The chants of “we want Roland out” that followed the full-time whistle showed exactly where this victory stood in the grand scheme of things. Unified defiance from those in the Elland Road away end, portraying an idea that Charlton Athletic supporters can never feel truly victorious while Roland Duchatelet’s regime remains in control of their club.
For not only was this hard fought win over Leeds United not enough to undo the damage that has already been done this season, but a reminder the real battle exists away from events that take place on the pitch. Faith and hope not suddenly restored by a first victory in six.
That, however, is not an attempt to take anything away from the character those representing the Addicks showed in Yorkshire to claim three points in their final away game of the season. Supporters have been able to feel a sense of pride in their defiance throughout this campaign, but this a rare occasion where Charlton performed in an unquestionably proud manner.
Resolute and watchful as the hosts dominated possession for much of the first half, Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s 39th minute opener came somewhat against the run of play. The Addicks making a rare break into the final third, with the Iceland international ultimately converting from Morgan Fox’s delivery.
But momentum was with the visitors as Leeds’ defence stood off Ademola Lookman, and the talented teen finished in clinical fashion from the edge of the box four minutes into the second half. Charlton’s advantage certainly not undeserved.
In fact, it wasn’t until they had conceded for a second time that Steve Evans’ side began to carry some genuine attacking threat. Chris Wood’s looping nod hitting the bar, before an unmarked Sol Bamba halved the deficit with a thunderous header from a Charlie Taylor set-piece.
It set up an uncomfortable final 19 minutes for the Addicks, who were required to defend in desperate fashion against a persistent Leeds threat. The returning Ahmed Kashi sublime, Johnnie Jackson tireless, and Nick Pope producing a number of stunning saves. Without such fight, the hosts would have certainly made their pressure tell.
Instead, as a consequence of their resolute efforts, Charlton were able to celebrate a fourth away win of this torrid campaign. Too little and too late to have any sort of meaningful impact beyond the exclusive joy of victory on the day for the already relegated Addicks. Much like a Leeds equaliser would not have suddenly justified Massimo Cellino’s running of the club.
Not enough to distract from the more important fight that supporters of this club must win. Even as those in red received their deserved applause on their way off the Elland Road pitch, the unified chants against Duchatelet could not be ignored.
Unified, too, was the delight in seeing Kashi make his first appearance for the Addicks since suffering an Achilles injury in September. The Algerian coming into the side in place of the injured Jordan Cousins.
There was also a start for Jackson, with Alou Diarra retreating into the centre of defence in order to accommodate the skipper. Rod Fanni moving to right-back, Marco Motta dropping to the bench, and still no place in the matchday squad for the mysteriously absent Chris Solly.
But regardless of the Jackson and Kashi partnership seemingly forming a solid midfield pairing, it was Leeds who looked more composed in the game’s opening stages. A mix-up among those in red allowing Chris Wood to slide Luke Murphy through on goal, but goalkeeper Pope off his line well to deny the midfielder from a relatively right angle.
An immediate response from Charlton, as Lookman’s free-kick curled narrowly wide of Marco Silvestri’s post, but it remained the hosts who appeared the most confident of the two sides.
A combination of poor decision making and a sluggishness in possession preventing the Addicks from launching successful attacks, while Leeds, with midfielders Lewis Cook and Murphy dictating and able to supply those in wide areas, carried a certain amount of spark. End product lacking, however, as Stuart Dallas finished a decent move with a strike that failed to test Pope.
But Northern Ireland international Dallas would soon provide a much more uncomfortable moment for Pope, as the goalkeeper was forced to back-peddle and tip his free-kick over the bar. The set-piece, an overhit delivery from a wide position rather than a genuine attempt on goal, goalbound without Pope’s intervention.
It fair to say that Leeds were beginning to take a real control of the contest, so the exposure of their defensive frailties couldn’t have been timelier. A reminder that the Addicks were no worse than their opposition, and they could certainly cause a threat of their own, as those in white stood off Gudmundsson and allowed him the space to strike towards goal. The ball rebounding back off the post with some force.
Enough to increase expectation and enthusiasm in the away end, but not enough to address the issues that were holding Riga’s side back. Too much time still being taken on the ball, and the likes of Callum Harriott and Igor Vetokele running into dead ends when invited to move forward with the ball.
At least Leeds, with their task made harder by the growing resolve of Kashi, Jackson and Fanni in particular, were still lacking a genuine threat to complement their composed midfield play. Cook lashing wide, Wood pressured enough to head off-target from Liam Bridcutt’s delivery, and Bridcutt himself, not known for his exploits in front of goal, striking wildly over from distance. Rushed and wayward efforts.
And even when the hosts managed to get themselves in close proximity to Charlton’s goal, they still couldn’t produce the desired final ball. Lewie Coyle’s low delivery claimed by Pope after superbly breaking into the area, and a combination of Jackson and Pope denying Cook after the ball fell kindly to the highly-rated youngster.
Such wastefulness meant the sluggishness the Addicks had shown for much of the opening period, frustrating though it was, could be forgiven if there was a response after the break. Few expecting there to be a meaningful response prior to the interval.
But there was encouragement as Lookman bombed forward with intent, and fed the overlapping Fox. His near-post-delivery much more threatening than anything Leeds had been able to muster at the other end, perfectly picking out the run of Gudmundsson. The Iceland international finishing emphatically.
Unexpectedly, and the consequence of a forward move far more slick than anything else they had created in the previous 38 minutes, the Addicks had the lead. A moment of confirmation required in the away end before celebrations were allowed to begin, such was the shock nature of the well-worked goal.
Quite a shocking sight, too, to see Pope impersonate Manuel Neuer by racing out of his area and beat Wood to a loose ball via a brave diving header. The away end appreciative, and beginning to enjoy their afternoon much more than the early Leeds dominance suggested they might.
In fact, with some greater composure, the visiting supporters might well have had a second goal to celebrate before the break. The excellent Fanni feeding Vetokele, but the Angolan taking too long on the ball, and a Leeds defender able to close him down before he could get his shot away.
But the pattern of play throughout the first half meant there were few feeling completely confident of victory as they applauded the Addicks in at the break. Charlton’s resilience as excellent as Leeds’ attacking efforts were tame, but their control of possession meant the hosts had every chance of getting back into the game.
A second goal for Riga’s side, however, and you would struggle to see a way back for Evans’ men. Their deluge of half-chances not enough to suggest they had the attacking quality and character to come from two behind.
So it was with both joy and a sense of relief that Lookman’s strike four minutes into the second half was celebrated. There now no question that the Addicks were in complete control, as the 18-year-old drove forward and struck powerfully into the bottom corner with no player in white willing to shut him down.
Ten minutes of playing time had seen Charlton transform from a lacklustre unit that were on the back foot, to a potent attacking force that held a sizeable advantage. A marvellous effort.
But anyone who was already preparing to celebrate a rare victory were reminded that caution was required just seven minutes later, as Leeds came agonisingly close to halving their deficit. Taylor’s delivery superbly flicked on by Wood, but his looping header dipping only enough to hit the top of the bar, and Bamba’s follow-up effort crashing against the side netting. Game over it was most certainly not.
The pattern of play immediately reverting back to the one seen throughout the majority of the first half, with Leeds dictating while Charlton sat deep and, through the defiant figures of Jackson, Kashi, Diarra and Jorge Teixeira, attempted to be resolute. Liam Cooper’s tame header over and Murphy’s wayward strike following a half-cleared corner not enough to suggest such a tactic from the Addicks was going to result in them being punished.
