Charlton 6 (Pigott 10,57, 67(pen), 90, Azeez 22, Smith 82), Huddersfield Town 1 (Crooks 52).
A four-goal salvo from powerhouse centre forward Joe Pigott led the demolition of Huddersfield Town in a one-sided Under-21 Development League play-off semi-final at Sparrows Lane on Tuesday. The hapless Terriers were sent home with their tails between their legs after being outclassed by Nathan Jones’ hugely talented young pros.
Pigott’s exploits naturally hogged the limelight but there was excellence all through Jones’ hungry team of young Addicks. Underage midfielder Diego Poyet proved himself a skilful chip off his dad Gus’ all-purpose block; left back Morgan Fox seemed nonchalantly willing to tackle an irritated rhinoceros in defending his goal; you wouldn’t want to tangle with centre backs Semi Ajayi and Kevin Feely (there’s a Gaelic football pedigree in this rawboned kid’s DNA, stand on that) in their ruthless line of business; skipper Bradley Jordan is the side’s heartbeat and, in the near future, will be doing his stuff at a higher level.
But it was blond bombshell Pigott who tore the visitors to shreds. His 10th minute opener was almost all his own work. Controlling Fox’s routine throw-in from the left touchline on his chest, he spun silkily infield to shake off his marker Tommy Smith, took careful aim for the far corner, then curled a low beauty across keeper Lloyd Allinson and neatly inside the right post.
Charlton’s second goal, twelve minutes later, was scruffier but no less effective. Jordan’s inswinging corner from the left was driven against teammate Ajayi by Pigott, leaving Ade Azeez the easy task of sweeping the rebound past Allinson.
Before the interval, Callum Harriott, the solitary first teamer in the line-up but fully entitled to a place alongside his recent colleagues, tested Allinson from 25 yards, Azeez lobbed narrowly over the bar and Jordan was desperately unlucky to hit the foot of the post.
Little or nothing had been seen of Town up front but it wouldn’t be Charlton, if the Terriers weren’t thrown a consolation bone. I’m not being funny but, sure enough, in an uncanny reprise of Bristol City’s goal on Saturday, a misunderstanding involving Feely and Nick Pope caused the goalkeeper’s hasty clearance to cannon off Chris Atkinson. Striker Matt Crooks made the most of the confusion to lob neatly into an empty net.
The West Yorkshiremen were allowed to hope for less than five minutes before Pigott picked on them again. From a free kick awarded for Murray Wallace’s foul on Azeez, Fox delivered to the far post where Feely headed back for Pigott to net via a slight deflection.
When left back Robbie McIntyre ended Jordan’s burst into the penalty area with a crude challenge from behind, there was clearly to be no dispute about the identity of Charlton’s spotkick taker. Pigott not altogether convincingly completed his hat-trick to make it 4-1.
Just past the hour, Town’s worst nightmare had been realised with the arrival of Michael Smith to relieve Azeez. There were now two towering blond strikers, both of them dangerous in the air but equally effective with the ball at their feet, to cope with. It was Smith, himself a four-goal destroyer of Tonbridge Angels in the recent Kent Senior Cup Final, who continued the rout with arguably the best of the six. A flowing five-pass move was distinguished by the sharp exchange between the big Northeasterner and substitute Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, which Smith finished by sidefooting clinically past a hopelesly exposed Allinson.
There was still time for Jordan Cousins’s fine pass to pick out Smith, who squared unselfishly from wide of the far post, leaving Pigott to unhibitedly score his fourth. Then the focus fell on the upcoming final against the winners of the other semi-final between Leicester City or Cardiff City. Away from home, unfortunately, otherwise I’d be there like a shot. You know me.
So what, in the meantime, are infrequent observers, among whom your reporter must be numbered, to make of the pool of talent applying pressure on Chris Powell just below the first-team waterline? Well, it seems to this occasional witness (my attendance at the Millwall league clincher rubberstamped my glory-hunting credentials, by the way) that there’s an embarrassment of riches on the way up. These kids are mustard.
From top to bottom, in fact, the club is in fine fettle. There’s an outstanding young manager at the tiller, enthusiastic coaches at all levels, a rich blend of experience and youth in the playing ranks. And, lest we forget, the best training facilities, stadium and fans in South East England. It ain’t a bad time to be an Addick.
It’s too good to be true, of course. Just watch some interfering busybody come along to spoil it. Speaking of which, let’s get Chris Powell all signed, sealed and delivered on a lengthy contract before the word gets out! That’s a priority because, let’s face it, Millwall are looking for a new manager.
It’s a joke. Calm down, it’s a joke. You can’t even have a joke these days. He wouldn’t go to Millwall, anyway, would he? I mean, would he?! Blimey, I’ve got meself worried now.
Charlton: Pope, Osborne, Ajayi, Feely, Fox, Cousins, Jordan, Poyet, Harriott (Holmes-Dennis 81), Azeez (Smith 63), Pigott. Not used: Phillips, Lennon, Sho-Silva.
Huddersfield: Allinson, Holmes (more than useful, this, energetic, versatile teenager ), Smith, Wallace, McIntyre, Sinnott, Hopson, Charles (Cox 69), Atkinson, Homes, Crooks. Not used: Colgan, Strakey, Burke, Leonard.
Referee: Ian Fissenden.
Kevin Nolan’s Match Report is brought to you in association with Maybridge – the CIS Tax Refund Specialists, 294 Burnt Ash Hill, London, SE12 0QD.
Charlton 4 (Kermorgant 47,51, Obika 79, Jackson 85) Bristol City 1 (Reid 59).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Love ‘em or only like ‘em, the end of season play-offs have proved visionary and have made just about every league game important. The traditional mid-table bore (usually scoreless) eked out by teams with no incentive left is nowadays little more than a ghastly memory in the minds of dinosaurs like your reporter. It disappeared along with Cup Finals regularly ruined by injury in pre-substitute days and teams having to do without key players because the FA duffers habitually scheduled international fixtures to clash with full league schedules. It’s a brave new world now and none the worse for it.
On Saturday, Charlton came as close as it gets to rolling back the years to the good old bad days. Their play-off aspirations had vanished at Middlesbrough a week earlier; their visitors, Bristol City had already been relegated. Their old-fashioned, seemingly meaningless clash fell somewhat short of mouthwatering.
Come the interval, it seemed that our worst fears were well on their way to being realised. This was no rollicking end-to-end fiesta of football though the 13 year-old grandson we’d brought along with us was out of order to start reading a newspaper. He got told, stand on me. Can’t have that sort of disrespect. No telling where it might end.
The only incident worth mentioning in 45 sleepwalking minutes was the premature ending of left back Rhoys Wiggins’ campaign due to another hamstring niggle. His unfortunate departure at least gave Chris Solly the opportunity to show that he is as adept a left back as he is a right back. Lawrie Wilson capably stepped into Solly’s boots on the right.
There must have been something slipped into Charlton’s half-time tea because they re-emerged to set about poor old City as if their parentage had been questioned. Within six explosive minutes, the bewildered visitors had been blown apart by two goals – both of them claimed by unstoppable Yann Kermorgant – and were facing a humiliating rout.
Man on a mission Kermorgant opened the scoring while the Robins were shaking off their first half torpor. Mobile co-striker Jon Obika’s raking pass found Mark Gower on the right, the experienced playmaker pinpointed a venomously struck cross on to the penalty spot and the burly Breton detonated a sideways-on volley powerful enough to threaten goalkeeper Tom Heaton’s health and safety on its way into the roof of the net.
Heaton was still contemplating his narrow escape when the Addicks doubled their tally. Slipped through to the left byline by Callum Harriott’s carefully judged pass, the overlapping Solly stood up a perfect cross to the far post, where Kermorgant headed forcefully home.
It was suddenly carnival time and Charlton generously included the Westcountrymen in their celebrations. A catastrophic lapse in concentration by Michael Morrison allowed bright spark Bobby Reid time and space to reduce the arrears by skilfully lobbing over the advancing David Button. While attempting to claw the ball off the line, unlucky Button sustained an injury which allowed highly rated young keeper Nick Pope to make an unplanned league debut.
As the home side wavered, Pope rode his luck with Albert Adomah screwing Ryan Taylor’s clever lay-off wide and Louis Carey making a mess of converting Neil Kilkenny’s quickthinking free kick. City’s bolt was just as quickly shot and put into context by another two-goal salvo.
Doing almost as he liked, Kermorgant’s uninhibited chip from outside the penalty area was adroitly measured to beat Heaton but, by annoying centimetres, not the crossbar. From close range, Obika gratefully helped himself to a simply headed rebound.
It was by now riveting stuff, rounded off by a wildly popular fourth goal five minutes from time. Growing in influence as his career cobwebs cleared away, shrewd playmaker Gower’s penetrative pass sent workaholic Bradley Pritchard haring to the right byline to drill over a hard, low cross, which Johnnie Jackson slid in from beyond the far post. Much to Kermorgant’s barely concealed irritation, his iconic skipper again tops the scoring with 12 goals. That deflected strike taken away from him at Watford must still rankle in Brittany.
The Addicks end 2012-13 in sound shape. This side has improved steadily; an eight-game unbeaten run, featuring four consecutive home wins, provided evidence that painful lessons had been learned; the agenda for next term must surely target a better return from local derbies than the single point gained this time around. Singlehandedly, Charlton saved Millwall from relegation and boosted Crystal Palace into the play-offs. That won’t do. Charity begins at home and there’s none to spare for either of them. So that’s over to you, Chris. They ain’t all that much anyway.
Charlton: Button (Pope 71), Solly, Dervite, Morrison, Wiggins (Wilson 15), Pritchard, Gower, Jackson, Harriott (Wagstaff 79), Obika, Kermorgant. Not used: Hughes, Taylor, Haynes, Kerkar. Booked: Wilson, Gower.
Bristol City: Heaton, Nyatanga, Fontaine, Louis Carey, Cunningham, Anderson, Kilkenny (Ajala 86), Bryan, Reid, Baldock (Adomah 53), Taylor (Burns 84). Not used: Lewis Carey, Foster, Kelly, Elliott.
Referee: Carl Berry. Att: 18,981.
N.B. This final report is dedicated to fellow travellers on Betty Hutchins’ coach (herself a veteran of Lewis coaches) and those other faces regularly glimpsed in foreign fields. Betty rules with a velvet grip and the club are lucky to have her. Her pies are legendary as indeed is she. Any talk of her turning it in must be vigorously discouraged. It’s not on. She’s a Downham girl who survived a potentially fatal collision with an outdoor tin bath tub to get where she is today. There’s years left in her yet. The bath tub’s a goner, though.
Anyway, where there’s no sense, there’s no feeling so we’ll be seeing you all next season. Be well. Be lucky. Be Addicks. K.N.
Kevin Nolan’s Match Report is brought to you in association with Maybridge – the CIS Tax Refund Specialists, 294 Burnt Ash Hill, London, SE12 0QD.
