Kevin Nolan’s Match Report: Charlton v Peterborough (26/12/2022)

Kevin Nolan’s Match Report: Charlton v Peterborough (26/12/2022)

Charlton 1 (Leaburn) Peterborough 1 (Clarke-Harris)

Five days after surrendering to Bristol Rovers, Charlton defied logic by dumping Brighton out of the Carabao Cup. They made the most of 22% possession, defended heroically, soaked up what the Seagulls had to offer and finished off a chaotic penalty shootout. Caretaker boss Anthony Hayes could look incoming manager Dean Holden straight in the eye as he handed over a spirited team. At least he could until Peterborough United had been and gone from The Valley on Boxing Day.

Play-off contenders Peterborough arrived with a strange record of ten wins, ten losses and just one draw. They finished eighth in League One, just three points outside the play-off group, their promising position confirming the decision taken years ago to increase the reward for winning a game from two to three points. The draw was effectively devalued, but let’s not discount them – they could be Charlton’s savior at the end of this difficult season.

Holden perhaps didn’t know what to make of a difficult first half, which Posh largely controlled without tangible reward. The few chances on offer were created by the visitors, the first of which was a furious drive by little Jeando Fuchs, who cannoned the head of Lucas Ness to Jonson Clarke Harris. From a tight angle, United’s prolific captain put the rebound into the side.

With the Addicks struggling to gain a foothold, Ephron Mason-Clark’s pinpoint pass sent Kwame Poku clear, with Ness in urgent pursuit. Poku held off Charlton’s straining defenders and closed in, but was defied at close range by Ashley Maynard-Brewer’s brave block. The young Aussie got to his feet and threw himself in the way of Joe Ward’s point-blank attempt to convert the rebound. His superb double save was the move the Addicks needed to force themselves into a game that threatened to slip out of their control.

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To reach the interval still level was an achievement for Holden’s men. Shortly after the restart they went one better by taking the lead with a goal conceived and executed by two irrepressible contenders from the Sparrows Lane assembly line.

Debutant Daniel Kanu spun away from Frankie Kent’s fierce challenge on the left and found a fine cross that picked out his relatively experienced colleague Miles Leaburn. Leaburn Jr. made light of Ronnie Edwards’ touch-heavy pressure, planting a delicate, glancing header into the far right corner. A delighted Valley joined the exuberant teenagers to salute a goal of special significance; it was Leaburn’s sixth of an injury-hit campaign and makes him Charlton’s leading goalscorer. Kanu’s first goal for the senior team is an inevitable breakthrough, hopefully not long delayed.

Buoyed by success, the newly unrestrained Addicks went for it. Breaking from his own half when a Posh corner was established, Sean Clare set off on a lung-busting run and was well served by Jack Payne’s sensational pass. The surprisingly quick wing-back stayed ahead of a chasing position and picked his moment to shoot, beating the advancing Will Blackmore but hitting the inside of the post. It was an escape that the vulnerable visitors celebrated by grabbing a sloppy but not entirely unexpected equaliser.

Apart from his earlier chance, not much had been seen of Clarke-Harris, but that was to change midway through the second session. Meeting Joe Ward’s swerving left-wing corner at the far post, the powerful striker’s downward header had crossed the line before Ness desperately punched it clear. Posh was back on level terms and immediately looking for more.

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Deflated by the setback, Charlton were briefly vulnerable. First Kelland Watts, then Poku, hit the bar as Posh threatened to riot. But the Addicks weathered the brief storm and Jesurun Rak-Sakyi squandered the clearest opportunity for an entertaining game. Set up by Leaburn’s cushioned square pass, the unmarked Crystal Palace loanee pulled a careful bead on a yawning goal, picked his left-hand corner and… lay weakly wide. It was a lapse of overwhelming swagger, and in other circumstances it might have unnerved the Addicks. But under George Dobson’s tireless management and with centre-backs Sam Lavelle and Ryan Inniss in unbreakable form, they dug in for a non-committal but useful draw – their tenth of the season – and a point that halted a run of three league defeats. And when you can only win five out of twenty-two games, you at least have to avoid losses as often as possible.

In a campaign that can rightly be compared to trudging through treacle, our heroes make painstaking progress in their crablike “march” to safety from relegation. But there is one bright spot… and there is an unexpected chance of cup glory at Old Trafford in the New Year. You can’t say fairer than that. Or more poignantly optimistic.

Charlton: Maynard-Brewer, Sessegnon, Lavelle, Inniss, Clare, Fraser (Henry 75), Payne (Rak-Sakyi 75), Dobson, Ness, Kanu (Stockley 75), Leaburn (Kirk 82). Not used: McGillivray, Blackett-Taylor, Mitchell. Booked: Dobson.

Peterborough: Blackmore, Watts, Edwards, Kent, Fuchs (Kyprianou 72), Taylor, Clarke-Harris, Mason-Clark (Jones 72), Poku (Taylor 89), Burrows, Ward. Not used: Bergstrom, Butler, Knight, Thompson.

Referee: Darren Drysdale. Att: 13,816 (385 visitors).

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