A touch of class from an experienced professional left Charlton’s U21s heartbroken at the AMEX on Monday night as Craig Mackail-Smith’s stoppage time strike earned Brighton a point in a 2-2 draw.
Mackail-Smith, featuring for the Seagulls’ Development Squad as part of his return from injury, bullied Cedric Evina off the ball before cutting in from the left and curling an effort from the edge of the box past young Charlton stopper Jordan Beeney.
It was harsh on the Addicks, who had performed impressively all night and fully deserved the two goal lead they had after an hour; Harry Lennon’s volley doubling Charlton’s advantage after Harry Gerard’s first-half goal.
But Brighton, encouraged by Mackail-Smith’s first of the night after 64 minutes , responded admirably and fought valiantly for their point.
With both clubs’ first teams in action on Tuesday tonight, there were few familiar faces in either line up. Joining Evina in Charlton’s starting XI was Lennon, who has three first team appearances under his belt, and a pair of January signings in Anil Koc and Piotr Parzyszeck.
For the hosts, well-travelled ‘keeper Casper Ankergren started between the posts, whilst left-back Adam Chicksen and Mackail-Smith supplemented a young team.
Neither of the inexperienced sides appeared overawed by the occasion under the lights at the AMEX, as both settled quickly and attempted to play commendable passing football.
But, after an opening deprived of goal mouth action, the first chance of the game fell Charlton’s way and set the tone for the rest of the half.
After Brighton lost possession, the Addicks broke with a mixture of quick passes and pace when carrying the ball that resulted in Kadell Daniel finding himself in a shooting position. The former Palace youngster’s effort was well hit, but Ankergren was more than equal, getting down well to comfortably stop the shot.
Jason Euell’s side had quickly found a superb rhythm and tempo to their play, and they were inches away from taking the lead with a little under 15 minutes played. The lively Daniel turned provider as he drove forward and slid in Tobi Sho-Silva, but the England U18 international’s first time strike hit the inside of the far post and agonisingly trickled away from goal.
There was certainly a theme developing as Brighton struggled to maintain the pace with which Charlton got forward, and a superb run from full-back Lavender Pyke played Parzyszeck in. But, from a tight angle, the Polish U21 forward’s effort flashed past the post that had just been hit and been behind.
Nonetheless, this was a bright start from the Addicks. But, as the first team would surely vouch for, it’s crucial chances are taken, especially when the opposition have a threat of their own.
Brighton were certainly no pushovers, and a fine strike from the impressive James Muitt, who would provide a stern test for Charlton’s full-backs all night, went narrowly wide, was followed by a corner for the hosts.
But when that corner was cleared, Charlton’s pace in attack shone as an excellent counter put them a goal up.
Parzyszeck did well to get to the ball first after it left the box, and his tackle-cum-interception set Sho-Silva running free. The pacey strike beat his man before sending Daniel free, with five Charlton players to pick out in the box. His driven cross found Jack Munns, who had his initial shot superbly saved, before Gerard tapped in the rebound to give the Addicks a lead they deserved.
But, despite the Addicks continuing to dictate the game with a number of individuals impressing, Brighton responded well to going a goal down.
After an optimistic penalty shout was waved as Harry Osborne showed great strength to keep out Mackail-Smith, the forward came desperately close to equalising for his side.
A flat cross was met by the Scotland international, and after his first time shot was kept out by a wonderful reaction save, Beeney did even better to deny Mackail-Smith for a second time from the rebound. The ball, however, was trickling towards goal from the ‘keeper’s save, and a crucial intervention from Pyke kept Charlton’s lead intact.
The goal had certainly forced the Seagulls out of their shells, which led for a much more open game in the final ten minutes of the half.
Emil Asmundsson was teed up on the edge of the area, and saw his sweetly struck drive fly past the post with Beeney beaten, whilst Sho-Silva and Munns blasted over from good positions to bring a competitive half to its conclusion.
The Addicks had certainly had the better of things, and been very impressive in their play, but Brighton were beginning to look a real threat and a second goal was desperately needed for Euell’s men.
That need for a second was only increased as the Albion started the second half on the strong foot. Courtney Richards’ effort flew over the bar from range, and an excellent corner into Charlton’s box wasn’t attacked by any Brighton forward.
But, with an hour gone, Brighton’s hard work looked to be underdone when the Addicks scored their much needed second. A stunning strike from Lennon, a volley from the edge of the box, gave Ankergren no chance and even a number of the Brighton fans inside the AMEX gave the goal a round of applause.
The goal appeared to have given the young Addicks their confidence back, and another passing move ended with Daniel driving forward and picking out Parzyszeck, but his effort from 20-yards ended up, in truth, well wide. With Ankergren out of position, an on-target strike would have surely confirmed Charlton’s three points.
But their lead was cut just moments later as Lennon, so impressive all night, failed to deal with a cross and Mackail-Smith bounced, lashing into the roof of the net from close range.
A succession of chances for Muitt followed, with his first a volley from a cross held at the second attempt by Beeney and his second a curling drive parried away by the inform stopper.
With less than twenty minutes to play, the Addicks might well have sat back and protected their lead, but they continued to come forward with the pace they had shown all night. Daniel’s sensational ball picked out Koc, and his cross found Gerard, but the linchpin in Charlton’s midfield couldn’t direct the ball goalwards. Daniel then had a go himself, testing Ankergren with an effort from range that was just about held.
The excellent Gerard was replaced by Albham Banjuka and Pyke, who enraged the home supporters by appearing to fain injury, came off for Hanlan as the game entered its final ten minutes, and Charlton’s nerves weren’t helped when a free-kick was flicked on and only narrowly over the bar.
A cross hit Richards, as appose to Richards meeting the delivery, the deflection off his body caught Beeney wrong-footed, but the ball rolled wide, whilst sub Charles Harris stung the ‘keeper’s hands as the game entered stoppage time and time looked to be running out for the Albion.
But, with the Addicks having seemingly done enough to secure victory, Mackail-Smith capitalised on sloppy defending from Evina and unleashed a stunning effort that flew past the outstretched fingertips of Beeney and into the net.
Despite failing to hold onto their lead, it was an impressive display from Jason Euell’s side. Those who accuse the first team of playing boring football would have enjoyed the lively attacking play of the U21s.
Daniel’s ability to carry the ball forward was particularly impressive, whilst Gerard and Munns looked very comfortable on the ball in the centre of midfield. Sho-Silva and Koc were also exciting to watch, especially during Charlton’s first half dominance.
Unfortunately, for those hoping that Parzyszeck can solve Charlton’s goalscoring problems, the Pole failed to make an impact. In the first half, he put himself about and was involved in the goal, but in the second, he hardly a touch and rarely won a header. In fact, Sho-Silva was arguably much more impressive.
Nonetheless, it was an excellent run out for the Addicks at a stadium of the AMEX’s quality in front of a few hundred spectators. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Poyet, Cousins and Harriott were joined in the first team by some fellow academy graduates in the not too distant future.
For the second Saturday in a row, Charlton were facing an ‘anything’s a bonus’ sort of game. The trip to Derby County’s Pride Park looked a daunting one, just as daunting as last weekend’s game with Burnley, and there would be no shame in a spirited defeat.
For the second Saturday in a row, Charlton fans were cautiously optimistic that a bonus point or three were on the cards following a win in midweek. Whilst the Addicks weren’t particularly impressive in the 1-0 victory over Nottingham Forest, the confidence boost might well have given them something of a spark.
For the second Saturday in a row, Charlton fans were left disappointed after their side capitulated to a 3-0 defeat. The rather lacklustre display littered with individual mistakes and a lack of composure in front of goal could have blended seamlessly into the three goal defeat seven days ago.
In fairness, this episode of the Addicks losing 3-0 to a promotion chasing side was arguably a little better than the other two. After two first half goals were handed on a plate to the hosts, Charlton responded well enough at the start of the second, something that didn’t happen in the defeats to Leicester City and Burnley.