Middlesbrough 2 (Emnes 76, McDonald 87) Charlton 2 (Pritchard 1, Williams o.g 17).
Kevin Nolan reports from the Riverside Stadium.
No jolly jester at the best of times, Middlesbrough boss Tony Mowbray looked like he had a stone in his shoe after his side had come from behind to salvage a decent draw from this entertaining game.
“With respect” (brace yourself for the inevitable disrespect), “we should be beating sides like Charlton at our place”, he announced with what can only be described as a straight face. Tone’s a gloomy cove and it’s not often his face is anything but straight but his slight simply cannot go unchallenged. I mean, you can spit on a fan’s floor and call his cat a motheaten so-and-so but you can’t get away with dissing his football team. You go too far, Mr. Mowbray. Satisfaction is demanded.
To be fair, though, the head-to-head statistical record offers the beleaguered manager unimpeachable evidence for his comment. It shows that Boro had won 35, Charlton 34, with 18 draws in their previous 87 league encounters. That slender but undeniably decisive advantage probably justifies in his mind his airy dismissal of the Addicks but it might also symbolise precisely the sort of misplaced hubris that will keep the Teesiders beneath their visitors in the final Championship league table. You need to lighten up, mate. And mind your manners. You’ve been told.
With respect, dogeared Boro had done rather well at their place to recover from a first half drubbing and snatch a worthy point from a better side. Mr. M didn’t mention, of course, that his outclassed players had been favoured by one or two contentious refereeing decisions on their way to redemption. He should have been savouring the draw, not bellyaching about it.
A side like Middlesbrough could hardly afford to fall behind with less than a minute played but that’s exactly what they managed to do. They were ballwatching spectators as Yann Kermorgant threaded a pass through for Ricardo Fuller to cross from the left byline and the onrushing Bradley Pritchard to crash a rising drive into the roof of the net.
Some nine minutes later, Boro were helped out of the hole they were digging for themselves by the first of referee Darren Drysdale’s charitable contributions. Centre back Rhys Williams’ crude trip on Fuller inside the area was as clear a penalty as you’re likely to come across (unless you’re garrulous Ian Holloway, who is victimised by the “most blatant penalty I’ve ever seen in my life” on an almost weekly basis) but Drysdale remained unmoved. He won’t be so cocksure when he sneaks a look at the TV footage but he was adamant. And just as wrong.Kevin Nolan’s Match Report is brought to you in association with Maybridge – the CIS Tax Refund Specialists, 294 Burnt Ash Hill, London, SE12 0QD.
Williams might have been still rattled when he conceded an own goal to double Charlton’s lead shortly after his brush with the law. His defensive partner Andre Bikey’s violent challenge on Fuller in the centre circle conceded a free kick, which the impressively calm Mark Gower hoisted to the far post, Kermorgant volleyed across the six-yard box and Williams turned into his own net.
With Gower and Danny Hollands deputising capably for recent linchpins Johnnie Jackson and Andy Hughes, the prospects for another comfortable road victory were encouraging. Kermorgant came close to making it three with a curling effort narrowly wide of the right post but, at the other end, Marvin Emnes’s determined solo run was brilliantly checked by Pritchard shortly before the interval.
Resuming in total control, the Addicks passed and moved crisply but, with Gower and Hollans possibly feeling the pace, took their foot off the attacking pedal. They were served a warning just past the hour when Emnes made a hash of a clearcut chance skilfully fashioned for him by effective substitutes Emmanuel Ledesma and Scott McDonald. And with less than a quarter hour left, their lead was halved.
Running on to Grant Leadbitter’s intelligently flighted pass, Emnes contrived a hastily shinned lob over a flummoxed Ben Hamer. Charlton had been abruptly removed from their comfort zone. The home side sensed the change.
Stung into response, the visitors were again let down by faulty officiating. Clearly onside as he converted Kermorgant’s short cross, Fuller’s close range tap-in was wrongly flagged by one of Drysdale’s unhelpful assistants. TV coverage revealed another officiating error but their bungling ways were far from over.
Heartened by their escape, Boro almost inevitably equalised in the 87th minute. Lively left winger Mustapha Carayol won a left wing corner off Michael Morrison, which he swung in to the far post. Delayed in the congestion zone as he left his line, Hamer was left helpless by McDonald’s firm header.
The implacable Drysdale had at least one more controversial decision in his incompetent repertoire. His added time verdict that Williams had fallen short of fouling Kermorgant in the area was forgiveable; not so his generous interpretation that Justin Hoyte’s panicky trip on substitute Jonathan Obika was legal. Chris Powell was livid; Mowbray non-commital; fill in your own blanks about Olly’s reaction.
What’s Crystal Palace’s manager doing in my report by the way? He wasn’t even there. He was up at Blackburn doing his nut. About a penalty which turned out not to be a penalty, of all things. Gertcha! Go on, on yer bike! Bloody liberty taker.
Middlesbrough: Steele, Hoyte, Rhys Williams, Bikey, Halliday, Reach (Ledesma 54), Leadbitter, Main (McDonald 54), Smallwood, Carayol, Emnes. Not used: Leutwiler, Bailey, Luke Williams, Burgess, Haroun.
Booked: Smallwood, Leadbitter.
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Dervite, Morrison, Wiggins, Pritchard, Hollands, Gower, Harriott (Kerkar 80), Fuller (Obika 80), Kermorgant. Not used: Button, Taylor, Green, Haynes, Wilson.
Referee: Darren Drysdale. Att: 15,011.
Charlton 2 (Dervite 63, Obika 90) Wolves 1 (Doyle 66).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
For the second home game running, Jonathan Obika climbed off the bench to turn what seemed destined to be a disappointing 1-1 draw into an important 2-1 victory. Leeds United were his victims two weeks ago in the last of five added minutes; this time the impact sub was at it again a little earlier to sicken relegation haunted Wolves in the last seconds of regulation time.
So often on the receiving end themselves this season, Charlton -and especially Obika- are finally getting the hang of the last punch knockout. Well, nearly last punch because on this occasion there were still six extra minutes to negotiate, a task they sailed through with minimum fuss. That’s something else they’ve professionally mastered on their way to a thoroughly satisfactory ninth position.
Obika’s inelegant winner settled this scruffy clash as the fourth official was preparing his added time board. The spadework was provided by aggressive left back Rhoys Wiggins, whose turn of speed to the left byline was rounded off by the low cutback he provided for Danny Green to shoot first time. A helpful deflection sent the ball spinning wide of the left post, where Obika was perfectly postioned to drill a firm drive into the bottom corner.
This particularly disheartening defeat leaves Wolves teetering on the edge of a second successive relegation, an unthinkable fate for a club with such unimpeachable pedigree. Riddled by injuries to key players and lacking, through suspension for this key game, the vital midfield bite of Jamie O’Hara, the weakened Midlanders seemed there for the taking by in-form Charlton. That’s not the way it worked out because the Addicks were unable to reproduce the intensity which has driven them through a well-timed five-game unbeaten streak. But they won and winning when you are not at your best is a priceless knack.
A patchy first half was illuminated only by a brief flash of inspiration involving rookie Callum Harriott and veteran Ricardo Fuller, both of whom were upstaged by a moment of breathtaking audacity from Wolves’ spiky skipper Karl Henry.
Just turned 19, Harriott is too young to be afraid of failure, his confidence remaining undimmed by the occasional knockback. Embarking on an electrifying solo run which carried him through a series of tackles, the kid respectfully unloaded a short pass for Fuller, 14 years his senior, to carry on the good work. Stepping inside from left to right, the seasoned pro unleashed a vicious shot which a surprised Dorus De Vries managed to beat away with both hands.
Henry’s contribution was more spectacular. Controlling a lofted clearance on his chest near the centre circle, the rangy midfielder let fly uninhibitedly on the volley from some 45 yards. His long range missile soared over Ben Hamer, possibly struggling for vision against a glaring sun, but rebounded to safety off the crossbar. That’s how your luck goes when you’re struggling at the bottom of any league. And in this unforgiving dog-eat-dog Championship, you need any and every break going.
The 12th minute loss withdrawal of talisman Andy Hughes, meanwhile, had broken manager Chris Powell’s recent run of luck with injuries. The loss of his captain Johnnie Jackson shortly after the interval was equally problematic but the Addicks’s response to adversity was encouraging. It was Jackson’s replacement Green, in fact, who was instrumental in Charlton’s breakthrough.
Gifted the ball by a wayward pass from Tongo Doumbia, the winger hesitated before shooting but earned himself a right wing corner off a desperate defender. His flagkick was cleared back to him, his return cross deflected behind for a second corner, which caused untold mayhem in the six-yard box. Fuller tried his luck before Dervite cleared up the debris by ramming home his third goal of the season from three yards. An untidy goal entirely befitting a similarly untidy game, it was, nonetheless, greeted ecstatically by a crowd at last captivated by Powell’s bonny bunch of battlers.
Charlton’s lead, unfortunately, lasted only three minutes, because almost before you could say Jack Robinson, the defender’s huge throw was flicked on by someone or other wearing old gold (the muted numbers on Wolves shirts were clearly designed to protect the identities of their wearers) on the edge of the penalty area and glanced in off the base of the right post by Kevin Doyle.
With an invaluable point in their grasp, Wolves promptly chose the wrong time to wobble. Kaspar Gorkss’ booking for fouling Green launched a quickfire spate of four cautions, the last of them meted out to Stephen Hunt for an ugly challenge on Hamer, which re-awakened memories of his infamous clash with Petr Cech (a case where, to be fair, the put-upon Hunt presented a valid case for innocence). But not this time.
Their loss of discipline was to catch up with the increasingly desperate visitors. For up stepped Jonathan-come-lately Obika to break their hearts. That trek back to the Black Country looks like ending in the horror that is League One. You wouldn’t wish it on your most bitter enemies….yeah, you would.
Kevin Nolan’s Match Report is brought to you in association with Maybridge – the CIS Tax Refund Specialists, 294 Burnt Ash Hill, London, SE12 0QD.
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Dervite, Morrison, Wiggins, Hughes (Gower 12) Pritchard, Jackson (Green 62), Harriott, Kermorgant, Fuller (Obika 81). Not used: Button, Taylor, Kerkar, Wilson.
Wolves: De Vries, Doherty, Johnson, Robinson, Gorkss, Hunt (Hamill 86), Henry, Sigurdarson, Doumbia, Ward (Batth 90) Doyle. Not used: McCarey, Dicko, Foley, Cassidy, McAlinden. Booked: Gorkss, Doherty, Sigurdarson, Hunt.
Referee: Roger East. Att: 19,023.
Cardiff City 0 Charlton 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from Cardiff City Stadium.
Cast as bit players on a tumultuous evening when Cardiff City were meant to imperiously clinch promotion to the Premier League, Charlton came close to ruining the script and upstaging the champions-elect. Well before referee Stuart Mathieson blew his final whistle, City had unashamedly settled for the point they needed, with goalkeeper David Marshall clearly under instructions to make a meal of his goal kicks. Confirmation that Watford had lost at Millwall removed the last vestige of doubt and the celebrations duly commenced.
