A thumping win over troubled Reading saw the Addicks go five matches without defeat in the league. KEVIN NOLAN came away from The Valley with a smile on his face.
All good things come to an end and so some time must Charlton’s unbeaten league run under new, no-nonsense manager Michael Appleton. But their fans will cross that bridge when they come to it. In the meantime, they’re enjoying the sense that almost anything is possible from this heady mixture of skill and resolve.
There was never any doubt that the former quality was there in abundance, despite a discouraging start to the season. Since Appleton’s arrival, however, the Addicks have added resilience and resistance to their repertoire. When the going gets tough, they now dig in, survive and hit back. No longer are they a soft touch for the hard cases of League One to steamroller.
Should you attempt to intimidate Mickey Apples’ lads, you’re just as likely to count the cost in bruises. Perfectly legal bruises, of course.
This clash with Reading made that point clearly. Two moderate sides played out a forgettable first half, during which quality was thin on the ground. The visitors had arrived under a cloud, with a four-point deduction the direct result of behind-the-scenes sharp practice and with a struggle against relegation looking like a racing certainty.
Once known as the Biscuitmen, they changed their moniker and became the Royals, which at least lessened the likelihood of becoming the Broken Biscuitmen.
Their off-field fall from grace seemed far from the minds of Ruben Selles’ chaps as they marginally shaded the opening session at a rainswept Valley on Saturday. With the Addicks offering little up front, the Royals carved out one or two chances but found Ashley Maynard-Brewer in defiant mood. An early shot from Lewis Wing was heading inside the right post until the young Aussie keeper sprawled full length to turn it to safety. He was equally sound in dealing with Kelvin Ehiphatiomhan’s snapshot.
Passive and unimaginative, meanwhile, the home side had only Corey Blackett-Taylor’s weak attempt to beat David Button from distance to show for a deeply disappointing first half display. It became imperative that they reached the interval without conceding, a modest achievement which too frequently proved beyond them under prior management. On this occasion, they stumbled through, making it up as they went. They probably surprised nobody more than themselves by making it to the break still on terms.
Appleton doesn’t appear to be a teacup-tossing tyrant but whatever he said in the dressing room at half-time clearly hit home. All but one of the same 11 players re-emerged and treated their warmly appreciative supporters to an electric second-half performance which quite literally blew the visitors back to Berkshire in search of sanctuary.
It took them less than ten minutes to get among their bewildered guests and take the lead with a goal of stark simplicity and ruthless execution.
Neither Corey Blackett-Taylor nor Chuks Aneke had made any impression during the opening session. Blackett-Taylor had been handled capably by a well-protected Tyler Bindon, while Aneke, starved of service during a rare start, was well policed by Nelson Abbey. But attacking their favoured Covered End, they were a different proposition.
Picked out by Louie Watson’s raking crossfield pass, Blackett-Taylor faced up one-on-one to Bindon, ghosted past the fatally exposed defender and dinked a perfect cross on to Aneke’s lofty brow. From four yards, the big striker was unlikely to miss and easily beat David Button with a simple header.
Reading were already staring at defeat, a suspicion hardened into fact by a spectacular second goal five minutes later.
Tyreece Campbell had replaced a subdued Slobodan Tedic at half-time and vindicated his boss’s faith by doubling Charlton’s lead with a truly sumptuous strike some five minutes later. Receiving Blackett-Taylor’s hastily prodded square pass as the winger cut in from the left, Campbell allowed the ball to run on to his right foot before detonating a violent drive into the roof of Button’s net.
Charlton were not done with their Home Counties victims quite yet and added a third goal from a more familiar source while they were still reeling. Yet again, Blackett-Taylor was the provider with another accurately-delivered cross which Alfie May dispatched with a cleverly improvised scissor-kicked volley.
Sandwiched between the second and third goals, the only downside to Charlton’s barnstorming second half was the sight of a clearly distraught Aneke leaving the field with an ominous-looking injury. It might have been wise to start with Miles Leaburn, with big Chuks as usual available from the bench. But hindsight has 20/20 vision and it is, as they say, what it is.
As it was, Leaburn ran on to Campbell’s exquisitely-measured pass behind Abbey and completed the scoring in the fourth minute of added time. Leaburn’s overtime strike stuck the proverbial cherry on the equally proverbial cake and sent the loyalists home almost heady with the potential of Appleton’s rapidly-developing side. An upcoming glut of fixtures will tell us more and the next target will surely be the immediate improvement of their miserable away record.
That process can begin at Lincoln on Tuesday. Starting on the front foot would be a good way to about it because these Addicks have nothing to fear but fear itself.
Charlton: Maynard-Brewer, Tennai Watson (Asiimwe 64), Jones, Thomas, Hector, Dobson, Louie Watson (Fraser 64), Tedic (Tyreece Campbell 46), May, Blackett-Taylor (Camara 84), Aneke (Leaburn 64). Not used: Walker, Ness.
Reading: Button, Dean (Mola 80), Knibbs, Smith (Ballard 59), Azeez (Elliott 75), Ehibhatiomhan (Vickers 78), Guiness-Walker, Bindon, Wing, Abbey, Craig (Savage 80). Not used: Collins, Carson.
Referee: Scott Oldham.