Charlton Athletic 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1: Clinton claims a point
Not so long ago, The Valley was a “difficult place to go”. And, as with all other instances of this clichà©, there was no magic formula at play other than the fact that Charlton Athletic had constructed a tidy side with a nice line in bringing the big boys down to earth.
More recently, The Valley has been a pretty easy place to go. Now one of the stalwarts of that successful Alan Curbishley era, the former Addicks left-back Chris Powell, is trying to bring the good times back to a ground which had seemingly lost its previous fortress status.
So can Powell make The Valley a tricky away trip again? The early signs have been promising this season with two of last season’s unsuccessful play-off contestants, Bournemouth and Reading, dismissed in the league and Carling Cup respectively. Scunthorpe United, relegated from the Championship at the end of the last campaign, escaped with a deserved late draw thanks to Bobby Grant’s injury time equaliser and Charlton’s sixth league game carried the incentive of a table-topping end to the night if Sheffield Wednesday could be dispatched by four goals.
The recent history of Wednesday’s own home, the vast and sprawling Hillsborough, has mirrored that of The Valley to a certain extent. But the Owls have begun the season in decent form at home, winning all three of their league encounters on their patch so far. It’s away from home that problems have surfaced, with defeats on the road at Bournemouth and Bury along with cup exits at Blackburn and Bradford. So having not had much luck against teams beginning with B, they moved onto the next letter of the alphabet in the capital.
Before the game, Powell talked of “fresh impetus” and “a new challenge” existing at Charlton, reflected in a team selection that showcased many, if not all, of his recent signings – Danny Green missing out through illness. Michael Morrison started at centre-back against the team that signed him in January and discarded him just months later, while Jose Semedo, who went in the other direction during the summer, began in the visiting midfield.
Things were already going with form just three minutes in when Bradley Wright-Phillips cut in from the left side and hit a well-struck shot into the net at the near post to put Charlton into an early lead. The home side built on this breakthrough and Wright-Phillips might have done better with a header from 12 yards before his good work down the right created an opportunity for the onrushing Dale Stephens to blaze over.
All in all, there was very little threat shown by the away side, forcing Gary Megson into an early change. Just 22 minutes had passed when Ryan Lowe was brought off the bench for his debut in place of the ineffectual Chris Sedgwick. It should probably come as no surprise when a Megson side looks one-dimensional and one-paced. His is a reputation which has been hard-earned. The perception that the vast majority have of Megson as an old-school boss with an unwillingness to adapt will remain while this sort of display is what Wednesday serve up when televised.
Those that sat through the recent 0-0 draw at Bradford in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy arguably only have themselves to blame. Admittedly, it is a tournament which probably deserves the disdain showed by Megson in making three early substitutions to circumvent an awkward rule regarding team selection. But Wednesday’s lifelessness at Valley Parade was again on show at The Valley in a first half which must have felt like Groundhog Day for the travelling supporters.
If there was a positive, then it was that Lowe’s introduction helped the visitors to retain possession higher up the pitch in the second part of the first half and Charlton’s attacking threat was diminished as time wore on. Nevertheless, Wednesday failed to take a single shot before the interval.
Within ten minutes of the restart, perhaps predictably, they were level. It was a sloppy, preventable, unstylish goal – a corner flicked on at the near post and nodded home from a matter of inches – but who cares? When you have a recent away record like Sheffield Wednesday’s, every goal you travel hundreds of miles to see is worth celebrating as though it were a 30-yard screamer. And Clinton Morrison did exactly that. On as a substitute for the injured Lowe, himself an early replacement, Morrison ran the length of the pitch to celebrate his goal with the hardy Yorkshire souls.
Charlton were back to square one, although they nearly got back in front just after the hour mark. This time it involved a prolonged scramble in the penalty area following a corner, which ended with a Matt Taylor shot whistling just past Richard O’Donnell’s far post with the Wednesday goalkeeper beaten.
With 12 minutes remaining, it was another of Curbishley’s former charges that was tasked with securing all three points for Powell’s side as Jason Euell came on for Paul Hayes. Charlton certainly needed some fresh impetus to mirror the language used by their manager prior to kick-off. As Wednesday’s hopes of returning north with a point grew, the hosts resorted to more direct approach play and they went close when a volleyed cross from Danny Hollands was headed against the post by Taylor from a tight angle.
In truth, there was little to learn from this clash of two former Premier League sides except to state the obvious. Neither were at their best and Charlton will have to produce the kind of football they demonstrated in the first 20 minutes on a more consistent basis if they are to challenge for automatic promotion. Wednesday have more ground to make up in order to reach the summit but this first away point is a start. The kind of grit and determination that was needed here is not easy on the eye but things could be – and have been – a lot worse.