The Addicks were very much fighting against an overwhelming current on one side of the River Trent on Saturday. Derby County constantly rushing forward, and flooding Charlton’s penalty box.
But having kept their necks above water at the iPro, escaping with a point that their effort and fight at the back very much deserved, Guy Luzon’ side will be hoping the tide runs with them on the other side of the Trent.
For while they were restricted to occasional opportunities on the break, forced to sit deep and desperately fend off a relentless attacking threat, against the Rams, the Addicks will look to get on the front foot at the City Ground and attempt to replicate their dominant display in the win over QPR.
Nottingham Forest, having won their first game of the season on Saturday, will not merely rollover and allow Charlton to take control of the game. They’re a stronger side than that, and one that will now be full of confidence and self-belief.
But Luzon’s men, on their back of their opening day success and spirited effort at the weekend, will not fear a side rejuvenated by victory. While it was not possible on one side of the river, given Derby’s superior quality, Charlton will believe they can control the course of the contest on the other.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 2-1 NOTTINGHAM FOREST
At a time when the Addicks were outplaying their opposition with dominant counter-attacking football, gritty resolve was required to claim victory over Forest at The Valley in March.
The evening seemed set to be a less stressful one for the hosts when Frederic Bulot curled a seventh minute free-kick beyond the desperate dive of visiting goalkeeper Karl Darlow.
But Charlton supporters expecting an easy night had not accounted for the brilliance of Michail Antonio. The winger, who provided a constant threat throughout, scoring a stunning individual goal to level the scores seven minutes later.
And while Forest enjoyed the better of the rest of the half, they went in at the break a goal down. Lawrie Wilson crossing to Bulot, who calmly tucked the ball into the back of the net.
The goal, however, seemed only to increase the threat of Forest, as they spent the second half desperately searching for an equaliser.
But it was ultimately one they couldn’t find, with Tony Watt’s brilliant and infamous effort to run the clock down securing all three points for Luzon’s side.
Not only was Nottingham Forest’s 2-1 win over Rotherham United on Saturday their first of the season, but their first since 18 March.
That victory also came against the Millers, and means that Forest went nine league games without a win between those two results.
In truth, such a poor run either side of the summer is probably not a fair reflection of the quality in their squad. Injuries and a transfer embargo have proved a hindrance, but Michael Mancienne, Henri Lansbury and Antonio are among those in Forest’s side with strong reputations built on the back of consistently performing.
But, given their sluggish and uninventive effort in defeat to Brighton on the opening weekend of the season and their bizarre 4-3 loss at home to League One side Walsall in the League Cup last week, there is no getting away from the fact that Forest’s efforts prior to Saturday were disappointing.
However, the win over Rotherham has laid a foundation from which to build upon, and correct the below-par start.
Having been the dominant attacking force in their first two games of the season, the Addicks needed to show another side to their game in their draw with Derby.
For the Rams, after conceding somewhat unluckily when a deflection sent Watt’s effort into the top corner, were in total control of the game for much of the second half. Their dominance enough to get them an equaliser, but not enough to break down Charlton’s superbly resolute defence on a second occasion.
At times it was desperate, with barely believable blocks required to keep out Jeff Hendrick on two occasions, Nick Pope was called upon to make a number of very fine stops, and Charlton were fortunate that a number of Derby’s efforts took a lucky bounce wide.
But their structure, determination and defensive brilliance meant it was not necessarily a lucky point, but one their hard work warranted.
And while the experience was demanding for the players and nerve shredding for supporters, it will only see confidence increase further. The Addicks knowing that they’re capable of frustrating the division’s strongest sides.
One of the biggest issues in Forest’s poor run either side of the summer break has been injuries. A squad already restricted by the club’s transfer embargo has effectively been left even smaller by a number of long-term absentees.
Chris Cohen and former Addick Andy Reid aren’t too far off a return following lengthy injury lay-offs, but will remain out of contention for a number of weeks, as will striker Matty Fryatt.
Britt Assombalonga is unavailable until the New Year, and Robert Tesche suffered a broken metatarsal on the opening weekend of the season, leaving Freedman restricted in terms of possible changes to his starting line-up on Tuesday.
Having been handed international clearance prior to taking a place on the bench for Saturday’s game, Spanish full-back Daniel Pinillos will be pushing to start, while Dexter Blackstock provides another option should Freedman wish to rest youngster Tyler Walker.
Given that a number of Charlton’s key players appeared drained of all energy come the full-time whistle at the iPro on Saturday, there must be some fitness concerns heading into Tuesday’s game.
That especially true of Watt, who played the full 90 minutes at the weekend despite being a major doubt. He will be pushed through the pain barrier to start again at the City Ground, but may struggle to survive the duration of the game.
There is also some doubt over Chris Solly, whose knee struggles prevented him playing two games in the same week for much of last season. While he managed it towards the end of the campaign, it remains to be seen whether his body is prepared. Regan Charles-Cook, impressive on debut against Dagenham & Redbridge, likely to step in should the vice-skipper not be able to play.
And should rotation be required throughout the rest of the side, then El Hadji-Ba, Johnnie Jackson, having made his 200th appearance for the club from the bench on Saturday, and Zakarya Bergdich will be among those pushing to start.
Elsewhere, the Addicks remain without injured trio Stephen Henderson, Igor Vetokele and Franck Moussa.
KEY BATTLE – ANTONIO AND WATT ATTEMPTING TO PUT THEIR SIDE ON THE FRONT FOOT
Without being totally reliant upon them, both Nottingham Forest and Charlton are an immeasurably stronger attacking force with Antonio and Watt leading their forward efforts.
While one plays out wide and the other centrally, they are both very similar in style. Direct, strong and skilful – they have the ability and confidence to singlehandedly change a game simply by receiving the ball.
The individual quality of the pair was seen on the same pitch at The Valley in March. Antonio rampant, but Watt’s intelligence and endeavour winning on that occasion.
And both have started the season strongly. Antonio giving his side hope against Walsall, before scoring the winner against Rotherham, while Watt has been the difference between Charlton being an organised outfit and an organised outfit that can win games.
So while this is not simply a game that will be played between two men, one outperforming the other could prove to be the difference.
Antonio pushing Charlton’s defence back may well result in them adopting a similar style to the one required at Derby, while Watt taking control will push the Addicks further up the pitch and allow them to dominate, as they did against QPR.
Energy levels after the effort required on Tuesday are a worry, and Forest are a decent uni, but Charlton’s summer increase in quality means the trip to the City Ground is no longer one they should fear. Nottingham Forest 1-2 Charlton Athletic