Charlton 2 (Kashi 63, Magennis 78) Oxford United 3 (Henry 76, Kane 88, Ledson 90).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
It’s no surprise that Charlton are not among those clubs who refer to their ground -often on the thinnest of evidence – as a fortress. If they did stoop to such posturing, the building codes bureaucrats would split their sides laughing.
They don’t go in for any of that “This is Anfield” or “Run for your Lives, you’re at Millwall” intimidation at The Valley. It’s a cuddly, cosy place where visiting teams are encouraged to think they’re in with a chance. So as mildly shocked Oxford United made off gleefully with all three points on Saturday, they departed to the cheery Cockney strains of “Call round any old time, make yourself at home, put your feet on the mantelshelf, open the cupboard and help yourself.” Or less lyrically, the door’s unlocked so spit on the floor and use the last of the milk because our casa is your casa. Thanks for coming, we’ll clean up after you.
Charlton fans know the sickening drill all too well. They’ve grown wearily used to scenes of wild rejoicing in the Jimmy Seed stand as the travelling fans celebrate late equalisers or winners scored conveniently in front of them thanks to Charlton’s set-in-stone, presumably pre-arranged habit of attacking the covered end in the second half. It might be time to switch that around because it’s no secret that the worst disasters occur at the away end. When you’re in a rut, it makes sense to step out of it.
This latest collapse almost defies description but we’ll give it a shot. With two minutes of normal time remaining, the Addicks were still pouring forward in undisciplined search of a clinching goal to make it 3-1. Caught on the break as John Mousinho got behind them on the left, they were wrongfooted by the Oxford skipper’s precise cutback and helpless to prevent United debutant Todd Kane from ramming a second equaliser past Ben Amos.
The announcement of five added minutes brought a roar of local anticipation but instead served as a clarion call for the buoyant visitors. A disorderly rabble by now, Charlton were rabbits mesmerised by headlights as Isaac Buckley-Ricketts eluded Jay DaSilva on the right and set up Ryan Ledson to crash home an increasingly inevitable winner inside the right hand post. In retrospect, the low shot directed by Buckley-Ricketts against the woodwork shortly before Kane scored, seems less like a lucky escape than an unheeded warning.
Nothing in an orderly, routine first half hinted at the mayhem in store. Charlton began brightly and had marginally the better of things, with Tarique Fosu’s rasper stinging Simon Eastwood’s hands and Mark Marshall directing a free header wastefully wide. For the visitors, Jon Obika, a pre-kick-off replacement for Wes Thomas, turned brilliantly to smash a looping volley harmlessly off the right-hand post. The near thing was Obika’s last, meaningful contribution as he limped off later to make way for Malachi Napa. To be fair, Oxford coped manfully with the disruption.
A persistent, skilful thorn in United’s side, Josh Magennis opened the second period by moving on to Fosu’s pass and shooting ferociously on the run. Eastwood saved smartly, as did Amos from Napa’s accurate low drive. But just past the hour mark, Karl Robinson’s newly gung-ho side broke through. Fosu made the initial breach, through which Magennis and Ahmed Kashi poured. Magennis’ effort was blocked but Kashi picked up the pieces, moved away from the goalmouth carnage and shot home off Eastwood’s right hand.
The breakthrough brought with it the usual nervousness both on and off the field. Chronically uncertain when protecting a lead, the Addicks faltered and it was less than surprising when substitute James Henry fastened on to Napa’s pass before, with cool detachment, driving precisely into the lower left corner.
It was then Oxford’s turn to be rudely jolted when their hosts reclaimed the lead two minutes later. Caught dawdling near the left byline, Kane was neatly pickpocketed by Dasilva, who closed in and picked out Magennis’ shrewdly timed charge into the six-yard area. From two yards, the Northern Irishman’s sixth goal of the season was mere formality.
Making sense of this debacle is down to Robinson, who levelled charges of selfishness at his side and confessed he had drawn no positives from the miserable experience “We beat ourselves through our lack of discipline”, he declared, “it became I want to score rather than we need to score.”
The manager might need to justify the puzzling benching of in-form Joe Aribo and his reluctance to start an apparently fit Patrick Bauer at centre back. Ezri Konsa is a stylish but weak link in that position though it was Harry Lennon, the current “fans” scapegoat, who came in for the lion’s share of badmouthing. While less than outstanding, Lennon won his fair share in the air and delivered a succession of raking passes on which Magennis fed. He was part of Charlton’s total collapse, but far from the sole cause of it. If heads are to roll his might deserve to be spared. Meanwhile, Bauer must play at Doncaster. So must Aribo.
Charlton: Amos, Solly, Konsa, Lennon, Dasilva, Kashi, Marshall (Zyro 70), Forster-Caskey, Mavididi (Kaikai 70), Fosu (Aribo 87), Magennis. Not used: Phillips, Jackson, Bauer, Reeves. Booked: Lennon.
Oxford: Eastwood, Martin, Smith-Brown, Rothwell (Ricardinho 70), Ruffels, Ledson, Kane, Mowatt (Henry 70), Mousinho, Obika (Napa 34), Buckley-Ricketts. Not used: Shearer, Dickie, Carroll.
Referee: Keith Stroud. Att: 11,747 (1,381 visiting).