Charlton 3 (Magennis 14, Forster-Caskey 43, Holmes 66) Swindon Town 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
In circumstances which fluctuated between sullen resentment and occasional eruptions of pent-up bile, Charlton's laborious season crawled over the finishing line at High Noon on Sunday. Their easy victory over already relegated Swindon extended their unbeaten run to five games and completed their rise to respectable if stodgy mid-table respectability. A greater distortion of reality would be hard to imagine.
The 2016-17 campaign has, for Charlton, actually been a strength-sapping, full- kit route march across an endless, mud-churned No Mans Land. From its opening day when they rolled over meekly at Bury, on through sundry home humiliations by the modest likes of Wimbledon, Rochdale and Peterborough among too many others, their progress has been painful. Even the odd bright spot like Ricky Holmes' outstanding hat-trick at Shrewsbury was devalued by defeat.
Sunday's visitors Swindon were themselves responsible for a demoralising 3-0 rout in November while the only thing needed to complete the soul-destroying 1-0 surrender at Oldham three months later was the running-up of a white flag. The lower orders practically formed a queue to beat the Addicks while the depressing mood was hardly lightened by the dithering of Keith Stroud, whose craven refereeing robbed them of their first triumph over Millwall in two centuries. There were precious few peaks but too many troughs. Until, that is, they found the resolve to pull themselves together recently. Because it's only fair to acknowledge Charlton's belatedly positive reaction to the growing threat of relegation.
Both Southend and Gillingham arrived confidently at The Valley, needing victory for different reasons. Both were sent packing before a win and a draw on the road -in both cases against doomed opposition but there you go, you beat what's in front of you - dispelled lingering fears of demotion. When the chips were down, Karl Robinson's men delivered. The alternative was unthinkable.
On the end of foulmouthed abuse from pockets of detractors whose white-hot hatred in many cases seems based on nothing more than his broad Scouse accent, Robinson weathered the storm, clearly retained the dressing room and lived to fight another day. Unless he is betrayed by the club's singularly maladroit owner, as so many have been before him, he earned the time and space he needs to recruit and re-build a title-seeking side in the summer. It might be as wise as it is undoubtedly fair to give him a chance to sink or swim on his record after a full pre-season preparation. Unless it makes more sense to mock him behind a cloak of anonymity.
There was, meanwhile, the formaility of Swindon's wake to conduct on a pleasant Sabbath afternoon at The Valley, where Robinson named a side capable of settling a 3-0 score with the relegated Westcountrymen. Prominent among them was jaunty Player-of-the-Year Ricky Holmes, tipped to re-join his former Northampton boss Chris Wilder in the Championship at newly promoted Sheffield United but still a hard-grafting Addick for the time being. Persistently burrowing into the visitors' defence with customary determination, Holmes increased his goal total to thirteen with an instinctive second half finish applied to Nathan Byrne's short pass. His quickthinking shot caught Will Henry by surprise and nestled sweetly inside the right post before the flatfooted keeper could re-act.
Holmes' clever strike added to fine first half goals from Josh Magennis and Jake Forster-Caskey. Before the quarter hour, Magennis met Jay Dasilva's precise cross with an equally precise header beyond Henry's right hand. Two minutes before the interval, Forster-Caskey stabbed home a low cross from Dasilva, his second in successive games a timely response to his manager's call for more goals from the gifted midfielder.
The bitter memory of a freezing November day spent suffering in Wiltshire wasn't totally eclipsed in this funereal pre-May Day atmosphere but revenge is sweet, served cold or hot. Maybe next season the record will be similarly set straight with Bury, Rochdale and Peterborough, who yielded Charlton one point between them. Not exactly soaring ambitions admittedly but, trust me, you really had to be at all of those six games to understand where I'm coming from. It's not so much a mission as a grudge.
Charlton: Rudd, Solly (Barnes 86), Bauer, Pearce, Dasilva, Byrne (Aribo 82), Crofts, Jackson (Ahearne-Grant 73), Forster-Caskey, Holmes, Magennis. Not used: phillips, Botaka, Ulvestad, Novak. Booked: Bauer.
Swindon: Henry, Thomas, Brophy, Iandolo (Obika 68), Feruz (Twine 68), Colkett, Dabo, Rodgers, Starkey (Goddard 68), Conroy, Norris. Not used: Vigouroux, Gladwin, Barry. Booked: Starkey.
Referee: John Brooks.
Att: 11,932 (578 visiting).
This report is dedicated to the memory of Dean Milner, a Nolan family friend and Charlton season ticket-holder, who died suddenly last Friday in his early fifities. "Gone alas... like our youth too soon".