A strong foundation was built upon on Saturday afternoon, while a relatively unstable one was laid.
The already unanimous opposition to Roland Duchatelet’s regime strengthened further, with vocal, passionate and determined protests made against the club’s ownership. The true identity of the club belonging to those committed supporters, and not an arrogant, ignorant, and club-crippling regime.
With the assistance of Coventry City supporters, who were also protesting against their unpopular ownership, and a few thousand pigs, the stance of Charlton Athletic supporters was reaffirmed, and the position of the regime was weakened further.
But amidst the chaos intended to force much needed change, and ultimately allow disillusioned supporters to reconnect with a club that has continued to insult its fan base, there was a degree of encouragement seen on the pitch.
Efficiency, as a still-sluggish Charlton took advantage of some dreadful Coventry defending, rather than high quality, energy and intensity giving the Addicks a rather flattering 3-0 victory, but that not to downplay the importance of the confidence gained from such a win.
Having gone seven games without collecting three points, a run which included some quite disgusting performances with worrying decision making from boss Russell Slade, this exactly the kind of result required.
However, for now, it does little more than set a rather unstable foundation. Slade’s men would have been seriously troubled by a better team, one with any sort of defensive competence and genuine attacking threat, and to get too carried by the result over the Sky Blues would be naive.
Seriously troubled by a team like Port Vale, who are flirting with the top six, have only failed to win at home once all season (ironically against Coventry), and possess the quality to exploit the faults in this Charlton side that the Sky Blues could not.
And while Vale’s impressive start to the season, particularly impressive given the wholesale changes that were made following the left-field appointment of Bruno Ribeiro, has been tainted somewhat by that Coventry defeat and a 4-0 reverse at Bramall Lane this weekend, they remain a side that will offer a much greater test.
Opposition that will crush another Charlton attempt to build some sort of foundation, for this not the first time this season the Addicks have been in such a position, or will allow for genuine encouragement to exist after a positive result is gained against them.
The outcome of this fixture will tell us more about whether Slade has been able to improve his side than Saturday’s result did.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 2-0 PORT VALE (12/09/2001)
You have to go back 17 seasons to find one where Charlton and Port Vale shared the same division, and not since a second round League Cup tie in 2001 have the two sides met in a competitive fixture.
Alan Curbishley handing a first-team debut to Jon Fortune, and the centre-back rewarded the then Charlton boss by scoring the game’s opening goal. Jason Euell teeing up the academy graduate to volley beyond Vale goalkeeper Mark Goodlad from close range.
And it was another academy graduate making his debut who sealed victory midway through the second half, as substitute Paul Konchesky doubled Charlton’s advantage. The full-back converting from Graham Stuart’s free-kick.
The Addicks would go onto beat West Brom in the third round, before ultimately exiting the competition at the fourth round stage following an extra-time defeat to Watford.
Port Vale: LWLWLW
It a reflection of how positive Port Vale’s start to the season has been that a defeat to bottom of the table Coventry and a rather tame 4-0 mauling at Sheffield United, with a win over MK Dons sandwiched in between, have not been cause for crisis.
For it is fair to suggest that seventh place Vale, who have won five of their six home league games this season, are overachieving.
That especially true given that there was a great deal of suspicion about the club’s actions over the summer. Ribeiro, with no experience of managing in England, appointed as boss, 16 players allowed to depart, with top scorer AJ Leitch-Smith among them, and 18 coming in, with the majority arriving from Europe and playing in England for the first time.
The sort of overhaul that rarely works in the way that outspoken chairman Norman Smurthwaite wanted it to, who demanded a play-off push, particularly with the need for a new group of players to gel.
But, despite those recent defeats, Ribeiro’s men have impressive. Helped by a relatively settled line-up, and useful options in reserve, the transition process hasn’t been as horrible as some feared. Six wins, and a number of impressive performances, suggesting a challenge for the play-offs might not be completely unrealistic.
However, there is a need not only for Vale to improve an away record that contains just one win, but also bounce back quickly. To make that Coventry defeat only a slight blip to their home record, and to correct the mistakes in an error-filled effort at Bramall Lane.