But, for all of Charlton’s willingness to push forward and have a go, there was to be no repeat of the incredible turnaround that occurred almost a year ago to the day; the 3-2 victory over Bolton that began an unbeaten end of last season for the Addicks.
There were only a few occasions where Derby were really threatened. Misplaced passes, over or under hit crosses and a reluctance to shoot were the order of the day as poor decision making was once again severely hindering any chance of a fight back.
The second half resurgence had already tailed off by the time a third was gifted to the Rams, with Charlton failing to pick up from a corner with less than ten minutes to play, but the remainder of the game was little more than a precession. The best part of ten minutes to sulk and feel frustrated with the display wasn’t ideal.
The defeat was to be expected; you still expected more from the performance.
After Derby’s 5-0 mauling of rivals Forest last weekend, Jose Riga’s men played the role of the geeks brave enough to cross the path of the playground bullies. They really were on a hiding to nothing but they had to give it a go.
Charlton’s hopes were dented further by the news that the coolest geeks weren’t around to help see them through. Dorian Dervite, one of the best performers since Riga became boss, and Astrit Ajdaveric, the one addition from Roland Duchatelet’s network who has impressed, were injured and ill respectively.
In their place came Richard Wood, starting his first game at the back since a rather difficult afternoon at Brammal Lane, and Jonathon Obika, lining up on the left side of midfield with Marvin Sordell the lone front man in a 4-5-1 formation.
Steve McLaren’s side, despite the absence of Will Hughes, was littered with quality from front to back. The forward duo of Patrick Bamford and Chris Martin are always going to cause the opposition trouble, whilst Lee Grant is dependable in goal.
And, amidst a battle of who could sing ‘Since I was Young’ with the most vigour, it was one of this season’s standout performers in the Championship who had the game’s first effort on goal. But Craig Bryson, skewing a shot off-target from the edge of the box, didn’t come close to adding to his 15 league goals.
The hosts had started well enough, with a similar strike from George Thorne following a half cleared corner flying wide soon after, but it was the unfancied visitors who came closest to scoring in the opening 15 minutes.
An excellent passing move, the first time Charlton had really got forward in the game’s early stages, concluded with Sordell setting the ball back to Johnnie Jackson, whose first time drive was well stuck and looked to be heading in. Only a strong diving save from Grant prevented the reasonably well travelled Addicks from exploding into celebration.
Grant was on hand to deny the Addicks again from the resulting corner, as Jackson’s delivery appeared to do little more than bounce off a body, but the ‘keeper got down well to prevent the ball trickling into his net.
These were positive signs for the away side, and the Charlton fans responded accordingly, but the Rams were soon back into their stride. The Addicks, despite standing firm, couldn’t clear their lines as Derby forced a number of half chances and miscued efforts, before a powerfully struck volley from Bryson on the edge of the box flashed past the post, agonisingly so for the vocal home support.
However, that many visiting supporters were thanking a higher power for the ball narrowly ending up off-target mattered little as the Rams took the lead just a minute later with 18 played.
Given the pressure his side were under, you could excuse Rhoys Wiggins for desperately wanting to get the ball up field, but his clearance was easily intercepted and Bamford was sent through down the wing. The Chelsea loanee’s ball into the box picked out Johnny Russell, who had time to twist and turn before picking his spot and firing past a ‘keeper visibly frustrated with Charlton’s poor defensive effort. The players in red were mere spectators as Derby cut open a backline that had kept four cleansheets in five with relative ease
Mistakes were creeping in before the goal, with even Diego Poyet guilty of cheaply losing possession, but now they were rife. There was a lack of cohesion, and appeared to be no clear path for the Addicks to get forward.
There was some relief for the travelling fans growing more and more frustrated as Jordan Cousins, driving forward in similar vain to how he did on so many occasions in midweek, picked out Obika, whose first time pass fell nicely for Reza Ghoochannejhad. But the Iranian international couldn’t score his first for the Addicks, seeing his effort deflected wide.
Despite their frustrations with the display, the away fans were still vocal, and they had praise to give to Hamer with 30 minutes played as the stopper prevented his side from going two goals down. A fingertip steered Thorne’s effort narrowly wide. From the resulting corner, the head of Chris Martin was to thank as Richard Keogh’s goal-bound header took a deflection off the forward, but that the Irish centre-back was unmarked was a worry for the Addicks.
Jackson stung the palms of Grant with a free-kick from the edge of the area in a rare effort on target for the Addicks, but the skipper was partially to blame as Derby doubled their lead seven minutes before half-time.
As with the first goal, the move began with a wayward ball forward; Wood’s pass was plucked off and the Rams countered superbly. A cross-field ball picked out Russell, and his delivery could only be headed upwards by a Derby man inside the box with several red shirts in the vicinity. Jackson made the telling intervention, but his header was similarly miscued, falling perfectly for Bamford to tap home from close range. A dreadful goal to concede and one that arguably put the game beyond the Addicks with over 50 minutes to play.
It could have been three before half-time, but Hamer got out well to block Andre Wisdom after the impressive Bamford spotted a gap in Charlton’s leaky defence and played the Liverpool loanee through, but the ‘keeper’s stop did little to stop the boos from the travelling supporters at half-time.
A response was needed, for the good of confidence let alone points, and Riga’s run of half-time subs continued with Callum Harriott replacing a rather ineffective Ghoochannejhad and the Addicks reshuffled into a 4-4-2 formation.
There didn’t appear to be much of a change in the flow of the contest as Russell tested Hamer from the edge of the box in the opening seconds of the second period, but all of a sudden the Addicks came alive.
A move forward saw an unlikely figure involved, as Michael Morrison got on the end of a Cousins cut back and fired a shot towards goal that was deflected behind by Keogh. The resulting corner led to some rather ugly swipes at the ball as Derby attempted to clear and Charlton tried to get a shot away. When Harriott eventually did, another excellent save from Grant denied the Addicks a route back into game.
With Sordell having a torrid afternoon, the forward was replaced by academy graduate Joe Pigott, and the youngster was immediately involved as Charlton really should have got a goal back.
Pigott did superbly to win the ball in the midfield, and his tackle sent Obika racing clear. But the Tottenham loanee, despite being inside the box and with a clear sight of goal, appeared reluctant to shoot, and gave the ball away to the anger of the travelling fans. Thankfully, it fell straight to Pigott, and his well struck effort forced another fine save out of Grant.
But, despite the pressure Charlton were applying, you felt like you’d seen this all before. The Addicks having a right old go, and creating the occasional opening, but, for a number of reasons, being unable to score. Obika’s reluctance to shoot seemed like the sort of incident that has been a turning point throughout the season.
And it was, as the spark that had gave Charlton the impetus to push forward immediately vanished. Cousins and Harriott attempted to make something happen, but their delivery was poor, whilst Obika again showed a reluctance to shoot despite being in and around the area.
You felt like it would only be a matter of time before Derby added a third, but the Rams too had lost their first half spark. However, a bit like Burnley last Saturday, there was no need for them to exert themselves.
A Keogh header was saved following a corner, and the ever lively Russell saw an effort flash narrowly wide after possession was given away to substitute Conor Sammon and the Irishman played his Scottish team mate through, but the score remained at 2-0 as Davide Petrucci made his Charlton debute, in place of Jackson, with less than ten minutes to play.
But, with six to go until a now increasingly sloppy Charlton were put out of their misery, their afternoon was made worse. Martin’s run wasn’t tracked, and the former Norwich forward turned in Bryson’s corner with ease. A third goal that the Addicks wouldn’t have been happy to concede.
Petrucci and Jeff Hendrick exchanged ambitious efforts, neither of which came close, and a Harriott cross cut open Derby’s defence with none of Charlton’s goal shy forwards able to get on the end of it, but the game petered out in the closing stages. In fact, even the home supporters must have been somewhat unimpressed as Pride Park emptied before the game’s final whistle; the Addicks having the cheek to sing ‘is there a fire drill?’.
