Charlton 2 (Magennis 30, Ajose 44) Port Vale 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Stopping off at managerless Charlton to collect three presumably effortless points, play-off contenders Port Vale were instead ambushed by remarkably spirited hosts who rose above the latest chaos at TheValley and recorded a fine if unexpected victory.
The ruthless and equally senseless midweek sacking of Russell Slade had turned this otherwise routine fixture into yet another crisis for the Addicks. Slade hadn't exactly pulled up trees but had lost only four of sixteen league games. Yet he was shown the door either by Roland Duchatelet, regally remote in his Brussels bunker, or just as likely by his CEO Katrien Meire ("everyone knows she's the brains behind Pa"). Panic is seldom a sound basis for decision-making but it's impossible to reach any other conclusion. Panic it is.
So a fine old football club lurches from disaster to self-induced disaster. Since the pre-ordained assassination of Chris Powell, six more hapless managers (Jose Riga twice) have been thrown overboard, with the eighth unfortunate wretch expected to walk the plank, at the present rate of departure, this side of Easter. Charlton are currently as seaworthy as a sieve -but not yet on the pitch as it turned out.
Doubly encouraged to discover that caretaker gaffer Kevin Nugent had been further handicapped by the loss of Chris Solly and Ricky Holmes, Vale were racing certainties. Or so it seemed during an opening quarter hour they spent encamped in the home half. Neat, tidy but ominously toothless, they dominated possession but did little to trouble Declan Rudd. And when the penny dropped that their visitors flattered to deceive, Charlton emerged from their defensive shell and began to boss them about.
A target for contempt among too many fans but possessed of a dignity most of them would struggle even to spell, outstanding left back Morgan Fox was the catalyst for the dramatic reversal of fortunes. His first attacking contribution was a deep cross which Ademola Lookman chest-controlled superbly at the far post before unleashing a venomous drive. Jak Alnwick saved superbly at the cost of a right wing corner, swung out by Lookman and headed against the bar by Jason Pearce. Vale had been warned but failed to react appropriately.
After Nicky Ajose's accurate centre was nodded narrowly wide by Josh Magennis, the Valiants' weakness on their right flank was again exploited by the marauding Fox. His soaring cross was met by Magennis again at the far post and this time re-directed deliberately over Alnwick into the far corner.
Rudd was called into meaningful action just twice during the first half, with a diving save from top scorer Alex Jones' crisp low snapshot his best moment. A minute before the break, Charlton responded with an opportunistic second goal, again the result of Fox's head-up anticipation and execution. Alertly intercepting a pass intended for Sam Kelly, his lancing through ball sent Ajose sprinting through a square defence to confront Alnwick. The diminutive striker gave Charlton supporters an overdue glimpse of the cool finishing responsible for 25 of Swindon's goals last season by opening his body before slotting efficiently across Alnwick into the bottom right corner.
Fox's fullback partner Kevin Foley, meanwhile, had been deputising capably for Solly. Another butt of unqualified criticism, he wisely denied dangerous ex-Addick Jerome Thomas the left touchline, instead directing him infield on to a less favoured right foot, with which he achieved nothing. Inside Foley, Andrew Crofts waded through a mountain of nuts-and-bolts work, frequently stepping in to cover talented Lookman's flashy dribbling too close to his own goal. With centre backs Patrick Bauer and Pearce in commanding form, Vale struggled forlornly before being packed off chastened and pointless to the Potteries. Jones did manage another low effort to test Rudd again before the interval and Nathan Smith's near post flick whizzed inches wide in added time but the visitors were well beaten by an emerging side which Slade should have been given more time to develop. Paid off with over two years of a three-year contract outstanding, he should worry. But as an honest bloke, he probably does. As do many of us without lucrative contracts to console us.
Charlton: Rudd, Foley, Bauer, Pearce, Fox, Lookman (Konsa 90), Crofts, Ulvestad, Jackson (Botaka 63), Ajose, Magennis (Hanlan 75). Not used: Phillips, Lennon, Novak, Texeira. Booked: Lookman, Ulvestad.
Port Vale: Alnwick, Taylor, Streete, Smith, Knops, Thomas (Pereira 63), Tavares, Amoros (Paterson 46), De Freitas, Kelly (Forester 77), Jones. Not used: Santos, MacIntosh, Cicilia, Kiko.
Referee: Richard Clark. Att: 8,992 (423 visiting).