In fact, it was Charlton who next came close to scoring the game’s third goal. Leeds committing too many men forward, Lookman leading the break forward, and Harriott ultimately side-footing his effort just beyond the post.
The home-grown winger, lively but frustrating all afternoon, probably should have done better with the chance, and that was a feeling that only increased as Charlton’s inability to defend from set-pieces was again exposed just a minute later.
As excellent as the defensive work of Riga’s side was for much of the afternoon, there was no excuse for the sizeable figure of Bamba being left unmarked as Taylor swung in the free-kick form a wide position. The Ivorian thumping home the header, and dramatically increasing a feeling of discomfort in the away end.
The talk among the visiting supporters was not of confidence that the Addicks would see out the remaining 19 minutes, but of an acceptance that they would capitulate. Those that have followed this side around the country this season have seen it all before. Impossible to feel reassured in such a situation.
Pope, however, was doing his utmost to convince Charlton supporters that their side would not be throwing this advantage away. Dampening the increasing enthusiasm of the home supporters, too, as he saved from substitute Mirco Antenucci before denying Wood in superb fashion with the New Zealand forward through on goal.
The goalkeeper was assisted by a collective defiance, but none more so from the still tireless Jackson and Kashi. The Addicks dropping deeper and deeper, but the midfield duo throwing themselves in front of every Leeds effort at goal. Their fight, particularly given that this was Kashi’s first game since September and Jackson’s advancing years, commendable.
In fact, Kashi was not afraid to do damage to himself in the process. The need to treat him meaning six horrendously nervy minutes were added. Made all the more nervy as Harriott ran into a dead end after being played through following a break out of defence from substitute El-Hadji Ba.
But this extended period of extra-time merely allowed for one last outstanding Pope stop. Antenucci’s sweet strike from the edge of the area heading towards the top corner, only for the goalkeeper’s fingertips to tip the ball behind. Some equaliser it would have been, in both style and context, but Pope would simply not allow it.
He as much as anyone else deserving of the feeling of joy and relief as Bamba prodded Leeds’ final chance wide and the final whistle blew. This victory a reward for Charlton showing a level of resolve that has rarely been seen throughout this torrid campaign.
Deserving of the celebrations, too, were those supporters in the Elland Road away end. Many of who have followed the Addicks all over this season with a little reward, and a victory taken from their final trip of the campaign at least bandaging up one of the countless wounds they have been left covered in.
A victory particularly pleasing for the effort and application shown in order to achieve it. That led by the fight of Jackson and Kashi, whose relentlessness and resolve was superb, and gave Pope at least a little less to do between the sticks.
In fact, this was a performance based on solid foundations. The attacking elements of the display were a little unpleasant, with forward moves limited and the likes of Harriott and Vetokele more frustrating than threatening, but the defensive resilience was excellent.
So much so that the elements of luck the Addicks had to cling onto their victory, particuarly the numerous chances wasted by Leeds, were arguably earned. A few things going their way only right given the amount of fight and effort put in.
And while it can be argued that a performance of this nature only makes the rest of this pathetic season more frustrating, it was unquestionably nice to have something to enjoy at the end of this torrid campaign. A traditional, hard-fought Charlton away win.
But there is no danger of this even distracting slightly from the damage Duchatelet is doing to the club, and the need to remove him. The “we want Roland out” chants that were made at least twice following the full-time whistle pertinent, given that they were made in what should have been moments of joy.
No one wants calls for Duchatelet to go to be made more passionately than a victory celebrated; supporters want to be able to enjoy victories.
But fans of the Addicks have been left with no choice but to place the need to remove this regime from the club at the top of the list of their priorities. Victories cannot be enjoyed to their full extent until Duchatelet departs and the ethos of this club is restored.
Victories like today merely providing a positive distraction from the grim reality.
The fight continues.
For the two sets of supporters that will descend on Elland Road this weekend, events on the pitch have lowered in importance in recent weeks.
In part, that is the result of both sides having little to play for. Leeds United marooned in mid-table; Charlton Athletic’s relegation mathematically confirmed after an extended period where their fate had been accepted.
But it is largely the consequence of opposition to two ignorant, arrogant and failing ownerships growing to a point where ousting Massimo Cellino and Roland Duchatelet has, justifiably and understandably, become the priority.
Cellino has worked his way through six head coaches during his time in charge, faced various Football League charges for tax evasion, and lost a court case against former employee over unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination. Protest group Time To Go Massimo, whose tactics have included projecting images onto the side of Elland Road and a mock funeral, calling his reign a “farce”.
A similar description could be attached to Duchatelet’s control of Charlton, with unqualified head coaches on the basis of their relationship with the Belgian, supporters constantly insulted, and the ethos of the Addicks heavily damaged. His reluctance to sell, and Katrien Meire’s unwillingness to resign, in the face of CARD’s marvellous protesting efforts equally as farcical.
As such, the result on the pitch this weekend is a relative sideshow. The most important result for these two sets of supporters is to win their club back.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 0-0 LEEDS UNITED
Charlton and Leeds played out a rather lifeless goalless draw at The Valley in December, but both sides failed to take fantastic chances to claim all three points.
It was the Addicks who had the best of the early openings, with Reza Ghoochannejhad’s first-time prod from a tight angle rolling agonisingly across the face of goal and Marco Silverstri saving well from Ademola Lookman.
And United’s goalkeeper was alive again at the start of the second period to deny Ricardo Vaz Te.
But it was Leeds who created, and wasted, the game’s best chance. Tom Adeyemi played through, and only able to knock the ball against the post.
With rumours increasing that Cellino has already got bored of boss Evans and plans to ditch him at the end of the season, the former Rotherham manager has responded in the best possible fashion.
Three successive victories, followed by an 88th minute equaliser to earn a draw away at promotion-chasing Hull City, giving Evans the results to support his self-belief and confidence.
Ten points from four games, despite moving them into the top half of the Championship table, might not prevent Leeds’ season from being a relative disappointment, but a decent run of form does increase the support for Evans.
And with United promising slight refunds on next season’s season-tickets should the play-offs not be reached, the club backing the manager is particularly important. Evans will hope he’s done enough to lead Leeds into the next campaign.
Having offered a degree of fight in the weeks prior to the confirmation of their relegation, their fate being sealed has seemingly returned the Addicks to the side that have been on show for much of the season.
For while performances in the victory Birmingham City, the goalless draw with Ipswich Town and even the defeat to QPR were commendable, the efforts during the loss to Derby, the decisive draw with Bolton, and last weekend’s protest-filled reverse at home to Brighton weren’t so great.
Such poor recent performances have only increased the pressure on Jose Riga, who appears unlikely to remain in charge next season, regardless of who owns the club. A lack of cohesion and coordination in his side, not helped by lack of drive from many in red.
Understandable given that there no longer remains a cause to fight for, but not acceptable. A certain amount of effort and fight needing to be shown in the remaining two games of Charlton’s season, and not just from those in the stands battling to win their club back. .
Leeds will be without Gaetano Berardi after the full-back suffered ligament damage during last weekend’s draw with Hull.
The Swiss, who also sustained a similar though more serious injury during December’s draw with Charlton, was replaced by Lewie Coyle with 15 minutes to play at the KC Stadium on Saturday, and Coyle could start in Berardi’s place at Elland Road.
But Evans will be able to call upon the services of Alex Mowatt again after the midfielder completed his three-match suspension, dished out following his dismissal during the victory over Birmingham City.