The full-time whistle was met without much reaction from the Charlton fans; there certainly wasn’t the boos of half-time. A few claps were given towards the players as they came towards the travelling fans, but it was a rather sombre away end. Expecting anything from this one was always a little ambitious, but you couldn’t blame them for feeling a mixture of frustration and disappointment with the performance.
First of all, I think it’s only fair that I praise Derby. Rather like Burnley last Saturday, I’m unsure if they were at their very best, but you can certainly see why the Rams are where they are. They appear to be a very disciplined and organised side, but what impressed me most was the manner in which they attacked in the first half. Johnny Russell and Craig Bryson were particularly impressive, whilst Martin and Bamford were certainly a nuisance together up top.
But I can’t help but feel the Addicks made Derby’s victory all too easy for them. The first half display lost the match, and the manner in which the goals were conceded were extremely disappointing. Riga’s point collection has been based around a solid defence, but the entire back four were guilty of errors throughout the opening 45, as were the normally reliable Jackson and Poyet.
With Charlton offering little going forward under Riga, a weak back line and midfield was always going to be disastrous. A poor performance was turned into three points thanks to a solid back line and some grittiness in midweek, but not on this occasion.
And whilst the start to the second half was positive and excellent to see, that a period of dominance again wasn’t capitalised upon can only be worrying. Had Obika shown a bit more faith in his shooting ability, the Addicks might well have had a route back into the game with momentum behind them.
I’m a broken record, but our execution and decision making is our cancer, as appose to just our Achilles heal.
Individually, possibly only Hamer and Cousins can be happy with their performances. The ‘keeper made a few excellent saves, and his distribution was intelligent and well directed, whilst Cousins was involved in almost everything positive for the Addicks when going forward, looking a real threat when driving forward if slightly under or overcooking his final ball.
Also, Pigott and Harriott made something of impact after coming on, but Pigott’s influence was hindered by a lack of support and Harriott quickly turned into that frustrating character who appears to lack a footballing brain after Charlton’s start to the second half.
Dervite’s resoluteness and ability to carry the ball forward was a huge miss, as was Ajdaveric’s positive presence in attacking positions. Hopefully Dervite’s injury will heal in time for Tuesday, and Ajdaveric has stocked up on NightNurse.
Charlton’s lead over 22nd has been cut to just goal difference, meaning a win over crisis club Leeds is probably needed. A repeat of today’s performance won’t win the Addicks the points; a return to the resolute and gritty defensive effort and someone, anyone, to discover some confidence in front of goal might well do it.
In the past three months Charlton fans have seen arguably their club’s best two players sold, a popular manager removed from his position for non-footballing reason and a hoard of, to be polite, distinctly average players arrive in SE7 from far and wide.
They’ve seen their club taken over by Roland Duchatelet, who has lied through his teeth to the supporters he apparently values, and become part of a network that will, if it hasn’t already, completely alter the identity of the football club.
But, of course, none of that matters. Jose Riga has organised his side well enough on all bar one occasion and the Addicks have managed to pick up a few points against rather weak opposition. We’re in relative okay position in the league, and safety looks likely.
That’s the view that Katrien Meire, a director appointed by Duchatelet, has taken. According to Meire, communicating with the fans via video clips hidden behind a paywall for several weeks and a press conference arranged on the board’s terms is more than enough.
That Charlton Athletic’s devoted fans, a lot of which were involved in getting the club back to The Valley and almost all of which have an emotional attachment to the Addicks that Meire couldn’t begin to understand let alone feel, want to find out what Duchatelet and co have planned for their club is apparently akin to sabotaging Charlton’s Championship status.
Not only are a group of Charlton supporters, those that are happy with Powell’s sacking and don’t view it as a symptom of the disease*, telling those who are worried about the state of their club to shut up and move on, so are the board.
We’ve been promised that the board will meet with fans in the close season, but it really isn’t enough. You can add passed off as an afterthought the list of things Charlton fans have had to endure recently.
It hardly matters what division we’re in if Duchatelet simply sees us as a cog in a network and nothing more. It hardly matters if Duchatelet views us as a means of offloading the dregs his other clubs don’t want. It hardly matters if Duchatelet is going to make the job of Charlton manager a one spoken about with horror within the football circles.
Maybe I’m being a little bit harsh on Meire. It probably isn’t her role to directly communicate with the fans, and she reckons she’s got important stuff to be doing until the end of the season, so I should probably let her get on with that.
But someone, a very important figure at this club, promised to have dialogue with fans, his fellow fans, and almost act like a spokesman for the board.
Remember when, right at the start of all this when almost every Addick was feeling quite excited, Richard Murray promised to communicate with the supporters when a need to arises.
He’s not made a single comment since Powell’s sacking. I don’t know about you, but I’d say getting rid of one of the best things about this club and leading us into the unknown probably comes under a need for communication.
Ah well. Maybe Meire is right. Maybe my fellow supporters who tell me to shut and ‘move on’ on a regular basis are right. Maybe I should just shut up and accept whatever it is Duchatelet and his chums plan to do with my football club.
Would we even get the truth if they did speak to us? I don’t see how anyone can believe anything the board sprout as gospel after previous comments.
“I thank you all for your fantastic support for the team, and I urge you to keep it going between now and the end of the season,” said Meire in the statement.
I’ll happily carry on supporting the team, and I’ll be at Pride Park tomorrow cheering on Johnnie Jackson and his fellow players.
But I’d quite like to know what sort of club I’m supporting. My club, our club, not Roland Duchatelet’s, to worry about when he and his cohort feel they can be bothered to.
*I may have stolen that phrase from someone on Twitter. If it’s you, your royalties are in the post.
After Charlton’s 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest, there are some starting to believe that safety is near enough assured.
However, there’s still plenty of time left in this season, and a number of events could take place before May.
These ten possibilities are amongst the most likely.
(Disclaimer, they’re not)
Jose Riga to take a trip to Marks and Spencer’s menswear department, whilst taking his assistant to the Charlton club shop
Come on, Jose, if you’re ever going to win the hearts of Charlton fans you’ve really got to up the stakes in the fashion department.
Wearing the same suit and tie to every game is an insult to the man who used to occupy his position on the touchline, whist his assistant might want to study Alex Dyer’s outfit on a match day.
I do have some sympathy though; it must be hard to afford a range of suits when you’re not contracted.
Danny Green to give Riga a Ballers Clothing t-shirt in a desperate attempt to get back into the side
After Green’s monthly chance in the starting XI was once again wasted, the winger needs a new way of convincing the bloke in charge to pick him.
What better way to impress Riga than by improving his ‘sore threads’ with some fine Ballers Clothing attire. He’ll even offer these to the Head Coach for free, to ease the financial burden on the contractless Belgian.
Expect Riga to be applauding an over hit Green cross whilst wearing a slogan t-shirt and a baseball cap very soon.
The Media Team to be replaced by Standard Liege’s work experience lads
Sorry (JS), (IL) and (OG), your time at the club is up. Despite doing nothing wrong, in fact performing admirably in tough circumstances and impressing supporters, Duchatelet has decided that his bunch of young journalists on the books of Standard can do the job better.
Doubts start to emerge after typos appear on the club Twitter feed and the website is rarely updated, but we’re told to back the new men.
Roland Duchatelet to cry himself to sleep whilst watching videos of Yann Kermorgant’s goals for Bournemouth
As Duchatelet scrolls through his emails whilst lying in bed, ignoring any that have come from the managers of his 526 clubs, he notices one from a French email address he doesn’t recognise. Not owning any French clubs, the Belgian hopes it could be someone offering the chance to buy a fourth tier shambles.
The message contains nothing but an attached video. Duchatelet is expecting a presentation on the club’s history, but instead he sees footage of quite a good looking chap scoring a few goals for a red and black team. He’s actually quite decent. Duchatelet makes a mental note to sign him for one of his clubs.
