Chris Powell has often been quoted in the media calling Ricardo Fuller a ‘special’ player. With the frontman battling with his fitness all season and regularly going in and out of the team, the Valley faithful were yet to see his talents to the full. That was until tonight. A strike of the highest quality, lobbing the keeping from an impressive distance, from the Jamaican was the crucial breakthrough in a 2-0 win for the home side over Peterborough.
Whilst Fuller’s individual effort was aesthetically pleasing, a fantastic team goal rounded off (codeword for stolen) by Yann Kermorgant on his return to the starting line-up was steeped in emotion. The cult hero had thanked the Charlton fans for their reaction to his return off the bench on Saturday, and the atmosphere after his goal today was identical; incredible. It wasn’t all class and beauty though, as the proceeding 75 minutes had all the characteristics of a scrappy midweek matchup. At times it was difficult to tell who were the side bang in form and the side down the bottom fighting for their lives; they both looked like the latter. Wins like this are invaluable come May.
As mentioned previously, the big team news was the return of ‘the beast’. Yann Kermorgant started his first game since Derby after injuring himself in training that week, replacing Rob Hulse up front. Danny Seaborne was passed fit to play and slotted in at left back, replacing Dale Stephens in the XI, with Johnnie Jackson coming into the centre and Salim Kerkar moving back to a more favourable left wing position. There was no place in the 18 for Danny Haynes, who is still nursing a knock and wasn’t risked ahead of the huge derby fixture on Saturday against Millwall.
For the visitors, club captain Gabriel Zakuani was only on the bench following a recent incident that left several first team players transfer listed and subsequently loaned out. In his absence, Michael Bostwick lead the side that contained deadline day loan signings George Thorne and Dwight Gayle in addition to former Charlton Academy player George Boyd.
It was Charlton who created the game’s first opening after just two minutes through the returning Kermorgant. A long ball was knocked down by Fuller and laid into the path of the Frenchman, who hit a powerful, swerving volley from just outside the area that was beaten away by Bobby Olejink in the Posh goal. Morrison’s header from the resulting corner flashed across goal, going well wide, but the start was a positive one.
The Addicks, however, failed to get a grip of the game after that early assault on the Peterborough goal. Struggling to maintain possession, the ball was given away time and time again as the away side’s pace began to threaten. Gayle especially was getting in behind and causing Morrison and Leon Cort problems, without creating any real chances. Despite the away side being the better side in the first ten, Charlton mustered up the next meaningful attempt. Arsenal loanee Emmanuel Frimpong was given space 20 yards from goal and took a dipping shot that just cleared the bar following a deflection. Fuller headed wide at the near post from the corner that followed; the Addicks may have started poorly but they were creating chances.
It was only a matter of time before Peterborough would threaten the Charlton goal, and they did so in their next attack. The classy Boyd played in Gayle, whose angled shot deflected of Cort and went wide across the face of goal with Ben Hamer stranded. With both teams struggling to maintain possession in a poor and scrappy first half, the chances were end to end. There was then a great sight for the Addicks fans, as fan favourite showed great close control and quick feet to beat his man out on the right, only for his shot to be blocked away. A goal from the home-grown talent at The Valley would arguable produce a bigger reaction that one from Kermorgant. It’s only a matter of time.
The pace of Peterborough was proving a nightmare for the Charlton defence to deal with, giving away several free-kicks as they tried to stop the breaks. A cleverly worked, if intentional, set piece on the edge of the area from Peterborough saw them test Hamer’s glove work for the first time. Knocked square by the taker Boyd, Tomlin swung for the ball and completely missed it, only for Bostwick to follow up and force Hamer to make a diving save to his right. Another free-kick, for a foul on Tomlin by Morrison, saw the big centre back pick up a yellow card, his 5th of the season, meaning he’ll now be absent for Millwall on Saturday as he serves a suspension; a huge loss.
Peterborough finished the half by far the stronger with Gayle coming close on a number of occasions. Just before the half time whistle, Boyd got through and looked set to score against his former club, but his effort was tipped over the bar by Hamer. As the players trudged off for half-time, a few disgruntled boos could be heard from the home fans, but most of them were directed at the referee, who wasn’t having the best of games. Thankfully none of his decisions proved costly.