The feeling as Ademola Lookman and the excellent Josh Magennis sealed Saturday’s victory over Coventry was not one of pure jubilation around The Valley.
Instead, the sense of relief that those goals provided, adding to Ricky Holmes’ first-half opener, was much greater.
Relief not only that a first victory in eight league games had been confirmed, but a sense of relief that an unconvincing performance had ultimately resulted in victory.
For there was a sense throughout the game that, though the Sky Blues were rather tame, victory was questionable. Charlton sitting deep, inviting pressure, and allowing the opposition opportunities to attack.
Regardless, despite the relative unconvincing nature of the performance, a 3-0 victory lays a foundation from which Russell Slade’s side can build upon. A win by three goals suggesting that there is enough quality in this side to win games of football, in spite of the performances prior to Saturday’s game, and the rather questionable effort at The Valley despite victory.
However, the victory will be relatively meaningless unless it is followed up. A huge game at Port Vale on Tuesday, with Charlton desperately needing victory to prove their worth.
Despite having returned to outdoor training, Jerome Thomas is unlikely to be available to face his former side.
The winger, who made 119 appearances for the Addicks, had been a regular in the Vale side before picking up an injury in the defeat to Coventry. Though nearing a return to fitness, Tuesday will come too soon for Thomas.
It a similar story for forward Anton Forrester, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, but Anthony de Freitas, who has resumed full training having been absent since the beginning of September, could make a return against Charlton.
But, irrespective of who is available for Vale, changes to the side that suffered defeat at Bramall Lane are likely, particularly after coach Andy Smith criticised the defensive performance.
The back four of Ben Purkiss, Remie Streete, Kjell Knops and Nathan Smith has become a settled one, but Calvin Mac-Intosch and Kiko offer alternatives should Bruno Riberio wish to shake things up.
Following the 3-0 victory over Coventry, Slade might well be tempted to name an unchanged starting XI for the trip to Vale Park.
Andrew Crofts, who played a big part in the midfield sluggishness that existed despite the victory, and Lee Novak, who struggled to offer assistance for Magennis in attack, the only two members of the XI whose places are under genuine threat. Johnnie Jackson and Nicky Ajose the alternatives should the bald-headed boss wish to make changes.
And with Kevin Foley and Jordan Botaka likely to remain absent, there is little room for manoeuvre in Slade’s selection anyway. Injuries to just two players showing the lack of options available in midfield, and up top.
At the very least, despite having struggled to play back-to-back games this season, Lookman will surely continue on the left flank without a genuine wide alternative available.
KEY BATTLE – AVOID INVITING PRESSURE AGAINST A MORE POTENT SIDE
Coventry have scored just eight league goals this season, and a tameness in front of goal was evident on Saturday.
For though the Addicks sat deep, failed to press, and invited those in Sky Blue to come forward, they lacked any sort of quality in the final third. Jamie Sterry’s lash into the side netting and Ruben Lameiras striking the post aside, they were completely devoid of ideas despite constantly launching attacks and getting into what appeared promising positions.
By contrast, Port Vale have struck 16 times, with 11 of those coming in their six home games. Three goals scored against table-toppers Scunthorpe, and Millwall.
In truth, the goals have tried up somewhat since the turn of the month. Just one – the winner against MK Dons – scored in their three league games. But that isn’t to say there doesn’t remain a potent threat about this Port Vale.
A threat that would thrive on sluggishness, a defence sitting deep, and an opposition that overall appears so cautious that it invites pressure. That particularly true of Birmingham loanee Alex Jones, who has scored seven times this season.
There will be greater confidence among Charlton’s forward men, particularly with Lookman scoring and Magennis so impressive, and there should be a belief that the Addicks can cause a threat. But that will become tainted if we don’t show more intensity when the opposition have possession.
A genuinely tough one to call. Port Vale’s recent results have been mixed, but their overall record is impressive and there will be a desire to bounce back after defeat at Sheffield United. Charlton’s performance against Coventry was somewhat unconvincing and their overall record is poor, but a huge amount of confidence will have been gained.
I think I’ll sit on the fence. Port Vale 1-1 Charlton Athletic