Kevin Nolan's Valley View

We’re delighted to add KEVIN NOLAN to our line-up for this season. He’s been reporting on Charlton Athletic since the 1980s, including for our sister site The Charlton Champion. Now he joins The Greenwich Wire to cast his eye over Addicks home matches…

What you see from Charlton captain George Dobson is exactly what you get. His prodigious input is by now taken for granted and features crunching tackles, astute interceptions, accurate passing and a razor-sharp ability to read a game. Dean Holden’s team is built around this dynamic workaholic. He never lets his manager down home or away and has convinced him – and a increasingly appreciative fanbase – that he is indispensable.

Dobson’s goalscoring record is his Achilles heel, it must be conceded. In nearly 100 games for the Addicks before Saturday’s Blackwall Tunnel derby with Leyton Orient, he had managed only two goals, though each of them proved memorable in its own right.

During the 2021-22 season, a blistering, long range strike was enough to clinch a 1-0 win at Rotherham, while his miraculously headed equaliser against Ipswich last term will live long in local memory. The matchwinner he came up with to successfully launch Charlton’s 2023-24 campaign was considerably less spectacular but confirmed his reputation for scoring when it matters most. Not for George the gratuitous tap-in which turns a 3-1 win into a 4-1 romp.

His third goal for the club was again priceless, though admittedly it must be filed as a tap-in.

Holden’s men had dominated a first half without pressing home their advantage when the jet-heeled pace of Corey Blackett-Taylor, one of several greyhounds in a speed-based line-up, destroyed the east Londoners. Terell Thomas’s lancing pass enabled him to face up in a one-on-one contest with Rob Hunt, Orient’s unsupported right back. There was only one logical outcome as Blackett-Taylor ghosted past Hunt to the left byline and delivered a low, drilled cross into the visitors’ six-yard area where Dobson sneaked ahead of Alfie May to prod home the game’s only goal a minute before the break. A clear case of Dobson’s choice, so to speak.

Blackett-Taylor’s assist was the wrecking ball which crowned his devastating contribution to an entertaining first half. As early as the 4th minute, his cleverly chipped cross was headed back from the far post by full debutant Nathan Asiimwe to May, who controlled deftly with his right foot before volleying sharply with his left. Goalkeeper Sol Brynn saved brilliantly.

The youthful enthusiasm and appetite of teenagers Karoy Anderson and Tyreece Campbell, meanwhile, applied a high-press tourniquet and allowed Blackett-Taylor to stay upfield where his real interests lie.  Helping out the youngsters was May, whose energy and commitment belied his 30 years. Alfie can still produce a turn of pace to hurry defenders and Orient found it difficult to break out of their own half to threaten a serene home defence. Richie Wellens’ side were never out of contention but it took them until late in the first stanza to trouble Ashley Maynard-Brewer.

Right-sided attacker Theo Archibald offered the away side an isolated moment of hope when he combined with Ruel Sotiriou and curled a left-footed curler intended for the far corner. At full length, Maynard-Brewer turned the shot to safety to frustrate a sold-out Jimmy Seed end. There was little else to enthuse a visiting contingent of over 3,000. Their heroes stayed in the game without justifying their manager’s claim that they “dominated the second half.” They certainly beavered away gamely but better finishing by their hosts should have settled their hash long before the end.

Excellent substitute Panutche Camara galvanised the Addicks and it was his defence-splitting pass which sent Campbell streaking through to momentarily round Brynn before he was dispossessed by Orient’s on-loan keeper. Camara himself will find hard to explain how he failed to convert a point-blank rebound after Brynn magnificently parried Scott Fraser’s vicious drive into his feet.

Unable to find a coup-de-grace to crown Dobson’s goal, Charlton laboured to the finishing line. Their build-up became easy to predict, featuring as it did the ability of Lucas Ness, in the centre of a hardworking back three, to bring the ball out of defence and quarter back their forward progress. That responsibility more logically rests with the ballplaying Fraser and indeed with Dobson. And as the youngsters tired, there was an air of vulnerability which League One’s better sides might well exploit.

But the Addicks persevered and even survived the seven minutes added in the new resolve to stamp out timewasting. Last season, they might well have conceded a late equaliser. Instead of which, they gritted their teeth and saw it through with spirit and determination. Nothing wrong with that. It sent them off and running in what has to be regarded as a now-or-never season.  

Charlton: Maynard-Brewer, Jones (Hector 76), Ness, Thomas, Dobson, Fraser, Campbell (Kirk 83), Blackett-Taylor (Edun 83), Asiimwe, Anderson (Camara 70).
Not used: Isted, McGrandles, Payne.  Booked: May, Fraser, Maynard-Brewer. 

Orient: Brynn, Hunt (Brown 80), Sweeney, James (Graham 80), Happe, Pratley (Galbraith 80), Archibald (Pegrum 90), El Mizouni, Beckles, Pigott (Moncur 70), Sotiriou.
Not used: Howes, Turns.  Booked: Beckles, El Mizouni

Referee: Andrew Kitchen.

Attendance: 18,512 (3,155 visiting).