After an agonising end to August, Karlan Grant was the two-goal hero but Charlton’s key victory over bang in-form Barnsley owed as much to corporate solidarity as individual brilliance.
From whistle to whistle, Lee Bowyer’s talented troopers ran themselves -and their breathless visitors – ragged in a barnstorming performance which fully justified this important result.
In this aggressive mood and with this fearless attitude, they are a match for any side in League One.
They may be starting to believe that.
With his squad strengthened by the return of several sorely missed players, Bowyer wasted no time in restoring cool novice Krystian Bielik to his depleted defence and adding the experience of Jamie Ward to a midfield of skilful battlers.
After just eight minutes, during which Grant had already been foiled in one-on-one confrontation by Adam Davies, his faith was repaid by the contribution made by each newcomer to a blistering opening goal.
Redoubtable skipper Jason Pearce did his bit by stepping in to break up a Barnsley attack and feeding the resourceful Bielik at his elbow.
The Arsenal loanee’s pass forward was incisive enough but Ward’s gloriously sprayed delivery which curved precisely into Grant’s path on the left was sprinkled with goaldust.
Taking the ball in his stride, the rangy striker breezed effortlessly past Ethan Pinnock, took aim on the run and placed a low drive across Davies and in off the foot of the far post.
From inception to execution, the goal was an exercise in uncomplicated skill and simplicity, reinforcing the belief that the Addicks are especially dangerous when operating at high tempo and without inhibition.
The visitors had no answer to the pace and power to which they’d been subjected, or ultimately to the withering twin impact of Grant and his electrifying strike partner Lyle Taylor.
Play two up front, get the ball up to this pair of greyhounds and Charlton are in business.
Having clearly done their homework on their hosts, the Tykes unwittingly connived at their own downfall by pressing high up the pitch and reducing to a minimum the laborious build-up which is very much the fashion these days and, in the hands and gifted feet of such as Barcelona and Manchester City, is irresistible.
Watching the honest likes of unreconstructed stopper Pearce pinned back against a corner flag while in reluctant possession is not quite the same thing.
You might say the Yorkshiremen did Charlton a favour by forcing them to shuttle the ball forward to a midfield which knew exactly how to deal with it.
The quicker release also helped goalkeeper Jed Steer to showcase his excellent distribution from both feet and hands.
In a vastly improved display, Steer’s command of his goal area included capable handling and, where necessary, lusty punching, of crossed balls and corners.
A rare clean sheet was his reward. Scorer of 26 goals in 12 previous league games, Barnsley had no intention of submitting meekly, not while gifted 20-year old youth product Jacob Brown was doing his stuff on the left touchline.
Brown was a restless menace but, in deputy right back Anfernee Dijksteel, eventually met his match; Dijksteel was superb throughout 98 testing minutes.
The downside of his continued excellence is the enforced misplacement of Chris Solly at left back.
Supposedly brittle but ever-present in the league so far, Solly was, as usual rock-solid defensively but is less productive going forward on his weaker foot. Needs must, of course.
Chances were few in an evenly contested first half, with Steer needing to be agile at full length to turn aside Alex Mowatt’s curling free kick and Cameron McGeehan stepping dangerously inside but spooning an acceptable opportunity weakly wide.
For Charlton, Ward’s close range effort was smothered after Joe Aribo and Taylor carved out an opening, then the busy midfielder’s volley was parried by Davies.
The accepted interval wisdom was that the Addicks needed a second goal. Shortly after resumption, they duly delivered.
The second breakthrough was delayed when referee James Linington, unpopular in these parts for awarding Peterborough a highly contentious match-winning penalty in August, ruled that Pearce had impeded Davies while bundling Ben Reeves’ corner over the line.
Barnsley’s probably justified reprieve lasted just two more minutes.
Torn apart by Aribo’s devastating pass sending the irrepressible Taylor to the left byline, from where the pink-topped marauder drilled a firm, low cross into the danger area, the visitors were hopelessly wrongfooted.
With Davies unable to cut out the danger, Grant’s task in tapping home from a yard out, was routine.
Before the end, Taylor was unlucky to see Liam Lindsay resolutely block his goalbound shot with Davies stranded on the 18-yard line, then made an inelegant hash of squandering Aribo’s on-the-plate gift when scoring seemed an easier option.
Taylor’s uncharacteristic wastefulness hardly mattered as Bowyer’s confident side capably defended their advantage.
There was an anxious moment when substitute Mamadou Thiam soloed through to shoot agonisingly wide shortly before the end but Steer, apart from his good work in fielding desperate high balls, remained relatively untroubled.
Even an eccentric cameo by lovable late substitute Naby Sarr, who sliced and hacked his way through 13 unpredictable minutes, seemed part of the plan. But possibly not.
Charlton (4-4-2): Steer 7, Dijksteel 8, Bielik 8 (Sarr 82), Pearce 8, Solly 7, Cullen 8, Reeves 7 (Lapslie 74,7), Aribo 8, Ward 8 (Fosu 62,6), Taylor 9, Grant 9. Not used: Phillips, Marshall, Pratley, Ajose.
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