The video ends with the good looking bloke looking up towards the camera and staring. He’s wearing a red shirt.
And then it clicks.
“Oh god, what have I done!” screams Charlton’s owner out loud before the tears begin to slide down his cheeks.
Astrit Ajdaveric to take a selfie with Riga
Both Ajdaveric and Riga have a prolific involvement in Instagram selfies. Riga, although always looking a little uncomfortable, has found himself smiling for photos with fans, whilst Ajdvaeric, always looking like a complete natural in front of the camera, has made himself a fans’ favourite with his mixture of style and humour.
With the latest craze seemingly celebrities attempting to outdo each other with a sensational selfie, surely Ajdaveric and Riga teaming up would top the lot?
Reza Ghoochannejhad to announce his retirement from football by announcing his intentions to emulate his hero, Tom Daley
“Football has been nothing but a platform for me in which to showcase my diving skills away from the pool,” says an emotional Ghoochannejhad in front of a packed press room.
“I’ve always hidden it, but after watching Tom Daley get himself an ITV show, I couldn’t hide it any more.
“It’s my dream to represent Iran at the Olympics, and I’ll be doing my best to qualify for the diving team from here on in. My football career is over.”
Charlton’s Facebook likes and Twitter favourites immediately follow in Reza’s footsteps and take a tumble.
Andy Hughes to finish off Cameron Stewart’s cross to give Leeds a win
After begging and pleading for weeks, Riga finally relents and allows Hughes into the starting XI for next Tuesday’s trip to Leeds.
With the game entering stoppage time and the scores level, a Leeds break ends with Cameron Stewart’s cross seemingly falling at the feet of Hughes to clear.
Instead, the former Leeds man smashes the ball into the back of his own net before singing ‘marching on together’ louder than anyone else inside Elland Road.
Dale Stephens to score against Charlton at the Amex and reveal a ‘I’VE NOT #MOVEDON’ t-shirt
Lashing an effort past Ben Hamer from ‘Dale Stephens Territory’ (quite far from goal), the former Charlton midfielder races away, ignoring his Brighton teammates that attempt to celebrate with him. Instead, he rips off his shirt and stands in front of the travelling supporters displaying a ‘I’VE NOT #MOVEDON’ t-shirt.
As the Addicks support Stephens and sing pro-Powell songs, several move on-ers, er, move on and walk out of the away end in protest.
Chris Solly to return having grown by seven inches after his injury was in fact growing pains
Too embarrassed to reveal the true extent of his absence over the last few months, Solly finally takes to The Valley’s ploughed furrows in late April after informing the media that growing pains had kept him side-lined.
The now 5’10 full-back put in an outstanding performance, as ever, but fans were left disappointed after not being able to rhyme ‘ten’ with ‘Terry’.
It took a couple of games before ‘Chris Solly, Solly,he’s no longer five foot four, he’s better than Bobby Moore, Chris Solly, Solly’ was heard from the Covered End.
Messrs Slater and Jimenez to crack open the beer cans as Ricardo Fuller scores the goal on the final day of the season to relegate Charlton
Despite the man they tried so hard to cripple already out of a job, Slater and Jimenez’s master plan won’t be complete until the Addicks are sent down by the forward they should have kept.
The Jamaican’s 90th minute winner at Bloomfield Road, a fine strike into the top corner after making Michael Morrison look a bit silly, sends his former club down whilst keeping Millwall in the division.
Fuller consoles his former team mates and comes to apologise to crying Charlton fans; Slater and Jimenez, after downing all the beer in sight, open up a bottle of Tesco own brand champagne in a one bedroom council flat.
It had all the makings of one of ‘those’ nights. One of those nights that makes you question your sanity and look enviously upon people who get their kicks from knitting.
It started with a four hour trip from deepest Sussex to the East Midlands, part of which was undertaken on a service that promised plug sockets but didn’t deliver. I was also promised that I would be picked up from Nottingham train station, but my father’s Rover shot past me, unaware I was waiting, forcing me to walk.
And after taking several wrong turnings and being redirected on a number of occasions, the City Ground’s away end was finally located, only for an announcement of a delay to kick-off to be made not long after the turnstile operator had ripped off the end of my stub.
Finally, a steward who seemed adamant that the seats printed on our tickets should be sat in despite the fact not 300 Addicks had made the journey north. All these little annoyances were surely leading to one large one; Nottingham Forest achieving their first win in nine at the expense of Charlton.
You’d have been a brave man to bet against that after the first 45 minutes of football. It was a contest between two sides that had no idea what to do with the ball once in or around the box, but Forest were marginally the better side. In fact, they should have gone in at the break ahead; the post denying Simon Cox and Ben Hamer tipping away Darius Henderson’s header.
With half-time dedicated to moans about Charlton’s lack of bite when going forward, news filtered through that a certain Frenchman had scored his second goal of the night for his new club. One of those nights?
But as the second period progressed, the hosts regressed further and further. This was a performance from a great club that insulted the supporters that had seen their side start so well this season, let alone those who had witnessed European triumphs.
Forest were there for the taking, but it looked like the Addicks were going to pass up that chance. Improving, and showing plenty of huff, but still severely handicapped whenever Karl Darlow’s goal became something more than a distant figure.
It was all set up perfectly for a late winner from the side Gary Brazil was caretaking after Billy Davies’ departure, and there was a late goal. A horrendous error in midfield, the playmaker driving towards goal and sending the second half substitute free.
But this was Forest’s error, Charlton’s playmaker and a player introduced by Riga on the hour. Jonathon Obika, collecting Astrit Ajdaveric’s ball, might have seen his initial effort hit the post, but Jordan Cousins was there to tap in the rebound.
It wasn’t pretty, it was arguably a little bit lucky and undeniably very gritty, but it was a goal celebrated with vigour and a win that could hardly have been more crucial.
One of those nights? One of those nights that makes plug-socketless train journeys worth it.
When the game finally got underway 15 minutes later than scheduled owing to traffic holding up Charlton’s team coach, it became apparent almost immediately there was a certain amount of fluidity to Riga’s set-up.
The usual flat back four and a central midfield trio of Johnnie Jackson, Jordan Cousins and Diego Poyet gave the Addicks a solid look about them; the interchanging Reza Ghoochannejhad, in for Danny Green, Ajdaveric, replacing Obika, and Marvin Sordell, starting ahead of Simon Church, would hopefully give Charlton unpredictability and some sort of spark in attack.
After the rather lacklustre effort in Saturday’s defeat to Burnley, the new system could really only improve the chances of Riga seeing his new side score a goal from open play for the first time under his stewardship. Ajdaveric’s scuffed strike from 20 yards inside the opening minute might have started the shots on goal tally, but it did little to suggest Darlow was going to be in for a busy night.
But the Swede had made a lively start to the game, and he drew the first of many mistakes out of the Forest back line when he dispossessed Jamaal Lascelles. The curled shot that followed, flashing wide of the far post, was at least somewhat more threatening than this previous attempt.
Despite their recent run of form, there’s still an obvious degree of quality in the Forest line-up, and a good move down the left, their first attack, resulted in a stationary Addicks defence watching on as Danny Fox’s excellent cross was headed narrowly wide by an unmarked Jamie Mackie.
You could probably just about excuse Mackie for failing to find the target, but the same couldn’t be said for Darius Henderson. The former Millwall forward was played through on goal by Gonzalo Jara and appeared to have beaten Hamer to give his side a much needed boost after a traumatic few days. But the bulging net 17,000 inside the City Ground were waiting for didn’t materialise, and the effort trickled wide.
Either side of Henderson’s chance was a large period of Forest possession. Even when the Addicks regained the ball, it was quickly won back by their opponents, and the small travelling contingent was beginning to get a little restless.
But, somewhat against the run of play, a long ball over the top picked out Cousins’ run into the box. The youngster’s cut back found Sordell but, not for the first time this season, premature celebrations failed to grow into anything more substantial as the Bolton loanee’s drive rebounded back off the post. The Addicks were seemingly destined to never score from open play again.
