Charlton ensured that they recorded an unbeaten October with a 0-0 draw against FA Cup holders Wigan at The Valley. A bumper crowd of over 23,000 welcomed Owen Coyle’s Latics to London as part of the Addicks’ ‘Football for a Fiver’ campaign, and saw the plucky home side produce another robust Valley performance to secure their third consecutive clean sheet and fourth game without loss.
With Hamer rarely tested in the home goal, it was the struggling Addicks that made the majority of the early play. With Scott Carson (an ex-loanee of the Addicks) injured in the warm up, reserve ‘keeper Lee Nicholls stepped up and produced a string of fine saves to ensure that the Latics travelled back up north with a post-Europa League point.
Charlton welcomed Yann Kermorgant back into the starting eleven, as he replaced Marvin Sordell up front alongside Simon Church. Pritchard, Stephens, Cousins and Stewart made up the midfield, with Wilson, Morrison, Wood and Wiggins ahead of Ben Hamer. Charlton started brightly, with both Wiggins and Wilson looking for overlaps down either flanks. With the impending St Jude storm supposedly hours away, the wind was swirling around SE7, and the Addicks chose to keep the ball on the ground in the early stages. Despite the majority of play being in front of the Jimmy Seed stand, Charlton failed to create any clear-cut chances, but they began to impose themselves on the game.
As Wigan grew into the game, they began to look to the Premier League quality of Holt, Powell and McLean. Wood and Morrison have been almost faultless in recent weeks, and the central defensive pairing’s confidence was clear as numerous half-chances were intercepted, cut out or stopped altogether. Despite Holt making his imposing frame a presence up front, the away side also failed to create a meaningful chance, and Hamer was rarely tested as the game developed.
In fact, it was Charlton who created the two closest chances of the opening 45 minutes. On the half hour, Stewart cut the ball back to Pritchard who was free in the penalty area, but he turned the ball over when it looked easier to score. Just a few minutes later, Wood met Stephens’ corner, but his firm header was somehow turned away on the line. The chances came either side of a recurrence of Yann Kermorgant’s ankle injury. The talismanic Frenchman was making his first start since his injury, but he wasn’t moving freely at any stage during the first 35 minutes, and was withdrawn to be replaced by Sordell before the half was out.
As the second half kicked off, it was Wigan who made much of the running. Leon Barnett and Emmerson Boyce both went close, whilst Chris McCann crashed a header against the underside of the Addicks’ bar. At the other end, a fizzing drive from Dale Stephens whistled over the crossbar, with Nicholls well beaten. The atmosphere of the game suggested that a goal was coming, but both sides defended resolutely and held on for a share of the points.
For Wigan, the point represents an encouraging performance as they get to grips with Thursday-Sunday fixtures on a regular basis. Their lack of points (and goals) away from home will worry Coyle, but the squad may just be taking time to adapt to the Championship. Meanwhile, Charlton have welcomed Forest, Blackpool and Wigan to The Valley in October. 1 goal conceded, three clean sheets and three points against top teams sums up a fantastic month for the struggling Addicks. Combine that with an away win and clean sheet at Blackburn, and Charlton can look at a job well done over the last 30 days. Even the most optimistic of Charlton fans wouldn’t have predicted an unbeaten October, and the results will breed huge confidence ahead of equally tough games against Leeds and QPR in November.
Having said that, the forthcoming month also sees Charlton host Doncaster following the abandonment of the original fixture; and the Addicks also welcome struggling Ipswich to The Valley. If they can perform with the same confidence in November as they have this month, it won’t be long before they begin climbing the table and making an impression on the league as a whole.
In Powell We Trust!
By Tom Wallin