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Match Report


Posted Sat 06 Apr 13 at 17:00 PM

Charlton 2 Leeds 1

Gary Haines reports from The Valley

Jonathan Obika was the late hero as Charlton sealed a priceless Championship victory against Leeds United on Saturday.

The substitute rose to head home the winner deep into added time as the Addicks showed real staying power on Grand National day.

A first Valley success on the day of the famous steeplechase for more than 30 years was sealed in the most dramatic fashion possibly after former Charlton striker Luke Varney had threatened to spoil the party.

The Leeds substitute scored with a looping shot nine minutes from time to cancel out Johnnie Jackson’s tenth goal of the season early in the second-period.

Anything other than a victory would have been tough to take for the home side who were by far the better side before letting their managerless visitors back into it.

Jackson had thumped home the opener from close range after an Andy Hughes volley ricocheted across nicely, and that was all Charlton deserved for their enterprise.

But Leeds forced the issue in the final quarter and eventually got the breakthrough with Varney netting after an almighty scramble in the Addicks box.

After youth product Chris Solly spurned two late chances to win it in fitting fashion on ‘Academy Day’, there would be a late twist as sub Obika netted his first senior strike in just under a year.

His last had rescued a point for former loan club Yeovil Town at Leyton Orient in mid-April last year, and the allotted four extra minutes were up when Rhoys Wiggins centred for the Tottenham Hostpur loanee to head home his first goal for the club.

There was no way back for Leeds after that and with five games to go Charlton are now seven points clear of the bottom three on what may turn out to be a pivotal afternoon in their season.

On a bright afternoon in SE7 the hosts were by far the better side in the opening period yet could not cash in on their superiority. 

On ‘Academy Day’ Harriott was a particular menace to a rudderless Leeds side on the left and forced one fine stop from Paddy Kenny after an exciting weaving run.

Kenny had also foiled Dorian Dervite earlier in the half with a smart low stop, after which Michael Morrison spooned the loose ball over. 

A few pot-shots aside, Leeds under the stewardship of caretaker boss Neil Redfearn, offered little attacking intent with the Addicks making most of the play.

And their endeavour was finally rewarded early in the second period as Jackson smashed a shot into the roof of the net after a deflected drive from Andy Hughes sat up nicely – and the flag stayed down.

It saw him reach double digits for the third successive season and 37 in club colours, and when Leeds came out of their shell, Michael Tonge saw his goalbound effort come back off a teammate before Morison clattered a shot against the post.

The Whites were certainly giving it a go as Charlton sunk deeper and they got their reward as Varney forced the ball home eight minutes from time after some penalty-box pinball.

The hosts claimed hand-ball in the melee but their appeals fell on deaf ears, and it looked as if Leeds had salvaged a point from the afternoon.

Certainly when youngster Solly twice went agonisingly close in the latter stages it looked as if parity would remain, but Leeds had reckoned without Obika.

The substitute soared majestically to meet a Wiggins centre and head home his first goal for the club to secure a vital win.

Mathematically there is still work to do, but psychologically, this could be the afternoon that the Addicks sealed their place in the Championship for another season.

In terms of team news Chris Powell made one change from the gritty midweek draw at Brighton & Hove Albion as Ricardo Fuller returned to the frontline against managerless Leeds United.

The Jamaican, an influential figure in the second-half fight-back against Bolton Wanderers last weekend, replaced Lawrie Wilson as the Addicks reverted back to a 4-4-2 formation.

The other 10 men remained unchanged after a fruitful Easter week saw the Addicks pick up four priceless points.

And on the third annual ‘Academy Day’ there were two products of the fabled Charlton youth set-up in the starting line-up in the shape of Solly and Harriott.

The visitors were Neil Warnock-less after their former boss left his post on Monday and he was replaced at the helm by caretaker boss Neil Redfearn, the Addicks’ first million pound player.

Ben Hamer continued between the posts for the home side with Solly and Wiggins flanking Morrison and Dorian Dervite at the back.

Former Leeds favourite Andy Hughes was partnered in central midfield by Johnnie Jackson with Harriott and Bradley Pritchard the wide outlets and Fuller joining Yann Kermorgant up front.

Wilson was joined on the bench by Dave Button, Matt Taylor, Salim Kerkar, Dale Stephens, Mark Gower and Obika.

The hosts were without the suspended Tom Lees, but there was a starting recall for Ross McCormack alongside Morison up front.

The experienced Paddy Kenny was between the posts while former Addick Varney was on the bench.

In a bright Leeds start Paul Green’s neat lay-off teed up Morison whose fifth-minute volley was clutched by Hamer while Charlton’s first shot on goal was an acrobatic effort from Kermorgant, which was held low by Kenny.

The Whites keeper then reacted well to deny Dervite a second in as many Valley matches as the clock reached 13.

After a cynical trip by David Norris in the centre-circle, the free-kick was clipped in and the Frenchman span to hook a shot goalwards, only for the keeper to plunge and parry. The loose ball fell to fellow centre-back Morrison, but he could only blaze over an angled shot when he night have done better.