And this wasn’t helped by poor decision making and dreadful execution that has plagued Charlton all season. Whether through a lack of confidence or a belief a better opening could be created, there appeared to be a reluctance to shoot, and even when another effort was struck goalwards, a deflection prevented Ghoochannejhad from opening his goalscoring account for the Addicks.
Overall, it’s not harsh to say there was a significant lack of quality on show, topped off by a rather dreary atmosphere, in what was a pretty low key first half that wouldn’t have impressed a neutral. However, the final five minutes had the Charlton fans in a state of panic as Forest pressed forward.
First, Lawrie Wilson did well to block Cox’s strike from the edge of the area, but the ball took an unfortunate change of direction off the inside of the defender’s leg and trickled only narrowly wide. And after Jara, following a corner, and Sordell, from a free-kick, lashed well over the opposing goals, stoppage time saw Forest end the half with a glorious chance to score.
Cox was played through on goal and, despite the ‘keeper’s best efforts, beat Hamer to the ball. However, the Irish international saw his stab at goal clip the inside of the post and bounce back into the goal mouth with no red shirt waiting to pounce. Mackie eventually returned the ball into the centre, and only a terrific save from the fingertips of Hamer prevented Henderson from ending Charlton’s resistance.
The Addicks may have had a few first half chances, but it was certainly Forest who had the better of the opening period. Down either flank, especially, the home side were causing some concern for the Charlton back four.
There needed to be some improvement from Riga’s side in the second half, but hopes of the visitors holding on, let alone taking something more back to SE7, were dashed when Dorian Dervite failed to return to the field after half-time. Seemingly injured, the inconsistent Richard Wood took his place.
But that clear lack of quality going forward from both sides continued at the start of the second period and, even when the Addicks came under some threat, a misplaced pass or a solid piece of defending prevented Forest from making a breakthrough. When the ball did find its way into Charlton’s box without a mistake from the home side hindering its path, Darius Henderson’s header was dealt with by Hamer.
And with that, Forest appeared to lose all confidence. There was previously at least some sort of fizz to their passing play and a genuine fear that their moves would result in Hamer’s goal coming under threat. Now, they appeared timid, barely able to string a pass together, void of ideas and looking like an accident waiting to happen at the back.
That wasn’t to say Charlton were now brimming with belief, and a frustrating reluctance to shoot remained. Both Cousins and Ghoochannejhad were guilty of passing up good openings by attempting one touch too many or making an unnecessary pass. With Forest’s frailties clear to see, Riga threw on the pacey Obika in hope of capitalising upon them.
And soon after, the best chance of the night thus far fell to Cousins. Despite working harder than anyone in the middle and carrying the ball forward well for the Addicks, the academy graduate continuously fell to pieces within sight of goal, and his volley just after the hour was no different. Wilson picked the unmarked youngster out at the back post, but his first time strike soared horribly over the bar when he really should have put Charlton ahead. His despair was visible, as it was on the faces of the rather cold and frustrated away supporters.
But, after being subdued for most of the night, Cousins’ chance, along with a noticeable improvement in the performance, got the Addicks behind the goal Charlton were attacking into good voice. There was genuine belief.
So, rather predictably, cue a handful of half chances for the hosts. Henderson, in his final act on the pitch before being replaced by Rafik Djebbour, blasted an effort over from a tight angle, before a free-kick in a promising position would have had the Charlton fans sweating had it not been far too cold for that to occur, but Fox flashed his effort past Hamer’s far past.
A succession of headers followed with substitute Djebbour’s findng the roof of the net from a Greg Halford cross and the former Charlton loanee being picked out unmarked from a corner, only to see Hamer block his effort and the Addicks get the ball clear. With 15 minutes to go, neither side had given up hope of winning this one.
But, despite their chances, it was Forest who continued to look the most vulnerable. The visitors were calm and assured in possession; the hosts anything but. And when Mackie gave the ball away on the halfway line, the Addicks countered with interest.
Ajdaveric suddenly found himself on the edge of the area, and his through ball was perfect for Obika, but the Tottenham loanee’s effort crashed back off the post. You wanted to cause unspeakable harm to yourself, such was the level of heartbreak as another fine chance failed to be converted, but there was no time for such thoughts as the loose ball fell straight to the feet of Cousins.
With a crisp and accurate side footed strike, the youngster made amends for his earlier errors in front of goal and sent the travelling fans delirious. Cousins himself looked like he enjoyed it, celebrating in some style with a knee slide in front of the coaching staff that his skipper would have been proud off.
When the dust settled after Charlton’s first goal from open play in the league since the beginning of February, the Addicks had nine minutes to hold onto their lead. But there was never a real threat to Charlton’s three points; Forest’s players looked shot of any confidence and chants of ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’ rung around the City Ground.
A handful of desperate shots were sent towards Hamer’s goal, but he was under little serious threat. In fact, there was even time for Morgan Fox to make his league debut with four minutes of stoppage time prolonging the Charlton party. Only a Danny Collins header, which went just over from a Danny Fox free-kick, gave any indication that it might be postponed.
And when referee Haines finally blew his whistle, jubilation and relief filled the away end. Three points that lift Charlton three clear of the drop with three games in hand.
The players were lauded as heroes as they came over to the away end as one to applaud the travelling support, and they’d certainly put a shift in. There was grit, there was endeavour, and there was fight. There were also three central midfielders who were utterly superb.
Johnnie Jackson, Diego Poyet and Jordan Cousins, baring the howlers in front of goal before his winner, epitomised the performance. Not particular impressive, but there was more than enough on show to warm your heart and get your pulses racing. Jackson and Poyet kept things ticking over, winning back possession when Forest were at their worst and looking for the next pass, whilst Cousins showed a real intent to drive forward with the ball at his feet. That one of the trio got the winner was more than deserving.
But the performance was by no means spectacular, and the frailties in front of goal continue to be a huge worry, so much so that a better team might well have beaten the Addicks.
It’ll go down as one of those ugly wins; the sort of wins a team fighting the drop needs, and a sort that made the victory just as enjoyable as any other. At times the Addicks were lucky, at others frustrating, and almost always you found yourself lamenting a decision from a player in white. But an almost unbreachable defence and capitalising upon Forest’s frailties just at the right time saw Charlton gain a huge win.
Maybe that’s the difference between Powell’s and Riga’s Charlton; you could easily argue the level of performance overall hasn’t improved at all, and we arguably look weaker going forward, but there’s a greater resilience at the back, and results are being ground out. Individual mistakes have been cut out, and, whisper it quietly, luck is on our side.
The other difference appears to be that Riga has a man who he can bring off the bench that can make a real impact. With Forest already struggling at the time in which he came on, Obika’s introduction coincided with an improvement amongst the whole team, and a desire to push forward spread. Obika, in partnership with a free roaming Ajdaveric, forced Forest into a number of mistakes and compounded their lack of confidence and the mood inside the City Ground. An excellent substitution, after Riga’s diabolical ones on Saturday, which gave the Addicks something of an advantage.
There’s still plenty of room for improvement, and Saturday’s trip to Derby might well end in disaster, but, for now, I’ll ignore all that, savour tonight, one of ‘those’ nights, and take the occasional peek at the league table.
The notion of a side 21st in the Championship going into any game with confidence is a little odd. That relegation threatened club having some sort of confidence for the visit of the division’s second place team is probably a little delusional.
Alas, with Charlton three games unbeaten under new manager Jose Riga, including a last minute victory against Bournemouth in the week, and Burnley travelling to The Valley without top scorer Danny Ings and serial assister Kieran Trippier, the fans of the South East London club were hopeful their somewhat resurgent side could pull off a shock.
Even those, arguably the sensible ones, who were adamant defeat was a forgone conclusion didn’t state their negative beliefs with any conviction. A ‘bonus game’, but a bonus that wasn’t totally out of reach.