Tom Adeyemi should also return having recovered from illness, but Mustapha Carayol remains doubtful with a hamstring issue.
Elsewhere, Jordan Botaka could come into the starting XI after impressing off the bench in recent weeks. The Democratic Republic of Congo international hasn’t started a game since October, but enjoyed a productive 45 minutes at the KC Stadium last weekend.
Doubt remains over whether Chris Solly and Johnnie Jackson will return to Charlton’s starting line-up after the pair were left out of the side last weekend for speaking out against Katrien Meire during the shirt sponsors’ evening.
The adored duo were seemingly punished for voicing their lack of respect for the failing CEO, with Solly revealing that there was an attempt to move him out on loan to Gillingham in January.
Stephen Henderson, absent for an extended period for similar reasons, is almost certain to be absent, while Yaya Sanogo is a doubt after making an early exit during the defeat to Brighton through injury.
KEY BATTLE – SUPPORTERS AGAINST DESTRUCTIVE OWNERS
There will be competitive battles on the pitch at Elland Road this weekend, not least in midfield, where Jordan Cousins will face up against fellow promising youngster Lewis Cook. It’s where the attention, in an idea world, would be. You know, on the actual football.
Alas, such is the situation at both clubs, two exciting young English talents competing with one another is eclipsed in its importance by the need for both sets of supporters to continue to battle against the destructive and poisonous ownerships that control their clubs.
Such is the resistance to offers for both clubs from those currently in control, you could suggest supporters are simply better off packing in their protesting efforts and letting Cellino and Duchatelet get on with it.
But such an attitude would, of course, only assist in the damage that both horribly misguided and failing owners are doing to their respective clubs.
Leeds, with its reputation as one of the most successful clubs in England, do not deserve to be blighted by Cellino’s madness. Charlton, once the model club for many with ambitions of holding their own in the top flight, need to escape from Duchatelet in order to rebuild.
Keep fighting for what’s right, chaps.
Is this season over yet? Leeds United 2-1 Charlton Athletic
Proud Addicks Assisted by Seagulls in Powerful Protests; Powerless Charlton Assist Brighton’s Promotion Charge
A 23rd loss of this torrid Championship campaign it might have been, and another to add to the list of defeats suffered in pathetic fashion, but Charlton supporters have rarely been able to feel such a proud feeling of victory this season.
In fact, not since the return to The Valley has there been a day that felt so important in SE7. A collective effort more powerful, more meaningful and potential producing a greater reward than any footballing win could achieve.
A collective effort which not only featured supporters of the Addicks united in their unanimous desire to rid their club of a poisonous regime, but fans from opposition club Brighton and Hove Albion as passionately demanding that Roland Duchatelet end his reign of wilful destruction.
It’s not just those disillusioned and disconnected Charlton supporters, apathetic towards their relegation but angry over how this regime has managed to inflict it, who can see the damage Duchatelet has done. The entire football community dismayed and disgusted with the manner in which the Belgian has treated this once model club.
“We’re Brighton and Hove Albion, we want Roland out,” the chant as Blue and White joined Red, Black and White on a march the featured 5,000 supporters, nearly as many placards, and one giant balloon which featured the unpleasant face of Charlton’s owner. As close as he’s got to appearing in SE7 on a matchday since 2014.
The away end joining in with the deafening chant of “we want Roland out” as beach balls, balloons and toilet roll immediately delayed a meaningless game for the already relegated Addicks. The scene incredible. The passion and connection, which Duchatelet has sought to destroy, inspiring thoughts of the better days that lie ahead once this regime has been removed.
Katrien Meire, in the week that her relegation statement was mocked and the squad spoke of their dismay with her actions, may have smirked in the Directors’ Box, but she would have been trembling inside at the sight of this powerful and visual display of displeasure.
A reminder that this game was merely a platform to protest for those with a Charlton connection as, once it had resumed, dire defending allowed Sam Baldock to convert from close range. Celebrations beginning after those inside the ground realised a loud whistle had not come from the referee, but within the stands.
The goal applauded by the home supporters, the Brighton striker returning the gesture, and the Brighton supporters finding another opportunity to sing against Duchatelet. Even the Seagulls, many speaking of nerves pre-match as they battled for promotion, were aware what the most important part of this day was.
An equaliser may have been scored by Jose Riga’s side shortly after a pitch-invading object interrupted second half was allowed to resume, with Jordan Cousins crossing for Johann Berg Gudmundsson to tap in with ease, but it mattered little. Horrendously undeserved, given how poor Charlton were, and not able to prevent an immediate chant against Duchatelet.
Nor was it able to give the Addicks any momentum on the pitch. The only fight, desire and effort in the stands as Jiri Skalak rounded off a slick Brighton move with a stunning finish just four minutes later. The slender lead the least the Seagulls deserved; a reward for their support of our protests, and a reward for their performance.
And though their lead was not doubled until the 90th minute, by which time understandable anger had resulted in a movement towards the Directors’ Box and a single red smoke bomb exploding on the pitch, the gap in class and quality between the two sides could not be more obvious. Tomer Hemed converting calmly from the spot after Rod Fanni had hauled down substitute Anthony Knockeart.
But there was no gap between the two sets of supporters. The unity again obvious as The Valley emptied, with helping to oust Duchatelet still high on the priorities of those in the away end despite the joy of their vital victory, and many in Blue and White relocating to behind the West Stand. Their delight put to one side, to support a set of supporters who had offered them an equal amount of assistance as they fought for a home.
This might have been another bleak and gutless effort from Charlton, reflecting the state that the club has been left in by Duchatelet, but it was a proud effort from those who support this club, and those who feel a sense of injustice that they must suffer this pain.
A victory for football supporters. A victory for Charlton supporters. A defeat for those who think they are merely weird customers, and their club can be treated as a toy.
That was, in truth, the only victory that could be achieved from a Charlton perspective. The eyes normally diverted towards phones come 2pm, with no interest in which side Jose Riga had selected to represent the League One Addicks, were fully focused on the scene outside the Liberal Club.
While it was being revealed that Morgan Fox, Alou Diarra, Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Callum Harriott had returned to the side, in favour of Harry Lennon, Johnnie Jackson, Yun Suk-Young and Simon Makienok, the anti-Roland chants amidst a sea of black and white had begun. The march towards The Valley preparing to get underway.
The numbers large, the Brighton presence powerful, and the numerous banners increasing the intensity. All overseen by a black and white Duchatelet balloon, that followed the group as it headed towards the ground. Emphatic.
In many circumstances, this would have been enough to make the desired point. But this well attended and incredibly impressive march was, as promised, just the beginning of a day of protest. A day of protest required to pressure and embarrass an ignorant regime that have crippled a club into selling.
Thousands of black and white balloons floating upwards from the stands as the two teams took the pitch. Black and white beach balls, and an unrelenting shared chorus from both sets of supporters against Charlton’s ownership, appearing as an attempt was made to get the game underway. The best part of seven minutes required for the protest to be quelled to the point that play could resume.
Incredible. Emotional. Proud. The Addicks reaffirming their disgust with the way their club has been treated, and repeating their desire for change. A fight they simply won’t lose.
If only Duchatelet, Meire and Richard Murray could crumble as quickly as Charlton’s defence. For just one minute after Nick Pope’s goal area had been cleared of spherical objects, another found its way into his goal.
Skalak’s free-kick ultimately knocked across goal by Connor Goldson, where an unmarked Baldock was able to convert into what was effectively an empty net. Those in red, not for the first time, offering little structure or resistance in their efforts to defend a set-piece situation.