The Addicks had done their sturdy best to prolong the agony. Those of us educated by their record away from home recognised the ingredients of organisation, discipline and plain old bloodyminded stubbornness that have defied so many of their hosts this season. But it’s equally true that despite Cardiff’s domination of possession (59%-41% apparently), it was Charlton who came closer to scoring.
The Bluebirds, still referred to as such despite the contemptible boardroom decision to bin over 100 years of tradition and make a showbusiness change to red, made marginally the better start. Craig Bellamy curled a free kick narrowly too high before Aron Gunnarsson’s clumsy foul on Yann Kermorgant conceded a setpiece 30 yards out, over which Johnnie Jackson thoughtfully deliberated before bending a superb setpiece, which left Marshall groping helplessly but cannoned to safety off his left post. If nothing else, City had been warned that these hardnosed Englishmen had every intention of pooping their promotion party.
Still a potent threat in his football dotage, Bellamy’s duel with Chris Solly, one which Charlton’s imperturbable right back progressively dominated, was a pivotal feature of the first half. Before resorting to his customary Bellamyaching as he disappeared into Solly’s hip pocket, City’s prodigal son moved dangerously on to Gunnarsson’s inviting pass but sidefooted wastefully over the bar. To be fair, it’s impossible to ignore him.
The same could be said of the excellent Solly, who stood alone like Horatio at the bridge as South Korean international Kim Bo-Kyung led a three-on one fast break over the halfway line. With Bellamy and Rudy Gestede in space to his left, Bo-Kyung’s heavy touch was all Solly needed to step in and alertly snuff out the danger.
After Gestede glanced Andrew Taylor’s cross wide, Mathieson’s cockeyed decision that Rhoys Wiggins’ scrupulously fair tackle on Bo-Kyung was in fact a foul, the Blue/Redbirds were provided with a late chance to grab the lead before the interval. Bo-Kyung’s free kick beat a scrambling Ben Hamer but rippled the sidenetting. Justice was seen to be done.
Left back Taylor opened the second period by clipping the outside of the left post from long distance but the visitors were far from toothless themselves; Michael Morrison swivelled gracefully on to Solly’s throw in City’s penalty area before realising where he was and slicing wildly over Marshall’s bar. Hamer’s awkward save at the second attempt from Leon Barnett’s deflected shot kept the sides level before the Addicks again put the wind up their increasingly anxious hosts just past the hour mark.
Turning cleverly on to Solly’s low free kick, Ricardo Fuller moved across Ben Turner to make space for a left-footed drive which was heading inside the left post until Marshall, at full length, brilliantly touched it to safety.
Six minutes later, the increasingly fraught locals erupted in unrestrained joy as Craig Noone headed home Taylor’s cross. Unrestrained that is, until a linesman ruled that he had done so from an offside position. It was almost cruel to witness their despair. As if.
Enough was enough decided City manager Malky Mackay, a decision inspired by the dangerous shot from Callum Harriott which shaved the bar five minutes from the end. A draw suits South Welsh purposes, he concluded, leaves Charlton’s honour intact and everyone a winner of sorts. With a pitch invasion imminent, that included referee Matthieson, clearly complicit in the mutual agreement to shoulder arms. Having alerted players, managers and his fellow officials of his intentions, he blew his final whistle, then burned off speedster Harriott on his everyone-for-himself sprint to sanctuary. Impressively rapid though he was, he was outsmarted by former Swansea City player Mark Gower, whose judicious deployment near the tunnel had him in the showers before the natives could engulf him. This was no place for a “Swansea Jack” to be hanging around. Or anyone else who didn’t know the words of Men of Harlech. We used to sing it at school but you’ll understand that it’s a bit foggy these days. Rousing song, though.
N.B. It was a mischievous quirk of the fixture list that sent Charlton to South Yorkshire (Barnsley) on Saturday, then South Wales (Cardiff) on Tuesday.
Was it my imagination but did both of these mining areas have their backs turned?
Cardiff: Marshall, McNaughton, Turner, Barnett, Taylor, Noone (Smith 72), Mutch, Gunnarsson, Bo-Kyung, Bellamy, Gestede. Not used: Lewis, Whittingham, Cowie, Conway, Mason, Nugent.
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Dervite, Morrison, Wiggins, Hughes (Gower 81), Pritchard (Green 88), Jackson, Harriott, Kermorgant, Fuller (Obika 81). Not used: Button, Taylor Kerkar, Wilson. Booked: Fuller.
Referee: Stuart Mathieson. Att: 26,338.
Barnsley 0 Charlton 6 (Pritchard 4, Jackson 19, Kermorgant 48, Harriott 59, Kerkar 80, Fuller 90.
Kevin Nolan reports from Oakwell.
Forget the mathematics. Bin the various equations. Wake up from your League One nightmares. Charlton will be playing in the Championship next season. This merciless demolition of Barnsley removed the last shred of doubt that they have both the quality and character to thrive at this level.
During the course of a tortuous campaign which turned at times into a route march through spilt treacle, the Addicks have grown inexorably stronger. Tactically flexible and consistently adaptable, they have taken the occasional setback in their stride on their way to a creditable position in the top half of the table.
This runaway victory in South Yorkshire over bang in-form Barnsley was typical of their steady improvement, not to mention the shrewd manipulation by manager Chris Powell of a fluctuating squad.
At one end of the age scale at Oakwell was Callum Harriott, recently turned 19 and a heartwarming success since breaking into the first team last month. A will-o-the-wisp ball player, the academy graduate has clearly been coached to add nuts-and-bolts effort to his repertoire of tricks. As usual, he tackled, covered, worked his teenaged socks off for the cause and, with a handy slice of luck, became one of six scoring contributors to Charlton’s best-ever away win.
Predictably not among those scorers was 35 year-old Andy Hughes, whose addition to the starting line-up against Bolton Wanderers two weeks previously was the cause of raised eyebrows among the more sceptical of supporters. After a lengthy absence through injury, much was asked of the streetwise veteran but, not for the first time, Powell was proved right, with his faith in the old pro vindicated by a string of mature performances.
In this potentially difficult game, Hughes was a model of professionalism, consistently chucking a spanner into the Tykes’ midfield engine room, his timely interventions ensuring that his side hogged the ball and applied lethal pressure. The home side were hardly given a look-in.
The point is, of course, that Powell’s personnel have adapted imaginatively to new challenges as the season has worn on. At centre back, for instance, Dorian Dervite has capably picked up the slack caused by injuries to Leon Cort and Matt Taylor, making it unthinkable to drop him from a centre back position he has made his own.
In spirited form themselves, meanwhile, following battling draws at Crystal Palace and Cardiff, Barnsley’s cruel dissection began as early as the fourth minute. Foraging in the inside right channel, Ricardo Fuller ran down Chris Solly’s pass, returning the ball to the aggressive right back, whose low cross was volleyed against Luke Steele’s chest by Yann Kermorgant, Pouncing on the rebound, Bradley Pritchard netted efficiently.
Relaxed and confident, the Addicks pressed home their advantage. Set up by the feverishly busy Pritchard, Johnnie Jackson’s clever footwork made space for the low right footed drive he drilled through the unhappy Steele’s legs.
Shaken to the core by the turn of events, Barnsley boss David Flitcroft reacted boldly, with old stager Jason Scotland, already an on-loan scorer for Ipswich against Charlton this term, replacing Tomasz Cywka, the South Yorkshiremen’s goalscoring hero at The Valley in October. Scotland responded immediately by burrowing along the right byline to set up a close range chance for Jacob Mellis, which was cleared off the line by the outstanding Rhoys Wiggins.
Scotland tried again shortly after the break, playing Chris Dagnall clear on the right to slice wildly wide. Duly warned that the issue was far from sealed, the visitors promptly blew Barnsley’s resistance apart with easily the best of their six goals.
Alertly reading Wiggins’ overlap outside him, Harriott weighted the perfect pass for the left back to cross perfectly on the run. At the far post, Kermorgant made easy work of nodding past Steele, before continuing into the net to celebrate with his adoring public, all 672 of them.
The Tykes’ misery was far from over. On the hour, Harriott received Pritchard’s short ball and beat a demoralised Steele at his near post with a wickedly swerving but eminently saveable drive. In defensive tatters by now, Flitcroft’s side was reduced to 10 strugglers, with Stephen Dawson earning a straight red card for a late challenge on Kermorgant. Showing commonsense, Powell instantly replaced a battered Kermorgant with Jon Obika and sensible withdrew Jackson, in imminent danger of suspension with nine cautions hanging over him, in favour of Mark Gower.
Not that the revamped Addicks eased off. A third substitute, Salim Kerkar, relieved young Harriott and quickly made it five by finishing off Obika’s blocked shot. Again, their victims reacted disastrously with last defender Tom Kennedy dismissed for chopping Fuller down in full flight for goal. Almost inevitably, in added time, with Steele’s goal being used for target practice, Fuller helped himself to a gratuitous but richly deserved clincher.
So records were set in South Yorkshire. This was Charlton’s best-ever away victory and there is talk that it’s the first time six separate scorers have registered in one game. That’s a detail, of course, for which the late, great Colin Cameron was our go-to guy. The best I can come up with is an educated guess, proving that there will never be another dear old Colin. You should cut me a little slack already so soon!
Barnsley: Steele, Wiseman, Hassell, Foster, Kennedy, Cwyka (Scotland 29), Dawson, Perkins, Mellis (O’Brien 59), O’Grady (Harewood 59), Dagnall. Not used: Alnwick, Jones, Rose, Cranie. Sent off: Kennedy, Dawson.
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Dervite, Morrison, Wiggins, Hughes, Pritchard, Jackson (Gower 66), Harriott (Kerkar 78), Fuller, Kermorgant (Obika 66). Not used: Button, Taylor, Green, Wilson.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham. Att: 9,469.
Charlton 2 (Jackson 47, Obika 90), Leeds United 1 (Varney 81).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Charlton’s long march to freedom picked up momentum at a euphoric Valley, where Jonathan Obika’s 96th minute goal – the Addicks’ first added time strike of the season – sank stubborn Leeds United. Now seven points above the relegation places, with just fifteen points still at stake, only a collapse of epic proportions will send them down. That’s unlikely to happen under Chris Powell’s calm stewardship.
Starved of opportunities since joining Charlton in February, Obika replaced teenage whizkid Callun Harriott with seven minutes left, announcing his arrival with an electric burst of speed which left right back Sam Byram strugging in his wake before he cut back an inviting pass to Chris Solly, whose close range shot was blocked.
With the bit clamped firmly between his teeth, the Tottenham loanee was clearly hungry for action. His run into the penalty area was precisely timed as Rhoys Wiggins threw into Salim Kerkar, switched the return on to his less favoured right foot and centred accurately. Having lost his marker, Obika headed emphatically past Paddy Kenny before disappearing into a wild melee which united players, staff and crowd in perfect communion. There really is nothing quite like the last gasp winner, as Charlton have discovered to their cost on several occasions this term. This time it was their turn.
