Charlton 3 (Aribo 31, Kory Roberts 73 o.g, Mavididi 89) Walsall 1 (Oztumer 41).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Very few of a chilled crowd slightly north of 10,000 who braved the miserable elements to attend this unpromising fixture expected a footballing classic. No offence intended to either club but an encounter between Charlton and Walsall is rarely one to race the pulse or curdle the blood.
As so it turned out again on Saturday. This keenly disputed duel fell short of classical, with its catalogue of errors, missed chances and pratfalls. What it did provide though was a riproaring, roistering, old-fashioned thriller, crammed with near things and superb goals; a cracker, in other words, disputed by hell-for-leather sides without an ounce of malice between them. Pity there had to be a loser but that's how it goes. Walsall wouldn't want our crocodile tears.
The opening half hour, to be honest, didn't amount to much and the first mutterings of discontent were growing in volume by the time Joe Aribo adroitly fired the home side into the lead. For the Addicks, Josh Magennis had forced Liam Roberts into a smart, sprawling save, while Ahmed Kashi's fine diving clearance and follow-up block on George Dobson dealt with Walsall's best effort. Charlton's painstaking, slow-tempo progress from their own half was beginning to grate when the increasingly indispensable Aribo calmed a potentially mutinous Valley just past the half hour.
Trying his luck on the left flank, Mark Marshall stole a yard on marker Adam Chambers to make space for a soaring cross which eluded Magennis at the far post but was cushioned on the volley inside the right-hand post by Aribo. The addition of goals -this was his third of the season - completes the rapidly improving midfielder's cv and represents another triumph for the assembly line supervised by Steve Avery. Aribo was one of four academy graduates in the starting line-up on Saturday, with another four, among them late substitute Karlan Ahearne-Grant, warming the bench. If Charlton are imploding, as we're warned they are, they' ll be leaving a young, healthy footprint behind them.
Aribo's fine strike not only galvanised the Addicks but persuaded the Saddlers to throw off their defensive caution. Suddenly the joint was jumping.
Fine footwork by the on-fire Aribo set up Stephy Mavididi's brutal 25 -yard drive which all but splintered the crossbar but it was anything but one-way traffic, not while crafty, sawn-off playmaker Erhun Oztumer cleverly pulled the strings for the Blackcountrymen. His razor-sharp one-two with Tyler Roberts prised Charlton open but was let down by a sliced finish. Hard to discourage, the Greenwich-born former Addicks scholar equalised shortly before the break.
While struggling to contain the menace of 18 year-old WBA loanee Tyler Roberts, Chris Solly was sidetracked as left back Liam Leahy picked up Roberts' pass and dropped a precise cross on the penalty spot. Having timed his run perfectly, Oztumer had no need to jump as he neatly steered a header into the bottom right corner.
Two minutes into the second half, the visitors spurned a glittering opportunity to seize the initiative. After dispossessing a floundering Harry Lennon near the right touchline, Joe Edwards cut in and set up Amadou Bakayoko to finish from point-blank range. Appearing from seemingly nowhere, Ezri Konsa managed to block the certainty, with Bakayoko hammering the rebound against the bar. Despite remaining defiant, it was mainly downhill for the Saddlers following the glaring miss. Konsa, by the way, continues to work out his notice with professional commitment.
The final contribution of Ben Reeves, before he gave way to the rehabilitated Tarique Fosu, was a glorious through ball which sent Magennis through to shoot disappointingly against the advancing Liam Roberts. The arrival of an often unplayable Fosu, who joined Mavididi and consistently excellent Jay Dasilva in tormenting the Midlanders with their bewildering repertoire of adhesive touches, blistering pace and mesmerising close control, was the beginning of the end for the bewitched visitors. But a second goal was urgently required and Charlton left it uncomfortably late to find one.
Among the blizzard of chances they created, Fosu stung Liam Roberts' palms with a near post rasper before Mavididi overpowered Korey Roberts on the left byline but unwisely chose to shoot straight at the keeper from an impossible angle, with Aribo an imploring option to his right. With desperation growing, Magennis flicked Marshall's corner against a post before Walsall somehow survived a frantic goalmouth scramble, during which Korey Roberts cleared off the line from Aribo and Leahy repeated the feat to foil Lennon. The intense pressure eventually told on stubborn Walsall with nineteen minutes remaining.
Sent haring through by Dasilva's incisive pass, Mavididi kept his nose in front of Korey Roberts and was preparing to shoot on the run when the panicky defender's lunged to intervene but sent the ball rolling into his own goal.
There was still time for Marshall to spoon Fosu's precise cutback high over the bar before Mavididi removed the tension from five added minutes by soloing through again to seal the issue at close range. Attack, attack, attack, it's a novel way to defend but Karl Robinson's skill-saturated Charlton side should try it more often. Saves on chewed fingernails and shredded nerves.
Charlton: Amos, Solly, Konsa, Lennon, Dasilva, Kashi, Marshall (Ahearne-Grant 87), Aribo, Reeves (Fosu 52), Mavididi (Jackson 90), Magennis. Not used: Phillips, Forster-Caskey, Hanlan, Dijksteel.
Walsall: Liam Roberts, Kinsella, Korey Roberts, Guthrie, Leahy, Chambers, Edwards, Dobson, Oztumer, Bakayoko, Tyler Roberts. Not used: Gillespie, Devlin, Jackson, Flanagan, Kouhyar, Shorrock, Candlin.
Referee: Scott Oldham. Att: 10,140 (295 visiting).