Wednesday 28 April 2021


Charlton Athletic were denied what looked on paper like a routine home win against 'safe' Crewe Alexandra last night. A lex equalised with the last attack of the game in the 98th minute but the draw was no less than they deserved.

Once again we simply failed to really fire at The Valley. From the first whistle Crewe took the game to us. They carried the ball better, passed and moved better and had us hemmed in for long periods of the match. If they possessed better quality finishers it would have been over well before the end. In frustration, Nigel Adkins was forced into using all of his substitute options as he tried desperately to win the game.

Charlton, in fact, lead twice but that hid the facts that we really struggled to hold possession outside our half and chances were few and far between. The opening goal was another bullet header from the Blonde Comet, Jayden Stockley and coming early on against the run of play, you hoped it might turn our fortunes. Sadly it didn't and it was no surprise when Alex equalised.

With Chuks Aneke and Conor Washington on late in the second-half, we again managed an unlikely looking goal, this time a close Gilbey header which steered the ball past Jaaskelainen. Crewe's heads didn't drop though and they stuck to the task. In the 96th minute the again got men forward in numbers and Owen Dale struck his second of the night. 

It's still in our hands but realistically, we are going to need to need seven points from our last three games and that's looking more unlikely given the way we have played in the last two home games and the quality of the opposition. By contrast, rivals Portsmouth and Oxford have relatively easy looking games that I suspect they won't let slip.

It's a disappointing position to find ourselves in after the run that culminated with the 6-0 win at Plymouth but the table doesn't lie at the end of the season and we have suddenly lost that all important momentum. There may well be a twist or turn but we suddenly look to have a mountain to climb. We certainly can't survive another performance like last night or even Saturday's, where we were second-best in both.

I believe Accrington ended any realistic chance we may have held of automatic promotion back in January when they outplayed us at The Valley. We have been much better away from home, so will have to home we can put in another disciplined performance on the road and nick the lead. Portsmouth were two-down there last night but eventually left with a 3-3 draw. 

Saturday 24 April 2021

Charlton Athletic 0 v Peterborough United 1

There was a bit of an inevitability about today's game. Unbeaten in ten and back at the Valley after scoring six at Home Park, this looked like a banana skin and so it proved.

To be fair to Posh, they deserved the win and based on the chances created, if we had played them two months ago, the scoreline might well have been 0-4. They created the best chances in both halves and Szmodics might have had a hat-trick but for a couple of profligate misses and a couple of fine stops by Ben Amos.

They looked like they could get forward at will and created a hatful of chances in the first half, when we really struggled to create anything. Their high defensive line kept Stockley well away from their goal and they doubled-up on Millar and Jaiyesimi (Morgan when he came on). Clarke-Harris has 29 goals this season and he took his early goal very well, driving inside Amos' right-hand post from distance. 

We should have drawn level before half-time but Stockley's penalty was saved by Bursik who chose right and got a big hand to the shot. Going in level at half-time would have flattered us.

After the break we managed to up the ante and create sustained periods of pressure but our crossing was particularly poor and we struggled to create the chances we needed. Adkins tried everything in terms of substitutes but Posh held firm and played their way to the three points which all but guarantees them automatic promotion along with Hull City.

Elsewhere, Portsmouth and Oxford United managed home wins to leap-frog us but we have Crewe at home on Tuesday as our game in hand and we will move back above the pair of them if we win that. 

74 points to be the mark, with Oxford and Pompey looking likely to finish there (assumes Pompey lose at Wimbledon). Blackpool are at Sunderland on Tuesday and if they lose that, as I expect them to, then they can only get to 74 as well. That means we need three more wins - Crewe and Accrington are both up next and should be winnable. That will leave us needing to beat Lincoln or Hull, I really hope we don't have to go to Hull on the last day needing to win because that may be a hard ask as they win the title.

Wednesday 21 April 2021

Plymouth Argyle 0 v Charlton Athletic 6

Strange game at Home Park last night. 

