Doncaster Rovers 0 Charlton 1 (Maatsen 12)
This definitive away performance earned Charlton three critical points, without the usual nerve-jangling histrionics but featuring instead a measured march to victory from start to finish. They were in charge from the off and even negotiated seven added minutes with a new assurance that, under new guvnor Ian Adkins, suggests they might be a force to be reckoned with when the play-off places are doled out. The Addicks were calm at the back, a mixture of steel (Darren Pratley) and artistry (Jake Forster-Caskey) in midfield and, in a game of rare chances, had enough composure about them up front to convert one of the few they created.
The identity of the game's only scorer came as a pleasant bonus to Charlton's Sky Sports viewers. Surprisingly named by Adkins to operate on the right side of a mobile front three, Ian Maatsen, a left back by trade, though one with naturally aggressive inclinations, coolly claimed his first goal at senior level after only 12 minutes in his new role. It was too early to inspire confidence in their ability to successfully protect their slender lead but this time they got it right and saw it through.
Maatsen's strike was the result of unapologetically direct methods, a move launched by Ben Amos' downfield clearance and continued by headed flicks from Jayden Stockley and Diallang Jaiyesimi through the middle. Outmuscling Reece James in pursuit of the loose ball, Maatsen shook off the defender, expertly adjusted his body shape and volleyed past Louis Jones into the bottom right corner. The simple, effective nature of the goal will hopefully see an end to the kind of screwing around at the back which proved so disastrous during Adkins' curtain raiser at Wimbledon. It was thoughtful of John Stones to demonstrate the obvious dangers of over-elaboration two days before Charlton's Keepmoat engagement.
Making six changes from the debacle at Plough Lane, Adkins was rewarded by the dispassionate, frills-free manner of victory. He was lucky enough to welcome back Ryan Inniss from a five-month injury absence, rested Chris Gunter and Liam Millar following international duty and trusted Jayden Stockley's physical presence to lead the attack. Most of his decisions were vindicated, though his effusive post-game salute to Alex Gilbey, surprisingly preferred to Andrew Shinnie, may have been his way of encouraging a player who has struggled to impress since arriving at The Valley. Gilbey did his bit but was hardly the outstanding influence hailed by his boss. No harm, though, in bigging him up. He's one of us.
Out-of-form Donny, without a win in five previous games, offered little. Their two best chances arrived early but revealed the lack of punch which has seen them fall away recently as play-offs contenders. Ex-Addick Omar Bogle nimbly transferred the ball to his stronger right foot but saw an unconvincing shot turned away by Ben Amos' outstretched leg. A better opportunity fell to his strike partner Fejiri Okenabirhie, who pounced on the temporary paralysis afflicting the visitors' defence after Adam Matthews inexplicably backheeled into play from the left byline but drove weakly at a briefly exposed Amos. There was little else to concern the Addicks' well-protected keeper, though a second goal would have usefully sealed the issue.
Adkins' re-jigged side were hardly dynamic themselves. Before the interval, though, Maatsen was irrepressible and came close to doubling the lead. Pratley's raking pass sent Gilbey to the right byeline to cross hard and low; arriving at the near post, the Chelsea youngster's close range effort was smothered by Jones and Tom Anderson. As Maatsen's threat faded, the slack was taken up by Diallang Jaiyesimi on the opposite flank. His scintillating run had right back Brad Halliday labouring to keep pace and was capped by a perfect cross which barely cleared Stockley's head but landed conveniently on Gilbey's chest. Possibly startled to receive the ball, Gilbey hesitated and the chance was predictably lost. Jaiyesimi and Stockley featured again when the latter headed Forster-Caskey's outswinging corner past Jones. Loitering in an offside position in front of the keeper, Jaiyesimi made the official decision easy by touching the ball as it passed him on its way into the net.
While celebrating a job expertly done away on the road, Adkins is entitled to breathe a sigh of relief that massive central defender Inniss emerged from an undemanding test without apparent difficulty. Alongside him, Jason Pearce revelled in his responsibility as a no-nonsense defender unfettered by any dreary keep-ball duties. Full backs Matthews and Ben Purrington are solid pros the new manager can depend on to complete a capable back four. As a defensive midfield shield, Pratley is hard to better. Against Rovers, he reined in his occasional lapses into villainy, avoided his customary yellow card and regularly broke up attacks before they matured. Often at his shoulder, Forster-Caskey provided vision and unsuspected aggression.
Stockley will no doubt share with Chuks Aneke the role of upfield target man. The wide roles will be filled by Liam Millar/Maatsen and the fast improving Jaayesimi. There should be a place for Shinnie in the starting line-up. But the new gaffer will make his own decisions. He's off to a promising start. It might be too late this season but Charlton are clearly in good hands. Count me on board.
Doncaster: Jones, Halliday, Wright (John 68), Anderson, James, Smith (Greaves 88), Bostock, Robertson (Richards 58), Coppinger, Bogle, Okenabirhie (Lokilo 68). Not used: Balcombs, Horton, Gomes. Booked: Halliday.
Charlton: Amos, Matthews, Inniss, Pearce, Purrington, Gilbey (Shinnie 90), Pratley, Forster-Caskey, Maatsen (Gunter 90),
Stockley (Aneke 84), Jaiyesimi (Millar 65). Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Oshilaja, Watson. Booked: Stockley, Purrington.