BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Yes, other clubs have matches in hand. Yes, it hasn’t always been entirely convincing. But Charlton Athletic are back in the League One play-off places. And a top-six finish is genuinely back up for grabs.
Tuesday night’s 3-2 win over Bristol Rovers would have been a special one under the Valley lights if supporters had been there.
Sadly we can only imagine the reception and ovation that Johnnie Jackson would have got from the Covered End as he took charge of the Addicks in a temporary capacity.
The Covid-19 pandemic has robbed us of so many of those savoured football moments in the past year. This was another one. Jackson’s interim elevation to the top job was far more low key than it would have been in normal times.
The club’s former captain could have been forgiven for having second thoughts about taking on the task after a disastrous opening 32 minutes.
And while Ben Amos looked badly at fault for not keeping out Ed Upson’s shot – even if the ball did swerve slightly – his save from Jonah Ayunga shortly before that was a critical one.
Ayunga was also unlucky with an audacious chip which just missed creeping in at the back post.
Charlton could have been even further behind after a horribly disjointed start. It looked a nasty mess for the new caretaker to clean up. But that is exactly what his side did. It is the first time since the 2019 play-off final that they have conceded the first goal and come back to win.
It needed an excellent angled left-footed volley from the edge of the box by Andrew Shinnie, a vital and instantaneous response to what had been a developing crisis, to get Charlton back on track.
But from that point it became relatively plain-sailing for the home side as they stretched their unbeaten run to five matches.
Jake Forster-Caskey, along with Shinnie the only changes to the starting line-up from Lee Bowyer’s final match at the helm, underlined his deadball prowess as he guided a free-kick home after Jayden Stockley was fouled just outside the penalty area.
Charlton dominated the second half as they pushed for a winner.
One of the few flaws in Shinnie’s display were the amount of under-hit corners. The Addicks had 10 in total and wasted too many – especially when you have Jayden Stockley to aim for.
Charlton possess one of the division’s in-form strikers in Conor Washington and it was no surprise that he popped up to leave the Gas with nothing to laugh about.
Alfie Kilgour’s header home to Joe Day was short and the Northern Ireland striker had an easy tap in for his 11th goal of the campaign – four of those coming in the last three matches – after his initial attempt came back off the base of the right upright.
Charlton’s last four interim boss appointments have won their first home league games.
They are three points better off than at the same stage of the 2017-18 season, when they lost in the play-off semi finals to Shrewsbury Town. It was at this juncture that Lee Bowyer replaced Karl Robinson, winning six and drawing one of the final 10 matches. There are some striking similarities to three years ago, even if this time Nigel Adkins has been an external – rather that internal – replacement. Charlton will hope the final league position becomes another of them.
Andrew Shinnie. Only behind Forster-Caskey for completed passes but also attempted most tackles. Committed.
Shinnie’s goal. Hitting back so quickly was absolutely vital.
Photos by Paul Edwards and Keith Gillard
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