Town’s wait for a first Sky Bet Championship win of 2015/16 is over!
A first goal of the campaign for Harry Bunn, along with a debut strike from midfielder Emyr Huws, in the first half proved enough for all three points at Charlton Athletic, despite a 40th minute reply from centre back Naby Sarr.
On his return to the Valley, Chris Powell’s side scored twice in a single game for the first time in the season and deserved the win for an organised performance on the back of a bold team selection, that saw top scorer Nahki Wells on the bench and 19 year old Danish youngster Philip Billing play 45 minutes in just his second Football League appearance.
Town came flying out of the blocks in the first few minutes, but it was Charlton’s Icelandic winger Johann Gudmundsson who went pretty close to scoring with the first shot of the game inside four minutes. Giant 6’ 7” Danish striker Simon Makienok nodded a ball down into the path of strike partner Tony Watt and the ball was worked infield to the midfielder, who struck a shot just wide of Jed Steer’s left hand post from 20 yards out.
Then, with the first Town shot of the game, Bunn opened the scoring with his first of the season. Town had possession in the Charlton half and when Sean Scannell, on his 150th start, came out of a challenge with left back Morgan Fox with the ball, he drilled it into area towards Harry. The former Manchester City man hit a difficult first time volley goalwards, which had just too much on it for goalkeeper Nick Pope, who got a hand to the ball as it flew into the top corner on one bounce.
Bunn had another half chance barely three minutes later after skipper Dean Whitehead found Mustapha Carayol with a lovely pass to the left. Carayol’s cross found Bunn’s head, but his flicked effort was saved.
Steer was soon needed to punch a Chris Solly cross expertly clear ahead of the giant Makienok soon after as Charlton bossed possession for long spells, but equally the Terriers carried plenty of pace and threat on the break. Ishmael Miller, restored to the starting XI at the expense of Nahki Wells, was occupying centre backs Patrick Bauer and Naby Sarr with his physicality whilst the pace of Carayol was giving Solly a few restless moments down the Town left.
Town went close to a second just after the half hour when Huws intercepted a Charlton pass in the attacking half and found Carayol. His curling effort from just inside the edge of the box was pushed wide by goalkeeper Pope – just inches away from the onrushing Scannell.
However, the advantage was doubled in the 34th minute. Town won a free kick 25 yards out, dead centre of goal, when Sarr charged into the back of Miller and that gave Huws the opportunity to shoot. His last goal, 17 months ago for Wigan at Middlesbrough, was an absolute stunner and his first in Town colours wasn’t bad either; a curling effort that was expertly placed low inside Pope’s right hand post, despite the goalkeeper’s best effort to keep it out.
Another free kick gave Charlton a lifeline in the 40th minute after Jason Davidson blocked El-Hadji Ba on the left flank. Gudmundsson curled an in-swinger into the packed penalty area and centre back Sarr got something on the ball to turn it beyond Steer and inside the far post to reduce the arrears.
Town fought back briefly, with Miller flicking an ambitious backwards header over the bar from a corner, but the last chance of the half fell to Ba, who tested Steer with a low curler.
Huws’ first start for a long time came to an end in the interval, with Powell handing Academy graduate Billing a 2nd first team appearance to add to his quarter of an hour at the end of the 2013/14 campaign.
Within 15 seconds Ba had Steer scrambling across his goal with a shot from a narrow angle that rolled just wide and Town had to navigate a 10 minute period of pressure, broken up when Miller nodded a Davidson corner wide at the other end.
Marshalled by skipper Whitehead, the Terriers stood firm and on the hour mark Billing tested goalkeeper Nick Pope with a curling 25 yard free-kick.
Charlton had two big chances in the half, the first of which came in the 68th minute. Former Celtic man Tony Watt orchestrated a move that resulted in a very presentable shooting opportunity for sub Bergdich, who sent a half volley sailing over Steer’s crossbar from just over 15 yards out.
The other chance fell to striker Makienok, who made a mess of a back post volley from a deep corner delivered by Gudmundsson.
With Elliott Ward imperious at centre back, Town kept a good – but deep – shape late on, restricting the hosts to a few tame long shots that Steer happily saw wide of target.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Jed Steer; Jason Davidson, Joel Lynch, Elliott Ward, Martin Cranie; Emyr Huws (Philip Billing, 46), Dean Whitehead (c); Mustapha Carayol (Kyle Dempsey, 78), Harry Bunn, Sean Scannell (Tommy Smith, 89); Ishmael Miller
Lloyd Allinson, Jamie Paterson, Joe Lolley, Nahki Wells
Joel Lynch (25); Mustapha Carayol (27); Jed Steer (68)