Wigan Athletic 2 (Aasgaard 84, Humphrys 90) Charlton 3 (May 21,31, Blackett-Taylor 43).
Gamely whittling away at their usual points penalty, Wigan must have fancied their chances of making further progress when Charlton arrived at cavernous DW Stadium on Tuesday evening. Sending the Addicks to this rugby league stronghold at Halloween just had to be someone’s idea of a seasonal laugh, some macabre stab at gallows humour.
Some laugh… some humour as it turned out because, for 84 sublime minutes, plus seven added to the first half, Sean Maloney’s nervous Tics were played off their soulless park, a gloomy venue which justifies the taunt that “your ground’s too big for you”. Unhappily – some might say predictably – the hugely impressive visitors abruptly caved in, had their three goal lead reduced to one and crawled over the line with their dignity in tatters. In the immediate aftermath of their sudden collapse, Michael Appleton insisted that “I’m not going to focus on the last 10 minutes… I’ll focus on what I’ve seen before.” And if you swallow that, you’ll swallow just about anything.
Appleton’s right, of course, to enjoy the rest of his side’s sublime performance before tackling the late defensive nightmare which threatened to ruin their perfect evening. And there was plenty to savour as his sweetly synchronised Addicks toyed with their bewildered hosts before retiring for a break already, so it seemed, out of sight. From sound goalkeeper Ashley Maynard-Brewer to restless buzzsaw Alfie May up front, Charlton were a well-oiled machine, to which Wigan had no answer.
It was May who put the Londoners in front just past the 20-minute mark. The opening exchanges had been even, with Callum Lang’s free kick clipping the bar and Tyreece Campbell forcing a smart save from Sam Tickle in reply. Then Louis Watson’s precise cross was headed forcefully goalwards by May, saved magnificently by Tickle but bundled over the line by the persistent May.
Charlton’s pocket-sized dynamo needed just ten more minutes to double his tally with his 11th goal of an already prolific campaign. Again the talented Watson provided the telling pass, which May moved on to his left foot before beating Tickle with a low strike into the bottom right corner. It was heady stuff to which Corey Blackett-Taylor added a flourish two minutes before the break.
Blackett-Taylor had been capably handled by ex-Addick Sean Clare but eluded his marker as Miles Leaburn cleverly flicked George Dobson’s laser-powered pass into his stride. A crisp right-footed drive left Tickle helpless on its way inside the left post. The visitors were comfortably in control and the interval arrived as an unwanted interruption.
There was no obvious warning of the decline to come as Charlton continued where they had left off in the second period. With Michael Hector in commanding form, they defended efficiently and seemed capable of increasing their lead. Campbell, feisty and mischievous on the left flank, came close to doing so when he hit a post and then forced a sharp save from Tickle. But a note of caution was promptly issued by young Norwegian Thelo Aasgaard, who arrived at the far post to awkwardly shovel a deep cross from Callum McManaman, a last survivor of Wigan’s 2013 FA Cup winning team, narrowly over the bar.
Aasgaard went one better with six minutes remaining by exchanging sharp passes with lively substitute Martial Godo and beating Maynard-Brewer with a ferocious shot at his near post. The tables were dramatically turned now and Wigan piled on the pressure by scoring again in the last minute of normal time.
Godo had made a huge difference and it was his low cross from the left that was taken in his stride by Steven Humphrys and rifled past a blameless Maynard-Brewer, with substitute Charlie Kirk an uninvolved witness. It left the shellshocked Addicks seven endless added minutes to negotiate before 415 bravest of the brave pilgrims and many more stay-at-home couch surfers were able to celebrate. The late turn-around was par for the course and no more than experienced Charlton followers have come to expect. Suffering is part of the process… it goes with the territory.
Any account of this important win on the road – Charlton’s first of a stuttering season – should include the prodigious contribution made by George Dobson who was, in a word, immense. Much more than the midfield destroyer he is frequently dismissed as being, the skipper’s passing and movement were exemplary. He was involved in two goals, covered more ground than any other player and stood out. Mind you, he was responsible for one near-disastrous pass, which gave Wigan a fleeting opportunity but thankfully amounted to nothing – thanks, in part to his efforts in recovery. If nothing else, though, his error should provide the Dobson naysayers with material for their usual backbiting. The rest of us will continue to appreciate George’s wide array of talents which featured, on Tuesday evening, an outrageous flick over Liam Shaw’s head which led indirectly to Blackett-Taylor’s fine goal. Best enjoy him while you can… you know what they say about not missing something until it’s gone!
Wigan: Tickle, Clare, Hughes, Morrison, Jones (Mcmanaman 62), Shaw (Smith 46), Adeeko, Pearce, Aasgaard, Lang (Godo 46), Wyke (Humphrys 46). Not used: Amos, Rekik, Magennis. Booked: Adeeko, Aasgaard.
Charlton: Maynard-Brewer, Asiimwe, Hector, Jones, Tennai Watson (Thomas 71), Louie Watson (Kirk 83), Dobson, Camara (T. Campbell 10), May, Blackett-Taylor (Fraser 71), Leaburn (Tedic 83). Not used: Walker, Ness. Booked: Tennai Watson.
Referee: Paul Howard. Att: 8,486 (415 visiting).