Derby County 1 (Cashin 39) Charlton 2 (May 61 pen, Anderson 80)
After a wait of three months and sixteen games, during which they scraped eight points and slumped from a mediocre but safe 10th position to a parlous 20th slot, Kevin Nolan celebrated Charlton’s magnificent win at Pride Park strategic miles from the action.
The stubborn, gutsy defiance Charlton displayed in holding promotion challengers Bolton Wanderers and Portsmouth to creditable draws can be seen now as lines drawn in the sand. Those excellent performances under new boss Nathan Jones provided a platform for their bravery at Pride Park, where they stood up to yet another of League One’s top three and thoroughly deserved their first win in seventeen games. The cockles of 657 intrepid travellers’ hearts were thoroughly warmed, as were many more at home in the southland.
Upon joining the livestream, to be honest, the presence of George Dobson and Alfie May on the bench hardly inspired confidence. At a daunting venue like Derby, Dobson’s selfless industry would surely be indispensable while it was clearly a matter of time before May brought his mini-drought to an end. In Jones we trusted, of course, and in the former case, at least, were rewarded by the superb contribution made by Dobson’s obvious replacement Conor Coventry. Not as convincing was the choice of Freddie Ladapo ahead of May; the former Ipswich striker has still to find his feet in his new colours.
From start to finish, Coventry’s tour-de-force made Charlton tick. Secure on and off the ball, the Dobson lookalike includes a streak of spite in his repertoire. He fights his corner, plays with his head up and shows the natural leadership of a future captain. There must be room for both Dobson and Coventry in the same line-up.
In May’s case, Jones made a questionable call but put it right on the hour mark, when Charlton’s 20-goal marksman was introduced for Ladapo and predictably was joined by the irresistible force that is Chuks Aneke, in relief of an anonymous Panutche Camara. The effect on the toiling Addicks was electric. Its impact was also profoundly felt by these ordinary Rams, who needed May and Aneke like twin holes in the head.
The first half of this ultimately marvellous victory was a forgettable mishmash, from which the hosts at least emerged in front. Chances were non-existent but Charlton were encouraged to discover that high-flying County were no better than themselves, whatever the table suggested. Two long-range efforts sent wide by Ryan Nyambe were matched by Camara’s narrowly off-target drive and there was little in it when, with six minutes remaining, the Addicks’ clear ambition to reach the interval intact was rudely dashed.
In tussling with Nathan Mendez-Laing near the left corner, Terell Thomas’ failure to restrict his streetwise opponent to a throw-in rather than a corner was to prove costly. Having successfully hustled a flagkick, Mendez-Laing’s wicked delivery was met by Eiran Cashin’s head at the near post and bulleted home through an untidy mess. County were unimpressive but they were in front.
Fifteen meaningless minutes had elapsed in the second half before Jones executed his masterstroke. The introduction of May for Ladapo was routine but it was Camara’s replacement by Aneke that showed imagination. The shrewd manager had persevered with the youthful enthusiasm of Daniel Kanu and Charlton had three dangerous strikers, with which to attack their tiring hosts.
Jones’ bold move almost instantly paid off when Thierry Small’s cross was inadvertently flicked on by Cashin to the far post, where Aneke headed unluckily on to the woodwork. It was bitterly disappointing at the time but the suddenly rampant Addicks were not to be denied long. And Jones was soon rewarded for his attacking instincts – not to mention his faith in Kanu.
Picking up Karoy Anderson’s square pass near the halfway line, Coventry’s swooping first-time pass sent energetic Daniel surging clear of pursuers into Derby’s penalty area, where he was clumsily brought down by an advancing Joe Wildsmith. Falling naturally without any undue histrionics, he made it easy for referee Jeremy Simpson to award the obvious penalty. May was nerveless in finding the bottom left corner, before being crudely insulted by several junior Rams, who should have been back home doing their homework. Bring back National Service That’ll sort ’em out. Never did your reporter any harm!
Like Bolton and Portsmouth before them, County were badly rattled but hit back through Sonny Bradley, who volleyed Mendez-Laing’s free kick straight at Harry Isted. It was no surprise, though, when their newly buoyant visitors took the lead.
Pouncing on Ebou Adams’ slipshod control, Aneke led a three-man assault, with May to his left and Kanu on his right, which nonplussed the wrongfooted home defenders. With May serving as a useful decoy, Aneke laid a careful pass into Kanu’s path but the youngster’s shot was brilliantly blocked by Wildsmith, at which point the keeper’s luck ran out because the rebound was met by Anderson and rifled ruthlessly into the roof of the net. This Karoy kid – he’s going places. Probably sooner than later, unfortunately.
Finding themselves in front, Charlton’s immediate task was to protect their lead. And that, for once, proved no problem for these freshly confident Addicks. Even the burden of eight added minutes was borne lightly. Another Bradley effort, again straight at Isted, was the best Paul Warne’s promotion seekers could produce as their conquerors expertly managed the time remaining. This was a bell-to-bell, whistle-to-whistle triumph, earned in the second half by their aggressive, front-footed approach. It’s unwise to get carried away – as advised by our new guvnor – but it’s been a bloody long time coming and winning’s pretty heady stuff. We’ll be brought back to ground soon enough…
Derby: Wildsmith, Nyabe (Barkhuisen 52), Bradley, Nelson, Cashin, Wilson, Smith (Sibley 62), Adams (Blackett-Taylor 84), Bird, Mendez-Laing, Gayle (Waghorn 62). Not used: Loach, Thompson, Fornah. Booked: Bradley, Wildsmith.
Charlton: Isted, Edmonds-Green, Thomas, Gillesphey, T.Watson (Ness 74), Coventry, Camara (Aneke 60), Anderson, Small, Ladapo (May 60), Kanu. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Dobson, Edun, Campbell.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson. Att: 24,557 (657 visiting).