Charlton 2 (Reeves 6, Fosu 39) Gillingham 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
With table-topping Portsmouth's scalp dangling from their belt, Charlton harnessed the momentum generated by that famous victory to carry them into two pivotal pre-Christmas home games. And on successive Saturdays, they delighted The Valley by removing a couple of painful pebbles which have hobbled them in the recent past.
First up on the Addicks' things-to-put-right agenda were Wimbledon who turned up last week (or failed to turn up, more to the point) securely muzzled and offering their bellies to be affectionately tickled. Pallid imitations of the attack dogs who revelled in snarling their defiance at strangers, they obediently came to heel. Already being outclassed by 10-men Charlton, their fading hopes evaporated when Mitchell Pinnock's transparent effort to balance the books by getting Patrick Bauer sent off backfired into his dismissal for simulation (con-eth the hour, con-eth the Don). Fangless and docile, Wimbledon's bite was even feebler their bark.
Twice conquerors of Charlton in the league last season, next up were Gillingham who traditionally raise their game for this fixture. The pre-kickoff loss of 14-goal striker Tom Eaves was a blow to their chances but understandably drew little sympathy from their hosts, themselves the victims of a seemingly endless catalogue of long-term injuries. To be fair, though, Eaves' absence was a profound blow to the visitors, not to mention a useful boost for Lee Bowyer's buoyant side.
Setting off brightly, the Gills delivered a first minute scare when Jed Steer, under possibly illegal pressure in dealing with Darren Oldaker's corner, dropped the ball at Connor Ogilvie's feet. Jabbing awkwardly at the chance, Ogilvie steered it against the base of the left hand post. The visitors were to come no closer to scoring though they stuck to their footballing principles, went booking-free and played some neat, if ultimately toothless, stuff. Their game plan was, unhappily, ruined by the sloppy concession of a sixth minute lead.
Lanky goalkeeper Tomas Holy was the instigator of his team's downfall, his careless throw-out alertly intercepted by Anfernee Dijksteel inside the visitors' half. The right back's pass found Ben Reeves, whose surgical exchange with Tarique Fosu played him through an outmanoeuvred rearguard. From six yards, the clever playmaker used his weaker right foot to beat Holy, with appeals for offside undermined by the presence on the goalline of a blue-striped defender. It was Reeves' first goal of the season and should have been followed by his second when, with his favoured left foot, he shot weakly at Holy after further good work by Fosu.
Operating from a withdrawn position behind main strikers Lyle Taylor and Nicky Ajose but always eager to join them, Fosu was frequently unplayable. Cutting in from the left on to Joe Aribo's pass, he unleashed a powerful drive which cannoned off the underside of the bar. Clearly in a mood to go it alone, he brilliantly doubled Charlton's lead before the interval.
Moving from left to right outside the penalty area, Fosu accepted Aribo's short pass before using his teammate's tall presence as a screen to elude Mark Byrne's pursuit. From 25 yards, a stuttering touch set up a powerfully curled drive which gave Holy no chance on its way into the top right corner. His stunning effort brought the house down and effectively ended this routine game as a serious contest.
The second half began with a wake-up call for the Addicks as Brandon Hanlan's header re-directed Dean Parrett's right wing corner narrowly wide of the far post but quickly developed into an effortless containment exercise for the vastly superior home side. There was none of that familiar vulnerability in protecting a lead as this game was expertly managed to its inevitable conclusion. Quietly and efficiently, Steve Lovell's men were put in their place by Bowyer's newly confident troops, among which Krystian Bielik (the only booking on a suitably peaceful Yuletide afternoon) and emergency left back Chris Solly were outstanding.
With Darren Pratley, as a 73rd minute replacement for a battered Aribo, hopefully leading the return to the colours of the wounded warriors, there's cause for hopeful anticipation around S.E.7. And that's quite enough giddy optimism for the time being. No call to be putting the mockers on things. It was good, though, to finally rid ourselves of those stones in our shoes. As Mae West would say, I feel like a new man. Happy Christmas and God bless us one and all.
Charlton: Steer, Dijksteel, Bauer, Pearce, Solly, Bielik, Aribo (Pratley 73), Reeves, Ajose, Fosu (Marshall 90), Taylor (Hackett-Fairchild 79). Not used: Phillips, Morgan, Stevenson, Sarpong-Wiredu. Booked: Bielik.
Gillingham: Holy, Fuller (O'Neill 66), Lacey, Zakuani, Byrne, Oldaker (Reilly 46), Parrett, List, Parker, Ogilvie, Hanlan (Charles-Cook 71). Not used: Hadler, Garmston, Bingham, Rees.
Referee: Charles Breakspear. Att: 12,836 (1401 visiting).