A rousing finale saw the Addicks claim a point against Blackpool after going 2-0 down. KEVIN NOLAN was at The Valley.
With only nine minutes remaining, Charlton’s sequence of five unbeaten league games was under serious threat of being snapped by a streetwise Blackpool, whose solid but unremarkable record sent them to The Valley in 13th position, a single point behind their hosts. The Addicks were two down and growing more desperate as time became their most dangerous enemy.
Accustomed to falling behind, Charlton have almost made a virtue of adversity. But when Chuks Aneke was brought on as a substitute in the 64th minute, they called on a force of nature who has the ability, when goaded, to turn games of football on their heads. He’s performed the trick on numerous occasions and was in no mood to be denied by a bunch of progressively-shopworn Tangerines.
Shaking off the close attentions of defender Matthew Pennington, Aneke’s physical strength was followed by a velvety touch which set up a close-range chance for Alfie May, who held off a bruising last-ditch challenge and volleyed crisply past Daniel Grimshaw.
Charlton were back in the hunt for at least a point and just two minutes later, their hunger for equality was satisfied by what had seemed an unlikely equaliser.
It hadn’t been a particularly rewarding afternoon for left-sided attacker Corey Blackett-Taylor. The Seasiders had clearly done their homework on Charlton’s jet-heeled speedster but they switched off fatally as he picked up an innocuous pass, moved inside and curled a superb right-footed drive beyond Grimshaw’s reach and neatly inside the right post.
An explosion of joy, seasoned liberally with relief, raised the stadium roof and made nonsense of the visiting cohort’s hackneyed taunt that The Valley was, in fact, a library. If it is, then several thousand raucous loudmouths will find themselves barred from the premises.
A quick revision of May’s statistics establishes that he has now scored 97 times in a little less than 300 appearances at lower-league level. His tally of seven goals in ten Charlton starts stands in stark relief to the inability of his former club Cheltenham, for whom he notched 22 goals last season, to manage their first goal of the season until their tenth attempt on Saturday.
The waspish Alfie twice victimised his newest employers as Cheltenham earned four points from their league encounters with the Addicks last season.
Turning out for Neil Critchley’s Blackpool these days, meanwhile, is a goalscoring machine called Jordan Rhodes, who arrived with a peerless record of 234 goals in slightly less than 600 games. It’s reasonable to assume that Rhodes’s illustrious career is reaching its conclusion as he approaches his 34th birthday but he clearly intends to go out with more of a bang than a whimper. Having already scored five goals in six appearances this season, he duly added one more to a total which now boasts 13 goals in just 17 games against Charlton for various clubs.
During over half an hour of desultory opening exchanges which Michael Appleton’s men marginally edged, Rhodes had been an anonymous, practically invisible bystander. His lack of impact might have been a factor in the inattention paid to him by a posse of Charlton defenders as tricky customer Dominic Thompson crossed low and hard from the left.
Unmarked and disregarded, Rhodes whipped a left-footed drive past a helpless Ashley Maynard-Brewer and the Addicks had fallen behind again. They had also been taught a lesson, as had a whole host of victims, by a prolific, insatiable poacher still hungry for goals and capable of preying on defensive complacency. Fortunately for them, they had among their ranks, a striker of similar menace.
Before May and Blackett-Taylor launched their rescue mission, Charlton’s plight was complicated by a second Blackpool goal. It featured an all-too familiar error by experienced centre-back Michael Hector, who dawdled long enough on George Dobson’s admittedly difficult pass for an aggressive Karamoko Dembele to relieve him of possession. Moving goalside of the hapless defender, the 66th-minute substitute crashed Blackpool’s apparent clincher into the roof of the net.
The Valley faithful shifted uncomfortably but since the phlegmatic Appleton took charge, they know that, as fabled New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra advised, “it ain’t over till it’s over”. It wasn’t over even after Blackett-Taylor equalised as the visitors visibly wilted and the Addicks closed in for the kill.
During a breathtaking finale, the less said about Aneke’s effort to convert Nathan Assiimwe’s neat cutback, the better. Suffice to say that life was endangered in the upper floor of the Covered End. There were other chances, the best of them set up for Blackett-Taylor by the rampant Aneke, but blasted wastefully wide.
It was a stirring recovery which speaks volumes about the never-say-die philosophy introduced by Appleton. It may have persuaded him that Asiimwe is a better bet than an out-of-form Tennai Watson and that Tyreece Campbell has more to offer than the hardworking Slobodan Tedic – “Teddy” as the boss calls him.
In fact, he has an embarrassment of riches and a side clearly willing to go into the trenches for him. It’s a pleasure to be at The Valley nowadays.
Charlton: Maynard-Brewer, Jones (Ness 64), Thomas, Hector, Tennai Watson (Asiimwe 54), Dobson, Blackett-Taylor, Louie Watson (Fraser 63), Leaburn (Aneke 64), Tedic (Tyreece Campbell 54). Not used: Molyneux, Chem Campbell. Booked: Tedic, Tyreece Campbell.
Blackpool: Grimshaw, Husband, Pennington, Norburn, Carey (Morgan 77), Dougall, Rhodes (Kouassi 90+3), Lavery (Dembele 66), Casey, Hamilton, Thompson (Connolly 76). Not used: O’Donnell, Weir, Ekpiteta. Booked: Husband, Pennington, Thompson.
Referee: Andy Davies.