A goal and an assist from midfielder Andrew Shinnie proved the difference for Charlton Athletic on Tuesday night at The Valley, as the eventual 10-man Addicks ran out 2-0 winners against Oxford United.
The former Luton man was back in the Charlton starting XI along with Ben Watson, Darren Pratley and Conor Washington, whilst Oxford handed a full debut to QPR-loanee Olamide Shodipo after his fine cameo in their 3-2 win over MK Dons last week.
It was Oxford who actually had more possession here and they played some neat stuff early on, though they couldn’t carve out a real clear-cut opportunity.
Their best chance came from a Josh Ruffels free-kick which proved too hot for Ben Amos to handle first-time on a chilly evening at The Valley, but Matty Taylor’s attempts to scramble home the loose ball as the Charlton stopper grasped for it a second time were adjudged to have been too much for referee Craig Hicks’ liking.
Anthony Forde would also go close for the Yellows with a lung-busting run resulting in his shot flying over from the right-hand-side of the box, but it wasn’t long after this that the hosts would hit the front.
Shinnie would initially be provider for Charlton as he laid on the Addicks first goal for Conor Washington to convert with the simplest of finishes.
Turning and slipping in the striker just on the left-hand side of the box, the ball found its man with Oxford’s defence nowhere to be seen.
Simon Eastwood in the Yellows goal would try to close things down but the striker took his finish quickly and with precision, rolling into the net.
The Charlton no.12 then got a goal of his own with a stunning free-kick just before half-time. Standing over the ball on the left-hand-side of the box, just a handful of yards outside of the area, he flashed his effort across Eastwood who had little time to see it, let alone react and produce a save.
It was a lovely strike from Shinnie, and it rather capped off a first-half display full of quality in what was his best game since his arrival from Luton Town in the transfer window.
The second period’s main talking point was Ryan Inniss’ sending off just after the hour mark. The defender, already in the book for a prior offence, was shown a second yellow, and a subsequent red, for a block on United forward Matty Taylor. The Addicks certainly felt aggrieved by it and Lee Bowyer’s appeals were vocal enough that, had there been a crowd here tonight, he’d have still been the loudest voice berating Mr Hicks.
Oxford came close to making their numerical advantage count soon after, with James Henry flashing a volley over the bar from about 8 yards – it was perhaps at this moment that the U’s would have felt tonight wouldn’t be their night in front of goal.
Ben Amos would also be called upon as Matty Taylor fired at his near post but the stopper, helped by a clearance on the rebound, recorded another clean sheet as Charlton made it four wins in a row.
Lee Bowyer would have been suitably pleased, too, with both the Addicks’ resilience against early Oxford possession and in the face of seeing Inniss receive his marching orders and with their efficiency and quality in front of goal, creating and taking two good opportunities to seal the three points.