Determined if unspectacular, the Addicks deserved this pivotal win, even if deputy Leed boss Neil Redfearn couldn’t bring himself to agree. He felt that United were the better side and had been ill-served by several of referee Stuart Attwell’s decisions. He also seemed peeved that the hosts had scored their first goal “against the run of play.” With Johnnie Jackson’s 10th goal of the season timed at 47 minutes, there hadn’t actually been a whole lot of play since the break but we won’t fall out about it. Departed boss Neil Warnock, sorely missed not only for his classic good looks but his Corinthian attitude, would have whined more effectively but, of course, he had cut and run during the previous week. So it was down to Redfearn to make a case for the indefensible.
Jackson’s strike was typical of the skipper’s eye for a chance. Coming back to an onside position as Ricardo Fuller’s cross was scuffed clear to Andy Hughes, he was favoured by a helpful ricochet from the defensive midfielder’s low drive. One steadying touch prepared the brutal left-footed bullet which rocketed into the roof of the net with Kenny helpless. Jackson is quick enough when he needs to be.
It’s difficult to justify Redfearn’s claim to superiority at the time. Charlton had largely controlled the first half, had made the majority of the chances and had comfortably handled the on-paper menace of Steve Morison and Ross McCormack up front for the visitors.
United, in fact, lived dangerously during the early going after David Norris crudely fouled Jackson and Solly’s free kick was hooked goalward by Dorian Dervite, saved smartly by Kenny but blasted haplessly over the bar by Michael Morrison; they wobbled again as Wiggins’ deep cross picked out Yann Kermorgant at the far post but was headed wide; and there was little they could do to stop livewire Callum Harriott, who broke clear to fire narrowly wide. At the other end, McCormack’s clever backheel made space for Paul Green to cut in from the right to shoot carelessly over the bar.
Jackson’s opener seemed to have sent the Addicks on their way to a relatively easy victory but that’s not the way things are done down in S.E.7. Busy Bradley Pritchard nearly eased the inevitable nerves but saw his volleyed cross from the right byline pass untouched across goal on its way for a throw. Gradually, Powell’s men retreated to defend what they had; just as gradually newly encouraged United came into contention. Hughes’ diving header back to Ben Hamer brilliantly foiled Morison, who then picked up Michael Tonge’s rebounded shot to drive viciously into the sidenet. But with nine minutes left, Leeds drew level and were probably entitled to parity.
Driven deep alongside his defensive colleagues, Kermorgant’s desperate foul on McCormack was predictably punished. Lee Peltier’s towering free kick triggered a hectic scramble which Charlton seemed to have survived until Lee Varney, despite claims for handball, hooked home a deflected equaliser.
Shocked by the setback, the Addicks declined to settle for a still useful point and went looking for a winner. Solly had taken to rampaging forward and finished a determined run by drilling a low crosshot narrowly wide. As the Yorkshiremen wavered, substitute Michael Brown picked up his customary booking for a particularly nasty foul on Kermorgant, then repeated the offence without penalty. But in Obika, a far more effective substitute was to have the last word. And the word was spelled G-O-A-L!
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Dervite, Morrison, Wiggins, Pritchard, Hughes, Jackson, Harriott (Obika 83), Kermorgant, Fuller (Kerkar 77). Not used: Button, Taylor, Stephens, Gower, Wilson. Booked: Jackson.
Leeds: Kenny, Byram, Pearce, Peltier (Austin 90), Warnock, Green, Tonge (Brown 88), White (Varney 66), McCormack, Morison. Not used: Ashdown, Diouf, Habibou, Poleon. Booked: Tonge, Norris, Brown.
Referee: Stuart Attwell. Att: 18,900.
Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Charlton 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from Amex Community Stadium.
Any doubt that Charlton have the heart and resolve to deal with the lingering threat of relegation was dispelled in freezing conditions on the South Coast on Tuesday evening. A performance of guts and commitment under severe pressure from Gus Poyet’s talented Brighton proved enough to secure a bitterly earned point, their 51st of this tortuous route march of a season. That’s enough to keep them up – or it would be under normal circumstances. Problem is that there’s nothing normal about the 2012-13 campaign. So the survival fight goes on under Chris Powell’s astute leadership.
Criticised in Tuesday’s programme for “lacking a Plan B” and “not making his substitutions soon enough to affect the game”, Powell’s clever deployment of his personnel was, in fact, instrumental in a rewarding four-point Easter. His resourcefulness in adapting his selection to circumstances is too often overlooked.
Never reluctant to make changes, without resorting to change for its own sake, the boss brought Ben Hamer back after a four-game absence and was rewarded at Brighton by a performance of breathtaking quality. Like Hamer, meanwhile, new additions Dorian Dervite and Andy Hughes had suffered in the alarming early chaos which saw the Addicks go 2-0 down to Bolton on Easter Saturday before recovering magnificently to win 3-2. All three of them, however, kept their heads and their places at the Amex Stadium where they disputed between them the notional award as man-of-the match.
Powell also altered his formation by adding Lawrie Wilson to a five-man midfield and dropping Ricardo Fuller to the bench, after the veteran’s heroic exertions three days previously. His approach was unapologetically defensive but this result vindicated him. The Addicks are involved in an unrelenting relegation struggle and those fans who yearn after beguiling football were advised to park themselves on the sofa to drool over the molten talents of PSG and Barcelona on TV. It’s a matter of life or death near the foot of the Championship table and no place for the fainthearted.
Dervite was the first of the terrific trio to make his mark with a selflessly brave block to deny Leonardo Ulloa a point blank chance. In front of him, Hughes settled down quickly to break up play with tackles and interceptions before passing sensibly out of trouble, his calmness lending confidence under the Seagulls’ steady pressure. But it was Hamer’s individual brilliance which inspired the besieged visitors to endure.
Possibly nettled at being dropped for four games, the often emotional keeper began a string of superb saves by reacting smartly to turn Matthew Upson’s header to safety, then capably dealt with a crisp drive from Kazenga LuaLua. Luck came to his rescue when Inigo Calderon hastily sliced a point blank opportunity wide as he stood watching helplessly. His impressive coolness in dealing with crosses and corners received stout support from the lusty boots and willing heads which dealt with so many of the balls which Albion rained in on his beleaguered penalty area.
It wasn’t quite one-way traffic, a point made by the sharp turn and blistering shot sent inches over the bar by Yann Kermorgant before the interval. But the siege continued unabated after the break, with Will Buckley heading Vicente Rodriguez’ cross wastefully wide at the far post. Another fine save by Hamer, after Upson met David Lopez’ corner, kept the scores level before the Addicks responded spiritedly, with Liam Bridcutt emulating the visitors’ stubbornness by heroically blocking Bradley Pritchard’s close range effort.
A late winner from either side was never out of the question and Hamer’s full length save from Lopez was more than matched by the breathtaking effort made by Tomasz Kuszczak to fingertip substitute Dale Stephens’ blistering half-volley over the bar. But it was Hamer who claimed the goalkeeping kudos with an astonishing added time save from Ulloa.
Picked out by Bridcutt’s precise cross, Ulloa seemed certain to break Charlton hearts until Hamer, while moving to his right, adjusted to divert the ball up on to his crossbar and over to apparent safety. The emergency was far from over because Gordon Greer managed to hit the left post from Lopez’ resultant corner. By that time, it must be admitted, your scrupulously neutral reporter had subsided into gibbering panic and his version of events, from the, er, unbiased sanctity of the press box, should be accompanied by a healthy dose of scepticism. Was it Rhoys Wiggins or Chris Solly, on the line, who helped Greer’s effort on to the post? Whoever it was, tell him from me he’s a hero!
Brighton: Kuszczak, Calderon, Upson, Greer, Bridge, Rodriguez, Bridcutt, Lopez, Buckley, Ulloa, LuaLua. Not used: Ankergren, Hammond, El-Abd, Crofts, Orlandi, Painter, Barker. Booked: Bridcutt, Greer.
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Dervite, Morrison, Wiggins, Wilson (Stephens 75), Hughes (Taylor 90), Pritchard, Jackson, Harriott, Kermorgant. Not used: Button, Haynes, Kerkar, Fuller, Gower. Booked: Jackson, Hughes.
Referee: Mick Russell. Att: 28,043.
Charlton 3 (Jackson 25, Dervite 60, Kermorgant 63,pen) Bolton 2 (Sordell 4, Kamara 20).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Two down to promotion hopefuls after 20 minutes, a re-vamped defensive unit all at sea, demoralising defeat by an initially superior side on the cards. The scenario was familiar but so was the solution.
Back in early November, Charlton had found themselves in similarly depressing circumstances against league leaders Cardiff City. On that riotous occasion, they had turned to what they call these days their go-to guy and were not disappointed. Before half-time, Johnnie Jackson had scored twice, the visitors were shellshocked and a memorable come-from-behind victory was on its way. No need to mention the added time wobble that reduced the home crowd to quivering apprehension. It all turned out fine anyway.
Five months on, the Addicks were up against it again as rampant Bolton tore them to pieces with an early assault, missing two clearcut chances before Marvin Sordell gave them a 4th minute lead. Chris Powell’s bold plan to use Andy Hughes’ defensive know-how in front of a back four, where Dorian Dervite was deputising for Matt Taylor, was in tatters; the crowd threatened briefly to mutiny as Medo Kamara doubled Wanderers’ advantage; the Valley hoodoo seemed certain to continue. Well, cometh the hour, cometh the bloke. The right bloke in Jackson at precisely the right hour.
To those who believe that football is all about blistering pace, Charlton’s cool skipper leaves a bit to be desired. Not the fastest creature on two legs, though hardly as slow as made out by his few detractors, he uses something you just can’t rent or buy in compensation. It’s called a football brain and it helps its owner to anticipate the ebb and flow of play. It’s no accident that Jackson has “popped up” nine times this season with important goals. Just when Charlton needed him most, he did it again on Saturday.
Fastening on to a short pass from bright-as-a-button Callum Harriott, he outflanked a massed defence with a right-to-left lateral run across the penalty area. The far right corner was always his left-footed target, one he found with unerring accuracy off the post. The effect was electric. Bolton were no longer as cocksure, the Addicks were galvanised, their crowd sensed the dramatic change of mood. Jackson was unable to repeat his two-goal feat before the break but his goal proved a game changer. What would Powell do without him? The question is, of course, rhetorical.
Steady improvement spread rapidly through the team. Consummate pro Hughes settled down admirably while Dervite showed yet again the versatility that has bailed Charlton out on many occasions this season. The brawny Frenchman was to feature at the other end early in the second period. More of that soon.
Shocked by Jackson’s unexpected reply, meanwhile, Bolton began to implode. Their progress towards anarchy began with the booking meted out to right back Sam Ricketts for a wild challenge on Harriott, the consequences of which came home to roost shortly after the break. Possibly a slow learner, Ricketts launched another high “tackle” on Ricardo Fuller and was given inevitable marching orders by referee Trevor Kettle. His punishment further fitted his crime as Yann Kermorgant struck the left post with a clever free kick, leaving Dervite to efficiently slot the rebound past Andy Lonergan.
