Gritty Charlton off to flyer

BLACKBURN ROVERS 1
Phillips 54 (OG)

CHARLTON ATHLETIC 2
Purrington 43, Taylor 77

BY KEVIN NOLAN AT EWOOD PARK

Let’s begin by dismissing out of hand any suggestion that Charlton’s outstanding victory was undeserved or lucky.

If brave, resolute defending still plays a part in football, nothing could be further from the truth. It was no smash-and-grab either but rather the result of organisation, discipline and an unflinching readiness to put bodies on the line for the cause.

Space alone makes it impossible to record individually the number of courageous blocks which frustrated Blackburn. They were too plentiful.

At pleasantly sunny Ewood Park, Tony Mowbray’s side dominated possession, swarmed over the Addicks at times but achieved very little. Even their solitary goal owed everything to a huge slice of good fortune. It was debited to innocent bystander Dillon Phillips, who enjoyed an otherwise quietly efficient afternoon.

The gung-ho response of Charlton’s defensive wall to a dangerous first half free kick taken by Stewart Downing typified their attitude. Before Downing’s shot had travelled more that four or five yards, he and the ball were engulfed by a red-shirted tide.

Almost every member of a side put together in Lee Bowyer’s truculent image contributed unselfishly, with skipper Jason Pearce and veteran Darren Pratley, who subdued Bradley Dack’s threat, worthy of special mention.

We need to talk about the exception – Naby Sarr. Or more cogently his manager needs to talk about him. This generously talented player has ability in abundance but his frequent lapses in concentration consistently put his colleagues under undue pressure.

Booked as early as the sixth minute for deliberately hauling back Downing, it was Sarr’s carelessness that conceded the corner from which Rovers equalised.

There were other errors, which made his 66th minute replacement by debutant Connor Gallagher as much an act of mercy as a tactical tweak. If he is willing to learn, Sarr has an important role to play this season and Bowyer will not give up on him. Nor indeed should he.

An awkward first half, from which the visitors surprisingly emerged in front, saw Rovers spurn a couple of inviting chances. Sam Gallagher was a toecap away from touching in Amari’i Bell’s delicious cross, then Gallagher’s skilful ballplay set up Downing, who will not wish to be reminded of the embarrassing mess he made of converting his colleague’s clever pass. Three minutes before the interval, Charlton supplied the perfect riposte on the break.

A lightning-quick move started by Purrington near the halfway line flowed through Jake Forster-Caskey’s neat touch and pass out to Jonny Williams to the right of the home goal.

Charlton Athletic’s Ben Purrington scores his side’s first goal of the game

The Welshman’s artfully dinked cross was converted at the far post by an onrushing Purrington, who had continued his run purposefully to score a fine goal, one which bore an uncanny resemblance to his historic equaliser at Wembley.

Retiring at the interval, no doubt with a sense of injustice, Blackburn used up all the luck they had coming by drawing level in bizarre circumstances. Sarr’s sloppiness in possession eventually led to an unnecessary leftwing corner which Downing swung outwards to pick out Bradley Johnson.

The veteran’s bullet header beat Phillips, was alertly headed off the line by Anfernee Dijksteel, but rebounded off Phillips into the net.

Another slapstick concession to match Sarr’s slow motion own goal (more Phillips’ fault than his own) which turned last May’s triumph over Sunderland into an undue slog.

With over a half hour left, Rovers’ timely break seemed to set them up to finish the job. It could hardly have happened at a more inconvenient time for the Addicks, whose clear priority had been to protect their lead deep into the second half.

There was brief concern that disappointment might erode their confidence but the exultant Lancastrians were to be disillusioned in that regard.

If anything, the Cockneys’ resolve hardened. Their not-so- thin red line reasserted itself, with a flying block on Elliott Bennett by the retreating George Lapslie standing out in the defensive masterclass.

With less than a quarter hour remaining, Lyle Taylor sickened the locals by doing what he does best, popping up with the winner against the odds.

Charlton Athletic’s Lyle Taylor celebrates scoring his side’s second goal of the game

The 19 year-old Gallagher had shown a cool head and an impressive touch after replacing Sarr. His mischievous run on to Dijksteel’s quickwitted throw was foiled by Charlie Mulgrew’s intervention at the near post. Forster-Caskey’s resulting right-wing corner was hacked away for a second flagkick, which proved more rewarding, Pearce flicking on Forster-Caskey’s delivery to the far post where Taylor waited to apply the coup-de-grace.

Effortlessly managing the time left, not to mention six potentially tricky added minutes, Charlton’s determination not to concede again was personified by Pratley’s willingness to absorb a painful kick in the head as he dived in to clear from his 18-yard line.

One swallow, they say, doesn’t make a summer. In England swallows don’t in fact get a look-in; summer announces itself with discouragingly leaden skies, unpredictable floods and the wildly inaccurate weather forecasting of so-called experts.

Three points, though, begins the process of consolidation in the Championship. Charlton are underway with this significant result. Onward and hopefully upward.

Charlton (3-5-2): Phillips 6, Dijksteel 7, Lockyer 7, Pearce 9, Sarr 5 (Gallagher 66,7), Purrington 7, Pratley 8, Williams 7 (Morgan 79), Lapslie 6 (Oshilaja 90), Forster-Caskey 6, Taylor 7. Not used: Amos, Bonne, Solly, Wiredu.

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