Shrewsbury Town 0 Charlton 0.
Kevin Nolan reports as Charlton continued their inch-by-inch improvement in Shropshire.
The promising shoots of improvement which faintly flourished in three games since Michael Appleton took charge struggled to survive numerous tests at Shrewsbury on Saturday. But survive they did and stretched Charlton’s unbeaten league run to four games, three of them under the new gaffer’s direct supervision.
So defensively vulnerable before Appleton arrived, the Addicks managed their first clean sheet since August 5th, an achievement which owed as much to Harry Isted’s brilliant if eccentric goalkeeping as it did to any obvious defensive re-organisation. But there was a new, corporate determination not to concede, which Isted backed up with a handful of quite remarkable saves, none better than the miracle he performed to deny Kieron Phillips in the last of eight added minutes. A goal then would have cemented Charlton’s unwanted reputation as regular last gasp suckers.
Apart from an early save which kept out Morgan Feeney’s point blank header from Tom Bayliss’ free kick, Isted wasn’t unduly troubled during a dull-as-ditchwater first half. Feeney did his bit by ballooning the rebound over the bar before both these moderate sides settled down to share responsibility for the scruffy exchanges. The Shrews were marginally less culpable for the mutual fecklessness but were hardly showstoppers themselves. The statutory forty five minutes plus five perversely added were suffered almost in silence by 5,669 (556 visitors) disbelieving eyewitnesses, none of whom could rouse themselves to exchange the usual, pointless insults.
Appleton’s men were fumbling their way to the interval before Isted again distinguished himself seconds before the break. He was criminally exposed when Tom Flanagan blasted Carl Winchester’s careful cutback goalwards but clawed clear the defender’s fierce drive. From Brandon Fleming’s resultant corner, Max Mata’s diving header was netbound until the inspired goalkeeper kept it out at full stretch. His first half contribution had been outstanding but his best work lay before him.
Though singularly unimpressive, Charlton had somehow stayed in the game and showed immediate improvement upon resumption. Four minutes into the new half, Tyreece Campbell received a short corner on the right and crossed left-footed for Lloyd Jones to outjump Mata and head powerfully for goal. Twisting athletically in the air, Marko Marosi contrived to tip the ball to safety. Marosi reacted again when substitute Chuks Aneke connected with a clever lay-off from Tennai Watson, blocking Aneke’s shot before beating Alfie May to the rebound.
The private duel between Isted and Marosi tipped in favour of the former, who made a jaw-dropping save to keep the visitors level midway through the second session. Caught loitering outside his penalty area as Town broke quickly after clearing a right wing corner, his faulty position was alertly spotted by Winchester. From inside his own half, the heads-up Shrew launched an accurate effort at goal, which sent Isted into undignified, panicky retreat, catching up with Winchester’s soaring lob as it seemed certain to bounce into his unguarded goal. One last desperate swipe conjured the ball up and over the bar as the keeper tumbled into the net. Brilliant from Winchester, even more brilliant if somewhat scatty from Isted.
A rousing game had somehow emerged from the first half dross and Aneke might have won it when he met George Dobson’s cross with a meaty header which Marosi turned over the bar. There was still time for Isted to preserve Charlton’s precious point with possibly the piece-de-resistance of a personally vindicating performance. Confronting Phillips as the substitute prepared to routinely convert Winchester’s headed pass, he managed to block the apparently sure thing with an outstretched foot.
Even the booking he received for idiotically fouling Mata marginally outside his penalty area failed to mar Isted’s all-conquering afternoon in Shropshire. It was almost inevitable that he earned extra kudos for sprawling to save Winchester’s free kick. On this form, nothing was impossible for Charlton’s often underrated goalkeeper. Just as well, though, that his manager has no hair to tear out. It could have gone horribly wrong…
Shrewsbury: Marosi, Feeney, Dunkley, Flanagan. Fleming, Winchester, Perry, Kenneh, Bayliss, Udoh (Phillips 78), Mata. Not used: Benning, Anderson, Bowman, Burgoyne, Sobowale, Bennett.
Charlton: Isted, Tennai Watson (Asiimwe 81), Hector, Jones, Thomas, Taylor (Louie Watson 44), Dobson, Tyreece Campbell (Aneke 62), Blackett-Taylor (Fraser 82), May, Leaburn (Tedic 62). Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Ness. Booked: Thomas, Isted, Tedic, Watson.
Att: 5,669 (556 visiting).