Portsmouth 1 (Ogilvie 45+3) Charlton 3 (Rak Sakyi 23, Fraser 49, Dale o.g. 90+4).
With his feet up at home, Kevin Nolan watched Charlton start as they mean to go on in 2023.
It’s part of human nature to turn to what we know and trust in times of trouble. A sympathetic ear and a helping hand are never more appreciated than during dark times.
It got pretty dark for Charlton during a gruesome, grisly first half at Oxford last Thursday. An experimental, spiritless side performed as though strangers to each other, their body language evoking those 19th century wretches heading for Botany Bay. New manager Dean Holden had got his selection horribly wrong but, to his credit, reacted promptly to restore order. His interval adjustments changed the dynamic and the Addicks emerged from the debacle with a few, tattered vestiges of pride.
The fact remained, however, that defeat at the Kassam Stadium made it eight league games without a win since Shrewsbury Town were beaten on October 22nd. Charlton had slipped down the table and a once unthinkable relegation battle loomed before them. They badly needed a break and the fixture list was about to hand them one. Next up, on New Years Day, were Portsmouth, and more understanding, empathetic opposition was impossible to imagine.
Pompey are Charlton’s most frequently faced opponents and over many years gave as good as they got. But their recent record, particularly at Fratton Park, is the stuff of nightmares. Seven consecutive defeats, eight in the last nine encounters, make the Addicks as welcome as foxes in a hen coop. Added to which, their televised visit to The Valley back in October inspired a 3-0 drubbing in one of Charlton’s brightest performances of the season.
With a wary eye on the law of averages, Holden took his men down to the South Coast and could hardly have hoped for a warmer reception from their hosts, who almost fell over themselves to make them welcome. Midfield hard man Marlon Pack even repeated the personal contribution he made at The Valley and, with a pair of quickfire bookings, got himself sent off again. His altruism must not go unmentioned.
Holden’s starting line-up, meanwhile, gave Pompey more than they could handle. A buccaneering front three which featured wingers Jesurun Rak-Sakyi and Corey Blackett-Taylor flanking muscular, mobile centre forward Miles Leaburn, tore into them from the start. They were provided with a secure platform from which to attack by sound midfielders George Dobson and Scott Fraser, both of whom, along with Albie Morgan, were outstanding.
After an even opening, during which Ronan Curtis’ long range effort was spectacularly saved by Ashley Maynard-Brewer, the visitors took the lead midway through the first half. A move started by one of Dobson’s many interceptions was continued by Leaburn, who fed Rak-Sakyi to his right. The sprightly Crystal Palace loanee feinted to move outside but switched the ball to his favoured left foot before nonchalantly slotting it past Joshua Griffiths into the far bottom corner.
Smart saves by Maynard-Brewer at Dane Scarlett’s feet and from the same player’s firm drive protected Charlton’s lead until three minutes into first half added time, when a lapse in concentration while defending a left wing corner undid all their good work. Skipper Sean Raggett returned Scarlett’s inswinger from the far post to Connor Ogilvie, who was given enough space by Sean Clare’s momentary switch-off to hook a neat finish into the right corner.
Irritating though it was at the time, Pompey’s equaliser turned out to be a blip in Charlton’s otherwise solid defensive performance. And four minutes after the break, they were back in front through Fraser, whose fourth goal of the season crowned a virtuoso performance. Using the momentum provided by Dobson’s pass, he glided past three defenders, delayed his shot until his target became clear, then finished coolly inside the bottom right post.
Protecting the lead Fraser’s tour-de-force had given them proved surprisingly easy. Charlton’s second half game management, with Lucas Ness and Steven Sessegnon in no-nonsense mood, was pragmatic, unemotional and incident-free. Ryan Inniss, too, mercifully relieved of the burden of building from the back, was a defensive rock. The Addicks had already sealed the issue by the time a third goal gilded their lily. Blackett-Taylor began the process by combining with lively substitute Jack Payne, who quickly passed inside to Dobson. A rare goal for the inspirational captain was foiled by Griffiths but the keeper’s parry rebounded off Owen Dale into the net behind him.
“The supporters needed to see that type of performance”, commented Holden, who went on to confirm that members of his own family had watched the game from the away end. Too true they did, boss. They paid plenty of dues before you arrived. In fact, they’ve made suffering an art form this season. Shame we can’t play Portsmouth every week, really, but there you go…
Portsmouth: Griffiths, Swanson (Koroma 80), Morrison (Mingi 78), Raggett, Ogilvie, Dale, Morell, Pack, Curtis (Hackett 46), Pigott (Jacobs 46), Scarlett (Bishop 46). Not used: Oluwayemi, Hume. Booked: Hackett, Pack (2) sent off.
Charlton: Maynard-Brewer, Clare, Inniss, Ness, Sessegnon, Morgan (Payne 73), Dobson, Fraser (Henry 88), Rak-Sakyi, Leaburn Stockley 78), Blackett-Taylor. Not used: McGillivray, Lavelle, Campbell, Kirk. Booked: Dobson.
Referee: Tom Reeves. Att: 18,468 (1,380 visiting).