after having sailed up from Falmouth
Morgenster passing the Old Royal Naval College
Fireworks last night on the Thames as the Tall Ships began their sailings up and down the river
Fireworks seen from the stern of Loth Lorien
Next Tuesday, all of the ships will must at Greenwich before sailing down the Thames at 1.30pm in what should be a spectacular Parade of Sail. Here’s a video from the last time such an event took place, at the Tall Ships Race of 1989.
Brighton & Hove Albion 2 (Dunk 67,90) Charlton 2 (Vetokele 4,75).
Kevin Nolan reports from the Amex Stadium.
Two towering headers from Brighton centre back Lewis Dunk, both of them from right wing corners, the second of them deep into added time, denied Charlton an epic victory at the gleaming Amex Stadium. Their understandable disappointment was mitigated, however, by their organised, spirited resistance to Sami Hypia’s talented Brighton side.
Twice in front, thanks to the cool marksmanship of Igor Vetokele, the Addicks were within touching distance of all three points when Danny Holla’s corner was scraped away to Kazenga Lua Lua and instantly chipped back into the goal area chaos, where Dunk’s header was planted into the top left corner. Psychologically, it felt like losing to the devastated visitors. The reality is, of course, that they didn’t lose – nor have they lost in their opening five league games. Bob Peeters’ game, counterpunching team has, in fact, made an excellent start to the season.
In scoring for the fifth time in as many starts, Vetokele has settled down with impressive ease to the hurly-burly of the Championship. Mobile, intelligent, surprisingly good in the air, the 22 year-old Angolan is sharp as a tack, as he wasted little time in demonstrating just four minutes after kick-off. A brisk move involving Yoni Buyens and George Tucudean was petering out harmlessly until Vetokele seized on a loose ball and expertly drove it low inside David Stockdale’s right-hand post. His well-taken goal gave Charlton the perfect start but unruffled Albion immediately began to force them on to the back foot.
A minute after Vetokele’s opener, a rare slip by Tal Ben Haim presented Joao Texeira with an open goal from no more than 10 yards. An open goal, that is, apart from the forbidding presence of Stephen Henderson, whose instinctively outflung left hand kept out the sure thing at the expense of a corner. Texeira’s miss (and Henderson’s fantastic save) duly launched a period of steady pressure, which was studded with regular chances.
The first of those chances fell to Adrian Colunga, who was set up by Gordon Greer’s header from the inevitable Holla’s corner but, unmarked at the far post, volleyed wildly over the bar. Just as wasteful was Holla himself, who endeared himself to the large away contingent by ballooning Joe Bennett’s deep cross into their jubilant ranks. As the Seagulls flocked hungrily around Henderson’s goal, it fell to the more experienced Craig Mackail-Smith to show more poise with the target in sight.
Recently returned from a lengthy injury lay-off, Mackail-Smith’s truly prolific days are probably behind him but the cagey veteran still needs careful attention. Shortly after the interval, he spun sharply on to Bennett’s pass and shot mere inches wide on the turn. Not so dangerous was right back Bruno Saltor, whose volley from another of Bennett’s precise deliveries sailed off into the stratosphere.
Huffing and puffing, Brighton were begining to run out of inspiration by the time Andre Bikey conceded a right-sided corner to deny lively Lua Lua an opening near the right byline. Holla dropped his flagkick on to Dunk’s brow and the big centre back looped a soaring header over the diminutive Chris Solly, on goalline duty in the left corner. According to his many fans, Charlton’s imperturbable right back is only five foot three inches tall, which can’t be right. Can it? Nah, he’s bigger than that but not quite big enough to reach Dunk’s header. Shame, really, but you are what you are and it is what it is.
Briefly rattled, the Addicks faltered and Bikey’s panicky clearance fell to Lua Lua, whose snapshot was capably fielded by Henderson. As collapse threatened, Andrew Crofts broke clear but with only a square pass needed for Texeira to tap in an empty net, hit Ben Haim instead. Then, abruptly, Charlton stopped their tormentors in their tracks by hitting them with a classic goal on the break.
Having replaced a subdued Tucudean at half-time, Simon Church brought with him his customary willingness to work tirelessly for the team. His persistence on the right helped him elude Texeira’s tired challenge before a low centre picked out Vetokele at the near post. The elusive striker’s shuffling change of feet improved the angle for a shot passed carefully into the net off the far upright.
Again, Albion turned the screw, with new signing Sam Baldock appealing more in hope than expectation for a penalty when his shot rebounded off Ben Haim. At the other end, Bikey raised the siege briefly with a solid header sending Johnnie Jackson’s free kick a foot too high, before Vetokele’s needless foul on Holla gave Gary Gardner an inviting free kick in the penalty area “D”. A resolute wall did its job and Charlton seemed home and dry. Not quite, as it turned out, because Brighton’s 11th corner finally wore them down and Dunk’s last gasp goal carried with it joy and despair in equal measure. The Addicks know all about that after sickening Huddersfield in identical circumstances last week. Thing is, of course, both games were drawn. And, whisper it, pre-kickoff a draw would have been cheerfully accepted by the Addicks in each case. Just depends how you look at it.
Brighton: Stockdale, Saltor, Greer, Dunk, Bennett, Colunga, Crofts (Gardner 46), Texeira, Forster-Caskey (Baldock 78), Holla, Mackail-Smith (Lua Lua 61). Not used: Ankergren, Hughes, Calderon, Ince.
Booked: Dunk, Forster-Caskey.
Charlton: Henderson, Solly, Ben Haim, Bikey, Wiggins, Gudmundsson (Fox 80), Buyens, Jackson, Cousins (Wilson 61), Vetokele, Tucudean (Church 46). Not used: Pope, Morrison, Moussa, Harriott.
Referee: Keith Hill. Att: 26,189 (1,992 visiting).