|Pos. 22rd (39 pts)||SATURDAY 7 MARCH 2020||Pos. 19th (41 pts)|
SHOTS (on target)
Valiant Victors at the Valley
This afternoon we had yet another of those “must win” games with the added zest of it being a “six pointer” as annoying as that nomenclature can be. Boro are running out of games and a draw wouldn’t be of much use to either side in their fight to escape the drop. Losing this one was simply unthinkable if we were to mount any sort of comeback challenge in picking ourselves up off the Championship canvas.
Having overcome local travel complications the travelling army would have to be up for this and in doing so it meant that those with the Roary heraldry on their chest would have to be busting guts to a man to avoid a repeat of the dog’s abuse that was meted out at Barnsley. Charlton like Boro have had periods of injury woes this season and today they had a couple of defenders likely to miss in Lockyer and Sarr, with Boro missing Ayala and Fry that maybe evened up the defensive frailties.
Charlton were just one point above Boro having lost four of their last six games but as Boro haven’t won since New Years Day (I’m getting really tired of typing that) neither side were exactly brimming with confidence. From a Boro perspective there was always the “we have to win sometime surely” to keep spirits positive and beliefs mediocre if not confidently high. Britt breaker Darren Pratley was likely to return after a bad back problem. He was teetering on one yellow card away from a two game ban for his disciplinary misdemeanours, something that cynically or strategically may have been included in Woodgate’s team talk.
There was a surprise start for Million Euro Keeper Dejan Stojanovic who was selected in favour of Pears presumably as a reaction to not getting down quickly enough for the first Forest goal and being lightweight in his tussle with Grabban for the Forest second and dropped to the bench.
Gestede retained his starting berth with Fletcher and Assombalonga on the bench where Djed Spence remained once again. Saville, Morrison and Nmecha occupied the other sub seats with plenty of Striker options once again should we feel the need to have all four on at once. Pratley as expected was back in for the Addicks with Ben Purrington and Jonny Williams also returning whilst Doughty and ex Makem Aiden McGeady dropped to the bench.
Boro emerged to a half empty Valley in their fetching white away kit. Ref Steve Martin got things underway with Boro kicking off. An early through ball played down the middle to Gestede showed early intent with Charlton replying likewise with a launched clearance upfield to Taylor. Tav earned a free kick just over the half way line which was taken quickly down the line and fizzed in by Tav himself. A minute later another great cross in from McNair in to Coulson was put out for a corner. The corner kick was sent in to the far post, cleared and a short pass from Tavernier passing back set Charlton up for their first attack of the game. Nerves were clearly in evidence with Charlton then giving away a ridiculous corner on five minutes from forty yards out.
A clearance from Stojanovic went two thirds the length of the pitch on 8 minutes which saw Gestede upended but it was interesting to see that the big keeper certainly has one hell of a kick in him. A collision between Taylor and Shotton twenty-five yards out saw Shotton booked for manhandling his opponent on eleven minutes to prevent him breaking through. The free kick was defended well with a double attempt at a clearance eventually ending up at the opposite end in the arms of Charlton Keeper Dillon Phillips.
A long clearance from Phillips saw Shotton block Charlton’s first real threat, going out for a corner that went out to the opposite corner flag and then delivered back in but caught with ease by Stojanovic. Boro’s superiority and pressure paid dividends in the 17th minute as advancing white shirts cut the Addicks open, Gestede squared the ball into Paddy McNair who hit a sweet first time shot past Philips. 1-0 to Boro and hopes were high that today would end that nightmare run.
In reply Pratley played in a great ball out to the lively Green who cut it back across the Boro box evading everyone but Tav had chased back bursting a lung and managed to get a destabilising leg in on Purrington to snuff out the danger on 21 minutes.
Boro were looking a far better side than their opponents as Tav then came close to adding to the lead on 27 minutes but sliced his shot wide. There was always the niggling fear that despite being in control for large spells we were not making that advantage count as the 30 minute mark passed. Oshilaja in a fit of pique barged into Hayden Coulson sending him flying into the advertising boards.
Gestede narrowly missed a chance on 35 minutes after Wing had poked it to McNair who crossed it firmly but with too much pace on it. Green then broke for Charlton with Taylor in support but Moukoudi was strong, fended off any danger and cleared it. Boro then thronged forward as the game was now swinging end to end with Boro looking by far the more likely to add another. A cross from Coulson was headed wide by Howson after a good move down our left flank as those missed chances kept piling up.
Charlton’s defence was looking vulnerable but they were enjoying some freedom down their right wing with Green up against Johnson which was a cause of constant concern. Wing played Tavernier through but once again he miscued his shot and at 38 minutes it remained 1-0. Let’s hope our poor finishing wasn’t to be our undoing. Stojanovic had to be alert to get behind a shot from Green on 39 minutes in his first real test. A foul on Tav on 41 minutes on the half way line saw a free kick played down the right flank to earn two successive throw ins which saw McNair drive forward, but intercepted, Charlton cleared with Boro having stranded Howson upfield but Shotton covered to put the ball out. Two minutes remained of the half and despite our domination it was uncomfortable to watch with just that single goal advantage.
Howson was caught by Purrington as he slid in carelessly to upend the Boro captain earning a yellow for his troubles. A break from the resulting free kick saw a mass of white shirts close down on Charlton’s 18-yard box but Wing just couldn’t dig the ball out from under his feet. The home side then threw some late pressure at Boro but Moukoudi and Shotton stood strong and the whistle went to end the half to a chorus of boos from the home fans.
