A turbulent week at The Valley after Dean Holden’s sacking ended with an important win against Fleetwood Town, writes KEVIN NOLAN.
Jason Pearce’s first game as Charlton’s interim manager was tetchy, rumbustious and ultra-competitive. A bit like the man himself, then, and none the worse for that. He even got himself booked, which you might say was par for the course.
A disappointing first half was only two minutes from completion – with the Addicks trailing to Jayden Stockley’s neatly-headed goal – when Alfie May’s splendid equaliser spared them the rough side of Pearce’s tongue. His irritation was no doubt plainly expressed but the quality of May’s strike, not to mention its timing, surely mitigated his mood. The relief which reverberated around The Valley must surely have seeped into the home side’s dressing room.
Charlton had made a busy start when Stockley made a statement of intent by taking responsibility for the free-kick awarded for George Dobson’s foul on Carl Johnston no more than 20 yards from goal. Harry Isted was left helpless as Stockley’s blockbuster crashed against the underside of his crossbar before rebounding harmlessly to safety. Dobson’s clumsy challenge was the only flaw in another superb performance from the indefatigable skipper. He was, otherwise, inspirational – as, indeed, he always is.
Just six minutes later, Stockley popped up again to provide Scott Brown’s Cod Army with an exasperating lead. Finding himself in a man-for-man mismatch with Karoy Anderson inside Charlton’s penalty area, he made simple work of nodding Ryan Broom’s cross back across goal and in off the right-hand post, after Broom’s twists and turns tied Tayo Edun into knots on the right flank. To his credit, young Tayo kept his head up and responded much later on with a flash of individual brilliance all his own.
Pearce’s simmering anger was diluted as the first half threatened to disappear down The Valley’s plughole. Chem Campbell had provided some of his side’s few bright spots before excelling himself with a devastating through pass which sent May scampering clear of an outmanoeuvred defence, showing impressive speed to catch up with Campbell’s delivery and finish coolly under the advancing Stephen McMullen.
In May, Pearce has inherited a natural predator hungry for goals. An Alfie, in other words, who knows exactly what goalscoring is all about.
In charge of the visitors, meanwhile, was Scott Brown, at 38 three years Pearce’s senior in this battle of warrior managers. Never one to back down during an illustrious Celtic career, his future on the Fylde coast seems less than assured following this latest setback. Without a win from six league games and with only an opening-day draw at newly-promoted Carlisle United to show for his efforts so far, Brown’s record is inferior to the return of three points which cost Dean Holden his job. His prospects took a turn for the worse when May doubled his account and shot Charlton in front after 73 increasingly tumultuous minutes.
Energetic and industrious, Edun had actually provided a rash of underhit passes when he produced a gem to send the dangerous Corey Blackett-Taylor sprinting behind the floundering Cods to be unceremoniously chopped down by Toto Nsiala. Having already escaped referee Carl Brook’s censure for an equally culpable challenge on Chem Campbell, Nsiala had pushed his luck too far and this time could expect no mercy. May gleefully smashed the spot-kick down the middle and past McMullen – then added insult to injury by exchanging pleasantries with the mouthy keeper.
Charlton’s poor history of seeing games through, and particularly their chronic vulnerability to late goals meant that the issue was far from settled. With the fully-justified addition of 12 additional minutes, they were asked to defend their lead for an anxious half hour.
Their resistance was stiffened by the talismanic return of Miles Leaburn from an injury sustained early in their first pre-season friendly at Welling. Leaburn’s muscular ball-protection, alongside an obviously delighted May, stiffened the Addicks’ resolve and they negotiated the awkwardness without alarm. Even a lusty free-for-all, during which they gave as good as they got, failed to daunt them.
Victory in a clash of sides which, between them, had amassed only four points from ten league games is hardly cause for wild celebration but it’s a start in the right direction for the popular Pearce.
He will probably give way as soon as the club comes up with a smooth, corporate-savvy replacement for Holden. The new man will probably bite the dust, as have a succession of anonymous time-servers, just as soon as results take a downturn and the whole dreary process feeds on itself. Here’s one vote for Jason Pearce. You know where you stand with him.
Charlton: Isted, Jones, Hector, Edun (Thomas 85), Dobson, Tyreece Campbell (Leaburn 67), Blackett-Taylor (Kirk 90+6). Chem Campbell (Taylor 85), Asiimwe, Anderson. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Ness, Kanu. Booked: Hector, May, Asiimwe, Pearce.
Fleetwood: McMullen, Johnston, Lawal, Vela, Stockley (Tshimanga 75), Broom, Quitirna (Mayor 63), Holgate (Patterson 90), Graydon (Asamoah 75), Nsiala, Rooney (Hayes 75). Not used: Harrington, Robertson. Booked: Lawal, Hayes, Johnston.
Referee: Carl Brook. Official attendance: 11,309 (119 visiting).