Charlton 0 Scunthorpe 1 (Toney 31).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
It ain't mathematically so. Not yet it ain't. But it's liable to be. Because in every other way, it's becoming obvious. Charlton will be competing again in League One next season. They belong there. When push comes to shove, they're just not good enough even to make the play-offs.
Back-to-back 1-0 defeats by Wimbledon and Scunthorpe thrust the tiresome campaign into sharp relief. The performance near Norbiton was ghastly and for those unfortunate wretches who suffered it, then loyally turned up at The Valley four days later, some sort of therapy might be in order. Nobody should be asked to endure twin nightmares like those traumatic ordeals. Not to mention having to pay for the bitter experience.
The tactical explanations for Charlton's prolonged demise are many and varied. Some experts advocate the diamond, some pundits prefer a more lozenge-shaped set-up, others argue for three at the back, still more big up 4-4-2. Then you've got your wingbacks, hole players, false number 9s, midfield sitters. To press or not to press, play out from the back or get it up front asap.
It's all so technical that it's likely Stephen Hawking would have failed his coaching exams miserably. On the other hand, he might have concluded that football is a simple practice unnecessarily complicated by theory. Its primary aim is to stick the ball in the net more times than your opponents and, in that regard, both Wimbledon and Scunthorpe had the edge over the Addicks.
Charlton's deceptive total of 54 league goals was swelled recently by the surprising 9-goal burst during the false dawn of Lee Bowyer's first three games in charge. Their lack of a proven goalscorer has cost them dearly in otherwise seemingly winnable games. At Wimbledon, blond-thatched Lyle Taylor seized on Patrick Bauer's disastrous slip and coolly poached the game's only goal. Taylor scored again at Walsall on Saturday and his crucial strikes will almost certainly keep modestly-budgeted Wimbledon in League One. The Dons should have been made an offer they couldn't refuse when his availability became an issue earlier this year. But imagination isn't among Roland Duchatelet's characteristics. He keeps his pragmatism close to his chest, which is where you will also come across his chequebook.
Scunthorpe's matchwinner was claimed by Ivan Toney, currently on loan from Newcastle United. His 1-yard tap-in owed more to the work of its creators Jordan Clarke and Hakeeb Adelakun but was celebrated with religious fervour. Giving thanks to a loftier presence, Ivan crossed himself, knelt in prayer, dedicated his achievement to world peace and generally carried on as if he'd scored the world's first-ever goal . He was just a little over the top which muddies the point that he was also an outstanding leader of the Iron's attack. If his magnificently struck second half volley had not been equally magnificently tipped over the bar by Ben Amos, though, the visitors might have had to collect him at an A1 service station on the way back.
Featuring on loan for Charlton in Saturday's glorious sunshine were Sullay Kaikai and Michal Zyro, neither of whom made much of a contribution. Kaikai is highly rated by Bowyer, which comes as a surprise to fans who see a trier with little else to recommend him. The Addicks improved markedly when he was replaced by feisty Tarique Fosu. Slow and clumsy, meanwhile, Zyro suffered in contrast to Toney's excellence while a third loanee, Stephy Mavididi, who replaced Joe Aribo, was again hugely disappointing.
Apart from Fosu, Amos was the only full-time Addick to emerge with credit. His early one-on-one block with his feet after Adelakun was sent clear by Duane Holmes was the first of three great saves by the defiant keeper. His instinctive, flying tip-over spoiled Toney's bid for Goal-of-the-Season and was followed by another electric reaction to beat clear Adelakun's venomous drive. No blame could be attached to Charlton's stand-alone keeper for Toney's goal.
Sprinting through a square defence on to Duane Holmes's through pass, Adelakun was offside by a whisker, wisely paused for thought, then delivered a firm, low cross which left Toney the easy task of converting from a yard out.
Toney's goal - and Taylor's before it - has probably condemned Charlton to another season in the doldrums of League One. The muffled drums are beating slowly, the fifes are playing lowly, the band is rehearsing the last post and chorus. It'll be time soon for Charlton's promotion hopes to be lowered down and for the massed pipers to lament their death with "Flowers of the Forest."
Unless, of course, they win at Shrewsbury while Portsmouth lose at Bradford, in which case... well, you can never tell with football, bloody football, do you?
Charlton: Amos, Dijksteel, Bauer, Pearce, Dasilva, Aribo (Mavididi 76), Forster-Caskey, Zyro (Magennis 53), Reeves, Kaikai (Fosu 54), Ajose. Not used: Phillips, Kashi, Lennon, Konsa. Booked: Kaikai.
Scunthoepe: Gilks, Clarke, Wallace, McArdle, Townsend, Yates, Holmes (McGeehan 76), Ojo, Moris, Toney (Novak 69), Adelakun (Vermijl 84). Not used: Watson, Bishop, Hopper, Burgess.
Referee: Graham Salisbury.
Att: 11,877 (586 visiting).