Michael Appleton’s first match at The Valley as Addicks manager ended with a welcome win over Wycombe. KEVIN NOLAN reports.
It’s safe to assume that neither Charlton’s new manager Michael Appleton nor his electric-heeled winger Corey Blackett-Taylor will forget the events of Saturday September 23rd in a hurry.
The date marked Appleton’s first win in his new job: the victory was sealed by Blackett-Taylor’s magnificent goal on his 26th birthday, which was scored in the fourth of eight added minutes and carried the Addicks triumphantly over the line. It was a day and a result to be savoured and a full-throated Valley rose exuberantly to the occasion.
There were awkward passages of play to negotiate, especially before and immediately after Wycombe neutralised Miles Leaburn’s first-half opener. But inspired by their energetic captain George Dobson, Charlton endured, survived and hit back with the kind of steeliness not readily associated with them.
They rode their luck when restoring their lead but worked their proverbial socks off to protect their advantage before Blackett-Taylor added a perfectly-timed touch of stardust to smooth their furrowed brows.
There was much to celebrate about an important victory quite apart from the invaluable contributions made by Dobson and Blackett-Taylor. Terell Thomas was singularly impressive, as were Louie Watson in central midfield and the tricky Tyreece Campbell.
But every one of the 16 Addicks who featured in Appleton’s home debut deserves a mention, not least Alfie May, whose will-to-win typified Charlton’s stubborn resistance. As the Chairboys briefly threatened to overwhelm their hosts after Freddie Potts levelled the scores nine minutes into the second period, May was everywhere, an urgently cajoling influence on his teammates. His enthusiasm was infectious and proved invaluable.
In the early days of Appleton’s tenure, it’s already possible to detect a new professionalism about Charlton, an unfamiliar, bloody-minded streak which is a welcome, overdue addition. As the outcome hung in the balance, it was they, not their opposition, who snatched two late goals, the second of them deep into added time.
So often the victims of similar larceny, they kicked over the traces and floored Wanderers with the kind of sickening body blows all too frequently inflicted on themselves. They had done likewise at Stevenage last week, which seems less coincidence than the injection by Appleton of a new resilience through the ranks.
In an otherwise even first half, Charlton opened on the front foot and in rapid succession, the Chairboys’ Polish keeper Max Stryjek was pressed into action to parry fierce efforts from May and Leaburn, who also turned sharply to lose Joe Low but shot narrowly over the bar.
As Charlton continued on top, Campbell skilfully squeezed past Harry Boyes on the right byline and cut back a low ball to Leaburn. An adroit change of feet made space for the crisp drive which left Stryjek helpless on its way into the bottom left corner of his net.
Matt Bloomfield’s men, though struggling to assert themselves, stayed in contention and were unlucky not to equalise a minute before the break when Sam Vokes’s looping header sent Luke Leahy’s free kick cannoning off the bar. As it was, they were made to wait until the ninth minute of the second half to draw level.
At 36 years of age, Garath McLeary’s best days are probably behind him but the wily Jamaican still packs a punch, as Charlton have discovered to their cost from time to time. His aggressive running and close control posed problems but it was his set-piece skills which made the difference.
McCleary’s right-wing corner was inconclusively cleared to the edge of the penalty area, where it was met by West Ham loanee Freddie Potts and brutally volleyed past a static Harry Isted. Wycombe were dramatically on terms and promptly came looking for more.
Coming into his own, McLeary’s determined solo run carried him through a spread-eagled defence before he set up ex-Addick Brandon Hanlan to finish from close range. Declining to shoot right-footed, Hanlan instead switched to the opposite flank where his delayed shot was superbly blocked by Thomas. His indecision was to cost the visitors dearly.
A tiring Campbell was replaced by Charlton’s new Serbian striker Slobodan Tedic, whose first touch of the ball was a scuffed contact with a shrewd byline pass from fellow 79th minute substitute Tennai Watson. To almost universal delight – 909 visiting Chairboys were less than pleased – Tedic’s horribly miscued effort fooled Stryjek, wrongfooted Leahy on the goalline and crept inside the far post to restore the home side’s lead.
The imposition of eight added minutes was greeted with an audible groan from The Valley faithful but for once they had no cause to worry.
Halfway through the allotted time, Blackett-Taylor assumed personal responsibility and settled Wycombe’s hash. Facing up to a clearly leg weary Chris Forino on the left of the penalty area, he accelerated inside the hapless defender, left his colleagues standing as he moved parallel to goal, then smashed an unstoppable, no-nonsense drive into the centre of the Chairboys’ net. There’s much more to come from the birthday boy. And from his hard-boiled boss.
Charlton: Isted, Abankwah (T Watson 79), Jones, Hector (Ness 79), Thomas, Dobson, Watson (Anderson 62), T Campbell (Tedic 79), May, Leaburn (Aneke 69), Blackett-Taylor. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, C Campbell. Booked: Dobson, Thomas, Anderson.
Wycombe: Stryjek, Scowen, Forino, Wheeler, Vokes (Phillips 79), Leahy, Boyes (Taylor 89), McCleary, Low, Hanlan (Sadlier 89), Potts. Not used: Ravvizzoli, Keogh, De Barr, Pattenden. Booked: Phillips, Leahy.
Referee: Ben Toner. Official attendance: 12,856 (909 visiting).