It was the Trotters’ turn to struggle and while they were down, the Addicks ruthlessly kicked them again. Fuller was proving an elusive handful, his darting surge into the penalty area luring Darren Pratley into an ill-timed sliding tackle from behind. Having waited patiently while the almost berserk visitors did everything they knew to distract him, Kermorgant shut them up by calmly converting the stonewall spotkick. Now, presumably, we’ve heard the last of his infamous play-off miss while with Leicester. Not before time, either.
Still in with a chance,10-man Bolton were at pains to squander it. Their 69th minute substitute Craig Davies rose to the occasion with back-to back bookings for crude fouls on Michael Morrison and Rhoys Wiggins, while the clothesline attack on Chris Solly by Craig Dawson should have seen him beat Davies to the showers.
Speaking of Davies, the scene was ideally set for old warhorse Kevin to apply his wrecking ball impact to his side’s plight but, sensibly perhaps, manager Dougie Freedman kept him on the bench. Kev might have quite enjoyed the chaos which greeted the final whistle, with an enraged posse of his colleagues, led by incandescent captain Zat Knight, surrounding Mr. Kettle to presumably place their orders with him. Milk and two sugars, please, ref. No hurry but if you’re brewing up…
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Dervite, Morrison, Wiggins, Pritchard, Hughes (Gower 72), Jackson, Harriott (Wilson 86), Kermorgant, Fuller (Haynes 86). Not used: Button, Green, Obika, Feely. Booked: Hughes, Solly, Kermorgant.
Bolton: Lonergan, Ricketts, Knight, Dawson, Alonso, Kamara, Spearing, Pratley (Odelusi 82), Chung-Yong Lee (Craig Davies 69), Ngog, Sordell (Butterfield 59), Not used: Bogdan, Eagles, Kevin Davies, Wheater.
Referee: Trevor Kettle. Att: 17,322.
Charlton 0 Millwall 2 (Easter 58, Lowry 65).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
According to Ben Franklin, death and taxes are the only certainties in life. If he was still around, though, the old codger might add another sure thing…Millwall beat Charlton at football. No matter how the teams are doing when they meet…Millwall beat Charlton at football. It’s what they call a gimme, Ben.
This latest clash of historically mismatched rivals made the point perfectly. Logic pointed to a rare win for the Addicks because just about everything was in their favour. Having soldiered through two exacting cup-ties since Charlton last played, the Lions arrived at The Valley, not only lacking influential midfielder James Henry but also deprived of regular centre back Mark Beevers through suspension. With playmaker Andy Keogh presumably feeling the strain and benched, where he remained, they were further disrupted after just 16 minutes by the loss of deputy defender Karleigh Osborne to yet another injury. Depleted and supposedly drained, the visitors seemed there for the taking by rested, virtually full-strength Charlton. Well, we should have known better because if you don’t learn from history, you’re a cinch to repeat its mistakes, not to mention its results. And history teaches us that… Millwall beat Charlton at football. So let’s have a go at an explaining the phenomenon.
The suspicion lingers that generation after generation of Charlton players have had it drummed into them that games against Millwall have no more significance than those against any other opposition. The same number of points are available from each fixture and it’s an unnecessary distraction to get caught up in all this local derby hype. So the Addicks are not so much pumped up as let down. Their feet stay firmly on the ground. No added edge for them. It’s all very professional and strictly business.
Now try telling that to Millwall’s players. It’s a safe bet that over in S.E.16, they listen to a more belligerent mantra, one which leaves them in no doubt what this fixture means to their fans. They don’t dare lose and it’s this healthy fear that motivates them. They simply want it more and it’s exactly that desire which added a yard of pace during this game, as an example, to man mountain Danny Shittu’s legs in several one-on-one face-offs with speedster Danny Haynes. Ex-Addick Shittu was the very symbol of the visitors’ defiant togetherness.
The first half of Charlton’s latest humiliation suggested briefly that the usual trend was about to be reversed. If anything, the Addicks had the better of its humdrum exchanges, with David Forde initially shaky in dealing with Bradley Pritchard’s snapshot, then making a more efficient job of turning aside a fiercer effort from Callum Harriott. They turned out to be his only genuine saves. At the other end, premature substitute Adam Smith, under crucial pressure from Chris Solly, snatched at the Lions’ best chance and drove it wastefully wide. There wasn’t much else to recommend 45 forgettable minutes.
A bright start to the second period offered the home fans further encouragement. Harriott’s clever footwork tempted Alan Dunne into a rash foul on the edge of the penalty area but Yann Kermorgant curled the free kick a whisker wide; Rhoys Wiggins’ cleverly improvised cross was touched on by Kermorgant for Lawrie Wilson to lift a point-blank chance over the bar at the far post. And that was Charlton’s bolt well and truly shot. Not for the first time in the one-sided history of this fixture, Millwall coldly put them in their place.
Emergency loan acquisitions Richard Chaplow and Jermaine Easter are possibly no more than nodding acquaintances but they were clearly on the same wavelength as Chaplow squeezed a left-wing cross between Solly and Johnnie Jackson. Meeting the low delivery at the near post, Easter expertly tucked it under David Button’s body and Charlton were already doomed to yet another home defeat, this one far more more painful than most.
Seven minutes later came the coup-de-grace, set up by Pritchard’s boneheaded foul on Smith as the full back bore down on Charlton’s penalty area. From 25 yards, Shane Lowry rubbed salt in their wounds with a wonderful free kick bent beyond Button’s desperate grasp into the top right corner.
What remained was the agony of a crowd which had touchingly turned up in hope and were left to reproach themselves for falling for it yet again. Their refusal to turn on their beaten team commends them but, don’t be fooled, they never get used to losing to Millwall. There aren’t even any past glories to recall – no, wait a minute, there was the famous 2-0 romp in the snow at the Den in December 1995 but it’s a bit embarrassing to harp on about a victory 18 years ago in a different century. And even that is effectively trumped by the much more recent 4-0 debacle that still keeps this reporter awake at night.
So the thing is, Ben, you can rely on taxes and bet your mortgage on death. But here’s something else to consider…Millwall beat Charlton at football. And for certainty that beats your two all hollow.
Charlton: Button, Solly, Taylor, Morrison, Wiggins, Wilson (Wagstaff 67), Pritchard, Jackson, Harriott, Haynes (Fuller 67), Kermorgant. Not used: Hamer, Evina, Stephens, Obika, Dervite. Booked: Pritchard.
Millwall: Forde, Jack Smith, Shittu, Osborne (Adam Smith 16), Dunne, Chris Taylor, Trotter, Lowry, Chaplow (Abdou 57), N’Guessan (Easter 57), Hulse. Not used: Maik Taylor, Woolford, Keogh, Saville. Booked: Smith, Dunne.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick. Att: 18,514.
Huddersfield Town 0 Charlton 1 (Harriott 4).
Kevin Nolan reports from the John Smith’s Stadium.
In brass monkeys weather on a pudding of a pitch, Charlton took an important step in securing their Championship future with this muck-and-nettles win over Huddersfield Town at the lyrically named John Smith Stadium. In a definitive road performance, they did to the Terriers what Burnley had done to them at The Valley a fortnight earlier. It wasn’t exactly art but it was as spirited as hell.
To be frank, when a 4th minute strike from Callum Harriott gave them the lead, the odds against it turning out to be the winner were prohibitive. But en route to making the teenager’s first league goal stand up for over 90 more minutes, the Addicks offered blood, sweat and, ultimately, tears of relief. Away from home, they’re a tough nut to crack.
Unaffected, as kids often are, by the tension ridden occasion, Harriott showed that a fighter’s heart underpins the shimmies and step-overs which decorate his performance. He also contributed willingly to the winning of the unpleasant nuts-and-bolts exchanges that come with the territory in situations like this. In fact, he seems to enjoy a dust-up now and then. He certainly stands up for himself.
The 19 year-old winger served early notice of his menace on his hosts with his first touch, wriggling between two baffled defenders on the left byline to set up a chance, over which Danny Haynes hesitated and lost. A minute later, he mooched casually back to the 18-yard line as Chris Solly feinted a free kick into a crowded penalty area from the left flank. Both youngsters proved to be gifted thespians because the ball was instead cut back to a suddenly switched-on Harriott, who took a steadying touch, shot crisply through the throng into the bottom left corner, then disappeared under a pile of celebrating colleagues. He seems a popular chap.
With their precious lead to defend, the visitors dug in for what promised to be a long haul. Uncomplicated Huddersfield lacked subtlety but made up in honest effort what they lacked in artistry. Well, honest up to a point, if you ignore the niggling input of Lee Novak and ponytailed substitute Alan Lee, who plays football with all the delicacy of a broken bottle. While we’re at it, let’s indulge our metaphors. Lee is more rottweiler than terrier.
Defiant and stubborn, meanwhile, the Addicks rode their luck occasionally and when that failed, depended on the outstanding goalkeeping of David Button. An early scare, when Theo Robinson failed, by a whisker, to turn in Scott Danns’ low centre, was quickly followed by the fine save Button made to turn Peter Clarke’s header over the bar. Following Harriott’s booking for fouling Oliver Norwood, the busy keeper was again called on to tip Robinson’s glancing header to safety. Button was entitled to the assistance he received from Rhoys Wiggins, who hacked an effort from Novak off the goalline, before adding an alert save of his own from Norwood’s long range blockbuster to his growing repertoire.
It wasn’t all Town, of course, and Alex Smithies had to react smartly to block Haynes’ downward header from Wilson’s cross. Following Oscar Gobern’s foul on Solly, Johnnie Jackson’s typically dangerous free kick was nodded over Smithies by Wilson at the near post but spectacularly cleared off his line by a surprisingly athletic Clarke. With the Addicks seeking the insurance of a second goal, Harriott added the pass-of-the-game to his vital opener, his defence-splitting delivery setting up Haynes to wastefully hit Smithies’ legs in one-on-one confrontation.
The second half was a hard, long slog. The West Yorkshiremen cheerfully abandoned any thought of playing through the treacly conditions and plumped for an aerial assault in its place. Nine minutes after the break, midweek goal heroes Lee and Danny Ward left the bench and the blitz intensified. Centre backs Matt Taylor and Michael Morrison remained rock-steady and despite all the bluff and bluster, clearcut chances were few. It was the irrepressible Harriott, in quickfire combination with Wiggins, who actually created the most dangerous moment, his scuffed low shot deflecting off Anthony Gerrard to precarious safety.
Town’s growing desperation led to bookings for Lee’s ugly follow-through on Button, not to mention the shameless rugby tackle with which Danns halted a Haynes breakaway. Not that it was a nasty game, just tetchy from time to time. And when it was done and dusted, the Addicks had shaken the persistent Terriers off their ankles. It’s not always grim up North. Anything but grim sometimes, as it happens.