And not for the first time this season, an opposition goal was well-received by home supporters. But that Baldock and Charlton supporters shared applause sent a greater message than the appreciation Yann Kermorgant received after scoring against his former club. A greater mutual respect and understanding between another club and its players than there is between the regime and those that follow the Addicks.
Regardless, an immediate response was required from those representing Charlton to prevent this day being an embarrassing one for them too. Jorge Teixeira headed a Gudmundsson delivery wide, and Morgan Fox failed to make solid contact when a chance fell his way from a corner, but this was no spirited response.
The Addicks without composure, quality or creativity. Too long taken on the ball, before it was ultimately gifted to the opposition. Dale Stephens, whose name was sung by the home support, and Berman Kayal dominant in midfield. Those in wide positions running into dead ends, and unable to supply.
As anti-Duchatelet songs continued, there could be no excuse for such a weak performance. They had won in similar conditions, but were now being overwhelmed by the Albion. Goldson headed wide, while the excellent Anthony Knockeart glided forward and forced a save out of Pope.
But though it was Brighton who remained in control, with their football slick but their end product a little disappointing, it was the disorganised Addicks who went closest prior to half-time. Gudmundsson’s striking into the side netting having been played through by Harriott, and offering a reminder that maybe the hosts weren’t completely out of this game.
Not enough, however, to prevent the effort in the opening 45 being met with boos. This the sort of performance you might expect from a side already relegated, but not one that was in any way acceptable.
And with Meire not announcing her resignation during the interval, nor was there reason to postpone further protests at the start of the second half. Brighton goalkeeper David Stockdale, with little else to do, made himself a hero to the Covered End as he pretended to use the toilet roll thrown onto the pitch in a more traditional manner.
But few were laughing once the game had resumed, as the Seagulls almost immediately created a glorious opening once again. The lively Skalak sending Baldock through, but the forward only able to flash his strike across the face of goal.
No expectation that that would be a costly miss. Merely foreshadowing the bombardment that Charlton’s goal would surely face throughout the half. Little chance of this beleaguered group of Addicks drawing level.
A minute later, however, and Baldock had been punished. Or, more accurately, Brighton had been punished for a momentary lapse in defence. Ademola Lookman’s tenacity ultimately allowing Cousins to break down the left, his driven cross missed by an unmarked Igor Vetokele, and an equally unchallenged Gudmundsson able to convert the simplest of goals at the back post.
The response, as you might expect, rather muted. A few high fives on the pitch, a brief cheer in the stands, and more definite cry of “we want Roland out” following before play had even resumed. The objectives of this afternoon, as if they weren’t already, were clear.
Regardless, there was still a desperate need for the Seagulls to record victory, and it was there rather lively response to falling behind that prevented Charlton from gaining any sort of control of the game. Pope continuing his recent good form as he denied the frustrated Baldock, turning inside and waltzing past Fanni, from close range.
But such resilience, if only from Pope, was not to last. Absolutely nothing the goalkeeper could do as the Seagulls broke, Kayal split Charlton’s defence with an excellent pass, and Skalak finished in stunning style. The away end bouncing, the Addicks flat once again.
At least the home supporters could once again applaud the efforts of the travelling fans. A chant against Duchatelet following soon after their celebrations had died down. That more promising than Charlton’s next attempt at goal, as Cousins seemingly aimed for the top tier of the Covered End with a first time drive from outside the box.
Such wayward efforts meant that, despite a lively Gudmundsson giving the Addicks something on the break, Brighton’s advantage always felt larger than one. It might have been actually been larger had Pope not got his body in the way of a Hemed shot following a corner.
But while it remained just one, regardless of the sluggishness and acceptance that Charlton were playing with, there was always a chance the Addicks could frustrate the Seagulls. Ten minutes to play as Fox’s cross was meant by Gudmundsson, but the Iceland international couldn’t quite keep his volley down.
Nor could Charlton supporters keep their emotions in check. Not an official protest, and not one that would be endorsed by CARD, but you could certainly understand why some felt the need to move towards the Directors’ Box. The frustration and anger that this regime has wilfully created far too create to control.
It certainly wasn’t going to be calmed by a rare shot on target as stoppage-time approach. Harriott’s effort from the edge of the box tame, and simple for Stockdale to claim.
Keeping out Knockeart’s strike at the other end, however, was anything but simple. An outstanding diving stop from Pope, but it was merely delaying the inevitable.
For the excellent Knockeart broke into the penalty area five minutes into the eight added, and was brought down by Fanni’s loose leg. As clear a penalty as you’re likely to see, and as cool a finish as you’re likely to see. Hemed rolling the ball into the bottom corner, with Pope diving the other way, and sparking wild scenes of relief-filled celebration in the away end.
And yet, those of a Brighton persuasion, as they had been throughout the day, remained committed to Charlton’s cause. Their own forgotten for a moment, as one final anti-Roland chant from the Seagulls was met with applause from the emptying home ends.
While the Addicks slumped off defeated, at least supporters could take pride in their own efforts, and feel proud of those in the away end.
For the result for already relegated Addicks really didn’t matter. The performance, pathetic and weak though it was, is hardly worth getting worked up over when there have been so many similar in more meaningful games this season. That the attitude of those in red was a little questionable was probably to be expected.
What mattered was that so many, in such loud voice, joined the protest march. Displaying their placards, and creating a powerful scene against the regime.
That the game was interrupted on so many occasions, further embarrassing this horrendous ownership and leaving them weaker than ever.
That the anti-Duchatelet message was clear throughout the game, regardless of events on the pitch.
That the number at the post-match demonstration were large, reinforcing just how many supporters feel disenchanted.
That the support of the Brighton fans, and their players, made our protests stronger than ever.
That we showed we would be fighting until the end to get our club back, and that we will do it.
A proud day to be an Addick. We’re winning this battle.
Preview: The Football Game Providing a Platform for a Protest (Charlton Athletic V Brighton and Hove Albion)
Out of respect to those that have supported them throughout this torrid season, those representing Charlton Athletic must perform to the best of their abilities on Saturday when Brighton and Hove Albion visit The Valley. As if there is still something to fight for, and a long accepted relegation has not finally been confirmed.
So too must they perform out of respect to themselves, to protect their own professional pride. Whether they want to remain in SE7 next season and therefore prove their worth to supporters, or are looking to impress potential suitors, they must recover their own reputations following the confirmation of the drop to League One.
And out of respect to those battling for an automatic promotion place with this weekend’s opponents, Jose Riga’s side must provide some sort of opposition to the Seagulls. That victory is likely to be claimed by the visitors doesn’t make rolling over without genuine interest or the desired fight acceptable.
But to suggest Charlton supporters have even a reasonable amount of interest in the outcome of events on the pitch would be incorrect. That their fate has been secured turning full attentions towards ousting the regime that has not only inflicted this relegation, but a stripped fans of their once incredibly strong bond with their club. The remaining games of this horrendous campaign simply platforms to protest.
Protests which Brighton supporters, despite their attentions being firmly focused on their side’s bid to achieve promotion to the Premier League for the first time, are being selfless enough to support. The damage that Roland Duchatelet’s regime has done to this club understood beyond those that chant from the Covered End.
The sort of football fan mentality that Katrien Meire would unquestionably find weird. Weirder than going on holiday to Dubai while the club you operate heads for relegation as a consequence of your own mismanagement.
If not necessarily weird, or even unique, Meire and her companions are certainly going to find this weekend quite uncomfortable.
