BY KEVIN NOLAN
Time was ticking away inside the cavernous confines of Bloomfield Road and Charlton were only seven minutes away from completing a monumental exercise in frustration.
The language was getting bluer, not only inside the deserted stadium but no doubt within countless dwellings around the Southland. Then the Addicks pulled themselves together to produce a superb winner and where there was darkness, suddenly there was light.
All was forgiven in that sweet moment of victory – at least temporarily. The post-mortem could wait until a different day. A day like today.
Tuesday evening had started well beside the Irish Sea, the visitors’ task simplified by the second-minute dismissal of James Husband, who left referee James Bell no alternative by clipping the heels of Omar Bogle as the burly striker burst clear on to Ben Purrington’s clipped ball over the top.
Intent hardly mattered because Bogle was bearing down on goal.
Handed a huge advantage over the stricken Seasiders, Charlton seemed at a loss how to exploit it.
Purrington himself gave immediate warning that they were not entirely comfortable in the driver’s seat. Embarrassed by the pace of CJ Hamilton, he hauled back the flying winger and received a fifth-minute caution. It might have been wise to remove him from harm’s way because further trouble seemed inevitable.
Sure enough, Purrington stuck around to repeat the offence half an hour later and the sides were evened up again. Lee Bowyer’s exasperation was unprintable.
During their period of numerical superiority, the visitors had hardly outplayed depleted Blackpool.
Their main inspiration was provided by Alfie Doughty, who cut back a chance which Bogle fired into the sidenetting and later Purrington, who volleyed his deep cross into the vacant stand.
Little or nothing was seen of the hosts, meanwhile, as they struggled to make any impression on dominant centre-backs Ryan Inniss and Akin Famewo, not to mention the imperturbable Chris Gunter. The interval brought an uneasy sense that a massive opportunity was being missed.
Midway through the second period, that sense of loss hardened into resignation when the Addicks were denied – rightly, it should be said – an overdue breakthrough.
From a right-wing corner expertly delivered by the impressive Andrew Shinnie, Inniss soared high to head emphatically past Chris Maxwell and trigger the celebrations until a linesman’s flag attracted the attention of an otherwise satisfied Bell.
It turned out that Bogle had been unable to resist the temptation to lend a helpful toe to Inniss’ header on the goalline, ruling himself offside.
After a lengthy, official consultation, the “goal” was ruled out. Again the victim of fate’s fickle finger, Bowyer was hopping mad. Incandescent. Irate. More than somewhat upset. There’s only so much a manager can be expected to take.
The second half brought with it, quite apart from Chuks Aneke’s face-saver, the Charlton debut of tenacious 18-year-old Chelsea loanee Ian Maatsen, who took over from skipper Darren Pratley.
To describe Maatsen’s inaugural game as impressive does it no justice whatsoever. While quietly subduing the dangerous Hamilton, he joined the attack without hesitation, threading sharp balls forward into feet and moving on to the return. Hardly a pass went sideways or back.
This kid looks the business and almost inevitably made a huge contribution to Charlton’s overdue breakthrough.
Exchanging passes with Andrew Shinnie, he picked up an inconclusive clearance and floated a peach of a cross to the far post where Doughty cushion-headed back across the box. From six yards, Aneke made easy work of glancing past Maxwell.
The points were already safe with Ben Amos comfortably posting a third consecutive clean sheet behind the iron curtain policed by Inniss and Famewo.
Six added minutes were negotiated as efficiently as the seven coolly managed three days earlier to hold off Wigan. There was none of last season’s untimely panic.
After he has calmed down Bowyer will sift the consequences of an evening of contrasting highs and more than a few corresponding lows.
His defence looks solid with Maatsen an exciting addition and the growing influence of Aneke adds bite up front, where goals promise to be hard come by. Shinnie provides class to midfield, though the fifth yellow card meted out to Ben Watson – in as many matches – gives concern. Pratley continues to put in yeoman shifts while Doughty’s improvement has been steady.
The show moves on to Northampton tomorrow, where Bowyer’s rotation system seems certain to prefer Aneke and the unquenchable energy of Paul Smyth in attack. With Purrington suspended, Maatsen will surely start at left-back and will just as surely nail down the position as his own.
PICTURES: PA AND KYLE ANDREWS
Alfie Doughty. No longer considered a rookie, the fleetfooted wing-back provided the ideal outlet for the defenders to exploit. His spirited runs along both flanks were a constant thorn in Blackpool’s side.
Doughty’s cleverly-cushioned far-post header which laid on Aneke’s matchwinner was the highlight of another impressive performance.
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