Huddersfield: Smithies, Hunt, Clarke, Gerrard, Dixon, Clayton, Gobern (Arfield 81), Norwood (Ward 54), Danns, Novak, Robinson (Lee 54). Not used: Bennett, Woods, Wallace, Atkinson. Booked: Lee, Danns.
Charlton: Button, Solly, Taylor, Morrison, Wiggins, Wilson, Pritchard, Jackson, Harriott (Evina 79), Fuller (Dervite 66), Haynes (Obika 88). Not used: Hamer, Green, Stephens, Wagstaff. Booked: Taylor, Wiggins, Harriott.
Referee: Keith Stroud. Att: 13,591.
Peterborough United 2 (Swanson 24, Bostwick 71) Charlton 2 (Jackson 55, Haynes 58).
Kevin Nolan reports from London Road.
The only posh thing about Peterborough United is their nickname. A world away from the traditional, urban heartlands of English football, they fight their corner in the fenlands of Cambridgeshire in a tiny, dog-eared ground, supported by a small but passionate fanbase. Every season they are asked to “punch above their weight” and more often than not that’s exactly what they do. Forced to sell their best players to survive – most recently coveted midfielder George Boyd in the throes of yet another relegation scrap- they gamely re-group and carry on. There’s much to admire about them until, of course, you have to play them. Then it can be the stuff of recurrent nightmares, as more than one fancied team have found out.
With four points from their last seven games, Charlton were out-of-form visitors to London Road. Two demoralising home defeats, without a goal to show in either of them, hardly sent them out on the road again in the best of shape. But away from The Valley, where their dismal record undermines them like a virus invading their system, they are a vastly different proposition. They matched United blow-for-blow in a spirited, sometimes chaotic encounter and, in coming away with a precious point, fended off their hosts for the time being. If Chris Powell keeps them in the Championship, then it’s job done. Make that bloody well done.
The bright start the Addicks made to this pulsating match was a reproach to the nervous, crabbed attitude they bring to home games. Free from care, they tore into startled Posh and, with a little more luck, might built a winning position before United pulled themselves together.
As early as the fourth minute, Lawrie Wilson bludgeoned his way through abortive handball appeals before letting fly with a ferocious left-footed drive which cannoned back off the underside of the bar. Then Ricardo Fuller drove a low ball across the six-yard box, with Danny Haynes a desperate toe’s-width from applying a scoring touch. By the time, however, that both Haynes’ volleyed snapshot and Fuller’s header from Wilson’s centre were saved by Bobby Olejnik, Charlton’s opening storm was beginning to subside.
Their usual madcap selves, meanwhile, United announced their recovery with a chance squandered by resolute centre back Gabriel Zakuani. Favoured by the bounce after Tommy Rowe’s header from Grant McCann’s inswinging corner was blocked by David Button, Zakuani blasted over the top from the penalty spot. The visitors were still exhaling in relief when Posh took the lead.
Bit-part midfielder Danny Swanson, without a goal to his name this season, took off on a solo run in as much hope as expectation. Charlton’s defence melted in front of him, with Michael Morrison embarrassed by an unintentional nutmeg, before Swanson finished coolly past the advancing Button from 15 yards. It was a bitter blow which might have gone from bad to worse but for Button’s alert save from Dwight Gayle, with impeccable Chris Solly caught out for once.
A minute after the break, Lee Tomlin squandered a golden opportunity to put clear daylight between the teams. Played through a statuesque defence by Swanson’s defence-splitting pass, the chunky playmaker’s low shot should have found the bottom right corner but instead clipped a post. It was a bad miss for which Posh paid almostly immediately as the Addicks punished their profligacy with a quickfire two-goal salvo.
One day after his 19th birthday, hot prospect Callum Harriott had flickered through a difficult first half but resumed in more determined mood. His delightful pass dovetailed with Johnnie Jackson’s clever diagonal run and the skipper took a steadying touch before finishing across Olejnik into the far bottom corner. United were still absorbing the blow when Haynes emphatically cleared up the debris left by Olejnik’s save from Morrison by enthusiastically hammering the rebound into the roof of the net.
Facing such mercurial opposition as Posh, a third goal was a clear priority but after eluding an out-of-position Olejnik, Haynes’ chip from an awkward angle was alertly cleared off the line by Zakuani. It was the Addicks’ turn to suffer as another unexpected scorer made them pay.
Encouraged to advance into Charlton’s half, like Swanson before him, centre back Michael Bostwick chanced his arm from 25 yards and squeezed a forceful shot between Button and his left hand post. It was hardly the worst of goalkeeping howlers but Bostwick’s speculative effort should have been saved. As already observed, though, you never know what to expect from freewheeling Posh.
And it might have got worse during a wild and woolly added time melee, during which Button magnificently saved Rowe’s point-blank header and Jackson miraculously conjured the loose ball to safety while lying prone on the goalline. Referee Langford’s final whistle, at that desperately late stage, was music to the Addicks’ ears; yet another last gasp setback would have asked too much of their frazzled fans. The occasional coronary, more than likely.
Peterborough: Olejnik, Little, Zakuani (Brisley 72), Bostwick, Rowe, Payne, Swanson (Barnett 74), Tomlin, McCann (Ferdinand 59), Mendez-Laing, Gayle. Not used: Day, Alcock, Newell, Knight-Percival.
Charlton: Button, Solly, Taylor, Morrison, Wiggins, Wilson, Pritchard, Jackson, Harriott, Haynes (Dervite 90), Fuller (Obika 77). Not used: Hamer, Hughes, Evina, Wagstaff.
Referee: O. Langford. Att: 6,050
Charlton 0 Burnley 1 (Austin 43).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Those anxious glances Charlton have been throwing over their shoulders recently are becoming more frequent – not to mention more anxious. This second successive defeat at The Valley, their eighth of the season, continued the demoralising process of dismal home form undermining their magnificent performances on the road. Only the convenient ineptitude of several struggling wretches below them in the table continues to cushion their fall but the gap remorselessly narrows. Unpredictable Peterborough are poised to exploit any resultant weakness on Tuesday evening. You never know what to expect from that wild-eyed crew of lunatics.
It seems that worried Chris Powell is no nearer to solving the conundrum. His delight at putting one over on old mentor Nigel Pearson at Leicester two weeks ago has quickly dissolved into the despair of losing, first to brilliant Nottingham Forest, then to well organised but less than brilliant Burnley.
Deprived of the irresponsibly suspended Yann Kermorgant and dead leg victim Chris Solly, Powell jettisoned his natural caution, shuffled his pack and indulged an unsuspected gambler’s instinct. Off form Ben Hamer was dropped for league debutant David Button; Lawrie Wilson replaced Solly at right back; Dale Stephens lost his place in a three-man midfield comprising Bradley Pritchard, Dorian Dervite and Johnnie Jackson.
It was up front, though, that the changes were truly rung. A second debutant in loan signing Jonathan Obika joined Ricardo Fuller and Danny Haynes in, ostensibly at least, a hell-for-leather attacking trio. The boss’s boldness was admirable but, regrettably, not vindicated by results. Obika was ineffective, Fuller laborious, with only Haynes providing one or two scares for the largely untroubled visitors.
Leading Burnley’s attack, meanwhile, was 26-goal Charlie Austin who, so the matchday programme informed us, was enduring something of a slump with only six goals in seventeen games since Sean Dyche took over the managership from Eddie Howe, whose initiative it was to sign the coveted striker from Swindon Town. We can adjust that figure to seven in eighteen now and if Austin scores a better goal than the one which sunk Charlton, he and Dyche will be justified in savouring it.
There had been little to divide two mediocre sides before Austin struck two minutes before the break. The Clarets were enjoying a slight edge while the Addicks, without a clean sheet in 14 previous games, paddled along with that about-to-capsize air of vulnerability they have about them in home games. With an urgently needed break in reach, up popped the predatory Austin to hole them below the waterline.
Picking up an innocuous ball some 30 yards to the left of Charlton’s goal, Burnley’s prolific striker turned smoothly infield to set up an uninhibited, right-footed drive which gave Button no chance on its unstoppable way into the far top corner.There was no particular insight needed in predicting that his singular talent had prematurely settled a pre-ordained issue.
Not that Charlton gave in. Haynes had already extended Lee Grant with a looping header during a monotonous first half when, before the hour, he came as close as his colourless side would come to equalising. An incongruously flowing move was begun by Fuller’s perceptive pass inside Daniel Lafferty, which allowed an overlapping Wilson to shake off the outmanouevred left back, before crossing accurately on the run. Timing his leap perfectly, Haynes’ text-book header was destined for the bottom right corner until Grant plunged full-length to touch the ball safely around his post.
Shortly after Haynes’ game effort, Powell wisely abandoned his abortive 4-3-3 experiment, bringing on Danny Green for Obika and Callum Harriott for Dervite in a re-vamped 4-4-2 shape. The intention was clearly to introduce width and Green, but sadly to a lesser extent an over elaborate Harriott, had some success. It seemed self-defeating, however, that without aerial specialist Kermorgant to play off, the Addicks embarked on a relentless mortar assault on the trenches, into which pragmatic Burnley retreated after Austin’s bombshell gave them the advantage.
In increasing desperation, centre backs Michael Morrison and Leon Cort began spending more time in the visitors’ penalty area than their own, deserted territory. It was a spirited but clueless response, with which Burnley, unabashed in deploying all 11 players inside their own half, dealt stoically. There was clearly no point in trying to club them into submission but Charlton, persistently if ill-advisedly, had a stab at it. And so, laboured and wearisome, the long march to freedom trudges onward….
Charlton: Button, Wilson, Cort, Morrison, Wiggins, Pritchard, Dervite (Harriott 63), Jackson, Haynes, Fuller, Obika (Green 63). Not used: Hamer, Hughes, Evina, Taylor, Wagstaff.
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Long, Shackell, Lafferty, Stanislav (Ings 73), Bartley, Kacaniklic (Stock 88), Edgar, Paterson, Austin (Vokes 85). Not used: Jensen, O’Neill, Mills, Treacy. Booked: Austin, Lafferty, Vokes, Paterson.
Referee: S. Hooper. Att: 20,065.
Charlton 0 Nottingham Forest 2 (Majewski 53, Lansbury 60).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
An explanation of Charlton’s miserable home form continues to elude management, fans and, no doubt players who consistently distinguish themselves on the road. Four wins from seventeen Valley games makes miserable reading and may yet drag the Addicks down among the relegation strugglers.
This engagement with Nottingham Forest (don’t mention Notts Forest; I did earlier this season but I think I got away with it), seemed to offer the ideal platform for a reversal of form. Another bumper crowd showed up despite the arctic conditions; the morning snow helpfully failed to settle; groundsman Colin Powell gamely battled climate change to prepare a balding but perfectly playable pitch; stentorian ringside announcer Dave Lockwood nonchalantly shrugged off scurrilous rumours that he’s been lip-synching recently and called the faithful to prayer. But then it all began to go wrong. As too often it does at The Valley.
