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Resolute Rotherham Frustrate Addicks

Tony Watt too busy berating himself to chase after a loose ball. Johann Berg Gudmundsson visibly annoyed as a wayward touch denied him the opportunity to break through on goal. Simon Makienok puzzled as to why none of his teammates were on the same wavelength as him, and able to connect with his flick-on.

The frustration shown in the facial expressions and gesticulations by those attempting to give Charlton the winner their second half dominance arguably deserved summed up the mood around The Valley as full-time approached.

For while Rotherham United, showing defensive organisation and resilience not fitting of a side sat at the foot of the Championship table, were deserving of their point, there was a feeling that the Addicks had done enough to warrant inflicting a slightly cruel victory upon their opponents.

In part, the frustration was born out the manner in which the Millers, who had been on the back foot for much of the half, took the lead just before half-time.

Abuse sent the way of referee Keith Stroud, who opted to award a corner despite Jonson Clarke-Harris’ free-kick deflecting off a player wearing Rotherham black, and some criticism reserved for Charlton’s defence, who watched on as Joe Newell’s delivery was tapped in at the far post by an unchallenged Farrend Rawson.

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But so too was there angst at the failings of Guy Luzon’s side in the final third, both before and after a stunning Nick Pope save to deny Tony Andreu at one end had been followed by Patrick Bauer bundling the ball over the line at the other.

Frequently, the Addicks found themselves in very promising positions, especially in the 25 minutes that remained after the German centre-back had equalised. But those openings, when not eventually shut down by Steve Evans’ determined troops, were often ended by poor decision making, indecisiveness, and a general lack of cutting edge and adequate execution.

Charlton certainly not poor, and enduring a day where things didn’t quite go their way, but you could feel an amount of disappointment that they were not able to turn their possession and pressure into three points.

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The feeling of frustration only heightened by the pre-game expectation that the quality of the opposition and the strength of Charlton’s starting XI produced.

For the Millers, having conceded 13 goals in five games, would surely struggle to contend with the returning Igor Vetokele and Watt, who replaced Makienok and Karlan Ahearne-Grant in the side that started defeat to Wolves.

Not even Jordan Cousins, on the day another JC was elected leader of the Labour Party, being moved to the far left of midfield in order to accommodate El-Hadji Ba appeared to take anything away from Charlton’s attacking threat.

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And the hosts’ start to the contest suggested they were going to make Rotherham’s afternoon incredibly difficult. Watt jinking past several men in black, before teeing up Gudmundsson to force a good save out of Lee Camp, the third man this season to stand behind the Millers’ leaky defence.

But were it not for Camp’s excellence in the game’s first 15 minutes, then Rotherham would have conceded their 14th of the season. The goalkeeper, signed from Bournemouth on the final day of the transfer window, doing well to deny Cousins after he created space for himself on the edge of the box, before pulling off a stunning stop to prevent the academy graduate finishing off a marvellous counter attack with a top-corner finish.

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Those saves not only preventing the Addicks from getting the advantage their early dominance probably warranted, but seemingly sapping some energy from Luzon’s side. Charlton’s passing much slower and less penetrative thereafter, with Rotherham gradually growing into the game as Clarke-Harris turned Bauer and teed up Newell to sting the palms of Pope.

The Millers better equipped to deal with Charlton’s threat, showing more individual composure and collective organisation, as they continued to look for a route forward themselves. Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, dancing past several red shirts before drilling an effort narrowly wide, inches away from a stunning debut goal.

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Unease in the home ends growing, and only increasing as the lively Clarke-Harris was able to break through and cleverly win himself a free-kick in a dangerous free-kick. The forward cutting between Ahmed Kashi and Bauer, before hitting the deck under contact from the former as the ball ran out of his control.

The decision resulting in a certain amount of anger being expressed by Charlton supporters, but nowhere near the amount that followed Stroud’s next call. The referee and his assistant deciding that Clarke-Harris’ free-kick had gone behind off an Addick, despite clearly deflecting off the head of a Miller.

And before the Covered End had had an opportunity to regain some composure, Rotherham had taken the lead. Newell’s delivery, despite the bizarre sight of a Rotherham arm attempting to make contact with it, finding its way through to the back post, where Rawson was waiting to tap into what was effectively a half-empty net.

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Boos directed at the team of officials both after the goal and at half-time, which followed seven minutes later, but that took little anger away from the very poor failure to deal with Rotherham’s corner. Stroud’s decision the architect, but Charlton not helping themselves.

So there could be no excuse for Luzon’s side to respond after the break without verve and energy, as if still sulking about the cruel hand they had been dealt. The tempo of play seen in the game’s opening moments needed to be found again.