It was a great half time score from a Boro perspective with our right side in particular Tavernier, McNair and Howson creating the most. Johnson and Coulson were relatively quiet compared with their Forest performance but we needed that second goal to ensure that we came away with all three points. We hadn’t tested Phillips in reality and somehow, we needed to up the ante in the second half because the goal aside we hadn’t seriously worked the Charlton keeper in the first half.
Charlton no doubt fired up after a Bowyer blast got the second half underway. A penetrative drive by Coulson two minutes in earned a corner from his shot. Phillips punched the corner clear and as it came back in there were irate Penalty claims as Gestede was blatantly pushed over. Incredibly neither of the two officials at that end of the pitch saw anything, seemingly missing it as the ball eventually ended up in the guttering of the stand.
Stojanovic stepped out of his box to play sweeper in what was a quiet but fairly accomplished performance so far albeit he had very little to deal with in the 50 minutes now gone. Wing played in Tavernier and a corner resulted as Boro continued where they had left off in the first half. As the corner came in near post Howson hit his shot under pressure into the side netting. Hearts in the mouth time once more then as Lyle Taylor chased a long ball and decided to dive rather than try to finish the move. It at least provoked the home fans into creating an atmosphere as they collectively “questioned” Steve Martin’s interpretation of Lyle Taylors acting skills. A diving header was cleared by Tavernier and from it Boro broke as the game morphed into a lively and feisty few minutes.
Charlton were now fired up after that faux penalty claim and Stojanovic was again called into action as Pratley had a shot with Taylor was dragging back McNair off the ball. The game was now finally looking like a fight for survival. With pressure building Moukoudi had to head the danger clear to concede a throw in that was launched into the Boro box as Charlton entered a purple patch.
McNair had a driving run with Coulson for support winning a corner. Paddy played it short to Clayton but it rebounded off Adam Matthews for a Boro throw in. Johnson then played a great ball into the 6-yard box but despite the invitation there were no takers from Boro. Oshilaja gave away possession and from it Tav saw the goal open up but he walloped it way off target agaaaaain and over the crossbar on 61 minutes. Back came Charlton as Moukoudi once more had to be strong, conceding a corner from which Boro broke, Matthews took out McNair earning a yellow card for his “professional” foul.
A Howson run found Lewis Wing but again as the shot came in towards Phillips’ goal it went well wide. Doughty then came on in place of Williams as Bowyer looked to get his side back into the game. Lewis Wing once again came close but scuffed it and Phillips collected with ease on 66 minutes. Charlton were now pushing forward trying to avoid yet another defeat leaving gaps at the back but Boro were failing to capitalise on it and half-time substitute Bonne tested Stojanovic. The warning signs were building that we desperately needed to convert one of these wasted opportunities and soon.
Clayton went down clearly angry at something and a minute later Lyle Taylor went down for the Addicks allowing some refreshments to be taken on board. A shot from Coulson after a Gestede knock down took the corner flag out as incredibly we wasted another chance. Wing then played a fantastic ball in to Tavernier but his shot was deflected out for a corner. Gestede went down from said corner but once more nothing was given and as Charlton played the ball out they gave away possession to Boro once more underlining the poor quality on display.
A double break from Taylor and Pratley looked to provide them with an equaliser but Stojanovic dealt with the threat as both sides finishing was clearly worse than terrible which was one of the primary reasons they now found themselves in the drop zone. Taylor then chopped down Howson with the Travelling Army screaming “off, off, off”. Despite his earlier yellow Steve Martin ignored what looked like a definite second yellow card offence. McNair then made way for fellow Northern Irishman Saville with ten minutes remaining. A strange sub as McNair was having one of his better games so presumably it was to shut up shop. Inviting pressure in the last ten minutes with Boro’s record for conceding this season seemed a brave decision. Tomer Hemed then came on for Purrington as Bowyer switched to a front three, going for the equaliser with seven minutes left.
A break with Wing and Gestede saw Wings shot saved and Gestede closing in but agonisingly Charlton held on with five minutes remaining. A cross from Doughty came off Saville for a corner with Stojanovic crowded, boxed in, the corner was over hit with thankfully nobody lurking at the back post. Spence then came on for Tavernier with four minutes of normal time remaining. Matthews nearly found the effervescent Green but he wasn’t alert to the chance and the danger passed as the seconds ticked away. Charlton were now throwing everyone forward with Spence clearing then Wing, then Johnson as pressure mounted. A throw in had hearts stopping as the ball bounced in the box but Stojanovic was first to react, catching then dropping down, eating up seconds.
Five minutes came up from the fourth officials board. Boro were now camped deep and Charlton determined to find that equaliser. A Taylor header was dealt with by Howson but as quick as it was cleared it came straight back with Bonne bundling Howson over in the process. A late throw in to Charlton from a Saville header saw a packed Boro box and as the cross came in Bonne’s near post header just sailed over, phew!
Another throw in the dying seconds saw Keeper Dillon Phillips run up into the Boro 18-yard box with the ball hitting off Clayts and then Coulson charging out, attempting to close down thirty yards outside his own box in an effort to clear. The Addicks kept on pummelling to the bitter end but this time we held out, the whistle went and Boro had finally won!
MOM was Jonny Howson who had fought, scrapped and battled and also showed moments of quality. McNair was back to that midfield player that was winning the MOM awards at the end of last year and Gestede once again put in a sterling shift. The entire team and bench celebrated on the pitch with the away following in the Jimmy Seed stand. Three points gratefully received but it should have been a lot more comfortable. Boro haven’t done anything the easy way this season despite enjoying 55% of the possession this afternoon. Results elsewhere went in Boro’s favour for the first time in a long time and consequently Boro climbed up to 19th, two points outside of the relegation zone. It was by no means a convincing win or a great performance but with nine games remaining its results and points that matter most rather than the nature of them.