Arriving on the crest of a wave after demolishing Huddersfield Town on Tuesday, Forest simply took up where they had left off and drove their outplayed hosts to distraction. Orchestrated by midfield schemer Andy Reid, a sylph-like version of the stout little chap who all too briefly trod the boards in S.E 7, the visitors hogged the ball, passing it between them accurately and patiently. Though they lacked an end product in the early going, their air of menace suggested that they were moving through smooth gears and would kick on eventually. They certainly didn’t need the advantage handed them by midweek goal hero Yann Kermorgant eight minutes before the break.
Taking exception to Greg Halford’s muscular ball-shielding on the left touchline, a peeved Kermorgant kicked out irresponsibly at Forest’s lofty centre back who, needless to say, made the most of the moment. Unsure of himself, referee Madley polled linesmen Cooper and Hicks before donning his black cap and consigning the rebellious Frenchman to the tumbrils. Kermorgant will now be unavailable to Chris Powell until the cataclysmic visit of Millwall on March 16th. Reduced to an experienced pair of regular hamstring-twanging strikers in Danny Haynes and Ricardo Fuller -and with Bradley Wright-Phillips turning out for Brentford – Powell could have done without the aggravation. Kermorgant let his manager down; he let his teammates down; he let a mainly adoring crowd down; but, most of all, of course, he let himself down. It was right let-down all round. For with his departure went Charlton realistic chances of weathering the growing storm.
Having bashed six past Huddersfield, Forest made hard work of making their superiority tell. The bulk of their first half chances fell to Polish midfielder Radoslaw Majewski, scorer of a hat-trick against Town. An early drive cleared the bar, a better opportunity was tamely rolled with the outside of his right foot straight at Ben Hamer. Reid’s contribution, apart from his characteristically metronomic passing, was a comically miscued volley, which briefly endangered life and limb in the north Stand Upper Tier. There was even faint hope that Forest’s fire would burn itself out but Kermorgant’s ill-discipline put paid to that notion, not that it ever looked likely to materialise. Eight minutes after the interval, they grabbed a lead they were unlikely to relinquish.
It was Majewski, almost inevitably, who made the overdue breakthrough. His quicksilver burst into the penalty area from the left flank seemed doomed to disappointment amid a posse of red-shirted defenders but momentary hesitation by Scott Wagstaff allowed him to poke a low shot beyond Hamer into the right corner. Charlton were all but beaten already by a side which had dominated them without the need of a gratuitous imbalance.
Still reeling from the setback, the Addicks were easy prey to the second goal, the responsibility for which rests squarely with Hamer. There was a reasonable case for a foul by Darius Henderson on Dorian Dervite in the build up but Hamer should have made short work of dealing with Simon Cox’s tame shot. Instead he spilled it to Henri Lansbury, who scored easily from two yards. Following his game-deciding error at Hull recently, Hamer’s starting place is far from secure, with David Button waiting eagerly for his chance.
Between the goals, Elliott Ward had crashed Reid’s superbly flighted cross against an upright. The chunky Irishman was running riot now and Henderson almost made it three when he hit the same post from another of Reid’s terrific deliveries. In response to the onslaught, Charlton managed a grand total of two off-target efforts. Bradley Pritchard blazed over when Michael Morrison headed Chris Solly’s first half free kick down to him; Johnnie Jackson went closer with a last minute free kick, after Halford was booked for scything down substitute Ricardo Fuller. Forest keeper Karl Darlow was untroubled by anything remotely on target. He could have stayed at home and fished in the Trent. If Reid had joined him, the Addicks might have had half a chance. Nah, probably not!
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Cort, Morrison, Wiggins, Dervite, Wagstaff (Haynes 59), Stephens (Fuller 46), Pritchard (Obika 90), Jackson, Kermorgant. Not used: Button, Evina, Taylor, Wilson. Sent off: Kermorgant.
Notnum Forest: Darlow, Reyes, Halford, Ward, Cohen, Guedioura, Lansbury (McGugan 76), Majewski, Reid (Greening 85), Cox (Sharp 80), Henderson. Not used: Evtimov, Collins, Moussi, Blackstock. Booked: Halford.
Referee: A. Madley. Att: 18,697.
Leicester City 1 (Wood 69) Charlton 2 (Kermorgant 19, Haynes 78).
Kevin Nolan reports from the King Prawn Crisps Stadium.
Re-vamped Charlton, featuring three changes from the side which capitulated tamely at Hull three days previously, proved too good for promotion seeking Leicester City in this pivotal fixture. A wonderful winner from substitute Danny Haynes iced the cake but there was pleasure to be found in every mouthwatering layer.
With Rhoys Wiggins replacing his capable deputy Cedric Evina at left back, Dorian Dervite recalled to his familiar role as midfield defensive shield and Scott Wagstaff’s all-round industry preferred to Lawrie Wilson’s attacking instincts in right midfield, the Addicks operated from a sound but fluid 4-1-4-1 system. Yann Kermorgant was asked to operate on his own up top, a position from which the Beast of Brittany terrorised his former club, proving equally effective on the ground as he was predictably in the air. His was a masterclass in mobile front running but, on a day when almost everything else worked, there were heroes wherever you sought them. This outstanding result against one of the Championship’s best teams effectively dispelled the wispy relegation clouds hanging over SE 7, following four games without a win. Those same clouds have drifted across to torment another part of South East London but let’s not go there. Not our problem anyway.
A hesitant start saw City control the opening action, with tricky winger Anthony Knockaert bursting through to sting Ben Hamer’s fingers and Michael Morrison clearing resourcefully from Paul Konchesky’s dangerous low centre. The visitors hadn’t done much until Kermorgant fired them into their important early lead.
Popping up near the left corner flag, Wagstaff typically hustled dawdling Danny Drinkwater into seeking refuge from his attentions along the byline, presumably in search of goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel. Nipping in front of startled right back Ritchie De Laet, busy Bradley Pritchard cut back a low pass to the penalty spot, from where Kermorgant’s crisply struck drive unerringly found the bottom right corner. A pantomime hate figure in these parts since missing an overegged semi-final play-off penalty, the Frenchman celebrated his second goal against his former employers this season with gentlemanly Gallic restraint. There were those among us who would have made rather more of it. Indeed, 680 jubilant souls at the far end of the ground did exactly that.
City were not about to submit quietly, of course, and before the interval, Ben Marshall drove through the middle before hitting a drive powerful enough for Hamer to need two awkward attempts at saving it. A better chance was promptly carved out by De Laet, who rampaged through the challenges of Wiggins and Wagstaff to set up Knockaert but the Belgian blasted carelessly over the bar.
A second goal was clearly a priority and shortly after the break, Pritchard had the opportunity to put daylight between the teams but floated Kermorgant’s subtle pass over the bar. After Chris Wood’s foul on Dale Stephens, Johnnie Jackson’s free kick was pawed out to Morrison by Schmeichel, who redeemed his error by brilliantly turning aside the centre back’s venomous, angled volley.
Wood had otherwise been quiet but his voracious appetite for goals was fed on 69 minutes. Favoured by the run of the ball as another of De Laet’s aggressive runs was blocked, the deadeye Kiwi finished instinctively past a helpless Hamer. Suddenly, you didn’t fancy Charlton’s chances so much.
Reacting positively to the Foxes equaliser, however, Chris Powell’s introduction of Haynes was a bold move, even if the withdrawal of the excellent Dervite raised the occasional eyebrow but the move worked like a dream. Haynes hadn’t managed a touch before he read yet another of Kermorgant’s cleverly headed flicks and, with minimal backlift and barely a glance up, exploded a ferocious drive into the top left corner. Charlton’s opener had been greeted enthusiastically enough; the spectacular winner almost literally raised a small part of the roof.
Apart from Hamer’s superb save to keep out Drinkwater’s 30-yard rocket, there was, of course, one last hurdle to surmount. And that would be Charlton’s fabled vulnerability to the added time board, particularly when it shows four minutes. We’ve been there before but the Addicks were coping comfortably enough until Solly’s uncharacteristic foul on Wood gave the sharpshooter one last gasp chance from a 20-yard free kick. From the press box, his drive seemed bound for the net but more reliable witnesses cowering at the other end, assured us it flew well wide. Yeah, right! Course it did.
Must pull myself together before concluding. It definitely went wide and Charlton had finally laid their four added minutes bogey. The perfect end to the perfect day. Useful results elsewhere, too. What’s not to like about Charlton Athletic? And you just gotta love football too.
Leicester: Schmeichel, De Laet, Morgan, Keane, Konchesky, Knockaert (Dyer 64), James (King 79), Drinkwater, Marshall (Gallagher 64), Nugent, Wood. Not used: Vardy, St. Ledger, Logan, Waghorn.
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Cort, Morrison, Wiggins, Dervite (Haynes 77), Wagstaff (Taylor 90), Stephens (Wilson 90), Pritchard, Jackson, Kermorgant. Not used: Button, Evina, Kerkar, Fuller. Booked: Jackson.
Referee: Michael Naylor. Att: 19,920.
Hull City 1 (Gedo 33) Charlton 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from the KC Stadium.
It’s become commonplace for losing managers to pluck something positive from the debris. Following this routine loss to promotion hopefuls Hull City, Chris Powell did his best to honour that tradition with the observation that his side had “gradually got into it and soldiered on. I asked for a response at half-time and I got that.” As a succinct example of damning with faint praise, this one could serve as a template.
In his more private reflections, Powell might concede that Charlton submitted all too tamely to a side that, despite the contrast in their current ambitions, were only marginally better than his own. A single, disastrous first half goal, entirely avoidable but just as predictable, was enough to settle the issue and the impression was left of a manager who had already moved on – to another daunting assignment at Leicester City on Tuesday evening.
The arrival of Gedo’s 33rd minute goal had been mildly threatened since the kick-off, with the visitors accepting their billing as underdogs and retreating passively into their own half. As early as the 8th minute, the alert intervention of Dale Stephens was required to clear David Meyler’s header off the line. City proceeded to dominate possession, meanwhile, without showing any of the attacking chops expected of Premier League hopefuls, until their visitors gave them a helping hand.
A determined tackle by Johnnie Jackson on Paul McShane conceded a right wing corner which Robbie Brady’s left foot swung toward the penalty spot. Taking charge of the situation, Ben Hamer left his line, was caught in two minds whether to punch or catch but did neither. Instead he missed the ball entirely, allowing it to drop to Gedo, lurking near the far post. Reacting swiftly in the ensuing scramble, the Egyptian forward prodded what proved to be the winning goal over the line, despite Lawrie Wilson’s game effort to keep it out. Charlton’s lamentable failure to achieve a clean sheet, which now stretches back to the Millwall game at the Den on December 1st, was duly extended.
Little was being seen of the Addicks up front but the defensive bravery of Leon Cort kept them in the hunt, such as it was, before the interval. Throwing himself in front of Meyler’s ferocious, goalbound drive, the big centre back took one for the team in heading clear.
