Had this fixture occurred four or five weeks ago, even the most
negative cautious of Charlton fans would be inclined to predict victory for their side.
For through August and September, the Addicks were seemingly incapable of suffering defeat. When at their best, mightily impressive victories were picked up. When at their worst, mightily impressive amounts of luck meant the opposition couldn’t capitalise on Charlton’s faults.
Comparatively, Dougie Freedman’s Bolton knew only how to lose. In fact, the Trotters suffered seven defeats from the opening ten games of the season, resulting in Freedman losing his job.
But the mood at the Macron-nee-Reebok Stadium has improved significantly in the past week.
While Neil Lennon, even without taking into account the length of his three-year contract, may be something of a risky appointment, the former Celtic boss’s arrival in Lancashire has produced the effect that so often occurs when a new manager takes charge of a club.
It may have been nothing more than a 1-0 win over lowly Birmingham City, but belief has returned to supporters of Bolton.
By contrast, Charlton fans, previously revelling in their side’s unbeaten run, have cause for concern.
Losing for the first time in 12 is not necessarily the issue for the Addicks, as disappointing as it was to see the unbeaten run end at Bournemouth, but that performances have often been poor for several weeks, peaking with Saturday’s unbelievably dreadful showing on the South Coast.
Of course, that’s not to say there has been a complete turnaround in fortunes for both sides. A solitary defeat for Charlton and win for Bolton is not nearly enough evidence to suggest that.
But it does mean Lennon’s side come into the contest with increased confidence, while Peeters has the difficult task of getting his side to respond from a disappointing defeat, and must do so without a handful of key players.
LAST MEETING – Charlton Athletic 0-0 Bolton Wanderers
There have been more exciting afternoons at The Valley, it must be said.
The Sea of Red, with Charlton supporters largely adorning club colours, promised to produce a vocal atmosphere and subsequently inspire the Addicks to a much needed victory.
And while Jose Riga’s side rarely looked threatened by the Trotters, Charlton themselves faltered in front of goal. A dubiously rejected penalty appeal from Simon Church was the peak of the home side’s efforts.
Their form was beginning to the shape of a Welsh town, but Saturday’s win over Birmingham, their first in six, suggests Lennon might well be able to move Bolton up the table.
Of course, few of a Bolton persuasion will be getting carried away by a single victory, but to lift a side that were previously completely devoid of confidence immediately is a promising sign.
It’s certainly the case that Bolton have a squad that shouldn’t be battling to remain in the division, and Lennon’s arrival may be just what’s needed to get the best out of under-performing players such as Jermaine Beckford, Neil Danns and Lee Chung-Yong.
Eleven games unbeaten has quickly become one win in six for the Addicks, with Charlton’s early season attacking flair deserting them completely in recent weeks.
In fact, only four goals have been scored in those six games, with opponents beginning to press Peeters’ side and prevent them from playing out from the back at their own pace. With no alternative way of playing, the Addicks have struggled to find a way forward.
Frailties have also been shown defensively, epitomised by Bournemouth’s midfield having the freedom of the Goldsands’ pitch and simple long balls catching at the back four throughout Saturday’s defeat.
The need for a victory isn’t exactly desperate, but an improvement on recent performances is imperative.
Dorian Dervite will face his former club for the first time since leaving the Addicks in the summer.
The Frenchman, who played a vital role in Charlton’s Championship survival, has been one of Bolton’s better performers this season, and will start alongside Saturday’s goalscorer Matt Mills at centre-back.
Also returning to The Valley, although only in a coaching capacity, will be Andy Hughes, something of a cult hero in SE7 despite playing just a handful of games in Charlton red. His infections enthusiasm while an Addick means Hughes will join Dervite in receiving a deserved appreciative reception from the Covered End.
Elsewhere, Lennon is likely to field the same side that got his Bolton career off to a winning start, but Mark Davies and Medo will be hoping to force their way into the Trotters’ five-man midfield.
Charlton’s chances of responding positively to their first defeat of the season have been dealt a blow with the news that their most potent goal threat will be absent for the Bolton clash.
Igor Vetokele was substituted at half-time at the Goldsands with an Achilles complaint, and that injury means the Addicks are desperately short of options in attack. 17-year-old Karlan Ahearne-Grant and poorly-performing George Tucudean the only out-and-out forward options available to Peeters.
Charlton are also likely to be without Chris Solly, whose knee problems make playing three times in a week difficult, and Joe Gomez, who remains injured, so Lawrie Wilson may be forced to start at right-back.
And with Johann Berg Gudmundsson withdrawn midway through the second-half on Saturday, there are doubts surrounding the fitness of the Icelandic winger.
Frederic Bulot’s return, having missed the trip to Bournemouth following his international exertions for Gabon, means the Addicks will be able to field something resembling a competent XI, but the bench will be more like a crèche.
KEY BATTLE – Charlton’s central midfield Vs Bolton’s central midfield
While the Addicks were poor all over the pitch at Bournemouth, a central part of Charlton’s failings was that they were incredibly weak in the centre.
Both Johnnie Jackson and Yoni Buyens struggled when out of possession, and weren’t much better with it, leaving the spine of team in a fragile state.
It meant Bournemouth’s Harry Arter and Andrew Surman were free to carry the ball forward and begin attacks as they pleased, while their pressing prevented Charlton from mounting anything serious forward moves of their own.
If Charlton are to bounce back from defeat, then Jackson and Buyens must become the pressers and the aggressors, preventing Bolton from playing like they couldn’t Bournemouth.
With Lennon likely to field three central midfielders, and with the Addicks lacking forward options, there is some value in playing a 4-5-1 formation with Jordan Cousins ahead of Jackson and Buyens.
In a way, such a formation is more likely to see Charlton take the game to Bolton than one with more than one forward.
A tough one to call. Charlton are by no means all of a sudden a poor side, nor have Bolton become world beaters overnight, but it’s difficult to confidently predict victory for the Addicks after Saturday’s performance and with a depleted squad.
You would, however, expect something of a response from Peeters’ side. While there is an element of the unknown about how this Charlton side react to a defeat, there’s nothing to say that Peeters wouldn’t be able to get them going again.
Regardless of the result, an improvement needs to be made on Saturday’s performance. I’ll be happy enough with a point with some promising passages of play.
Charlton Athletic 1-1 Bolton Wanderers