Despite having led Charlton Athletic for just 13 league games, there is already an element of pressure on the figure hired by Roland Duchatelet’s regime to suggest change in their flawed policies had occurred.
Pressure that exists not as a direct result of the regime’s ways, nor even remotely as a consequence of the fact the Addicks face a Kent derby at Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium. Pressure that Russell Slade, the English manager supposed to rescue Charlton from the turmoil they have been placed in, has placed upon himself.
Through his actions and his words, the bald-headed boss has damaged any sort of trust that exists between himself and the club’s supporters. Cautious tactics and bizarre substitutions turning three points into one point at Port Vale on Tuesday night, before entering a stubborn post-match tirade that belittled supporters and appeared to rid himself of all responsibility for failing to secure what, for much of the contest, appeared a certain victory.
Not so much pressure on Slade from above, particularly with there a real need for the hierarchy to stand by this boss and support their own words, but a failure to record victory at Gillingham on Saturday could leave the divide between manager and fans uncomfortably large.
That particularly true with the Gills on a run of just league win in their last nine. This, in theory, should provide an ample opportunity for Slade’s side to immediately bounce back from the frustration of Tuesday night. A combination of Charlton’s poor start to the season, the events of midweek, and the perceived form of the opposition providing no excuses for the boss.
A real need for Slade to inspire his men to victory, to prevent the patchy relationship he has with his own supporters deteriorating to the point where he struggles to command support.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 2-2 GILLINGHAM (20/03/2010)
A second-half equaliser from Dave Mooney rescued a point for Charlton on a frustrating afternoon at The Valley.
The promotion-chasing Addicks were in control for large parts of the League One fixture, and claimed the advantage they deserved when Gills goalkeeper Alan Julian allowed a tame Frazer Richardson strike through him.
But Gillingham struck back almost immediately with a stunning Andy Barcham strike, and the visitors would have the lead before the break. Dennis Oli making the most of a Rob Elliot mistake three minutes into stoppage-time.
A position Charlton’s dominance did not warrant, and Mooney was able to restore parity with an hour played. The Reading loanee finishing coolly.
And though the equaliser provided Phil Parkinson’s side with 30 minutes in which to make their dominance tell, they ultimately forced to settle for a point.
The pressure on Slade might well be relatively inconsequential, but the pressure that Justin Edinburgh currently faces certainly isn’t. The calls for the Gillingham boss to be dismissed continuing to grow.
Boasting a solid reputation this time last season, and seen by many as a talented young manager, a capitulation at the end of last season and a disastrous start to this campaign turning supporters against the 46-year-old. Time running out for Edinburgh to convince fans and club he remains the right man for the job.
The talk from the boss, rather optimistically, in the aftermath of Tuesday’s draw with Walsall was that a foundation has been set to build upon.
But this was seen as another frustrating performance, particularly with Walsall’s equaliser, scored by former Addick Franck Moussa, gifted to them after a mistake from goalkeeper Jonathan Bond. The Saddlers, second best until their fortuitous goal, the side most likely to snatch a late winner and come away from Priestfield in midweek with all three points.
A run of three consecutive league defeats brought to an end, but two points dropped, and the display providing no reassurance of improvement to follow. No reassurance that Edinburgh will ultimately be able to protect his job in the weeks to come.
To Charlton’s credit, their efforts for much of Tuesday’s game with Port Vale were impressive. So impressive that the Addicks had ample opportunity to kill the game off.
The lead gained after Fredrik Ulvestad turned in Ricky Holmes’ delivery could have been doubled on several occasions, not least by Ulvestad himself, who preceded to be incredibly wasteful in front of goal.
Port Vale’s late equaliser, coming after Harry Lennon hauled down Alex Jones inside the box and the winger picked himself up to covert, part punishment for Charlton’s failure to be more clinical in front of goal.
Nonetheless, such attacking intensity and persistent creating of chances would provide encouragement under normal circumstances, but this sort of scenario has been seen before this season.
A wasting of chances, followed by Slade instructing his side to drop deeper, before some rather bizarre substitutions ultimately lead to some sort of capitulation. The decision to withdraw the rampaging Holmes and the determined Magennis absolutely senseless.
Improvement needed, in front of goal and from the man in the dugout.
Charlton academy graduate Scott Wagstaff will not face his former team, with an adductor injury keeping the winger out of Saturday’s contest.
Gillingham’s pool of former Charlton players is drained further with Josh Wright suspended, and Lee Martin a long-term absentee. Paul Konchesky likely to line-up against his former club, while Franck Nouble was an unused substitute in midweek.
Elsewhere, centre-back Deji Oshilaja is also suspended, while Bradley Garmston and Aaron Morris remain absent through injury.
Charlton are likely to remain without Jason Pearce, after the centre-back missed the draw with Port Vale with a hip problem.
Harry Lennon, composed until conceding the penalty at Vale Park, looks set to continue to deputise, but Jorge Teixeira travelled with the squad in midweek, and might well be in contention.
There is also a slight doubt over the fitness of Ademola Lookman, who has a tight hamstring, but the teenage forward should be fit enough to travel to Gillingham.
Elsewhere, Kevin Foley and Jordan Botaka remain absent.
KEY BATTLE – UTILISING LOOKMAN, HOLMES AND MAGENNIS, AND KILLING A GAME OFF
Gillingham, much like Charlton, were seen as one of the clubs that would be in and around the top six prior to the season getting underway. The start to the campaign they’re enduring not predicted, with a group containing a number of players seen as talented at League One level.
And so, to underestimate Edinburgh’s side on the basis of their current form and their league position would be both naïve and dangerous. There certainly still enough quality among the Gills to cause this group of Addicks, with their many flaws, problems.
But, even with Charlton’s troubles and the potential danger Gillingham could cause, there is no excuse for Slade’s side not to attempt to control the game. Not to exploit the threat that Lookman, Holmes and Magennis pose.
The pace of Lookman and Holmes has put the Addicks on the front foot in the previous week, with neither Coventry nor Port Vale’s full-backs able to contend with them, while Magennis’ strength has provided the perfect out ball, in addition to the Northern Ireland international’s intelligence starting countless forward moves.
Coventry ultimately punished, as their defensive errors were capitalised on, but Port Vale allowed back into the game. The Addicks guilty of not taking their chances, in addition to Slade bizarrely withdrawing all three while the game remained in the balance.
Should the trio perform as they have done in the past week, then the game is Charlton’s for the taking. A need simply to be ruthless, and for Slade not to make the same mistakes as he did in midweek.
Should the Gills compete with Charlton’s threatening triumvirate, then you begin to worry whether the hosts, having nullified the opposition’s threat, will be able to cause concerns of their own on the break.
A lot rests on how Edinburgh’s men deal with Lookman, Holmes and Magennis, and how early Slade decides to withdraw them.
Tuesday’s first-half efforts, in addition to the Coventry victory, should be a base to build upon, but it’s difficult not to predict something sluggish and underwhelming. Gillingham 1-1 Charlton Athletic