On paper the hosts had little to play for and there was a suspicion Charlton might get another routine away win. I was surprised to see Inniss rested and Famewo brought back in. Not because I think it necessarily weakened us but because of the record we have when Inniss plays and the fact that this was a game we needed to win. Play-off rivals, Portsmouth, Blackpool and Oxford, were all away at Swindon, Rochdale and Wimbledon respectively and I was worried that a defeat at Plymouth could leave us eight points adrift of sixth.

After twenty minutes last night I couldn't see us winning. Plymouth had been pressing from the first whistle. They had forced seven corners and might well have been one up. By contrast, we couldn't get a ball to stick upfield and playing Stockley as a loan striker, albeit with wing-forwards in Millar and Jayesimi, didn't look nearly strong enough. After twenty minutes, we began to get forward more as a team and Forster-Caskey, Watson and Gilbey physically moved up. The result brought our first goal, when Forster-Caskey arrived in the box on 26 minutes ad Liam Millar cut into the box from the left goal-line and fired straight at Cooper who could only block the shot. It bounced up and out to Forster-Caskey who still had a lot to do but whose instinctive header went in off a Plymouth hand on the goal-line. suddenly we looked at home and as the first-half wore on I thought a goal before the break might kill it for us.

Plymouth were not helped by the loss of Aimson to injury but that second goal when it arrived was top quality an nigh on unstoppable. We worked it down the right flank and Forster-Caskey played a ball through for Matthews to chase and he put in a perfect first-time cross which drew a blur of shirts but, most importantly, the blonde comet who had seen the cross and made his move. Stockley's header was crashing thunderbolt that an oak door couldn't have stopped. Two nil and we were cruising.

Conditioned as we are, I expected us to slow the game after the break and keep it tight until 70 minutes, maybe bring on two fresh payers and see it out. Under Bowyer we may have shipped a goal and endured ten fingernail biting final minutes.  Instead, we looked briefed to counter-attack and we did it at will. Within two minutes of the restart it was 3-0. Liam Millar free-wheeled into the box once again but his cross-cum-shot was blocked by Watts who got in an almighty mess and who somehow deflected it past his keeper. 

Two minutes later we broke again. Millar found Stockley with across to the right outside the box and Stockley clipped a lovely ball over the covering defenders into the path of Gilbey who had time to lean to his left and stroke the ball across Cooper and in for 0-4. 

Millar got a well deserved goal seven minutes later and it was beginning to look embarrassing for the hosts. We continued to dominate as Plymouth wilted. Adkins used all of his substitutions to rest legs and get others involved and it was Chuks Aneke who netted the sixth after we carved them open again. He should really have got a seventh as well when he had a clear shot at goal but he hit the post. As it was, it was our best away win (or home win?) since the 6-0 win at Barnsley at the end of the 2012-13 season.

The really good news. however, was that our three closest rivals all lost and, almost incomprehensibly, we finished the night a point clear of Oxford United in sixth place with two games in hand. Ordinarily, with four home games from the five remaining, we should be home and dry, although two of those games are against Peterborough and Lincoln, and our home form has been relatively poor. 

However, there is now the Adkins factor to consider. We are officially on a new-manager bounce and are unbeaten in ten. I think we need another ten points to see off Pompey and Oxford. Posh were beaten at home by the Gills last night and they may still feel a tad complacent in second place with their five point cushion on the Makems. What does look sure, is that a win on Saturday might give us a clear line of sight to promotion with Crewe and Accrington to follow. It would be great to sew this up without having to go to Hull looking for anything. 

Whatever happens, it's been a remarkable turnaround and not one I think we looked like sustaining under Bowyer. I love the fact that he had quickly settled on his team and that he is entrusting them to put in the performances and get the results. I have been unimpressed with Alex Gilbey since he joined us. He has had injuries but was very disappointing when he came back into the side under Bowyer when his work-rate far from acceptable. However, he is growing in the last few games under Adkins and, crucially, has found the net a couple of times. 

