The element of pressure that exists on Russell Slade and his side is unrelenting, and yet ever-changing.
For prior to Saturday’s game with Northampton Town, there was a desperate need for them to provide evidence from which positivity could be born out of. To show any sort of quality and cohesion after a dreadful start to the season, marred further still by the regime’s insulting ways. A need to create belief, among a set of supporters anticipating failure.
But now the pressure upon Charlton Athletic ahead of their encounter with Shrewsbury Town has become a type based around needing to reinforce promise. The Addicks showing enough quality in parts of Saturday’s draw with the Cobblers, with an obvious improvement in the second half, to suggest that this side can match the expectations they’ve rightfully been placed under. A need to repeat those second half efforts, and display that that is a level this side can perform at on a consistent basis.
For the encouragement created by Johnnie Jackson’s weekend equaliser will be lost should Slade’s side revert to the sluggish unit seen in the two and a half games prior to it. A hope that, instead, they will be able to build upon the more dynamic and threatening play seen in periods of the second 45.
Micky Mellon’s reshaped Shrewsbury, whose start to the season would be described as promising rather than somewhat frustrating were it not for some misfortune in front of goal at Coventry City on Saturday, standing in the way and hoping to prevent the Addicks from being able to develop exciting forward moves.
The Shrews, much improved after a 20th place finish last season, therefore will provide competent opposition, but that does not deter from the sense of pressure on this Charlton side to follow Saturday’s promise with a first victory four games into Slade’s tenure as boss, and three games into this League One campaign.
LAST MEETING – SHREWSBURY TOWN 4-3 CHARLTON ATHLETIC (10/08/10)
A spectacular capitulation from Phil Parkinson’s side saw Charlton exit the League Cup at the first round stage in 2010 despite having taking a three-goal lead against Shrewsbury at Greenhous Meadow.
Those three goals coming in the space of seven first-half minutes, as Pawel Abbott showed uncharacteristic finishing prowess to strike his first two for the club in quick succession, before Lee Martin’s effort from distance increased Charlton’s advantage.
But poor defending from the Addicks gave Shrewsbury a route back into the tie before half-time. Jake Robinson pouncing on a simple long ball that Charlton’s backline failed to deal with, and Yado Mambo turning a driven cross into his own net giving the Shrews some momentum at the break.
Momentum they were always likely to make the most of against an inexperienced and unsettled Charlton defence. The hosts level just beyond the hour, as an unchallenged Danny O’Donnell headed powerfully home from a corner.
And total embarrassment was inflicted upon the Addicks with 14 minutes to play, as yet more weak defending was punished with an unmarked Matt Harrold nodding beyond Ross Worner’s desperate dive and a half-hearted attempt from Miguel Llera to clear on the line.
A rather unpleasant evening for Charlton.
Though Saturday’s goalless draw with Coventry means Shrewsbury remain without a league win this season, the efforts of Mellon’s men in the two games following a rather tame defeat to MK Dons on the opening day of the season have offered some encouragement.
An impressive performance in a League Cup victory over a Huddersfield Town side that was still relatively strong despite being rotated and a very promising second half display against the Sky Blues laying some solid foundations for a Shrews squad that has seen plenty of changes in personnel over the summer.
In fact, after an uncomfortable opening 45 at the Ricoh, Mellon’s side did enough to have deserved to leave Coventry with all three points. Ivan Toney striking the underside of the crossbar, and Jim O’Brien impressively failing to convert at the back post into what was effectively an open goal.
But in spite of those missed opportunities to travel to The Valley with a first league victory already to their name, Shrewsbury will head to South East London with a degree of optimism and confidence, knowing that they have displayed signs of what they’re capable of in their previous two fixtures.
With the greatest of respect to Northampton Town, a draw at home to the Cobblers is not a result Charlton should ever be celebrating. But the performance in the second half of Saturday’s game was desperately needed.
For having showed no sort of attacking cohesion and committed two terrible defensive errors at Bury, conceded another soft goal without being able to create in the League Cup humiliation at Cheltenham Town, and begun the first home game of the season in similar concerning, sloppy and non-cohesive fashion, already hurting and disillusioned Charlton supporters required some distraction from the bleakness.