LAST MEETING – BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION 3-2 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
Charlton capitulated in emphatic fashion at the Amex in December, as Brighton overturned an early two goal deficit to record victory in dramatic fashion in the game’s final ten minutes.
The Addicks, unexpectedly against the unbeaten Seagulls, found themselves in front with just two minutes played. Karel Fraeye’s decision to field an attacking line-up seemingly rewarded as a pacey break saw Reza Ghoochannejhad feed Ademola Lookman, and the teenager scored his first senior goal in some style.
Lookman, leading another Charlton break down the left, was involved in the second goal that followed three minutes later. Johann Berg Gudmundsson picking up the pieces after his teammate was dispossessed, before crossing for Ghoochannejhad to convert. The Addicks unstoppable.
But Brighton, despite the scoreline, soon gained control of the overall play. Charlton’s goal living a charmed life, until Manchester United loanee James Wilson was allowed to walk through several red shirts and slot beyond Stephen Henderson five minutes into the second half.
And the momentum completely shifted towards the hosts with a little over half an hour to play, as Patrick Bauer clumsily hauled down Bobby Zamora when the experienced forward had a clear run on goal. The German defender given a straight red card.
Fraeye’s side rattled, and lost points accepted by those in the away end as the Addicks defended Brighton’s relentless attacks in uncomfortable and desperate fashion.
But that there was an acceptance the superior Seagulls would gain something from the game took nothing away from the frustrating manner in which they achieved it. The equaliser coming seven minutes from time, as Zamora bundled in after a goal mouth scramble, before Brighton completed their turnaround two minutes later, with Henderson unable to keep out Tomer Hemed’s header.
A 4-0 defeat without early optimism would probably have been easier to accept.
How to do you keep up the pressure on your rivals, who appeared to be in the sort of form that made chasing them down almost impossible, for an automatic promotion spot? By scoring nine goals without reply in the space of five days, of course.
A 5-0 win over Fulham and a four goal victory against QPR continuing a run of form that has seen Chris Hughton’s side win six of their last seven, and 12 of their previous 17. The mini-blip suffered between December and January, with no win in seven following the win over Charlton, now well behind Brighton.
And though Burnley’s last minute equaliser against Middlesbrough in midweek kept the Seagulls out of the top two on goal difference, promotion is now in their own hands.
Three victories, including on against top-of-the-table Middlesbrough on the final day of the season, and they are definitely a Premier League club. With the momentum they have, you wouldn’t put it past them.
Efforts, if not necessarily results, had improved as relegation drew closer, but the pathetic manner in which the Addicks performed in their goalless draw with Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday night made any previous fight and energy meaningless.
Without any sort of intent or quality, it appeared as if those wearing were resigned to relegation, and had no desire to continue to fight. The division’s basement team, who were already aware of their fate going into the game, seemingly possessing a greater desire to win a game that was, realistically, meaningless for them.
Charlton’s return to League One confirmed in gutless fashion.
It leaves Riga’s side with three games in which to regain an ounce pride. Not even three outstanding performances likely to be enough to do that, given the weak manner they have performed throughout much of this season.
Such is the strength in depth in Brighton’s squad, particularly in forward positions, Hughton has understandably rotated at times this season. Unchanged XIs, as was the case when the side that lined up against QPR on Tuesday replicated the one that started against Fulham five days previously, a rarity.
But Hughton could be forced to make a change to the side that has scored nine goals in two games, with James Wilson suffering a groin injury in midweek. Sam Baldock replaced against the R’s, and the one-time Charlton target could well start at The Valley on Saturday, particularly with Bobby Zamora struggling with a hip problem.
Elsewhere, such is the manner in which the Seagulls are playing at the moment, further changes are unlikely, which guarantees a start for former Addick Dale Stephens in midfield. The playmaker, never properly replaced by Charltoon, has been central to Brighton’s success this season after spending much of the previous campaign on the sidelines with a serious injury.
With relegation confirmed, there seems little point in Charlton playing temporary signings ahead of those who are likely to be here next season, which makes predicting the sort of side Riga will choose to field difficult.
That particularly the case with five unexpected changes, and a change in formation, made to the XI in midweek. The Addicks likely to revert back to a four in defence formation, with their performance poor at the Macron, which would hopefully see Chris Solly and Morgan Fox return to the side ahead of Marco Motta and Yun Suk-Young.
That would also mean one of the three centre-backs that started in midweek missing out, with Harry Lennon most likely. The academy graduate may keep his place is Riga opts to dispose of loanee Rod Fanni.
Alou Diarra, having seemingly been unable to start on Tuesday, may also return to the starting XI, but dropping Johnnie Jackson in these circumstances would be counterproductive. A tough call for the head coach in this meaningless match for the Addicks.
A return for Gudmundsson, you fear, is unlikely, but Callum Harriott, bizarrely dropped at Bolton, should return to the side if Riga reverts to a more traditional formation.
Elsewhere, having made an appearance in a matchday squad for the first time since September on Tuesday, Ahmed Kashi may complete his recovery from an Achilles injury by getting some minutes under his belt for the Addicks.
Patrick Bauer is also closing in on a return, but Yaya Sanogo remains absent.
KEY BATTLE – THE ONE AGAINST DUCHATELET
Support the team, not the regime was a valuable slogan while the Addicks maintained even an outside chance of relegation. Inspiring a confidence-drained side to victory as important as demanding that Duchatelet sold the club.
And quite often, supporters would do both elements of their job superbly. Protests causing huge embarrassment to the regime, with the energy then transferred to encouraging the team onto victory. Wins over Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesbrough and Birmingham City – the three home victories following the early season positivity – following emphatic protests.
But now, with relegation confirmed, supporting the team is a cause that cannot be rewarded. Working to oust the regime, and therefore working towards a safer and more promising future for this crippled football club, an effort that can be rewarded.
CARD have promised the kitchen sink, and the amount of fans in support suggests unity. This will be another afternoon that undermines this flawed regime, which must depart.
We received the punishment we didn’t deserve on Tuesday, having been punished by this regime throughout the season. It’s time to provide the punishment their insults and incompetence deserves.
Duchatelet, Meire and Murray to feel rather uncomfortable while some easily forgettable football takes place. Charlton Athletic 0-3 Brighton and Hove Albion
There was an acceptance that this would be the night that Charlton Athletic’s relegation to League One was confirmed. An acceptance that this club would be playing its football in the third tier next season existing long before the trip to already relegated Bolton Wanderers was made. An acceptance that should have made the inevitable outcome relatively simple to deal with.
And yet, as the full-time whistle blew at a Macron Stadium overwhelmed by empty seats and apathy, it was impossible not to let the confirmation of Charlton’s drop, the consequence of a goalless draw with the basement cub, hurt you. This, particularly for those 253 supporters in the away end, the final insult in a campaign that has barely featured a week without the relationship between club and fans being damaged.
The performance, in a game less exciting and engaging than an opening paragraph of a Roland Duchatelet statement, pathetic. The mentality belonging to a side who had no interest in fighting to secure a stay of execution, the tactical approach not fitting of a side who knew nothing less than victory against perceived poor opposition would do, the quality so low that the Trotters, who contributed equally to this bleak affair, were the less inept side by a comfortable margin. A fitting way for the Addicks, who have so often embarrassed, to lose their Championship status.
But it was not the performance, with an air of predictability about it, which was the main contribution to the anger.
Nor the cowardly nature with which those wearing red responded to the game’s final whistle, and the confirmation that their pathetic efforts both on the night and throughout the season had not been nearly enough.
