Charlton 2 Portsmouth 2: Neil Allen's verdict - Under-fire Nigel Adkins handed let off as wasteful Blues throw away deserved win

It was all rather convivial and jolly, the points split and smiles shared.

Sunday, 26th September 2021, 9:00 am
Ronan Curtis lets fly to earn Pompey the opener in Saturday's 2-2 draw at Charlton. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

As he settled down to conduct his post-match press conference, Nigel Adkins spotted Danny Cowley at the room’s far end.

‘Make mine a coffee and no sugar’ grinned the Charlton boss as his Pompey counterpart attempted to obtain some liquid refreshment from the machine.

Cowley duly obliged, the pair nudging paper cups in toasting fashion before wishing each other well, the level of mutual respect abundantly evident.

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Of course, Adkins had every reason to be cheerful having scrambled a point to stave off the escalating antagonism among the Charlton faithful. For now anyway.

Chants of ‘Nigel Adkins, he ‘ain’t got a clue’ were delivered by the home support after 15 minutes, they were booed off at half time, while his team’s quality was bluntly disparaged in song form on regular occasions.

Indeed, if he was anticipating a uncomfortable reception from the 2,995 travelling support centred on his Southampton links, it was nothing compared to the hostility emanating from his own.

Having started the day fourth from bottom in League One, the animosity towards the Addicks manager was entirely understandable.

Fortunately, he was offered an outstretched hand to haul him off the floor – mainly from the out-of-sorts John Marquis and generous defending.

Charlton should have been seen off comfortably, perhaps even during the opening 45 minutes, hence the boos which greeted their display at the half-time whistle.

Instead they were twice allowed to find a way back into Saturday’s match and claim a point which, tellingly, left the Blues and their fans devastated.

Marquis’ ongoing struggles in front of goal have been long documented, with analysis of his malaise cut and pasted with tiresome frequency.

The fact remains, he has netted eight goals in his last 41 appearances, spanning two managers and consisting of 35 starts. Such statistics are damning, beyond polishing to draw out positives to dazzle.

Against Charlton, a clever flick from the ex-Doncaster man teed up Marcus Harness for Pompey’s second goal on 72 minutes, representing an excellent assist.

However, when challenged to net himself, Marquis once again endured a miserable time – albeit to the immense benefit of Adkins.

A particular moment on 19 minutes stood out, with the video clip which subsequently swamped social media ensuring there will be no escape from the painful reminder for the striker.

The impressive Harness put in a low cross from the left, picking out his team-mate six yards from goal and presenting him with the glorious opportunity to hand the visitors a 2-0 lead.

Yet while Marquis' movement was excellent, his control left a lot to be desired, the ball ricocheting off both feet and away from the intended target.

The chance wasn’t over, however. Retrieving the ball, the forward was helped by the covering Jason Pearce’s untimely slip, creating the space to allow him to pull out a left-footed shot.

Unfortunately, that bounced and bobbled past the far post and out for a goal kick, much to the inevitable derision of the home support positioned behind.

Marquis is a tough watch at present, yet, in truth, fits Cowley’s system in every way apart from the requirement to convert chances.

The former Millwall man’s fitness, work ethic, determination and refusal to hide should be admired, while it sets the tone for the high pressing approach the head coach is eager to instill.

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Upon dropping him for Ellis Harrison against Cambridge United, Cowley swiftly realised the error of his ways and restored Marquis against Plymouth, thereby spearheading the new-look wing-back system.

The 29-year-old fulfils a particular role for Pompey and is tremendously effective in its implementation. If only he could add a reasonable goal output.

Considering what appears to be a lack of realistic alternatives, Marquis is likely to be allowed to play through his poor form and come out the other side blinking in the sunlight wondering what the fuss was all about.

It’s a luxury players are rarely afforded. Still, in the meantime, somebody needs to supply a cutting edge to Cowley’s side and on Saturday it was Harness and Curtis.

The head coach had opted to retain the same starting XI which faced Plymouth on Tuesday evening, with a back three consisting of Raggett and make-shift centre-halves Shaun Williams and Kieron Freeman.

The bench was also unchanged, with Michael Jacobs and Gassan Ahadme again overlooked and Connor Ogilvie and Clark Robertson absent through injury.

These remain early days for the new system, yet it continues to throw up plenty of positives, irrespective of successive 2-2 scorelines since its introduction.

We are finally seeing the best of Joe Morrell, who, at The Valley, produced another excellent display, while Ryan Tunnicliffe is a far more effective player when asked to drop a little deeper.

On Saturday, Harness produced his best display of the season so far, particularly in the first half. Few can doubt his talent, frustratingly it’s dragging it out of him on a regular basis.

As for Curtis, he registered his second goal in three matches, taking his overall tally to 42. Only Yakubu has scored more for the club in the 21st Century.

It was the Republic of Ireland international who opened the scoring after just six minutes with a sublime strike against former Blues team-mate Craig MacGillivray.

Tunnicliffe passed the ball inside to Mahlon Romeo, who, from a central position, laid it off to Curtis.

He controlled it on his left foot before surging towards goal and unleashing a right-footed effort from the edge of the box and into the top corner of the net.

It heralded arguably Pompey’s best half of the season, while the darkening mood among the home fans focused on Adkins and their team’s deficiences.

If only the Blues could cap their best spell with another goal, the place would have become truly toxic. Sadly, Marquis was unable.

Then, on 47 minutes, half-time substitute Sean Clare strode forward to level with a first-time shot after a free-kick had been pulled back to him.

The free-kick had been needlessly given away when Raggett, marking his 100th Blues outing, tripped Elliot Lee outside the box when the midfielder was heading towards the corner flag.

Still, on 72 minutes, Marquis combined with Harness and the Blues had regained the lead. The knives were being sharped by the home support.

Then, three minutes from time, a diagonal ball from the Charlton half picked out substitute Corey Blackett-Taylor wide on the left, who cut across Freeman into the box.

He squared it across goal and there was Josh Davison to force it home on the run first time.

Joy for Adkins, with two of his substitutes netting and his third claiming an assist to back his judgement. Perhaps he does have a clue after all.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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