That provided by Jackson’s equaliser, a goal that meant as much to the inspirational skipper as it did supporters, and encouragement offered by the overall effort in second 45. A huge improvement, that meant Northampton, who had taken the lead through Alex Revell and always looked likely to add a second on the break, were now camped deep inside their own half.
A slight frustration that, following Jackson’s goal, Charlton’s adventurous and energetic attacking play didn’t result in anything more than a handful of half chances being created, but pleasing to see Slade’s side show creativity and persistently test the opposition’s rather defiant backline.
Not nearly enough to rid the concerns created by previous performances, nor the disconnection that exists between club and supporters as a result of the actions of Roland Duchatelet’s regime and Katrien Meire’s continuingly misguided words and actions, but certainly enough to suggest Slade’s men have enough about them to be competitive.
At the very least, supporters can turn up at The Valley on Tuesday night in the knowledge that their side are capable of playing five yard passes.
A half-time change in system and personnel resulted in Shrewsbury’s second-half improvement at the Ricoh on Saturday, and Mellon therefore may be tempted to make changes to the side that started against the Sky Blues.
The Shrews withdrew playmaker Antoni Sarcevic and winger Ethan Jones at the break, replacing them with defender Olly Lancashire and midfielder Ian Black as a 4-2-3-1 set-up became 3-5-2, and it was that that allowed them to create a number of potentially match-winning chances in the second period.
Lancashire and Black will be pushing to start given that their introductions helped towards a huge Shrewsbury improvement, and should certainly come into the side if Mellon is bold enough to use a three-at-the-back formation from the start against the Addicks on Tuesday.
Elsewhere, AJ Leitch-Smith could return to the squad having missed the trip to Coventry with a slight knock picked up in training during the week.
The forward, however, will do well to immediately dislodge Newcastle loanee Toney, who impressed on his debut at the weekend. An option to partner the former Northampton Town man in attack should Mellon opt to deploy his side in a 3-5-2 formation.
Ademola Lookman is in line for his first league start of the season after again having to settle for a second half appearance from the bench during Saturday’s draw with Northampton.
The teenage winger, who has been used sparingly at the start of this campaign seemingly as a consequence of his excursions for the England U19s during the summer, should come in for Kevin Foley, and allow Slade’s side to play with genuine width and attacking threat on both flanks.
Elsewhere, Patrick Bauer may make his first appearance since December 2015 having recovered from a serious groin injury.
The German centre-back, who was in a matchday squad for the first time this season on Saturday, could come in for 17-year-old Ezri Konsa. The youngster putting in a mature performance against the Cobblers, but back-to-back League One games may be asking a touch too much of the tall and athletic defender.
KEY BATTLE – GIVING SHREWSBURY THE ATTACKING INTENT AND ENERGY OF SATURDAY’S SECOND HALF TO DEAL WITH
Northampton, having looked settled and in relative control for much of the first half having taken the lead, appeared somewhat shell-shocked by the way Charlton responded after half-time on Saturday.
There was even a period where their excellent centre-back pair, Zander Diamond and Gabriel Zakuani, appeared to be struggling. A good 25 minutes of the second half needed before the Cobblers regained proper collective composure, and even then they found themselves stuck deep inside their own half.
The task for Charlton on Tuesday night is to offer the same sort of dominant and aggressive attacking play from the off, that doesn’t allow Shrewsbury’s side, and particularly not their backline, any sort of chance to settle.
Of course, it is somewhat unrealistic to expect Slade’s side to perform with the intensity that they did in the brief period before and after Jackson’s goal for the duration of the game, not least because the Shrews will believe they can prove a threat of their own second half efforts at the weekend.
But it is not demanding too much to expect the Addicks to take control of a game at home against relatively lesser opposition, and perform with similar attacking intent, cohesion, and belief.
In the hope that Charlton will constantly test the Shrews backline, and prevent them from being able to develop fluent attacking moves of their own.
Jason Pearce and Konsa grew in composure as Saturday progressed, but the fact Northampton, through Will Hoskins, were somewhat gifted an opportunity to potentially win the game against the run of play a sign that defensive frailty in key moments still exists.
Pushing the Shrews deep inside their own half and taking control of the game as important for the likelihood of scoring goals as it is the likelihood of keeping them out.
A first victory of the season on the cards, should the improvement seen during Saturday’s second half continue. At the very least, a victory needed. Charlton Athletic 2-1 Shrewsbury Town