When you finish the season it is often better to slide into the play-offs on the back of a top form and we look like we may just be doing that. Bring on Peterborough.

Saturday 17 April 2021

Charlton Athletic 0 v Ipswich Town 0

Nigel Adkin's side extended their unbeaten run to nine matches (last four under him) and our longest unbeaten spell of the season in the revised kick-off today against Ipswich Town. We may have kept the run going but once again we looked that bit less impressive at The Valley than when on our travels this season.

It was a big game for the visitors too as they sought to keep their diminishing play-off hopes alive. They started brightly and looked like they had a goal in them although they faded in the second-half. By contrast we were slow to get into the match and Amos kept us in it early on with two smart stops from the same attack. Eventually we began to get forward and Jayden Stockley had our best chance, predictably a header but it went straight to Holy in the goal. He also managed a hurried shot on the turn after Holy spilled a cross but it was easily cleared by the last defender.

Our unchanged back-four were tidy enough and Forster-Caskey and Pratley kept things moving but there wasn't much to aim at in front of them. Jaiyesimi had a quiet opening forty-five and Millar didn't trouble his two markers much either. He and Gilbey also played like they didn't know each other.

In the second-half and with the sun behind us (attacking the Covered End), we saw more of the ball in their half but the end product was still short of what was really required. Holy held a few half chances poked at him and a couple of headers from the back of the six yard box. 

The real problem was there was little in the way of reinforcements. With Aneke and Washington injured, there was only Schwartz or Shinnie to call on. Adkins decided to stick with more-or-less what he had and the only change was Watson for Pratley, presumably to allow Watson to maintain his booking ratio.

We remain in seventh place, two points behind Portsmouth with a game in hand. Portsmouth lost at MK Dons but with Lincoln and Blackpool both winning, a victory for the south coast side would have left us five points adrift, so perhaps we should be thankful for small mercies. We are at Plymouth on Tuesday and then face in-form Peterborough at the Valley. We will need a better performance in both of those games if we are to continue the chase.

Wednesday 14 April 2021

New manager bounce has Addicks back in the hunt

The 2-1 win at the Stadium of Light on Saturday was the minimum that Nigel Adkins' side needed to maintain momentum and a hitherto unlikely looking play-off push. 

The early opening goal settled the nerves and gave us something to defend. The return of Ryan Inniss has settled the back four and his determination to make that early header on Saturday was enough for the covering defender on the line to slice it upwards into the roof of his own net. After that we were able to stand-up to Sunderland's attacking ambitions and whilst we rode our luck at times, Ben Amos was in fine form to make the saves when they were really called for. The second-half goal from Alex Gilbey put us in full control of the result and we might even have nicked a third before the Makems inevitably reduced the arrears with ten nerve-racking minutes of full-time remaining. 

The win kept us chasing the pack and results around us have been kind. Last night's  scorelines will have given everyone a further boost; Sunderland lost in fine Charlton-style to lowly Wigan and Ipswich were walloped at Wimbledon. Portsmouth were held at Crewe and only Lincoln and Oxford United improved their positions with 4-0 and 4-1 home wins respectively.

It is now looking like a game of musical chairs with Lincoln, Blackpool, Portsmouth, Oxford, Charlton and Ipswich slugging it out for the last three play-off places. Perversely we now find ourselves with games in hand over Oxford, Portsmouth and now and still have Ipswich and Lincoln to play at the Valley. 

Of our seven remaining matches, five are at the Valley and that is where we need a serious return to form. The Adkins' bounce may be enough, if it continues and maybe we should be emboldened by the return of Inniss. 

If we can see off the Tractor Boys in the early kick-off on Saturday, we should effectively dismiss them from the race. Oxford have won five and lost five of their last ten but have scored ten goals in their last two games and may be finishing with a bang. Our two games in hand should be enough to see them off if we can maintain our current run but Oxford have a relatively easy run-in against Gillingham, Wimbledon, Plymouth, Shrewsbury and Burton.