A waltzing run from Harriott brought the crowd to its feet, but the youngster ran out of gas on the edge of the box.

Hamer gathered a corner, which might have flicked the head of his own teammate Jackson while the hosts broke dangerously on several occasions in the opening half-hour yet were guilty of wasteful final passes.

After a neat back-heel from McCormack there was another opening for  the visitors on 31 minutes, but Green could only lift his shot well over the bar from the edge of the box.

After a quickly-worked throw deep at the other end, Kermorgant fastened on to a cross from Wiggins and headed down and just wide of the far post and Harriott was at it again soon afterwards, weaving in from the left and flailing an angled effort just wide.

After a great ball in from the left from Pritchard there was no red shirt able to capitalise after Kenny fumbled, and another half-chance went begging.

Michael Tonge was booked after catching Fuller a minute before the break and in the passage of play after the free-kick, there was an interchange between Morrison and Wiggins with the ball not sitting for the latter on the edge of the box, and an offside flag eventually ending the raid.

And that was the final act of the half as the teams went in all square – but the Addicks snatched a deserved lead two minutes after the restart through their skipper.

After Fuller’s cross was half-cleared, Hughes crashed a volley back into the box from around 20 yards and the Whites backline were at sixes and sevens as the ball ricocheted around.

And there were Jackson emerging on the left, with the captain taking a touch before smashing a shot into the roof of the net. A cursory glance towards the assistant preceded the celebration but there was no flag and the Addicks were on their way.

It might have got even better moments late as Harriott sent a dangerous low cross fizzing across goal but again there were no home players committed to making a decisive connection.

At the other end Hughes got in a timely defensive header ahead of Green to earn acclaim from the home faithful. The Leeds fans had also sung the popular midfielder’s name earlier in the game.

There was a booking for David Norris after he caught Kermorgant shortly before the hour mark, and Jackson was also yellow-carded after catching Green.

From the Leeds free-kick a chance emerged with Tonge’s shot clattering against one of his own players and after the ball was not properly cleared, Morrison drove in from the right and rapped a shot against the outside of the right post.

Varney entered the fray midway through the half and Tonge was wayward from range with the visitors coming back into it.

Morison span and hoisted high over the bar before Salim Kerkar made his return to first team action, replacing Fuller 13 minutes from time.

The Addicks were sinking deeper and deeper, and after Kermorgant’s foul, Leeds eventually drew level.

After the free-kick caused mayhem inside the box, Charlton could not clear convincingly and Varney swooped to fire in a shot that took a nick and looped inside the far post.

The home players were furious, indicating a hand-ball amid the melee, but referee Atwell remained unmoved at the hosts were level.

After what might have been a penalty in the opposite box for hand-ball, play continued and Kermorgant eventually headed a Kerkar cross wide.

And a golden chance came and went four minutes from time as Solly went close to a first Valley goal.

It came after some purposeful play from the hosts was matched by some dreadful Leeds defending, and when Pritchard’s clipped cross was headed out poorly, Solly arrived and send a half-volley across goal and inches wide.

The young right-back jumped with his head in his hands, and, incredibly, repeated that trick seconds later after another chance.

Obika, who had just entered the fray, skinned his marker on the right and pulled the ball back invitingly for the academy product, and although his shot was on target, this time a defender intervened to block.

Michael Brown replaced Tonge two minutes from time and no sooner had he arrived than he clattered into Kermorgant, and was shown a yellow card. On inspection of the replay, he was lucky to escape a red.

From Jackson’s free-kick, more penalty claims were turned down with Morrison grappled to the ground by Pearce, and as the seconds ticked away it looked like being one of those afternoons.

But there would be one late twist as Obika made his mark in dramatic fashion.

The four added minutes had passed and the game was into added-added time following an injury to Peltier when the hosts won a throw deep on the left.

Wiggins took the throw, gathered the pas back from Kerkar and sent in a sumptuous cross for Obika to rise and head into the roof of the net from close range.

The roof nearly came off at The Valley as the home bench spilled onto the pitch and the natives rose to coronate King Jon.

And there was just a matter of moments to navigate after the restart as the Addicks hung on for a win that lifted them well clear of danger.

And Chris Powell’s passionate celebration at the final whistle showed all and sundry exactly what the result meant.

Charlton: Hamer; Solly, Wiggins, Dervite, Morrison; Pritchard, Hughes, Jackson, Harriott (Obika 83); Fuller (Kerkar 77), Kermorgant.

Subs (not used): Button, Taylor, Wilson, Stephens, Gower.

Goals: Jackson 47, Obika 90

Booked: Jackson 61 (foul on Green)

Leeds: Kenny, Byrom, Warnock, Peltier (Austin 90), Pearce; Green, Tonge (Brown 88), Norris, White (Varney 66); Morison, McCormack.

Subs (not used): Ashdown, Poleon, Habibou, Diouf

Goal: Varney 81

Booked: Tonge 44 (foul on Fuller), Norris 59 (foul on Kermorgant), Brown 88 (foul on Kermorgant)

Referee: S Atwell

Att: 18,900 (2,956 Leeds)

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