And for half an hour, the Ings and Trippier-less Burnley appeared to be there for the taking. This was by no means the most exhilarating period of football, nor were the Addicks dominant, but the Clarets didn’t exhibit the threat a side in their league table position is expected to.
You could also accuse them of being somewhat sloppy at the back, and when a slip from the usually unflappable Michael Duff allowed Simon Church through midway through the first half, it appeared as if the Addicks would be taking an unlikely lead.
It’s on these moments that games are won and lost; reputations are enhanced and destroyed; confidence is enhanced or sapped. So when Church could only tamely direct his effort towards goal, giving Tom Heaton little cause for concern, you feared for the worst.
It’s a story that has been told on so many occasions this season; the Addicks holding their own before a wasted opportunity changes the tide of the game.
Possibly thrown into life by the scare they were given, Sean Dyche’s men almost immediately came alive.
By the 38th minute, Ashely Barnes had headed the visitors in front. By the 55th, a Sam Vokes penalty had sucked the belief, and fight, out of Charlton. By stoppage time, a deflected third from Michael Kightly had given his dominant side a convincing victory.
But, despite the apparent quality the Premier League bound side possessed, you couldn’t help but feel they didn’t have to get out of second gear. You could almost say they were a little lethargic as the poor hosts posed little threat, not helped by a managerial decision that completely destroyed Charlton’s shape with some odd substitutions and alterations.
And it’s that, the lacklustre display and Riga’s tactical errors, which makes this defeat a hard one to take. Losing to Burnley was to be expected; performing to such a disappointing standard was not.
Pre-game hopes dashed with a punishing defeat, players up for criticism after a poor display and a manager’s decision making coming into question, all after an inexcusable miss; I feel like I’ve sat through this game plenty of times before today.
Amidst the pre-game atmosphere of cautious if not wild optimism, Riga’s team selection appeased those hopeful of the Addicks taking the game to Burnley.
The Belgian ditched the 4-5-1 formation that had won his new side five points from a possible nine in favour of a traditional 4-4-2. Jon Obika, who had a positive impact after coming off the bench in midweek, replaced Callum Harriott and joined Church up top in Charlton’s only change.
For someone who has championed the benefits of any variation of a five in midfield formation, especially against opposition of Burnley’s calibre, who were relying on Barnes and debutant Chris Baird to cover for Ings and Trippier, this appeared both a needless and risky change.
However, the Addicks started very brightly; the visitors rarely getting a touch on the ball in the opening five minutes as Riga’s men knocked the ball around with interest. Even when possession was given up, the impressive Diego Poyet was there to win it back, and more often than not in some style.
But, for all the impressive passing play and Poyet’s brilliance, there was little to shout about in and around Burnley’s box. Obika won his headers and forced a few mistakes out of centre back pairing Jason Shackell and Duff, but they weren’t capitalised upon; Danny Green’s deliveries from the right had a certain amount of fizz, but were unable to find a red shirt; Church made a nuisance of himself, as he always does, but, like his teammates, lacked an end product and all too often lost the ball with a heavy touch or a weak pass.
In fact, it took 25 minutes for either side to threaten; the slightly better home side in a rather dull first quarter of the afternoon had the honour.
But, unlike the hopeful efforts from range that often begin the shots on goal tally in a game, Charlton’s chance was a glorious one from which to take the lead. Under pressure from Church, Duff gave possession away in his own half, allowing the Welshman to race through on goal. But the forward’s finish was a poor one; the ball lacking any pace as it rolled into the palms of Heaton.
With Church still cutting the figure of a man who wanted the ground to swallow him up, and his supporters wishing the ground would oblige, Burnley immediately mounted their first meaningful attack of the afternoon. Vokes’ cut back to Scott Arfield presented the Scot with a chance as equally great as the one just missed down the other end, but he too could only tamely direct his effort into awaiting hands of the opposition ‘keeper.
Both sides were feeling somewhat disappointed not to be ahead, but at least the chances had provided the catalyst for a more open game after a stale opening period. Barnes curled an effort wide that Ben Hamer calmly watched glide past his goal, whilst a corner routine clearly created by Riga resulted in Johnnie Jackson laying the ball back to Green, whose effort was blocked.
But that was to be Charlton’s final attempt of the half as the errors began to creep and Burnley started to play with the quality expected of them.
A horrible mix-up between Rhoys Wiggins and Dorian Dervite gifted Vokes with the chance to shoot, but his effort took a deflection and looped wide. From the resulting corner, a motionless Hamer could only watch on as an unmarked Duff headed over.
But it would take just another three minutes for Charlton’s luck to run out. Junior Stanislas was given the opportunity to cross, and the West Ham academy graduate’s delivery was turned in at the near post by Barnes, sending the well large Claret following into jubilant scenes of celebration.
It was something of a soft goal, but a clear indication of the difference in quality between the two sides; where Charlton had found themselves in wide positions, the delivery had been poor.
With seven minutes remaining of the first 45, there was little time for the Addicks to get back into the game, and you hoped they would recover after the interval. But Burnley laid siege on Charlton’s goal for the remainder of the half, and really should have doubled their lead.
The home side had their ‘keeper to thank for keeping them in the contest as the bearded stopper pulled off a superb save from Baird’s driven effort, before outrageously keeping out Barnes’ close range header with a block that earned a standing ovation from most inside The Valley.
The danger wasn’t quite clear yet, however, as Green attempted to carry the ball forward and ended up losing possession in a costly area. The move finally ended when Dean Marney’s effort flew just wide, but the Charlton supporters were growing restless with their side’s performance.
Half-time really couldn’t have come soon enough for Riga’s men, and they returned to the dressing room just a goal down still with a chance, despite Burnley growing into a ferocious force, of salvaging in something from the game.
Astrit Ajdaveric, replacing Danny Green, was thrown on for the start of the second half as Riga reshuffled his troops into the 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation that proved fruitful in the victory over Bournemouth. The Swede occupied the central position, with Obika and Church either side.
A stunning block from Dervite prevented Arfield from taking the game beyond Charlton, before Ajdaveric was given the chance to show the confidence he has in his own ability. His ambitious long range volley, however, was fired well off-target.
But there weren’t really any signs to suggest the Addicks were capable of getting back into the contest, and Riga hauled off Church in order to give Reza Ghoochannejhad the opportunity to make an impact.
Barely a minute after entering the field of play, the Iranian was standing just outside the area as Vokes prepared to take a penalty he had won himself. The Welsh international’s drive into the box saw him needless chopped down by Dervite and, although the red-shirted players suggested contact might have been made outside the box, you couldn’t really argue with referee Langford’s decision.
The prolific forward, an alien concept to Charlton supporters, stepped up and coolly slotted the penalty down the middle to a chorus of boos from the Covered End. It was difficult to see a way back into the game for the home side.
There was hardly a whisper from the disgruntled home fans for the rest of the afternoon, but Ajdaveric’s dripping free-kick that forced Heaton into action at least drew a few ‘ooooh’s and a smattering of applause.
But that was probably the peak of enjoyment in the second half for the Addicks, who had to endure a performance void of ideas and spark for the remainder of the afternoon.
There appeared to be no viable way for the home side to venture forward, with a lack of shape proving a hindrance, and this was only made worse when Poyet, at least preventing Burnley from having a field day, was taken off by Riga in favour of Marvin Sordell, another striker.
On several occasions, Obika, Ajdaveric, Sordell and Jackson, popping up everywhere and seemingly without a position, were so close together they could have feasibly held hands. The clustered forward line provided no creativity, not helped by players who looked as beaten as the fans felt.
Ajdaveric flashed a couple of efforts wide, but the game appeared to be petering out with Charlton unable to make anything happen in the final passage of the game and Burnley not needing too.
However, from the game’s final corner two minutes into three minutes of stoppage time, the home side’s misery was compounded.