After four successive wins, Pompey have spluttered in the last two with a defat and a draw. They are at MK Dons on Saturday but then have only to face Swindon, Bristol Rovers, Accrington (twice) and Wimbledon.  Blackpool are unbeaten in 15 games but have drawn seven of those. They have goals in the side but still have to face Sunderland twice on their run-in.

Lincoln are in the worst form of any of the sides involved in the scramble. Their win last night was only their second in 11. Five of their remaining matches are away from home and they face Hull, Peterborough and ourselves but they do have a points advantage our the rest of us as things stand.

By my reckoning, Blackpool, Pompey and Lincoln will make it. That leaves us, Oxford and Ipswich. Oxford may be running out of runway and we can put a huge spoke in Ipswich's wheels if we can beat them on Saturday. So I can see us finishing seventh but it's going to be very close - Nigel Adkins might just get us into sixth. It would feel like a bit of justice if we can scrape in at the death, having been relegated last years in similar fashion. 

If we make the play-offs I don't think any of the other sides will fancy us over two legs and there is one who might even concede rather than play us at Wembley again. Imagine winning six promotions in living memory against only two sides at two venues? It's the sort of stat that our history is built on.

Friday 2 April 2021

Doncaster Rovers 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

Nigel Adkins first real game in charge and his first victory. He made six changes to the "Lee Bowyer-looking" side that he put out a day after taking over, and it worked.

He was, perhaps, fortunate to be able to recall Ryan Inniss at the heart of the defence after five months out. Inniss was foot-sure and we looked very calm at the back. Jason Pearce looked more confident alongside Inniss and Adkins went with Purrington and Matthews in the full-back berths. 

Darren Pratley played in front of Inniss and I thought he was very effective today in breaking play and moving the ball out. Alongside him were Jake Forster-Caskey and Alex Gilbey with a front three of Jaiyesimi, Stockley and Maatsen. Maatsen was the early bright spot in getting at the Rovers defence and opening the scoring after Stockley and Jaiyesimi both won headers to set him up with a close range chance which he buried. 

Doncaster huffed and puffed throughout the first-half without really troubling Ben Amos. He did have to make an early save from Omar Bogle but that was really it. We were a constant threat on the break and should really have wrapped things up early in the second-half when we appeared to be trying to kill it off. Jayden Stockley did manage to head home but the goal was rightly chalked off for offside on the replay as Doncaster stepped up and Stockley's header deflected off Jaiyesimi en route.

Liam Miller, back from two games for Canada, came on for Jaiyesimi as the game wore on and he managed to up the ante by stretching the Rovers defence whilst also managing to fail to make several straightforward passes to his team-mates having done the hard part. That will come in time but it's frustrating to watch three or four times in succession. Chuks Aneke looked particularly frustrated not to receive his pass when in a threatening position, having come on for Stockley.

At the death we saw Shinnie and Gunter for Gilbey and Maatsen, although clearly more time-consuming than strictly tactical. Gilbey did a bit more than in his last few poor performances but I am still left wondering what he brings compared to the likes of Shinnie or Morgan. Maybe he will get a run under Adkins and prove me wrong - I'd love to see it.

Adkins will be feeling good this evening. He has an unbeaten start and the possible makings of a 'managerial bounce.' The lunchtime win lifted us briefly into fifth but results later in the day saw us finish in seventh. Adkins will have to face the top four sides in the remaining eight matches and outpoint Blackpool, Doncaster and Ipswich who have one or two games in hand. I think it's asking too much to have any serious play-off expectations but perhaps our players will be able to play with more freedom than those around us for a number of those matches because expectations will justifiably be higher elsewhere.

Hard not to feel good about Adkins' start. He clearly is his own man, has his own standards and a very positive attitude to life. He may, at least, make the end to the season more interesting than I believe it would have been under Lee Bowyer, who I thought had shot his bolt. What was very clear today is that there was far less pissing about at the back when in possession and more distribution under no pressure upfield. Amos kicked more but Inniss and Pratley had more time and were able to look up aim for the front men. Long may it continue.