At the very least, they needed to re-inspire the Covered End and improve a rather flat Valley atmosphere. That exactly the result as Gudmundsson collected Solly’s pass, cut inside in signature fashion, and agonisingly curled over the bar.

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With the Covered End in decent voice, those wearing red were seemingly growing in confidence, and offering more of a threat, with each passing minute. Solly and Gudmundsson leading the attacks superbly down the right, while Vetokele, anonymous in the first half, began to throw himself about inside the box, forcing Camp to tip his header over the bar.

But while there was certainly more energy and intent coming from the Addicks at the start of the second half, there remained a lack of genuine cutting edge. The roar of expectation that emerged with every promising forward move soon became a sigh of disappointment as a cross was overhit or a Rotherham body blocked a shot on goal.

In fact, it was Rotherham, in a rare attack, who arguably created the best opening at the start of the second period. Charlton’s back four caught off-guard as Joe Mattock’s excellent delivery perfectly picked out Andreu, only for Pope to pull off the most spectacular of one-handed saves to keep out the resulting header.

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It produced the largest round of applause of the day from the home ends, and it proved particularly important just four minutes later as the Addicks drew level.

Makienok, having only just been introduced in place of Vetokele, was picked out at the back post following a half-cleared Charlton corner, and his chest and volley across goal was perfect for Bauer, who beat a Rotherham man to the ball and steered it over the line from close range.

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Equalising, of course, brought relief, but so too did it provide a genuine belief that the hosts could now go onto win the game. That hope collected by those on the pitch, with Watt creating some space for himself and forcing another fine save from the still defiant Camp.

But the goalkeeper was fortunate that the bounce of the ball took Charlton’s next effort away from goal, with Gudmundsson’s sweetly-struck free-kick just skipping past the post and Camp not in a position to save the strike had it been on-target. The pressure applied by the Addicks continuing to increase, and only an excellent Richard Smallwood block denied Watt after being superbly played through by Makienok’s flick-cum-dummy.

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That Watt opening, however, told a story of its own. The forward too indecisive, and Rotherham incredibly resolute.

It meant that not only were Rotherham still relatively composed in their efforts to cling on, but so too did they continue to have the opportunity to create the occasional chance of their own. A vicious volley from substitute Chris Maguire forcing yet another fine save out of Pope, sharing the defiant attitude of his opposite number.

But as the last ten minutes of the game were entered, the pattern of play was only heading in one direction. The Addicks launching attack after attack in a desperate attempt to find a late winner.

As it had been for much of the game, most of that pressure was applied by the ever-lively Gudmundsson. His ball across the face of goal agonisingly flashing past those in the middle, and his strike from the edge of the box needing to be well stopped by Camp.

Even he, however, was struggling to find the cutting edge required to break down this commendably organised and resolute Rotherham defence. His runs down the right abandoned in favour of long balls to the head of Makienok as five minutes of stoppage time were announced, but that strategy proved no more effective.

And as one final flick-on from the 6’7 Dane trickled through to Camp, it was time to accept what felt like something of a defeat. The Addicks, through their own lack of cutting edge and Rotherham’s determined defensive effort, unable to do quite enough to record the victory that many expected of them.


 

You could, therefore, quite justifiably suggest that Luzon’s side were rather unfortunate not to win the game.

It was certainly one of those afternoons were things didn’t always go the way of the Addicks. The decision to award Rotherham the corner that led to their goal the main one, but they also lacked a little bit of good fortune when going forward.

It part, that was down to a performance that would have given the visiting supporters some encouragement. Their side responding to their terrible start to the season with a committed and valiant effort to earn an unlikely point.

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On another day, however, one of the many genuine chances Charlton’s forwards created would have produced a second goal. Camp inspired, Rotherham’s back four defiant, and Gudmundsson so desperately close on a number of occasions.

And, aside from the period just before and briefly after the Millers’ goal, it can certainly be said that this was a decent enough overall effort form the Addicks. The defence, with Alou Diarra superb, mopping up most of what they had to do, the passing in midfield, with Ba and Kashi composed, crisp, and Rotherham’s backline never allowed a moment’s rest, with Gudmundsson always nibbling.

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But so too can it be said that Charlton’s failure to secure victory was punishment for their often lacklustre display in the final third. For all the cries of misfortune that can legitimately be made, it takes little away from the fact that the Addicks were incredibly wasteful when going forward.

The biggest annoyance in that regard is a combination of poor decision making and indecisiveness. It was something they were all guilty of, but particularly Watt, who kept doing incredibly well to create space and burst forward, but follow it up with the incorrect pass or by running into a dead end when there appeared an opening in another direction.

At the very least, were it not for some sublime saves from the excellent Pope, then Charlton could have so easily lost a game that they were not far away from winning. A performance that was not without its faults, regardless of the frustration largely being born out of an inability to turn consistent pressure into a warranted victory.

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