Substitute Michael Kightly drove into the box after collecting it short and his effort on goal took a huge deflection off Jackson’s thigh, causing the ball to loop over Hamer and into the net. The unfortunate goal summed up a poor afternoon for Charlton’s skipper, and for his side.
There might have been a larger boo from the home crowd had most of it not already left come full-time; I struggle to remember a time before today where The Valley has been so empty with at least some part of the game still to play.
But you couldn’t blame anyone for leaving a minute or so early; a performance which lacked fight, creativity or cohesion hardly warranted over 90 minutes of supportive viewing.
First, credit must be given to Burnley. Even without Ings and Trippier, it’s not hard to see why they’re up there. I don’t feel we saw the best of the Clarets but, even so, they were a well drilled unit who had that little bit of creative spark when going forward.
The visit of Burnley, after playing three sides who failed to perform, was arguably Riga’s first real test. I don’t think it’s harsh to say he failed it pretty emphatically.
I’m not suggesting for a second that I was demanding all three points today. In fact, I was part of the camp that had written this game off as a defeat. But that isn’t to say I expected such a lifeless capitulation, poor individual performances and, arguably most frustrating of all, Riga’s idea that creativity would come by decimating the midfield and lobbing on anything resembling a forward.
Riga has suggested taking Poyet off, ergo Charlton’s best player, was in order to rest him for Tuesday night. Personally, I’d rather gamble and have a player on the pitch that could make a difference with 15 minutes still to play. Against Bournemouth, Poyet’s drives forward in the final few minutes increased the pressure the Addicks piled on Bournemouth. Although not much was happing with the youngster on the pitch, there was surely no rational harm in keeping him on in the hope that he might provide some spark?
And, of course, pilling men forward is bound to happen in chase of a goal, but there’s a limit. With Jackson, who had a very poor game by his standards, roaming wherever he fancied, Cousins was left alone in the centre of midfield for a period, and neither a decreasingly effective Obika nor a weak Ghoochannejhad could make a difference on the wing.
But Riga can’t take all the blame; a handyman is only as good as his tools. In fact, I doubt I’d have needed to write the previous few paragraphs had Church finished his early chance. You could argue that after a 3-0 defeat, one goal wouldn’t have made a difference, but Charlton were playing with some sort of confidence before that point, and Burnley looked a little off the pace. The miss changed the game.
From that point, as individuals, the players in red were outclassed; a flat performance lacking both fight and quality. Whilst some won’t agree when I suggest the decision to alienate a manager to the point where he was prime for the sack was a bad one, few can argue when I say that selling the club’s best two players looks increasingly suicidal, as does not keeping an excellent winger.
Thankfully, results went the way of the Addicks, meaning today’s poor performance can just about be forgotten about. However, a response is needed.
An out of form Forest wait on Tuesday. Both sets of fans will be expecting their players to be fired up after poor results for both clubs. If today was a test for Riga, Tuesday promises to be a thorough examination.
A treasured Frenchman received applause and cheers throughout the night. He even had a hero’s welcome as he entered from the bench onto The Valley turf he used to call his own. As he left the pitch after full-time, his former teammates hang back to allow him to lead them off, despite wearing the colours of his new club.
It was always going to take a lot to push Yann Kermorgant’s return to SE7 off the top of the agenda; a near impossibility that he would be the second most important man on the night born across the channel.
But, despite the fanfare and genuine outpouring of emotion that is often hard for football fans to give to an enemy, those emotions were felt doubly towards a fellow Frenchman who spent the best part of the second half marking the Charlton Atheltic legend.
The dual had been a competitive one, but Kermorgant could only look on and watch as Dorian Dervite rose the highest to nod home with power and style that would have pleased the number 18 had it left his head. He might have appreciated the effort more, had it not come in the 90th minute and condemned his new side to defeat.
A smile appeared on Dervite’s face the moment he made contact with Johnnie Jackson’s inviting corner; something that had been missing from all Addicks in the past ten days. As he wheeled away, Jackson, joined by Simon Church, celebrated in front of the Covered End with passion and vigour Charlton’s most dedicated fans could only dream of.
For some, this was sheer unconditional joy. For others, it was a moment of relief like no other. For all, it was a moment to reconnect with a club that had left its fans disenchanted and hurt.
A goal that may well go down in the annals of Charlton history much in the same way Kermorgant or Chris Powell, a man who has left such a mark on his players that Jackson and Ben Hamer recreated his tunnel jump, will. A goal that, if only for the next few days, will bring a divided fan base together in celebration. A goal that lifts the Addicks out of the bottom three and makes safety look a probability rather than a possibility.
Jubilant scenes seemed a world away in the first 45 minutes, as Jose Riga’s side were error prone, struggling to get forward and unable to answer a style of passing football that has been so successful for Eddie Howe’s men.
Jordan Cousins, replacing the injured Astrit Ajdaveric in one of three changes made by Charlton’s new coach following the scoreless draw with Millwall, gave the ball away in midfield and allowed Marc Pugh to cruise forward unchallenged.
But Pugh, a winger who was once linked with a move to Chris Powell’s Charlton, blasted well over Hamer’s goal from range with less than 30 seconds played.
The other two men brought into Riga’s starting XI, Church and, for what records show was his 422nd chance to impress, Danny Green, didn’t see a great deal of the ball in the opening stages as the Cherries held possession well and looked to be a threat in the final third.
And Hamer’s hands were the first ‘keeper’s to be stung as a cleared corner fell to former Brighton defender Steve Cook. An unlikely man to unleash such a powerfully struck volley, but Charlton’s number one prevented a wonder goal, saving well and clutching it safely at the second attempt.
The pressure failed to relent as Rhoys Wiggins, booed to a man by the respectable number of Bournemouth fans in the Jimmy Seed, did well to block off the pacey Ryan Fraser, but conceded a corner in the process. The following set-piece was smartly cut back to Lewis Grabban, but the south coast side’s top scorer horribly skewed his effort off-target. A let off for the home side, who had left two men unmarked on the edge of the box.
With ten minutes yet to appear on The Valley’s big screen, a fourth shot was racked up by the visitors as Harry Arter, one of many centre midfielders churned out by Charlton’s academy in recent years, called Hamer into action from range, but the stopper once again got the ball under his control at the second attempt.
Given the start, you couldn’t really blame them, but the Covered End Choir were a little disgruntled. The electric atmosphere, born out of the raw emotions of the time, that accompanied the excellent start to last Tuesday’s draw with Huddersfield was nowhere to be seen.
In its place were half hearted attempts at chants that weren’t universally sung and a consistent tut and moan with every mistake. A spark needed to be shown if another low turnout at The Valley was to be inspired.
The Addicks tried to get forward thereafter, but Lee Camp rarely had to position himself to deal with a potential threat, let alone actually get a feel for the ball. Long balls were all too often won by a Bournemouth head or sailed beyond anyone’s control, there was plenty of huff from Jackson and his midfield companions but their passes created little and both Green and Callum Harriott were struggling desperately on either flank.
Those groans grew louder as Charlton flop Simon Francis outmuscled Wiggins to win yet another corner for the visitors. That came to nothing, as did the move that saw Grabban round Hamer, only for the ball to run out of play to the backdrop of a collective sigh of relief.
And soon, in another moment or rest bite, the hosts had a corner of their own. Green’s delivery was cleared, but Poyet picked out the winger coming in from the left and his shot was well saved by Camp.
Poyet, impressing as ever despite the frustratingly poor performance, was then forced to mop up at the back as Harriott’s luckless night continued, losing possession to Francis and watching on as the Cherries countered. With Wiggins and Poyet dealing with the threat and Charlton looking to get forward again, Harriott looked reluctant to.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Obika, who had re-joined the club on loan on Monday, was warming up on the touchline, alongside another player making a return to The Valley. Kermorgant received the applause he deserved as he jogged down past the West Stand. Stretches and jogs seemed of secondary importance to the Frenchman, as he shared a quick word with Obika, had a rather large chat with Bradley Pritchard and spoke briefly to Richard Wood before returning to the bench.
