Charlton 3 (Stockley 47, Inniss 65, Aneke 67) Lincoln City 1 (Anderson 89).
By Kevin Nolan at The Valley as Charlton toy with our emotions yet again.
It may prove to be irrelevant to the promotion race but Charlton's ebullient second half performance no doubt sent shivers through Portsmouth and Oxford United. Those worthies had begun to believe that it had turned into a two-horse race for the final play-offs slot. But not yet it hasn't.
The scramble for sixth place now moves on to a high noon shootout on Sunday when the Addicks must beat Hull City at The Valley and hope their rivals fail to beat Accrington Stanley and Burton Albion respectively. The draw no longer guarantees either Pompey or Oxford a post-season crack at the play-offs. It's not quite as cut and dried as that, what with goal difference in the mix but let's not go there at the minute. It's enough to say it's a longshot but a longshot's better than no shot at all.
Already qualified for the play-offs, Lincoln City showed up in SE7 for the first time in most memories and collaborated with their hosts in serving up a first half of unremitting tedium, during which Adkins' Addicks failed to trouble the visitors' goal. The Imps, meanwhile, were only marginally more menacing, though centre forward Callum Morton should have put them in front after just ten minutes. Sent through the home defence by Tayo Edun's glorious reverse pass, the WBA loanee was left with only Ben Amos to beat from 12 yards. The brilliant keeper won the one-on-one duel by turning Morton's shot to safety. There was little else to distinguish a totally uneventful first period, enlivened only by the replacement, on 31 minutes, of injured referee Kevin Johnson by fourth official Carl Brook. Much later on, Charlton would have reason to be grateful for the unscheduled switch. More of that... much later on.
Another replacement, that of Ben Purrington by Chuks Aneke, was of more immediate impact. Considered surplus to the requirements of the 4-3-3 formation he prefers, Aneke came on to support Jayden Stockley in a revamped 4-2-2 set up. Playing behind Stockley in a No.10 role suited to his shirt number, Aneke caused immediate havoc. Just two minutes after resumption, the big striker cushion-headed a deftly dinked cross from Alex Gilbey back to Stockley, who brutally half-volleyed past a startled Alex Palmer to give Adkins' side the lead. The estimable Stockley claimed his eighth goal since coming on board in January, his first scored with his feet, then continued to thrive alongside Aneke. Proving again that players, not formations, win football games.
Though Amos was again called on to protect the lead with another smart save from Morton, the Addicks took over. Albie Morgan, who had taken over from an ominously injured Jake Forster-Caskey, dispossessed TJ Eyoma and fed Aneke to sting Palmer's palms with a ferocious drive. Stockley was then inches away from converting an excellent cross from Liam Millar, himself caught up in the new mood of attacking enterprise. An important second goal was not, however, long delayed. In fact, two came along close together. The first of them was spartan in its creation and execution. An inswinging corner from Morgan reached Ryan Inniss beyond the far post and was headed down past Palmer by the huge centre back. His first goal for the club was followed, two minutes later, by Aneke's 15th in the league. Capping a personal purple patch, Millar left the right side of City's defence in tatters as he surged through them to set up Aneke to efficiently sidefoot beyond a suddenly shellshocked Palmer.
At 3-0 the result was dusted if not completely done. Charlton inexplicably stepped off the gas and allowed Michael Appleton's overachievers to hit back. Substitute Tom Hooper neatly set up Harry Anderson to reduce the deficit but of greater concern to the Addicks was the curious behaviour of Aneke and that of his manager during the closing minutes.
Before Anderson's 89th minute consolation, Aneke went on one of those rampages which has brought him official trouble throughout the season. Pursuing a departing Imp to the halfway line, he clumsily decked his flying opponent and received a thoroughly deserved caution. A managerial hook should have promptly removed him from harm's way but Adkins seemed slow to react. While making his mind up, Aneke launched himself into a second ill-advised challenge only yards away from where his manager stood. Local hearts leaped into mouths as deputy referee Brook briefly weighed his choices. Possibly sharing sympathy with a fellow-substitute, he contented himself with delivering a stern lecture to the belligerent Addick and thus spared him to turn out against Hull on Sunday... no doubt from the bench as per usual. Aneke was eventually replaced by Darren Pratley in added time; his deputy had no more than five minutes to get himself booked. He duly made it with time to spare.
Adkins will have learned from this heartwarming fixture that Stockley and Aneke can operate together. Also that Aneke, his best player, galvanises his teammates, particularly the likes of Gilbey, Morgan and Millar. With winning his only viable option, an aggressive selection seems the way to go - not in kamikaze style, of course, but free of inhibitions and going for the throat of Hull's Tigers. It might not be enough but better to go out as lions rather than lambs. We'll know how it played out at about 2 pm on Sunday. There will probably be the customary twists and turns, of course, but who knows... let's face it, who knows?
Charlton: Amos, Matthews, Famewo, Inniss, Purrington (Aneke 46, Pratley 90), Watson, Gilbey, Forster-Caskey (Morgan 38), Maatsen, Millar, Stockley. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Gunter, Pearce, Washington. Booked: Purrington, Aneke, Pratley.
Linclon: Palmer, Poole, Montsma, Edun, Jones, Grant (Hopper72), Scully (Howarth 57), Bramall (Sanders 63), Morton, Eyoma (Walsh 72), Anderson. Not used: Long, McGrandles, Rogers. Booked: Jones.
Referee: Kevin Anderson