Charlton break the 90-point barrier with Saddlers victory
18:14 09 April 2012
League One: Charlton Athletic 1 Walsall 0 match report
Dany N’Guessan’s third goal in as many home matches propelled Charlton through the 90-point barrier in League One at The Valley.
The Frenchman, on loan from London rivals Millwall, rose highest after 35 minutes to head a pinpoint free-kick from Johnnie Jackson past goalkeeper David Grof.
It proved to the be the only goal of the game, but it was the visitors from the Midlands who came closest to adding to the tally and can consider themselves unlucky not to have earned at least a point.
Perhaps given extra motivation by Sheffield Wednesday’s 3-0 thumping of Oldham earlier in the day, Charlton raced out of the traps and got about the away side with intent from the first whistle.
N’Guessan forced a save out of David Grof within the opening 30 seconds and Jackson headed just wide soon after from Dale Stephens’ in-swinging corner.
Walsall responded in kind though and the impressive Florent Cuvelier dragged wide from just inside the area before Alex Nicholls, who troubled Rhoys Wiggins throughout the afternoon, forced a fine fingertip save out of Ben Hamer.
Dean Smith’s side looked anything but relegation strugglers judging by their attractive and possession-based style of play and a smart move down the right nearly resulted in the opener, but Jon Macken couldn’t quite stretch far enough to connect with Nicholls’ cross.
The Saddlers had the physicality to match their passing, with Yann Kermorgant on the end of a few rough challenges throughout, but Bradley Pritchard was lucky to escape without a booking when he stood on Cuvelier’s ankle.
Jackson barely missed a bear on his return the first team and his powerful drive stung the fingers of Grof, before his superb delivery fed N’Guessan for the breakthrough.
The Addicks skipper nearly added a second assist after 40 minutes when he teed up N’Guessan on the edge of the area, only for him to shoot over under pressure.
The pair exchanged roles moments later when N’Guessan, who lined up on the right of midfield – having previously played both on the left and as a striker for his new club – crossed for Jackson, who headed just wide before the half-time whistle.
Walsall were on the pitch for the second period several minutes before the hosts and Charlton were equally slow to start when the action eventually resumed.
With Cuvelier, on loan from Stoke City, pulling the strings in midfield the away side attacked with more intent and Nicholls provided perhaps the strongest examination of Wiggins’ defensive capabilities so far this season.
Emmanuel Ledesma was equally dangerous, but for all their possession they rarely forced saves out of Hamer as the clock ticked down.
Charlton could have doubled their lead against the run of play when Kermorgant fed Wright-Phillips in space but the frontman, who struggled for the most part, pulled his shot harmlessly wide.
In a rare effort on goal, Nicholls saw an effort deflected over the bar and from then on it was all pressure from the visitors rather than much penetration.
Charlton kept the ball in the corner for most of the four minutes of injury time – a testament to Walsall’s showing – but the sound of the final whistle was sweet music to the ears of the fans and especially Chris Powell, who simply exhaled deeply and shook his head in relief after a nervy second period.
It may not have been the prettiest, but following their exertions with depleted numbers just 48 hours earlier it was equally as key as the victory in Oldham.
Only one side has failed to go up with 90 plus points in a 46-game season – ironically it was then Charlton who denied Sunderland in the play-offs – but it is hard to imagine this whole-hearted Addicks suffering the same fate.
Charlton Athletic: Hamer, Wiggins, Morrison, Cort, Solly, Jackson, Stephens, Pritchard, N’Guessan (Cook, 86 mins), Kermorgant, Wright-Phillips (Haynes, 78 mins).
Subs not used: Sullivan, Hughes.
Walsall: Grof, Sadler, Butler, Smith, Beevers, Hurst (Paterson, 62 mins), Mantom, Cuvelier, Nicholls (Chambers, 88 mins), Macken (Bowerman, 81 mins), Ledesma.
Subs not used: Walker, Lancashire.
Referee: Mr David Phillips