As Powell correctly claimed, Charlton improved after the break and occasionally suggested they might equalise. Their best chance fell to busy Bradley Pritchard, who briefly found himself in penalty area space as Chris Solly’s determined run was carried on by Yann Kermorgant. Quickly closed down, Pritchard managed an improvised toepoke, which, tricked narrowly wide of the left post. His various talents, regrettably so far, do not include scoring; the opportunity had fallen to the wrong player.
More likely to manage the feat was 68th minute substitute Danny Haynes, whose pace troubled the Tigers. His crisp volley disappeared into David Stockdale’s midriff; a foot or two either side might have left the keeper helpless but, then again, if ifs and ands were pots and pans etc. One last chance came Haynes’ way in the late going, following good work by Kermorgant and Pritchard. His hopeful lob was parried to safety by Stockdale and all that remained was the lesson, delivered by the cool Humbersiders to their bewildered victims, in running down four added minutes. The Addicks hardly saw the ball until Hamer’s brilliant save denied substitute Tom Cairney’s last kick effort to double City’s lead. Had Charlton shown similar resourcefulness against Birmingham recently, they would be two points nearer their safety target. But there we go with those pots and pans again…
We’ll close with a polite memo to management. Surely there is room, chaps, in this side for the brilliant Rhoys Wiggins. Over to you.
Birmingham: Stockdale, Chester, Hobbs, McShane ( Fathi 58), Elmohamady, Meyler, Bruce, Quinn, Brady, Simpson (Koren 71), Gedo (Cairney 90). Not used: Jakupovic, Rosenior, Evans, Prowschwitz.
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Morrison, Cort, Evina (Dervite 90), Wilson (Wright-Phillips 80), Stephens, Pritchard, Jackson, Kermorgant, Fuller (Haynes 68). Not used: Button, Taylor, Wagstaff, Wiggins.
Referee: Scott Mathieson.
Charlton 1 (Kermorgant 87) Birmingham City 1 (Elliott 90).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Shattered by yet another inexplicably late collapse, Charlton’s solitary crumb of comfort must be that on this particularly sickening occasion a draw at least boosted their points tally to a psychologically important total of forty. There will be little else that their fans will wish to recall about this ill-fated game.
Mind you, it could have been worse – much worse. If sorely limited visitors Birmingham City had had just a little more time available to them following Wade Elliott’s 92nd minute equaliser, a third consecutive 2-1 setback would most certainly have been Charlton’s fate. The panic which paralysed the Addicks during the two remaining added minutes was all too familiar. They seem pathologically incapable of seeing a lead through to its logical conclusion and, as a consequence of that failing, risk being sucked down into a relegation struggle.
What made this latest lapse an even more bitter pill to swallow was the apparently decisive timing of Yann Kermorgant’s opening goal. Just three minutes were left when the excellent Chris Solly crowned an inexhaustible performance in both defence and attack, by making space along the right flank for a pinpointed cross which Kermorgant headed down and beyond the reach even of City’s outstanding young goalkeeper Jack Butland. It looked briefly like Charlton’s turn to inflict late pain on stunned opponents
Having pounded away fruitlessly at Butland’s goal for most of the second half, the clearly superior home side had merely to go through efficient motions to seal a victory which had been a long time coming but was even sweeter for the wait.
Instead, Charlton dropped back, formed a defensive line in front of their penalty area and invited their visitors on to them. Accepting the invitation, the previously toothless Blues suddenly fancied their chances. They swarmed forward, were delayed by a series of anywhere-will-do clearances, but refused to surrender. There was considerably more luck than judgement in the low shot-cum-centre whipped into the six-yard box by Chris Burke but Elliott made the most of it. His instant shot was swept past Ben Hamer to spark unintelligible celebrations in the Jimmy Seed stand behind the beaten goalkeeper. Only referee Andy D’Urso’s merciful final whistle spared Charlton further humilation. Not that considerable damage hadn’t already been inflicted on them.
Falling back on the football manager’s default position of optimism, Chris Powell will understandably sift through the wreckage for silver linings. And there were, admittedly, plenty of them to find. Taking this critical game by the throat, Charlton controlled most of the action, made but missed several chances, and were good value for the win Kermorgant’s strike belatedly seemed to have given them. Only their usual lack of a cutting edge kept the outplayed Brummies in the hunt but their approach play was frequently impeccable. Led superbly by versatile Ricardo Fuller, they appeared capable of breaking through but were frequently foiled by Butland.
Signed by Stoke City on transfer deadline day but loaned back to Birmingham, the 19 year old prodigy made several key saves, the first of them a sprawling low diversion of Fuller’s low snapshot. His point blank defiance at Scott Wagstaff’s feet was followed by another full length plunge to defy Wagstaff after Fuller bullied his way along the right byline. His handling was both safe, sound and enough to make Charlton regret Stoke’s generous decision to send him back to the Second City.
Fuller was the Addicks’ bright spark, his swivelling volley of Solly’s throw-in flashing across goal, his touch and instinct consistently sound. It wasn’t all one-way, of course, and Solly’s timing of a penalty area tackle on elusive Robert Hall was executed with typically incisive timing. An emergency second half challenge from Cedric Evina which forced Marlon King to shoot wildly over the bar had the double virtue of saving his side and denying the deeply unpopular King the satisfaction of scoring. On a day of such deep disappointment, you take consolation where you find it.
And, boy, was this one disappointing day. Er, sorry, I’m showing a bit of bias here. And we’re not allowed that in the press box. So let’s hear it for plucky City. Well played, chaps. Now shove off back to Birmingham!
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Cort, Morrison, Evina, Wilson (Green 71), Stephens, Jackson, Wagstaff (Dervite 90), Kermorgant, Fuller (Wright-Phillips 90). Not used: Taylor, Button, Pritchard, Wiggins.
Birmingham: Butland, Robinson, Davies, Caldwell, Caddis, Burke, Gomis (Thomas 68),Elliott, Reilly (Zigic 90), Hall (Redmond 73), King. Not used: Doyle, Mullins, Lovenkrands, Hancox. Booked: Reilly.
Referee: Andy D’Urso. Att: 17,269.
Crystal Palace 2 (Murray 75,79) Charlton 1 (Fuller 14).
Kevin Nolan reports from Selhurst Park.
It’s generally accepted that lightning never strikes twice in the same place. But it certainly can strike its victims twice -it just lets fly from a different place after kidding them they’ve seen the worst. The second zapping can be even more painful.
What happened to Charlton at Selhurst Park shouldn’t happen to a junkyard dog. A week earlier at The Valley, they led Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 until goals in the 85th and 89th minutes stunned them. On this equally inauspicious occasion they resolutely, if somewhat precariously, defended the 14th minute lead given them by Ricardo Fuller’s maverick enterprise before belatedly caving in again. Two excellent strikes- this time neatly bridging the 75th and 79th minutes- from a deceptively subdued Glenn Murray left them badly burned for a second time.
Until Murrays 24th and 25th goals of a personally prolific season rescued his increasingly frustrated side, the Addicks had more than matched their promotion-seeking local rivals. They were undeniably the better team during a first half they effortlessly dominated; with improved finishing and maybe a timely slice of luck, the points might have been squirrelled away before the break. But Palace survived, relatively but ominously intact. Football makes a time-honoured practice of punishing profligacy and to the sceptics among 3,091 raucous travellers, the potential for disappointment stuck out like a hitchhiker’s sore thumb.
Up to the interval, so far was so good. With Leon Cort’s physical presence added to the line-up and Dorian Dervite drafted in as a sturdy defensive shield, the visitors called most of the shots. Contesting every scrap of territory, they thrust a large spanner into Palace’s midfield works, winning a large majority of second balls while hustling and harassing the startled Eagles to frequent distraction. Only their inability to capitalise further on Fuller’s solo effort was a nagging source of worry.
Visiting sinews were certainly stiffened by the shrewd old pro’s opener. A muscular, artful handful, Fuller has little to learn about unsettling a defence. A nudge here, a feint there, a nose-to-nose confrontation both here and there, all form part of a softening process. He fights for his right to play but there’s considerable skill involved too, as demonstrated by his delicate control of Chris Solly’s lofted pass down the right channel. Briefly teasing marker Damien Delaney, he impudently skinned his opponent on the outside before rifling an angled low shot through Julian Speroni’s legs into the far corner. Charlton had received a boost but an arduous afternoon still stretched before them.
With the Sheffield Wednesday disaster a raw memory, the Addicks hardly needed reminding that a second goal was vital. They buckled willingly to the task; busy Bradley Pritchard was quickly presented with an acceptable chance by Fuller’s cleverly dinked pass but a looming Speroni batted away his attempted lob; Cort headed Johnnie Jackson’s resultant corner awkwardly over the bar; the skipper himself glanced an inviting opportunity inches wide after Lawrie Wilson nodded Cedric Evina’s cross back from the far post. Not much had inconvenienced Ben Hamer during the first half, meanwhile, but his free ride was not destined to last.
Having switched from left to right, tactically no doubt but just as sensibly to escape Solly’s tenacious attentions, Wilfried Zaha made his first contribution with an adroit effort, curled with the outside of his right foot, which missed narrowly. Fuller replied instantly from 30 angled yards, his audacious drive brilliantly tipped over the bar by Speroni. As the home side began to assert themselves, 39 year-old substitute Kevin Phillips shot fiercely from close range but Hamer saved smartly. It was all Palace by now and no surprise that they eventually equalised through the reliable Murray.
The strain was already telling as Palace knitted together a bout of sharp interplay, which culminated in the accurate pass threaded through to Murray by Dean Moxey. One velvety touch made space for a crisp turf trimmer into the bottom right corner. Hamer’s superb flying save from Stephen Dobbie’s blockbuster briefly protected parity but with a sudden visitation of deja-vu unnerving the Addicks and their apprehensive disciples, Murray did it again four preordained minutes later.
A predatory menace, his expert mastery of Jazz Richards’ optimistic delivery put him clear as Cort fatally hesitated and Hamer briefly slipped. A brutal left-footed volley left no room for argument leaving Charlton victors of several battles but cockahoop Palace the outright winners of the war.
With successive defeats following three successive wins, there’s no call for panic, of course, but nervous glances over the shoulder toward the bottom of the division are allowed. Abruptly, a season which had been accelerating smoothly for Charlton has run into buffers. There’s no intention to add pressure but next Saturday’s home game against Birmingham, followed as it is by daunting trips to Hull and Leicester, assumes extra significance. Just saying…that’s all.
Palace: Speroni, Richards, Delaney, Ramage, Moxey, Butterfield (Phillips 46), Marrow, O’Keefe (Williams 67), Bolasie (Dobbie 67), Murray, Zaha. Not used: Price, Parr, Blake, Wilbraham.
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Cort, Morrison, Evina, Wilson (Haynes 81), Dervite, Pritchard, Jackson (Kermorgant 82), Wagstaff (Wiggins 73), Fuller. Not used: Button, Taylor, Stephens, Wright-Phillips.
Referee: Mark Halsey. Att: 17,945.