Back on the pitch, the Addicks had improved somewhat as first-half entered its final ten minutes, and excellent kick long from Hamer sent Church into space, with the Welshman winning a corner for the home side. Jackson’s delivery was headed not far off target by Dervite; it wouldn’t be the last time that pair would combine.
And with six minutes of the opening 45 remaining, the optimist might say Charlton came closest to taking the lead. Green’s characteristically mishit cross almost indivertibly found its way past Camp, with the ‘keeper looking a little uncomfortable as the ball rebounded back off the post and behind.
In truth, it was never going in, but at least the Addicks had a little bit more about them in the closing stages. That was helped as Harriott, struggling to make an impression and apparently injured, was replaced by Obika and Riga’s men reshuffled into a 4-4-2 formation for the final few minutes of the half.
Charlton’s official Twitter feed deemed it Obika time; homage to his knack of scoring late goals. The graphic and phrase appears to have upset that sort who expect nothing but masculine expression from club Twitter feeds, but those inside The Valley cared little as the Tottenham loanee made an immediate impression.
The forward made himself a threat in the air, becoming the first Charlton striker to win a header since 2013, held up the ball well and linked up nicely with Jackson down the left. He even tested Camp with a decent effort as the half came to a close, but, with stoppage time still a minute away, the laws of football stipulated he wasn’t allowed to score.
The final ten minutes had done a lot to prevent another half-time booathon at The Valley, and the players received a fair round of applause as they left the pitch. It was hard to suggest a goal was coming, but you couldn’t help but feel a further ten minutes would have been beneficial to a Charlton side that had grown into the game.
Either way, the Addicks were slightly fortunate to go in at the break on level terms, and needed to continue their improvement from the off in the second period.
Riga reshuffled his side again, setting them up in one of those 4-5-1s that becomes a 4-3-3 when going forward with Obika heading out wide, but the opening exchanges of the second half were a little dull.
In fact, a Valley crowd that had responded to the improvement in the first half fell somewhat silent again; frustration and nerves were in attendance, not to mention those still finding it difficult to motivate themselves to changes in SE7.
But the quiet start was probably what Charlton wanted; Bournemouth were no longer in control and the Addicks were able to maintain possession with greater ease than in the first-half. With the youngster increasingly dominant in the middle, this was much to do with the excellent work of Poyet, who, in addition to some superb challenges, interceptions and passes, had the half’s first shot, firing just over from the edge of the box.
Such was the pressure, a possessional threat if not an attacking one, the Cherries now found themselves under, Howe saw it fit to make a change. With Bournemouth’s technical area a fair distance away from my Upper North seat, I wanted to believe that my eyes were teasing me. With the scores still level, Kermorgant entering the fray was part of the script that concluded with a late winning goal from the Frenchman. Alas, it was Charlton’s former talisman waiting to come on.
For the first time, with some viewing competition above all, Kermorgant received a smattering of boos, but they were drowned out by a four-stand wide applause. It was odd to see such a heroic figure of mine in a shirt that wasn’t Charlton’s, but there was certainly something of a buzz out of seeing him back playing at The Valley.
I kept those thoughts to myself as the game continued, with Bournemouth coming close through Pugh once more. His curling effort from a wide position had Hamer scrambling, but the ball narrowly sailed over the bar, dipping just too late to make the net ripple.
You hoped this would be an inferior version of Kermorgant, but it wasn’t. He immediately got to work, winning headers in both halves and seemingly popping up everywhere. His side, however, remained a little off the pace.
With 25 minutes to play, Green, who had a torrid second half, was replaced by Marvin Sordell, and the Addicks were now visibly set-up in a 4-3-3 formation. A gamble, but neither side were looking particularly threatening, and a change was needed if Charlton were to score for the first time in five games.
But worry filled The Valley that they might concede for the first time under Riga as Kermorgant stood over a free-kick in a promising position for the visitors. Thankfully, he peeled away and Ian Harte’s off-target effort left a lot to be desired.
The supporters of the South East London side who have suffered so much recently when then made to panic some more as South African international Tokelo Rantie replaced the off colour Grabban. He immediately tested Hamer, after the ‘keeper had been left stranded after leaving his line to collect a ball Fraser beat him too, but he recovered well to save.
Two Charlton academy graduates, in the shape of Arter and Cousins, exchanged wild long range efforts, but there was no sense a goal was on the horizon as the game entered its final 15 minutes.
But a defence splitting pass from Cousins sent Church in with ten minutes to play, and it seemed like for all the world the Addicks would have the lead. That hush of anticipation that fills a stadium before a goal was there; Church’s finish was not. In fairness, Camp did well to save the effort, but when Jackson’s follow up was blocked away, a sickening feeling that suggested Bournemouth would nick this couldn’t be prevented.
However, where previous misses have crushed Charlton’s confidence in previous games this season, the Addicks remained on the front foot. The impressive Sordell, looking a natural on the right flank, teed up Poyet, whose effort was palmed away unconvincingly by Camp, and a throw not long after saw excellent work from Jackson wasted by a wild finish; you hopped against hope there would be just one more chance to score in the dying moments.
The fourth official held up four minutes of Obika time, and the forward, who had an indifferent half, won a free-kick on the edge of the area 30 seconds into it. Jackson stood over it, Church ran over the ball, Cousins slipped down below, but eventually the skipper was able to get his shot away. It looked a good one, and only Camp’s finger tips prevented Charlton from taking the lead.
But Bournemouth still had the corner to deal with. Jackson raced over to take it; his resulting delivery a beautiful inswinging cross that was crying out for someone to make a connection. Dervite, beating his best friend Kermorgant to the ball, dully obliged, sending The Valley into shocked celebrations.
This wasn’t the roar and sheer euphoria of Jackson’s last minute header against QPR; there was a greater sense of relief about this one. The decibels levels were certainly lower, but it mattered little. However it was expressed, every Addick knew how important this goal was to their club.
It wasn’t quite full-time yet, however, and a Bournemouth corner followed. Harte’s delivery was met by Kermorgant, but this Frenchman could only head straight at the opposition ‘keeper.
Seconds were left, and the roar, this time a deafening one, came with the full-whistle. This wasn’t a beautiful, free-flowing, tika-taka style victory, and the Addicks might have rode their luck a little at times, but try telling that to the jubilant supporters and their heroes down below.
The players, each one of them Powell’s, channelled that spirit he instilled in them; the determination and never give up attitude that has won Charlton countless points in recent years.
But, as had been occurring for a great deal of the second half, Jose Riga’s name was sung. I didn’t join in, and nor shall I for the foreseeable future owing to what he represents, but that doesn’t stop me giving him credit for his role in the victory.
Whether forced or not, Obika’s introduction made a very positive impact on the game. He was far from perfect, with the occasional miss-placed pass and the odd bit of terrible control, but his willingness to get forward and his work with Wiggins down the left made a real difference.
It was also the case that throwing Sordell on helped to give the Addicks a real chance of snatching all three points against a Bournemouth side who fell away after a dominant first-half performance. I’m all for seeing Sordell on the wing again, and having two attack-minded wingers was crucial as Charlton pressed forward in the closing stages.
There were also outstanding performances from Dervite, who was first to almost every ball and battled well with Kermorgant, Poyet, who too managed to outmuscle the Frenchman and put in an unreal performance for someone so young, once again, and Jackson, who led his side with pride once more. In fact, the goal probably meant more to the skipper than anyone else inside The Valley.
But, as I may have hinted at recently, there are moments that football gives you that are just as special as victory. They may come as a result of it, like Jackson’s celebrations and the tunnel jump shared with Hamer, but the Charlton players’ decision to hang back and allow Kermorgant to leave the field alone was classy. It was heart-warming to see a hero of mine once more, and the emotional two-way reception was something that’ll stick long in the memory.
But, tonight, the only Frenchman in most Charlton fans’ minds is Dorian Dervite.
We are staying up, say we are staying up.