A bit of a scrappy, disjointed affair at the UniBol on Tuesday evening, where we just about scraped over the line to make it six unbeaten and four from four in BL6.
Despite the attritional nature of the encounter, we still had a couple of standout performers on the night. But there was one man in particular who set the tone for the best bits of play we exhibited.
Dion Charles was our first signing of our much fêted January transfer window, and boy has he transformed the way we can attack. For all Eoin Doyle’s positives, and I was one who always recognised his hard work and value to the team, he doesn’t have the ability to score a goal from nothing anymore. Dion has done that twice, if not three times already in just eight games. Doyle needed service. And let’s be honest, even when he got that ‘service’ he often fluffed his lines, especially this season.
The Northern Irish international is an absolute livewire who leaves nothing on the pitch. When he hits a shot, it generally stays hit, despite him doing his level best to miss the open net, after all his hard work had presented him with that luxury. That work rate is the reason the chance even came about, panicking Akin Famewo into the underhit back header to keeper Craig MacGillivray, that he was able to pounce upon.
He not only has an insatiable desire to win the ball back, but the way he uses his body to do this expertly and not commit endless fouls is a trait that should have led to Charlton going down to ten men. Lumbering centre-half Jason Pearce dragged him down twice in almost identical fashion within a matter of minutes, the referee bottling the obvious decision in front of him.
He possesses that undeniable hunger that tends to ooze from players who’ve had to battle their way back through, not just your standard non-league, but at one point step seven on the pyramid.
I hadn’t realised he had scored 19 goals in League One last season before we were linked with him in December, with my attention very much focused on all the going’s on in League Two last season. For us to get someone in their mid-twenties with that goalscoring record in this league, for the money we have paid, is astounding business. I’m amazed a team in the Championship didn’t go for him. I can only thank John Coleman for ostracising him, leading to his stock falling exponentially, turning us into viable suitors.
He wasn’t the only reason we won the game, as he had been withdrawn after the Addicks had equalised through Chuks Aneke; someone who I think we can be glad struggles to put ninety minutes together, as he caused us all sorts of problems when he came on.
That triple change up top energised us and helped build the momentum that led to a couple of fouls on the left on Declan John, the second of which allowed Aaron Morley to provide our second set-piece goal of the season with a pin-point delivery. The scorer of that all-important goal deserves a huge amount of credit, too.
Will Aimson has had a stop-start beginning to his Wanderers career, but I can’t remember him having a particularly bad game, either. Playing on the ‘wrong’ side of our back three, Aimson showed a willingness to carry the ball, something he did well, despite one incident when he was dispossessed after he got his feet in a tangle. But it was his aerial prowess to constantly repel Charlton’s purveyor of long-throws, Adam Matthews, that really impressed.
Without him it is pretty clear to say that we would not have won that game. The same could also be said of 19 year-old Manchester City loanee Goalkeeper James Trafford. His win-securing save in injury-time looked simple enough at first, but he watched the ball all the way when many keepers may have guessed, given the effort’s proximity to goal and the bodies in the way too. Never mind his ‘shithousing’ to get Conor Washington and Alex Gilbey booked in quick succession, it was the way he claimed a number of high balls with a calm authority that belies his age and first team experience that really excited me about his performance on Tuesday night.
After an hour there was only one winner of this award, then Aimson and Trafford did their level best to pinch it off him. But Charles deserved it for what had gone before. Dion truly is a Wanderer, and one that we’ve quickly taken to our hearts.
Onto a game at the Kassam Stadium that we have to approach with a mindset of nothing but victory will do. If we can pull that off, I might just start getting excited!