Charlton left mired in mid-table as Holden's unbeaten home start comes to an end
Charlton Athletic (0) 1 Morgan 46
Bolton Wanderers (1) 2 Morley 4, Charles 68
Dean Holden’s fine start to life as Charlton boss hit a bump in the road as not even an improved second-half performance could salvage a point in a 2-1 defeat to Bolton Wanderers.
After struggling to get to grips with the play-off chasing visitors in the first half, an Albie Morgan equaliser just seconds after half-time inspired hope of continuing a three-game winning run in League One.
However, a Ryan Inniss error set Bolton up for victory as Holden’s unbeaten home record in the Valley dugout came to an end.
It is a sign of how far the Addicks have come in Holden’s month in charge that fears of relegation have been all but allayed, and ambitious play-off dreams have begun to blossom with spring still not yet in sight.
Hopes of a top six finish in League One looked like wishful thinking on Saturday though, as fifth-placed Wanderers dominated the first 45 minutes of this early kick-off.
Holden – brought in on an initial six-month contract - has placed an emphasis on embracing the character and culture of the south-east London club and the group of players at his disposal, but all of the team spirit and effort in the world could not have matched the individual quality that saw them fall behind.
Near enough 30 yards from goal, midfielder Aaron Morley produced a free-kick with the perfect combination of speed and spin as it kissed the post on its route to the top corner of Ashley Maynard-Brewer’s net.
Charlton, stunned by the visitors’ fast start, were nearly two goals down within ten minutes as Maynard-Brewer spared the blushes of team-mates Lucas Ness and Matt Penney by turning a Dion Charles shot on to the crossbar following a mix-up.
Holden’s early success has relied significantly on the productive Charlton academy, yet it was Jeserun Rak-Sakyi – borrowed for the season from local rivals Crystal Palace – who looked the home side’s most likely route into a game being dominated by Ian Evatt’s Wanderers.
The winger first headed a Scott Fraser free kick that he had won himself into the arms of James Trafford before forcing the goalkeeper into a full-length save at the end of one of his sparkling dribbles.
Maynard-Brewer had to save again from Charles before half-time, but it was the ease with which Bolton kept the ball that was the greatest indicator of what seemed to be a gulf in quality between the sides.
Holden’s motivational skills have been key to Charlton’s upturn in fortunes, and his words of encouragement at the interval must have had quite the impact, as within a minute of the restart Morgan had levelled the scores.
The academy graduate made the most of precise interplay between Macauley Bonne, Fraser and Rak-Sakyi to guide an effort beyond Trafford from the edge of the box.
Enthused by the equaliser, Charlton began to regularly disrupt Bolton’s spells of possession as what had looked set to be a procession became a genuine contest.
Perhaps it was the sense of excitement that engulfed the Valley, as it began to expect a fourth win on the spin, that ultimately caused Inniss to have the lapse in concentration that decided the game.
Favourite to win a cross lofted into the Charlton box, the towering centre-back could only head the ball up and not away, allowing Kyle Dempsey to square for Charles to find the empty net – his nemesis Maynard-Brewer attracted to the misplaced header of Inniss.
For all of the good work their new manager has done in a short space of time, a result that leaves the Addicks ten points clear of the drop zone but nine shy of the play-offs means we may have to wait until next season to see the true potential of Holden’s Charlton, assuming his short-term deal is extended.
Charlton: (4-3-3) Maynard-Brewer – Clare (Leaburn 75), Inniss, Ness, Penney – Morgan (Payne 88), Dobson (Henry 88), Fraser – Rak-Sakyi, Bonne, Blackett-Taylor (Campbell 67). Subs not used: Harness, O’Connell, Sessegnon.
Bolton: (3-5-2) Trafford – Toal, Santos, Johnston (John 45) – Bradley, Lee (Sheehan 82), Morley, Dempsey, Jones – Shoretire (Adeboyejo 56), Charles (Jerome 80). Subs not used: Dixon, Williams, Isgrove.