Emotion minimal among many, with the majority opting to head straight down the tunnel and ignore their supporters. Not just the ownership who lack respect for both the club and its fans. A club that has lost its ethos, spirit and meaning as a consequence of one man’s overall actions.
The evidently broken Johnnie Jackson, accompanied by Alou Diarra, Ademola Lookman, Harry Lennon and Nick Pope the only players to show the required amount of recognition to a set of supporters who, once again, deserved so much more.
Jose Riga, confident enough to take plaudits for Charlton’s survival effort in 2013/14, simply hid. An action the man who continues to re-employ him, out of laziness and unwillingness to change a flawed strategy, would have been proud of.
Instead, it was the unavoidable reminder of how nights like this one, that perfectly display the destruction of a club you once felt a great connection to, have been caused primarily by the ignorance, selfishness and disgraceful actions of Duchatelet’s regime. One man, and his equally horrendous sidekicks, crippling a proud club.
The sense of injustice that they have been allowed to inflict this upon us, while continuing to maintain an arrogant defiance and even shifting blame towards supporters, is strong. Katrien Meire’s pathetic statement in the aftermath, which should have been announcing her resignation, making matters worse.
The heartbreak that the brilliance of Chris Powell’s Charlton, both in creating a special bond and a successful side, has now been completely destroyed tough to take.
The sheer outrage that a football club, which holds a special place in the life of its supporters, has been treated as a rich man’s toy, and consequently mistreated, unbearable. This relegation a result of an unnecessary, flawed and insulting experiment.
This anger we feel is our punishment. Our undeserved punishment, for the unforgivable actions of Duchatelet’s regime.
It is they that should be hurting tonight, but they would simply find this pain weird. This pain is real.
A painful night seemingly assured, regardless of the quality of the opposition, with the news of Riga’s rather bizarre team selection. So bizarre that the formation was hard to digest even once the Addicks had taken to the Macron Stadium pitch.
An attacking player sacrificed from the side that suffered defeat to Derby on Saturday, with Johann Berg Gudmundsson absent and Harry Lennon becoming a third centre back, while it was Marco Motta and Yun Suk-Young in the wing-back positions instead of Chris Solly and Morgan Fox.
Nor was there a place in the XI for the recently impressive Callum Harriott, with Riga opting to provide Igor Vetokele with a definite partner in Simon Makienok, and Alou Diarra, whose loss was at least softened by captain Johnnie Jackson being the man to replace him.
The appearance of Ahmed Kashi on the bench, after the best part of seven months out with an Achilles injury, also a welcome sweetener. Though not sweet enough to make Charlton’s unconvincing start to the game any more bearable.
Pace and urgency lacking as much as an atmosphere in a silent Macron, leaving the Addicks without any sort of attacking threat. Maintaining possession seemingly an impossible task, as wayward passes constantly gifted Bolton the ball. The backline, with the hosts making a relatively bright start to the game, looking less than composed.
At least Riga’s side were just about able to deal with a succession of Bolton corners, though in uncomfortable fashion. Zach Clough ultimately firing tamely wide following the bombardment on Charlton’s box.
But while Bolton, with Mark Davies controlling the midfield, Emile Heskey’s annoying if a little ineffective hold-up play, and Clough’s direct running, were giving the Addicks something to think about, the favour was not being returned. Jordan Cousins struggling, Makienok and Vetokele not on the same wavelength, and rare promising positions ruined by over or under-hit deliveries. Cries of frustration, and the occasional mention of a trip to Shrewsbury, interrupting the Macron’s silence.
So it was a pleasant surprise to see Vetokele, at full pace, close down a Ben Amos kick and divert the ball into the path of Makienok with the goalkeeper out of position. Less surprising to see the Dane stutter in possession, and be immediately robbed.
Pleasant, too, to see a Charlton delivery from wide actually pick out a red shirt inside Bolton’s box with 25 minutes played. Motta’s delivery perfect for Makienok, but his header a little tame and directed straight into Amos’ hands. That he could have done better with the opportunity doing little to taint the sarcastic cheers of excitement in an away end rightfully disgruntled with what they were being forced to witness.
Unrest that would only continue, with Makienok’s header failing to move the Addicks in the right direction.
Still without the sort of urgency and energy that has been seen in recent weeks, and was desperately required on a night like this, as Derik Osede’s overhit volleyed ball into the box wasn’t too far away from lobbing Nick Pope in Charlton’s goal. The goalkeeper much more assured as he easily claimed Niall Maher’s drive from the edge of the box.
To his credit, Ademola Lookman, having claimed the Championship Apprentice of the Season at the Football League Awards ceremony on Sunday night, was at least attempting to spark his side, and this increasingly unbearably dull contest, into life. A succession of wayward shots, the second a touch closer than his horribly skewed first, not threatening enough to be the antidote Charlton supporters were looking for, however.
Though as half-time approached, it appeared as if frustration over off-target strikes and an unpleasant performance in general was about to become pure rage. A sea of red shirts blocking Darren Pratley on the edge of Charlton’s box, but the ball deflecting through kindly to Clough, who finished coolly beyond Pope. The linesman’s flag, raised relatively late, meaning the Addicks were able to escape without their poor efforts in the opening 45 being suitably punished.
A lucky escape, it’s fair to say. Not in regards to the disallowed goal, with Clough quite obviously, but a side more competent that Bolton would have certainly taken advantage of this weak Charlton performance. Not difficult to see why “you’re/we’re going down with the Bolton” had been sung in unison at times during the half.
Much better, both in terms of defensive composure and attacking intent, needed if relegation was to be on hold for a few days. At the very least, the worst defence in the Championship couldn’t be allowed to continue to go untested.
The start to the second half, therefore, was the absolute minimum demanded. Cousins in a decent position, only to see his shot blocked, and the defiant David Wheater preventing Vetokele from turning Motta’s cross home.
Again, though, the creation of some half-openings couldn’t inspire the Addicks. In fact, were it not for the brilliance of Pope, they would have found themselves a goal down with 53 minutes played. Wheater’s header from a corner excellent, but the goalkeeper reacting to tip the top-corner bound effort over the bar.
And from the resulting corner, the Trotters threatened again. Pope denying Heskey, Wheater’s follow-up effort blocked behind, and Charlton eventually provided with a chance to breathe as Osede headed over.
And a chance to laugh as Oscar Threlkeld’s ambitious effort from distance had the corner flag worried, before it ultimately trickled out for a throw. It probably would have been funnier if it didn’t some up Bolton’s lack of ability, the lack of quality in this contest, and the sheer absence of life in the game.
That Charlton and Riga had no answer to it, no way of injecting some energy and intent into their own performance, was both infuriating and perplexing in the circumstances. Lookman’s tame prod from the edge of the box, collected with a dive from Amos, at least increasing the shots-on-target count, but not the sense relegation wasn’t going to be confirmed by full-time.
The metronomic Jackson replaced, not before showing his appreciation to the away end, by Diarra, and the pace of Harriott introduced for the ineffectual Suk-Young, but not an ounce of difference made. Diarra’s first meaningful involvement to block a more accurate Threlkeld effort, as an equally dire Bolton continued to look the most likely regardless.
If it were not for the Frenchman throwing his body in front of a goal bound strike, however, you could begin to feel the Addicks had lost hope and motivation. They might have even given up when Vetokele was replaced by Zakarya Bergdich. The half-hearted Moroccan certainly not the man to inject some energy and fight into this lost-looking side.
