BLUES FRAEYED AS JOHNNIE STEALS POINTS
IT MIGHT not have been pretty but Charlton interim manager Karel Fraeye felt his troops didn’t put a foot wrong as they stunned Birmingham at St Andrew’s.
Fraeye’s side had to withstand 22 shots at goal from the hosts, but skipper Johnnie Jackson’s 50th Charlton goal gave the Addicks their second win on the bounce, and their first away from home since March.
All of which left the Charlton boss grinning from ear to ear, even if he refused to be drawn on the prospect of getting the job on a permanent basis.
“I’m very pleased, because we played the perfect away game,” Fraeye enthused.
“We knew we would have our chances, and without playing defensively, we tried to be well organised.
“It was rather an open game. Both teams had their moments, and we managed to take one.
“Whether the job is called interim or permanent, I don’t really care, because it will never affect my work. The whole staff work every day from early in the morning to very late at night, and we cannot do more than we are doing.”
Birmingham had enjoyed the better of a drab first half, with a series of attacks down the right through Demarai Gray. The England youth international beat three men with a deflected touch to centre for Jon Toral just after the half-hour, and it took an excellent stop from Stephen Henderson to deny the Blues the lead.
Henderson was called upon again two minutes later, stopping Nicolai Brock-Madsen’s finish with his leg after the Danish forward was fed in behind by David Davis.
Jacques Maghoma looked all set to put the Blues ahead 10 minutes after the restart when he checked back inside his man and stroked the ball toward the far corner. But the Congolese winger’s effort rolled agonisingly wide, and the hosts would soon rue their succession of near misses.
Charlton’s winner may have come against the run of play, but its architect Tareiq Holmes-Dennis was the stand-out performer from either side on the day. Though naturally a left-back, the 20-year-old excelled pushing forward from the righthand side of the visiting defence, and it was his right-footed cross shortly after the hour which set Jackson up to score his third goal of the season with an emphatic header.
Toral should have levelled for Birmingham 10 minutes from time when he arrived at the near post to meet Viv Solomon-Otabor’s cross, but he headed over from pointblank range.
The hosts produced a glut of chances in stoppage time, with Reece Brown and Solomon-Otabor both firing just wide after Holmes Dennis’s last-ditch header denied Jonathan Grounds a simple equaliser at the far post.
Birmingham’s up-and-down home form continues, but boss Gary Rowett was happier with his side’s display than in other recent fixtures.
“We’ve had 22 shots at goals, and eight on target, which is more than we had in the 5-2 win at Fulham last time out,” Rowett reflected.
“We were by far the better team in the game, but we just couldn’t take one of those chances. I can berate perhaps the lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, maybe just the lack of quality in one or two of our shots, but actually I felt as though we weren’t far away.
“I thought it was a poor goal for us to concede. I thought it was very sloppy. It was probably their only good chance on goal in the whole game.”
RISING HIGH: Charlton Athletic skipper Johnnie Jackson heads home the only goal