Charlton 0 Fleetwood Town 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Holding Fleetwood Town to a drab goalless draw at home was hardly guaranteed to dispel the air of gloom currently hanging over The Valley. It's a measure of Charlton's fall from grace that the point Town took home with them, along with 80 stout-hearted followers, was no more than they deserved. The stalemate was a result which will have surprised nobody in a division where the role of underdog needs re-assessment on a game-by-game basis.
Coming hard on the heels of the cruel midweek defeat by Peterborough United there were, to be fair, positives for Lee Bowyer to dredge from the dross. Fleetwood did arrive, after all, in a nose-bleeding play-off position; ignoring their subservient position, Charlton achieved their first clean sheet of the season; the presence, on the bench, of Jason Pearce and Igor Vetokele signals a return to action of several sidelined first teamers; last and let's also make him least, Ched Evans was hardly allowed a kick of the ball.
Adamant that the turbulence before kick-off would not affect his players, Bowyer's point was eloquently made by the devastating turn of pace shown by Karlan Grant to penetrate the visitors's rearguard and set up a first minute chance for Lyle Taylor. An alert defensive block foiled Taylor's close range flick before CARD's threatened salvo of crisps brought the game to a crunchy halt. I don't need telling that simple economics ruled out the use of Kettle crisps or any of those middle class beetroot-and-coriander efforts they charge a ransom for in gastropubs but the cheapos on offer didn't have to taste like kitchen roll.
The point was not to eat them but hurl them on to the pitch - I get that too - but there was no way even hula hoops could travel that far from the pressbox. So with a shrewdly orchestrated show of bravado, I scornfully ate half of them (it might help if I explain that they've discontinued food in the press lounge), then contemptuously tossed the packet and what was left of them on the floor. I feel justified in claiming the manoeuvre was carried with the right mixture of devil-may-care disdain and nonchalant disregard for consequences.
I plan to finish the rest when Wimbledon turn up on Tuesday week. They'll still be there unless Uncle Roland pries the moths off his wallet and cleans up after us. In other words, they'll still be there.
Back to Charlton vs. Fleetwood where, after the nibbles break, Charlton continued their bright start. Patrick Bauer headed Lewis Page's corner wide and Mark Marshall -whose experience was preferred to Albie Morgan's youthful optimism -sent a decent effort over the bar. Page's clever pass sent Taylor clear but Wes Morgan's desperate clearance dealt with the striker's wickedly dipping cross. When Joey Barton's Cod 'n Chips Army hit back, Dillon Phillips' sharp reflexes were required to foil Paddy Madden's flick at the near post before Jason Holt and James Husband combined to set up a close range chance for Morgan, a brave block by Page snuffing out the danger almost at source.
With just five goals conceded in as many league games - one of them a penalty - it appears that Charlton are reasonably well served in goal. But young Phillips has his critics, well meaning and otherwise, despite his steady improvement. He delivered a riposte to his detractors with the full length save he made to keep out the downward header by Ashley Hunter which seemed to have buried Madden's perfect cross inside the keeper's left-hand post. Phillips does need to improve his distribution, though - he hasn't contributed an assist so far this season.
The Addicks' best chance to break the deadlock fell to Joe Aribo a quarter hour before the end. Good work by impressive holding midfielder Krystian Bielik and persistent Darren Pratley set up Chris Solly to deliver a deliciously chipped centre from the right byline. With time and space to pick his spot from 15 yards, Aribo struck a left-footed volley disappointingly wide of the target. He was promptly replaced by battery-charged George Lapslie, arriving as usual like his shorts were on fire, whose last minute header was cleared off the goalline by Lewis Coyle. The goalless outcome was ensured by Phillips, whose anticipation helped him reach Hunter's 22-yard free kick, awarded for Bauer's foul on Chris Long, and turn it to safety.
Long story short etc, the draw against a team who scored five in midweek was honourable. There's still a defiant spirit at Charlton that no amount of eccentric dictates from Brussels can destroy. Here's hoping, however, that Roland's next dietary outburst involves a riff on Marie Antoinette's dubiously attributed advice that the lower orders eat cake. A nice slice or two of Victoria sponge would go down a treat. No way would that get thrown on the pitch. The mess in the Lower West would turn opinion against CARD, as would the use of rock cakes. Just saying like.
Charlton: Phillips, Solly, Bauer, Sarr, Page, Bielik, Aribo (Lapslie 78), Pratley, Marshall (Vetokele 63), Grant, Taylor. Not used: Steer, Dijksteel, Pearce, Morgan, Ajose. Booked: Pratley, Sarr, Bauer.
Fleetwood: Cairns, Coyle, Holt, Eastham, Burns, Evans (Long 83), Madden (McAleny 90), Morgan, Hunter, Marney, Husband. Not used: Jones, Dempsey, Grant, Bolger, Sheron. Booked: Eastham, Morgan, Hunter, Husband.
Referee: Anthony Coggins. Att: 8,810 (80 visiting).