And they certainly would have given up had Pratley been able to divert Threlkeld’s excellent low cross towards goal with ten minutes to play. The experienced midfielder, sliding to make contact and skewing the ball wide, really should have scored.
But that it was Bolton, the already relegated side whose season is effectively over, that were pushing forward with greater intent than a Charlton side who had promised they would continue to fight to avoid relegation while it remained a possibility, was simply insulting. Substitute Kaiyne Woolery firing against the side netting from a tight angle.
In fact, the final two shots the Addicks would take while they still had a chance of preserving their Championship status for a few more days felt very fitting of their efforts. Rod Fanni pretending his strike was close, when it had in fact trickled comfortably wide, before Cousins cleared the away fans in the lower tier behind the goal with a horrendously wild drive. Pathetic efforts, apparently, the best those beleaguered supporters could hope for.
So much so that the full-time whistle, irrespective of the fact it confirmed their side’s relegation, was probably a relief for some. This game unbearably grim, and the performance of the Addicks an absolute disgrace. To show no intent and no fight in a do-or-die situation unforgivable.
As unforgivable as those players, and their head coach, that decided there was no need to approach the visiting supporters to show their appreciation. On this night, more than most others, it was the very least they deserved.
They certainly didn’t deserve this. A relegation, instigated by the work of one man’s ignorance, confirmed by the half-heartedness that Duchatelet’s actions have instilled into the club and this side. Weak. Pathetic. Embarrassing.
The fight to stay in this division brought to an end in a gutless fashion. Relegated by a side already suffering the same fate, and who looked more likely to break the deadlock. Seemingly possessing more intent to do so, too.
But it feels almost meaningless to bemoan the nature of the performance when this drop to League One has not been caused by one pathetic display at Bolton. In fact, performances in general only contribute towards a percentage of the reason we will begin next season in the third tier.
For the anger felt now, while in part towards those that have unperformed throughout the campaign, is mainly towards the ineptitude of Duchatelet, Meire, Richard Murray and anyone else who has wilfully assisted in the crippling of this club.
And while the fight to avoid relegation has been lost, and therefore the fight to avoid this regime inflicting extreme damage on the club, the fight to rid this disease from The Valley cannot be.
This pain, and sense of injustice that they have been allowed to do this, is unbearable. But it can be put to good use. To provide more energy and emotion behind the protests that will follow in the battle to force change.
Charlton Athletic, its supporters, and those players that do genuinely care cannot continue to be crippled like this. Change is a must.
Unless the Football League decide to issue awards for spectacular levels of incompetence, then it’s hard to suggest that Charlton Athletic’s season has been deserving of honours. Individual or otherwise.
So that two trophies were won by the Addicks at the annual Football League Awards night on Sunday makes the successes of those involved even greater. Achieving in testing circumstances; something the club as a whole has struggled to do during this campaign.
The Charlton Athletic Community Trust might well be an organisation that is run outside of the club’s control, but that doesn’t prevent it from being an antidote to the disconnection that Roland Duchatelet’s regime has inflicted upon supporters.
You cannot help but feel a sense of pride in what their projects have been able to achieve, epitomised by the absolute joy in the faces of the Charlton Upbeats on Saturday. Creating an environment in which people who have been dealt a tough hand in life are able to experience unrestricted happiness.
Efforts like that winning a deserved Community Club of the Year for a club that have spent an extended period insulting its community of supporters. The Trust a reminder that, beyond the damage Duchatelet has done, the true identity of Charlton Athletic lives on. Something that can become part of the heartbeat of the club when there is change at the top, and its heart can once again beat proudly.
In fact, without a team and overall football club structure that they can feel a proper sense of attachment to, solace this season has had to come from alternative sources. The unity and strength of the protests, just about every adored former Charlton player sticking a metaphorical finger up at the ownership prior to their return to SE7, and Simon Makienok’s dog.
But so too has there been brief moments where events on the pitch have provided a degree of solace, or at least a distraction from the overall disillusion and despair. Charlton’s other award on the night offering a chance to reflect one regular provider of more positive feelings during this disastrous campaign.
For it has been a pleasure to watch Ademola Lookman, crowned Championship Apprentice of the Season, represent the Addicks. Recognition for the 18-year-old’s success while crisis engulfs all around him well deserved.
Lookman has never gone without praise. His dramatic rise, from park footballer to Charlton stand out, attention from Premier League clubs, and the sheer quality of his performances for someone so inexperienced have made sure of that.
Such is the extent of his impact, in fact, that there has been a perception of him as something of a saviour. An expectation that he could have made a real difference in the games where he did not feature.
Jose Riga’s initial reluctance to use him more frequently, providing particular frustration during the goalless draw with MK Dons, arguably cost the Addicks a handful of points. Not enough to salvage this season, but enough to show just how talented he is.
But it’s sometimes been hard to pay him the full extent of the attention his efforts have warranted. The focus, understandably, on a flawed club and a failing team as it heads towards relegation. Crisis often overruling his class, which might well have received greater focus during a more successful time.
The award, therefore, not only want his achievements warrant, but allows for consideration towards just how much solace he has been able to provide, regardless of whether supporters have been left in a state of complete despair come the conclusion of the games he has impressed in. .
His debut came in one of Charlton’s worst performances of the season – the Karel Fraeye led defeat to MK Dons at Stadium:MK. But even then, he was able to make the evening less painful. His ability on the ball obvious straightaway, regardless of the complete lack of composure his teammates possessed.
Those minutes at Stadium:MK are probably reflective of his performances in general. Quality, skilful and not tainted by fear regardless of what is occurring around him.
Take Saturday’s defeat to Derby, for example. A sluggish start to the first half from the Addicks interrupted by a roulette turn from the 18-year-old. The ball immediately lost thereafter, though.
It might have been more sensible to put that trick away for the day, so as not to lose possession in a similar away again. Instead, it was produced again towards the end of the half, and in near perfect fashion. His trick starting a flowing move that concluded with Callum Harriott blasting just wide.
Real confidence, real class, and real enjoyment. The Covered End singing his name with genuine appreciation, loving his style of play and feeling a sense of pride in the talent of this homegrown player, after both the unsuccessful and successful effort.
The win over Sheffield Wednesday rounded off by his brief appearance, and a superb run that almost concluded with a goal. A composed finish adding a fourth in the victory over against Rotherham. The teen’s directness, pace and genuine threat vital in the recent upturn in performances. Just a real joy to watch and support such an impressive young player.
He will, of course, ultimately be sold. Duchatelet’s ambitions and the immanent relegation to League One making sure of that. For his sake, with questionable decision making in the final third showing he still – as you would expect from an 18-year-old – has something to learn, you hope a move to a Premier League club is followed by a loan move to another Championship club.
But the award is not just recognition for Lookman, but recognition for the ability of Charlton’s academy to churn out young talent.
More players of a standard not too dissimilar to Lookman will come through the outstanding youth system. The structure in place long before Duchatelet’s arrival, and will be allowed to properly thrive once he departs and his philosophy stops tainting it.
Player development won’t be rushed, and then stalled, by young players being pushed into the first team too early in order to fill gaps. The regression of Karlan Ahearne-Grant and Morgan Fox, harmed by being thrown in at the deep end and not having the protection they required, will hopefully be stories that won’t continue to repeat themselves. The most talented will be developed in order to thrive at Charlton, and not simply be seen as an easy way to produce profit.
As such, the club’s success at the Football League Awards provides a sense reassurance, so desperately craved during this time were all hope appears lost.
