Stevenage Town 1 (Reid 34) Charlton 1 (Blackett-Taylor 90+2 pen)
Making sense of this curate’s omelette of a game wasn’t easy on a dodgy livestream that obstinately refused to co-operate. I mean, be fair, they take your money but just don’t deliver. Well, they didn’t exactly take our money but we still felt cheated. So did Charlton until referee Peter Wright grudgingly agreed with their appeals for an added time penalty after turning down at least three equally valid claims. If you don’t ask, you don’t get and the Addicks weren’t slow in asking.
With regular taker Alfie May a concussion absentee (only at Charlton could it be sustained during training), responsibility for the spotkick, almost apologetically awarded after Slobodan Tedic was brought down by Carl Piergianni, was assumed by an outwardly confident Corey Blackett-Taylor. Stepping up once the usual shenanigans subsided, CBT made light of the pressure by beating Taye Ashby-Hammond and the Addicks had salvaged an unlikely point – their first on the road after four previous tries – from another apparently fruitless away day. Or so it seemed.
As Blackett-Taylor’s equaliser hit the net, our picture froze for approximately the tenth time, leaving us living room witnesses unconvinced that the goal had counted. Behind Ashby-Hammond’s goal, three intrepid family members were busy celebrating but we weren’t in contact with them. You probably don’t want to hear this but our language was unrepeatable while we awaited normal service to be restored. Then there was the small matter of seven more minutes to survive before the result was official. But Stevenage hung on and probably deserved their point.
Charlton’s steady improvement in the second half mitigated -but failed to obliterate from memory – a dreadful first half performance that ranks among the worst inflicted on their loyal travelling supporters (an admirable sold-out away end of 1380 at Stevenage). It wasn’t so bad back home where we could look forward to regular interruptions but then again we had to do without the witty commentary of Terry and Greg and put up with a pair of twerps, who fancied themselves as Abbott and Costello (ask your grandad if you’re struggling) and spent their time bigging up the local heroes while sneering at their vastly inferior visitors. They weren’t entirely wrong, of course, but it was for us, not them, to say so.
During those 45 lost minutes, new manager Michael Appleton must have wondered what he’d taken on. His new charges were limp, languid and lethargic, their error-strewn contribution to a first period which belonged in a public park on Sunday morning at times bordering on epic. Worse yet, they were totally devoid of anger and anger (call it “edge” if you prefer) is an often overlooked ingredient in the best of sides. Pep Guardiola spends much of his time being angry, as does his star-studded side. They use anger as fuel for their on-field engine and you don’t catch them “playing with smiles on their faces”, as advocated by football’s Pollyannas who don’t include hard-nosed winners like Roy Keane or Graeme Souness. Smiling at them was never a good idea.
Their modest achievement, meanwhile, in restricting Stevenage to a single-goal advantage said more about the home side’s own ineptitude than it did Charlton’s first half resistance. The city slickers might even have reached the interval on scoreless terms but for a lapse into less-than- resolute defending just past the half hour mark. Admittedly the one-two exchange between Nathan Freeman and Finley Burns was expertly executed but, with George Dobson lured out of position, Lloyd Jones’ half-hearted attempt to check Jamie Reid’s run was easily brushed aside. Reid’s low finish across Harry Isted into the far corner was unstoppable.
Appleton’s first half-time gee-up was hardly difficult to imagine. Charlton re-emerged with a different attitude and while hardly a force of nature, they were back in a game that their hosts should already have put out of their reach. A glaring miss by Reid kept them interested but it was the late introduction of Chuks Aneke that made the difference. “Don’t get mad, get even” is Chuks’ mantra and he set about hauling the Addicks back into contention. His muscular presence hustled Nathan Thompson into an unpunished handling of Isted’s huge punt but Stevenage were now a nerve-wracked, clock-watching rabble praying for a final whistle, which arrived a penalty too late.
It might have been tough love on Appleton’s part that thrust Aneke back into action but his impact was undeniable. He’s a rare handful for defences at lower league level and a talismanic influence on his teammates. His litany of injuries has derailed a promising career but, in the short term at least, it’s either wishful (or wistful) thinking that his return might re-focus Charlton’s direction-less start to the season. The new manager seems to think so. And he might just be right.
Stevenage: Ashby-Hammond, Sweeney, N. Thompson, Piergianni, Freeman, Burns, L. Thompson (Forster-Caskey 78), Butler, Roberts, Reid (List 80), Hemmings (McDonald 61). Not used: Hegyi, Neal, B. Thompson, McNeill. Booked: Butler, Reid, List.
Charlton: Isted, Abankwah (Thomas 60), Jones, Hector, Edun, C. Campbell (Watson 60), Dobson, Anderson (Taylor 60), Ness 88), T. Campbell (Tedic 76), Leaburn (Aneke 76), Blackett-Taylor. Not used: Maynard-Brewer. Booked: Dobson, Tedic, Aneke.
Referee: Peter Wright. Att: 5,119 (1.380 visiting).