Charlton 0 Portsmouth 1 (Magennis o.g.)
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
History blew a golden opportunity to repeat itself at a refrigerated Valley on Saturday. It reproduced almost everything from the past but fell down on one crucial detail. We'll clarify that later.
The FA had done its bit by arranging that Portsmouth would again provide the opposition to mark the silver jubilee of Charlton being frogmarched back to their venerable old ground by fans who wouldn't take no for an answer. As expected, the marvellously loyal South Coasters sold out the away end and spilled over into the east stand.
Karl Robinson's men marked the historic occasion by wearing replicas of the shirts worn by the heroes of December 1992, some of whom were on hand to surf the wave of nostalgia. A spirited all-drum band quickened the pulses, note-perfect tenor Martin Toal reprised "Nessun Dorma" and Charlton's academy kids formed a guard of honour to welcome the teams on to their field of dreams. Everything was in place to celebrate one of the most iconic dates in the Addicks' 112-year old history. Everything, that is, except Pompey who got the score right but not necessarily in the right order.
Clearly unwilling to follow the obvious script, as their 1992 predecessors obediently did, Kenny Jackett's all-Blues were well-organised, determined and unsentimental. Fancying their chances of overhauling the Addicks in the race for a play-off berth, they spoiled, kibitzed and wasted time shamelessly. Their tactics were vindicated by the ludicrous addition of three measly minutes to a second half during which the visitors scored early, then improvised some novel tricks to kill this game stone dead. Odd how often their pain threshhold was crossed. Or their bootlaces became untied.
Not that Charlton deserved more or Portsmouth less from this generally lifeless encounter. Robinson's side, admittedly depleted by injuries, most significantly to key centre backs Jason Pearce and Patrick Bauer, were dire. Without a recognised goalscorer in their ranks, it's no surprise that they have failed to score in each of their five league defeats. Despite testing keeper Luke McGee with occasional individual efforts, they were largely toothless and ineffectual. There were to be none of the late heroics which papered over cracks recently against Peterborough, although substitute Leon Best's subtle header from Chris Solly's cross briefly promised an equaliser until McGee's scrambling save at the foot of his right-hand post quashed their last hope.
Carried along by the pre-kickoff emotion, the Addicks actually opened brightly with bright spark Jay Dasilva prominent in their early attacks. The left back's cleverly chipped cross to the far post caused consternation but continued uninterrupted to safety, then his exchange of passes with Ricky Holmes set up the winger's quickly taken drive, which McGee touched over the bar. Shortly before the interval, Dasilva's left-footed curler again extended McGee but that was as dangerous as the home side were to get until Best's 90th minute effort came close to rescuing them again.
At the other end, Pompey were hardly more menacing. Ben Amos was required to match McGee's athleticism to keep out Gareth Evans' dipping drive, while Solly's fine block on Conor Chaplin's close range shot and Amos' alert reaction to Stuart O'Keefe's follow-up kept Charlton level until the interval. Two minutes after the break, however, they fell behind to a goal which loomed even that early as a matchwinner.
Taking a duel for possession with Jamal Lowe one step too far, Dasilva was ruled to have fouled the livewire midfielder. In ideal range for setpiece specialist Edwards, the 40-yard free kick was clipped over a forest of heads and turned inadvertently into his own net, under pressure from O'Keefe, by the straining Josh Magennis.
Portsmouth had found what they were looking for, a single goal which they committed themselves to defending doggedly and decisively. Midway through the second period, they were handed the chance to double their advantage when Solly inexplicably manhandled Brett Pitman inside the penalty area. Prolific scorer Pitman was the obvious choice to take the spotkick but was foiled by Amos' brilliant anticipation and full length save to his left.
With 20 minutes remaining, Amos' heroism might, under normal circumstances, have galvanised his side into unlikely recovery. And they tried, it's important to acknowledge that they tried. But their efforts were laboured, unimaginative and ultimately fruitless. Entirely predictable, as well.
Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold. Pompey had been waiting for 25 years to taste it. On this chilly December afternoon, the score was effectively settled. Nothing to be seen here...we'll move on.
Charlton: Amos, Solly, Konsa, Sarr, Dasilva, Aribo (Reeves 87), Forster-Caskey, Marshall (Best 82), Clarke (Ahearne-Grant 75), Holmes, Magennis. Not used: Phillips, Jackson, Pearce, Lennon. Booked: Holmes.
Portsmouth: McGee, Thompson, Clarke, Burgess, Haunstrup, O'Keefe, Rose, Lowe, Chaplin (Bennett 46), Evans, Pitman. Not used: Bass, Kennedy, Main, Talbot, May, Casey. Booked: Thompson, Evans.
Referee: Andrew Madley. Att: 16,361 (3,870 visiting).