Charlton 1 (Grant pen,90) Accrington Stanley 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Accrington Stanley arrived at The Valley for their first ever visit on the usual wave of lukewarm affection they've come to expect over the years. Many people's favourite second team, they trade on their role as plucky little underdog - the team which refuses to die but instead fights back against adversity, takes on the big boys and emerges smiling and unbowed. Great story...shame it's beginning to unravel.
In the aftermath of the late mayhem which poisoned this bruising , no quarter clash, in which Charlton were no angels themselves, it might be time to re-evaluate Accies' lovable image. The truth is they're one of those clubs situated north of Watford Gap services hanging on by a financial thread and convinced they are honest-to-goodness straightshooters undone by southern conspiracy. Moulded in the hardbitten image of their manager, John Coleman, their tactics are uncomplicated -at least they are on the evidence provided by both games this season. You identify the opposition's danger men, do what's required to neutralise them, distribute the inevitable bookings through the team, commit your fouls in no-man's land and hang on. And don't forget to fritter away as much time as you can get away with wasting.
Stanley's dark arts worked well for about 80 minutes before all hell broke loose following a right wing corner swung in by outstanding substitute Ben Reeves. Goalkeeper Jonny Maxted was beaten comprehensively by Krystian Bielik's bullet header but was reprieved by referee John Busby's ruling that he had been illegally impeded, probably by Lyle Taylor. In the writhing pile of fallen bodies who instantly closed in untidy battle near the penalty spot, Maxted and Taylor were identified as chief perpetrators and when partial order was restored, both of them were sent off. Escaping censure completely was rangy centre back Ross Sykes (Sykes by name, Sikes by nature) who laid about him with malign intent and was to be heard from again later when the roof fell in on Stanley. Among the still shots available from the incident, Sykes is pictured with right leg extended in what seems suspiciously like a stamping action. Explain that away, Bill - er, sorry, Ross.
It appeared that the fired up visitors had achieved their obvious ambition of an away point when five added minutes were ordered. But urged on by magnificent, one-eyed support in the Upper North stand behind deputy keeper Dimitar Evtimov's goal, the Addicks were not allowed to quit. Reeves, who had relieved wholehearted competitor Darren Pratley, stepped clear of a tiring challenge before trying his left footed luck from outside the penalty area. His goalbound effort travelled only as far as the carelessly deployed hand of Daniel Barlaser, who seemed to have evaded justice until Busby's assistant flagged his input. Surrounded by a posse of wild-eyed Accies with lynching on their agenda, the lino stuck to his guns and persuaded his guv'nor that a penalty was the only feasible punishment.
Beside themselves with gibbering rage by now, Coleman's chaps delayed the spotkick by any number of shady tricks. But while everyone around him was losing his head, Karlan Grant remained studiously nonchalant,effortlessly converted the penalty, then disappeared under a mountain of delirious colleagues. They included a pitch invader who managed to accidentally kick Bielik in his unmentionables. It was a cheap shot Sykes might have admired. As it was, the teenage tearaway had to content himself with inviting one and all out for a post-whistle straightener. And just as peace threatened to break out, Williams, with Naby Sarr his self-appointed minder burst out of the tunnel to perform the traditional victory jump. And off it kicked again.
When weighing the bitter cost of this chaotic victory, Lee Bowyer will bitterly rue the three-game absence -appeal pending - of talismanic Taylor. He will also be checking discreetly on the damage sustained by Bielik. On the plus side, he will relish the resistance, not all of it legal to be honest, offered to the rough and ready Lancastrians. Leading the fight as it degenerated into disorder, indefatigable playmakers Josh Cullen and Jonny Williams were kicked from pillar to post, while Sarr, despite one or two errant Hollywood passes, was immense at the back.
Bowyer will also be pleased by the contribution made by backstop Dillon Phillips, generally underworked but responsible for two magnificent saves, one in each half. Five minutes before the break, Phillips made himself big as Luke Armstrong was odds on to convert Billy Kee's knockdown and somehow smothered the Middlesbrough loanee's point blank shot, before frantically ferreting around to locate the loose ball in the ensuing scramble. Then midway through the second session, Phillips took off spectacularly to tip Kee's looping header safely over the bar.
It was far from easy, it was never pretty, you could say it was tinged with luck but this was a win to savour. Pity there had to be a loser...
Charlton: Phillips, Solly, Bauer, Sarr, Purrington, Bielik, Pratley (Reeves 67), Cullen, Williams (Fosu 79, Grant, Taylor. Not used: Maxwell, Dijksteel, Marshall, Lapslie, Ocran. Booked: Cullen, Grant. Sent off: Taylor.
Accrington: Maxted, Johnson, Hughes, Sykes, Gibson (Wood 87), Clark, Finley, Barlaser, McConville, Kee, Armstrong Evtimov 83). Not used:Brown, Sousa, Rodgers, Mangan, Conneely. Booked: Johnson, Gibson, Finley.
Referee: John Busby. Att: 11,877 (188 visiting).