Charlton game out for the second half with a new lease of life, at least for the first five minutes. The first half had been littered with crosses unable to beat the first man, and when they did, they evaded everyone. Three fantastic crosses all from Solly created three openings for the Addicks. The first one, headed down by Johnnie Jackson onto the chest of Kermorgant, resulted in little as he struggled to turn his man and his volleyed attempt was blocked away. The second one, a header from Kermorgant at the far post, was much closer, only narrowing going wide. The best effort was left to the last of the three, Solly’s low cross was met by the diving Pritchard whose effort clipped the outside of the post. Without a league goal for the club, the headed effort was the closest he’d come.
With Peterborough seeing out the storm, they managed to get forward and created their best chance of the game. Tomlin was offered the space to shoot, and his driven effort from just outside the area was saved fantastically from Hamer through a crowd of bodies. Posh continued to come forward but, despite breaking through the defence, Hamer was not to be breached. A string of well held saves and excellent gathering of crosses prevented Peterborough from taking the lead. Like all good keepers, he had luck on his side too, as a deflected effort from Boyd trickled onto the post with Hamer beaten.
With Charlton struggling and the crowd getting restless, the sight of Kermorgant standing over a free-kick shortly after the Peterborough barrage gave hope that the game was about to turn in Charlton’s favour. In reality, the dead ball was far too far out to finish from and his effort was well wide. Hearts were back in mouths a few moments later as Peterborough called for a penalty following a trip in the box. Referee Williamson awarded nothing, much to the fury of the Posh players and fans.
It was beginning to look like the game was heading for a scoreless draw; that was until a moment of pure magic from Fuller. Receiving the ball with his back to goal and 30 yards out, there appeared little on. With no clear player to pass to, he turned and smashed an incredible effort over Olejink. Pandemonium in the stands was mixed with pure disbelief at what they had just witnessed; arguably one of the best goals ever to have been scored at The Valley. Joy quickly turned to concern however, with Fuller unable to celebrate and taken with what appeared to be yet another pulled hamstring. The injury curse had struck again, but the goal was the crucial breakthrough in a tight affair and with just over 10 minutes left, looked to be the winner.
Hulse came on to replace the injured goalscorer, and he was involved in the Addicks second goal with five minutes left on the clock to put the game beyond doubt. Fellow substitute Green broke down the right wing, moved into the box and took a cross-come-shot that Hulse connected with. With the ball almost certainly crossing the line, Kermorgant got his foot onto the ball just to be certain, giving himself a scoring return to first team action and bringing joy and relief to the fans. They had three points and their hero back.
There was still time for Charlton to create one more chance, with Hulse breaking but taking too much time on the ball and eventually getting away a weak effort under pressure. Peterborough failed to cause much concern for the Addicks in the closing stages; the only effort of not a ballooned attempt from McCann right at the death. Three points that certainly didn’t look likely throughout the game were Charlton’s.
Peterborough were impressive in stages, but it’s difficult to say whether Charlton’s inept performance or the away side’s quality was more the reason for the side in the bottom three being on top. With the passing regularly off target and the defence looking fragile like never before, the team didn’t perform as well as they have done in recent weeks, and individually there were some rather poor efforts. Kerkar created little, Pritchard tried hard always but not a lot came off for him and Frimpong looked someone what lazy and not up to the standards he displayed on Saturday.
Whilst the performance of the team and individuals was the lowest it’s been in this run of 13 points out of a possible 15, there were still plenty of reasons to be happy, not least securing a 3rd home win of the season. Gritting your teeth and fighting your way through difficult games to claim possibly underserved victories is a positive sign, and something no doubt we’ll need to do several more times this season. The return of Kermorgant, just in time for Millwall, is going to be a massive boost going forward, and even with Fuller possibly out once again, the Frenchman partnered with Haynes when fit is an exciting prospect. Five points off the play-offs and elven points off the play offs, a continuation of this run could see Charlton challenging for a play-off spot, and not fighting for their lives down the bottom as it appeared just a few weeks ago.