Rotherham United 0 Charlton 1 (Dobson 55).
Kevin Nolan starts "spreading the noos" after watching Charlton win in New York -or Rotherham as it's known locally.
When midfielder George Dobson joined Charlton last July, he was welcomed effusively by manager Nigel Adkins, who gushed "I am pleased George became another summer signing, he has a reputation as a combative midfield player so I'm looking forward to working with him."
Adkins said one thing but clearly meant another. Dobson quickly fell out of favour, which says far more about the manager than it does about the player. A sturdy old-school competitor, Dobbo, (as he was no doubt imaginatively known at school), has been a shining light during what has been a chastening season for the club. His excellent form has been maintained in frequently chaotic circumstances. And he's much more than a mere workhorse. Though ever-ready to "put his foot in", the slick-haired boy band lookalike has an impressive range of passing once in possession.
Adkins' departure was a shot in the arm for 24-year old George. New boss Johnnie Jackson had few illusions about what he had on his hands and wasted no time in making it indispensable. Dobson's name, it can be safely assumed, is first on Jackson's teamsheet. Being clearly besotted with football, the hunch-shouldered dynamo has been ever present in league games since being part of Charlton's 1-0 victory at Sunderland back in October. Turning out twice in the same week is a pleasure, not a chore, for the hustler at the heart of the Addicks' engine room.
As a gifted career midfielder, known for his uncanny ability to contribute important goals, Jackson's one reservation in assessing Dobson's portfolio, must have been his absence from the scoresheet in over 33 games. Hardly employed as a defensive anchor, he pops up regularly in or around the opposition penalty area but it's difficult to recall a shot in anger. That deficiency was put right at Rotherham's AESSEAL New York Stadium where Dobbo made up for lost time and broke his duck with a proper belter.
The spadework featured a bright counter-attack involving Albie Morgan and Corey Blackett-Taylor, which seemed doomed to fizzle out without troubling the Millers' keeper Victor Johnsson until Morgan re-cycled possession by squaring to Dobson, in heads-up support to his right. Taking Morgan's pass in his stride, Dobson unleashed an uninhibited right-footed drive, which curled away from Johansson's full-length dive and finished its flight neatly inside his left hand post. It was some way to end a scoring drought and went down very well on the sideline.
Having taken a lead in a game of few chances, it became Charlton's task to defend it -something they did with impressive organisation and grim determination. They fell out with each other at times but were inspired by the example set by the emergency partnership at centre back of veteran Jason Pearce and comparative novice Akin Famewo. Thrust together to cover the absence of Ryan Inniss and Sam Lavelle, who might well have finished their campaigns at Wimbledon in midweek, Pearce and Famewo stepped up admirably, their dogged resistance marred only by Famewo's 10th booking of the season for a crude challenge on Oliver Rathbone.
Offering stout support to his centre backs was Sean Clare, who seems Dobson's only serious alternative as Charlton's player-of-the season. Clare's knowhow was invaluable, his choice of decisions invariably correct. Having scored what turned out to be the matchwinner, Dobson did more than his bit defensively, as did striker Jayden Stockley, whose commanding headers repelled setpieces as to the manner born. In impeccable form behind them was Craig McGillivray who while largely untroubled, commanded his area and plucked out of the air anything which eluded Stockley and his colleagues. His second half save from Michael Ihiekwe's point-blank header was stunning and in no way diminished by the fact that Ihiekwe was ruled offside. McGillivray played a capable part in securing Charlton's second successive 1-0 victory in South Yorkshire, whose natives must be sick of the sight of them.
As already mentioned, clearcut chances were rare but few of them fell to the misfiring hosts, who contributed one effort on target, the details of which elude your reporter at the minute. Ben Wiles dispatched a dipping first half volley which briefly concerned McGillivray but flashed wide and Michael Smith (all footballing Smiths are apparently required to be called either Michael or Matthew) headed Shane Ferguson's cross wastefully high. Second half substitute Mickel Miller scraped a half-chance over the bar but the reality was that the Addicks were defensively comfortable from whistle to whistle.
At the other end, Conor Washington outwitted Rathbone, briefly outpaced his rival but was caught by Rathbone's splendid recovery tackle while in the act of shooting; Washington threatened again when set up by Morgan but could only toe-poke to Johansson. No irresistible force themselves up front, Charlton never really promised to add to Dobson's outstanding strike but were not really required to do so. Reflecting on a largely uneventful but undeniably efficient victory on the road, Jackson's comments were those of a satisfied employer. "I thought we defended brilliantly, especially when protecting our penalty box and our goalkeeper. I felt we stayed in a compact shape and had such a threat on the counter attack. We looked really strong, full of energy." The manager's contented reaction to a dominant performance was understandable and entirely justified. It seems churlish but irresistible to add..."Yeah, that's all very well but ain't it too little too late?" Er, sorry about that, John.
Rotherham: Johansson, Harding, Wood, Ihiekwe, Barlaser (Osei-Tutu 68), Ogbene, Rathbone (Lindsay 62), Wiles, Ferguson (Miller 62), Ladapo, Smith. Not used: Mattock, Kayode, Edmonds-Green, Chapman.
Charlton: McGillivray. Clare, Pearce, Famewo, Matthews, Gilbey, Dobson, Morgan, Blackett-Taylor (Purrington 90), Washington, Stockley. Not used: Harness, Jaiyesimi, Forster-Caskey, John, Leko, Burstow.
Referee: Ross Joyce. Att: 9,087.