Charlton 2 (Blackett-Taylor 62, Kanu 89) Aberdeen 3 (Asiimwe o.g. 3, Shinnie 22, Polvara 33)
That old familiar combination of hope and expectation hung in the air as a sizeable, cheerful home contingent turned from Charlton Church Road into Floyd Road on its way to The Valley. There were obvious grounds for optimism against which no amount of bitter experience stood a chance. The new signings looked shrewdly chosen, pre-season performances and results were encouraging; the general feeling was that there was a place for everything and that everything was in place to launch a successful campaign under new stewardship. And to complete the feel-good factor was overwhelming relief that Sandgaard’s ersatz anthem had been consigned to the dustbin.
Inside the Valley, the grass never looked greener and the stadium positively radiated rude health. If a football ground can ever be said to sparkle, then the Addicks’ ancestral home fits the bill. Not that 1,613 tactless visitors from the Granite City of Aberdeen, Charlton’s last pre-season opponents before the serious business gets underway next Saturday, were impressed. They informed us routinely that Charlton was a sinkhole (sic) and they couldn’t wait to go home. They weren’t exactly gracious guests and, as it turned out, neither were the eager beavers unleashed by new boss Barry Robson on Dean Holden’s bewildered troops. Embarrassing corridors were cut through the home side’s resistance as the rampant visitors established a three-goal lead in little more than a half hour of irresistible aggression. The Dons could even afford to miss a first half penalty, such was their overpowering domination.
The writing was on the wall as early as the third minute and it made unpleasant reading for the local heroes. Dante Polvara’s right wing cross was intercepted by Nathan Asiimwe but neatly headed into his own net by the over-eager youngster. The Addicks were still absorbing the setback when Ashley Maynard-Brewer made the first of a string of superb saves to deny Bojan Miovski. Charlton’s steadily improving Aussie keeper went on to stand between his disintegrating side and a rout of seismic proportions. If nothing else, Saturday’s shambles established the identity of Charlton’s No. 1 goalkeeper.
Maynard-Brewer was helpless to prevent Aberdeen doubling their lead midway through the opening half. Luis Henriques de Barros Lopes – known to his mates as Duk – proved too strong for young Lucas Ness as they battled for possession to the left of Charlton’s beleaguered rearguard. His hard-drilled cross was nimbly turned home by Graeme Shinnie and the visitors were cresting a wave of superiority. They should have made it three almost immediately when Michael Hector clumsily tripped Polvara inside the penalty area but Shayden Morris smashed his spotkick against the right post. Morris’ miss became somewhat academic when he redeemed himself by laying on an easy tap-in for Polvara to slide in Aberdeen’s third. All three goals had exposed the Addicks’ porous left flank, a statistic which will no doubt be addressed by Holden and his analysts during the week before Leyton Orient arrive on Saturday. It’s certain to feature in Orient’s team talk.
As the Dons cooled off, a recovery of sorts was organised by their victims. Maynard-Brewer’s defiance, which featured a marvellous double save from Leighton Clarkson and Ester Soklar, helped restore order, as did the unstinting efforts of George Dobson in the face of imminent collapse. It almost escaped attention that when Morris’ penalty rebounded off the woodwork, the Addicks’ indefatigable captain beat several predators to the loose ball and headed it to safety. A small point but one made to emphasise Dobson’s unwavering commitment to Charlton’s cause. In the middle of alarming first half chaos, he stood as firm as he reliably does.
While never qualifying as a “game of two halves”, Charlton’s post-interval improvement was heartening. The blistering pace within their ranks began to concern the visitors, Scott Fraser probed their weakness and, critically, the defence tightened up. The Dons were no longer having it all their own way, though Maynard-Brewer’s heroics were required to keep his side in the game. The 62nd minute arrival of substitutes Karoy Anderson and Tyreece Campbell was both timely and effective.
The irrepressible Campbell, a replacement for the disappointing Charlie Kirk, made an immediate impact. His searching ball from the left was swept in by Blackett-Taylor and an unlikely but nonetheless stirring rally was underway. Alfie May had been a tireless chaser of lost causes and came close to converting a rare chance before giving way to Daniel Kanu with six minutes remaining. And it was Kanu, who claimed the 89th minute goal which arrived too late to affect the outcome but at least rewarded Charlton’s fighting spirit. Sent clear down he right by the lively Jack Payne, his shot was probably heading wide until Jack MacKenzie toe-poked it past Kelle Roos. It was an own goal by any definition of the term but was understandably claimed by young Dan and is unlikely to be disputed by Mackenzie.
This untidy but ultimately spirited performance brought down the curtain on Charlton’s pre-season preparation. They are as ready as they ever will be and come 5pm next Saturday we will know if that’s enough. Orient, not Aberdeen, are sure to provide a more relevant answer to that urgent question. Meanwhile, buckle up for another uneven ride!
Charlton: Maynard-Brewer, Jones (Thomas 62), Hector, Ness, Dobson (McGrandles 78), Camara (Anderson 62), Fraser (Payne 78), Kirk (Campbell 62), Blackett-Taylor, Asiimwe, May (Kanu 84). Not used: Isted, Jayiesimi, Henry, Egbo, Mitchell, Chin.
Referee: Gavin Ward. Att: 5174 (1,613 visiting).