Something there for an interested party, whether that be Peter Varney’s or Paul Elliott’s group, to take notice of, with a club, and not just a Trust, that can have an impact on the community and a connection with its supporters to feel proud of, and a youth system that lends itself to possible success.
Something there, relatively undamaged by Duchatelet, which can be used as a base from which this club can rebuild from once change occurs.
Preview: The Most Highly Anticipated Championship Game of the Season (Bolton Wanderers V Charlton Athletic)
Would it not be a more productive use of an evening if the Macron Stadium played host to a rather large group counselling session on Tuesday?
For supporters of Bolton Wanderers and Charlton Athletic have suffered more than any others in the Football League this season. One avoiding administration by the skin of their teeth, the other fighting to oust a regime that continues to damage their club. Relegation already confirmed for one, with the other set to have their fate sealed on Tuesday night.
Neither deserve to endure the depressing prospect of a game between the two sides. A game between two sides who realistically only have pride to play for, but have embarrassed themselves to such an extent that regaining any is practically impossible. Supporters having to endure too much for any sense of positivity to be taken regardless of the outcome of the game.
It will instead offer a reminder of the gruesome events of this campaign, and beyond, for the Trotters and the Addicks. Reflecting upon the crisis states and failure of both clubs unavoidable, increasing the sense of injustice that two previously well-respected clubs don’t deserve to have suffered to the extent they have, and doing nothing to ease concerns about what lies ahead.
Let’s hug this one out, yeah?
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 2-2 BOLTON WANDERERS
The fear that Charlton’s season would be ending in relegation increased emphatically as a gutless capitulation allowed bottom-of-the-table Bolton to fight back from two goals down at The Valley in December.
It appeared as if the Addicks would be recording the win they so desperately needed against their relegation rivals when they found themselves two in front with 26 minutes played. Ademola Lookman tapping in from close range to double the advantage he’d given to his side in the first minute of the game.
But the visitors were able to half the deficit just six minutes later. Liam Feeney’s delivery beating Harry Lennon and Alou Diarra in the centre, allowing Emile Heskey to steal in unchallenged at the far post and convert. The former England international scoring his first goal in just shy of a year.
Unable to compose themselves after conceding, Karel Fraeye’s side conceded an equaliser before the break. The ball popping out to Josh Vela on the edge of the box, and the youngster able to drive through a sea of red shirts and into the bottom corner via Stephen Henderson’s fingertips.
And though it was the Addicks who arguably created the best opening of the second half, with Lennon’s header bouncing up against the bar and away, Charlton remained organised and without genuine fight.
The draw, a result that Bolton’s fight in their own incredibly testing circumstances deserved, so demoralising and embarrassing that it felt like a fatal defeat.
With their financial and football struggles, Bolton’s relegation has been effectively unavoidable for just as long as Charlton’s has. That confirmation arrived following the defeat to Derby, a game without victory, on 9 April simply reaffirming the inevitable. The pain suffered throughout the season, and not simply on the day the drop became certain.
But the manner in which Bolton, under the stewardship of caretaker boss Jimmy Phillips following the dismissal of Neil Lennon, have performed in recent weeks isn’t exactly doing much to ease the pain.
With no win in 12 and six consecutive defeats, the Trotters, restricted by their limited resources and weak squad, have gone down without too much of a fight.
And even when they’ve managed to show a commendable degree of effort, there has been no reward. The lead taken against Middlesbrough on Saturday, before Jordan Rhodes’ stoppage-time winner meant the outcome was yet another glum day in this grim season.
Even more so than Addicks, supporters of Bolton can’t wait for this season to end.
And that’s that. The defeat to Derby on Saturday leaving the Addicks effectively 12 points from safety with four games to go. A highly unnecessary, and completely self-inflicted, relegation all but confirmed.
The results that have killed off any hope of Charlton avoiding a return to League One not necessarily self-inflicted. Though the response to the Rams taking the lead was poor, with a half-hearted effort to equalise, the period prior to conceding, which included a controversially disallowed goal, reflected the recent improvement in performances. The loss at QPR cruel, the draw with Ipswich frustrating.
But this slight upturn in the quality of displays not nearly enough to make the overall, relegation worthy efforts this season any less disgraceful. Not nearly enough to make the damage Roland Duchatelet has inflicted on the club any less serious.
And when relegation is confirmed at the Macron Stadium on Tuesday, it will be the reward that this regime deserves. Certainly not the one that the supporters of this club, continuing to mix diligent with passionate protests in the hope of protecting their club by removing the disease that engulfs it, deserves.
Bolton may use the fixture against Charlton to hand further opportunities to some of their young players, with caretaker boss Phillips challenging them to prove their future worth at the club.
Former Charlton players Lawrie Wilson and Dorian Dervite have failed to make the matchday squad in recent weeks, while Jay Spearing’s Bolton career is effectively over with a fee needing to be paid to Liverpool if he were to make another appearance, increasing the opportunities for academy graduates.
And with the almost relegated Addicks kinder opposition than Derby and Middlesbrough, who the Trotters have played in recent weeks, Phillips may test some of his younger players. Kaiyne Woolery, Tom Walker and Oscar Threlkeld could potentially be involved, along with the increasingly regular starter Niall Maher and talisman Zach Clough.
Elsewhere, Arsenal loanee Wellington Silva and former Sheffield Wednesday forward Gary Madine, absent in recent weeks with groin and hip injuries respectively, are likely to remain unavailable, while forward Max Clayton’s hamstring injury means he definitely won’t feature.
Charlton are likely to remain without Yaya Sanogo after the Arsenal loanee missed Saturday’s defeat to Derby with a hamstring injury.
That could cause an issue in attack for the Addicks should Igor Vetokele’s fitness struggles again prevent him from starting two games in four days. With a few more starts under his belt since the previous midweek fixture at Ipswich the Angolan might now be okay to play from the off, but Simon Makienok will come into the side if not.
Stephen Henderson is also likely to be absent from the matchday squad, having missed the weekend’s event in SE7 with another apparent injury.
KEY BATTLE – BEING BOTHERED IN A GAME THAT DOESN’T REALLY MATTER
Bolton will tell you they need to begin preparing for next season, and players need to prove their worth. Charlton will suggest that while their relegation is not mathematically confirmed, they must continue to attempt to avoid the drop. A professional footballer must be fully motivated and committed for every game, regardless of the circumstances.
But football doesn’t quite work like that. Professional footballers are not simply machines, unaffected by the context of a game. Motivation to perform in this encounter, with the Trotters already relegated and the Addicks set to join if not on Tuesday then very soon after, will need to be found from other sources.
Bolton have a losing record to end, have young players that will possess a desire to impress, and a need to reward the support of their supporters at the Macron. So too are they demoralised and deflated, and have their fair share of experienced Championship players who are unlikely to be at the club next season.
A problem for Charlton, too. Loan players, and those recruited by Duchatelet, who are unlikely to be here next season might well struggle to motivate themselves. Relegation being all but certain, and a certain amount of frustration in recent weeks, another demotivating factor.
But the Addicks have also showed plenty of effort in recent weeks, with homegrown talent and those recruited by this regime who have managed to develop some connection with the club and its supporters at the heart of it. Playing without full commitment not in the nature of Jordan Cousins and Alou Diarra, for example.
Neither of these sides can claim to possess a great deal of genuine quality, such are their positions in the league table, so it might well be mentality that splits the two.
We’ll probably sing some funny songs about being a bit rubbish at football together. Can’t wait. Bolton Wanderers 1-1 Charlton Athletic