Trips to Lancashire for Charlton Athletic last season saw some rather desperate displays, and provided very minimal reward. In fact, the scars from defeats at Bury and Oldham Athletic, where the Addicks travel to this weekend, can still be felt.
But the positive start made by the Addicks to this campaign, in addition to Karl Robinson’s side collecting their first away points of the season last weekend, means the need to visit the Red Rose county offers no fears. Existing only is the belief that this Charlton side will continue to build upon this encouraging beginning, and return south with three additional points. Confidence in complete contrast to what it was around the time of, for example, the previous visit to Oldham’s Boundary Park.
In fact, it the Latics who have the confidence concerns ahead of Saturday’s clash. Confidence, and a lack of functioning body parts among a small squad. John Sheridan’s side starting the season with five defeats in five in all competitions, and suffering the embarrassment of being able to name just three substitutes for their 2-1 defeat to Blackpool last Saturday.
And so it certainly not ideal timing for Oldham to be facing this strengthening Charlton force, who travel to Boundary Park having displayed fantastic attacking football against Northampton Town before grinding out victory over Rotherham United. It seems that the outcome of Saturday’s game might well be pre-determined.
But the Addicks, who will be weakened slightly anyway with Josh Magennis and Jay Dasilva on international duty, will need to only look back at those grim defeats in Lancashire last season to know that a failure to perform will be punished. Punished by an Oldham side who, given the state they find themselves in, will be desperate to prove a point.
A point, however, they shouldn’t be allowed to prove if Robinson’s side perform with the same defensive determination and attacking fluency of previous weeks. A level of performance that supporters want to continue to see, and want to see enough of to believe it’s simply par for this Charlton side.
LAST MEETING – OLDHAM ATHLETIC 1-0 CHARLTON ATLETIC (14/02/17)
Oldham broke Charlton hearts on Valentine’s Day as Ollie Banks’ early strike ultimately punished a sluggish and wasteful performance from Karl Robinson’s side at Boundary Park last season.
The Addicks, however, should have found themselves ahead with barely a minute played. Jake Forster-Caskey sending Josh Magennis clean through on goal, the forward having all the time in the world to finish, but his shot fired straight at Oldham goalkeeper Connor Ripley.
A wasted opportunity that proved particularly costly as the Latics took the lead with just four minutes played. Untidy Charlton defending allowing Chris Taylor to tee up Banks, who finished superbly. The Oldham midfielder striking into the far corner with the outside of his boot from the edge of the box.
The relegation threatened Latics immediately retreating, making it quite apparent their objective was to protect their lead for 86 minutes and little more. But, for all the possession and play they were afforded in the opposition’s half, the Addicks lacked any real cutting edge. So much so that Oldham’s Peter Clarke, in rising highest to meet a corner and seeing his header bounce back off the post, came closest to scoring the game’s second goal.
A theme that continued into the second half, as Robinson’s men lacked any sort of genuine threat or potency despite dominating the overall play, while the Latics came close on the counter. Forster-Caskey giving Ripley some work to do, but Oldham’s ‘keeper rarely tested by this wasteful group of Addicks, and defeat would have been confirmed had Declan Rudd not saved well from Oldham’s Taylor.
In fact, it wasn’t until the game’s final moments when a strong intervention was forced out of Ripley. The goalkeeper’s fingertips preventing Lee Novak’s glancing header from finding the far corner. But this sluggish Charlton performance did not warrant an equaliser.
The start John Sheridan’s men have made to the season has been record-breaking. No previous Oldham side have lost their first five games in all competitions from the commencing of a campaign. Reflective of a side that’s underperforming, but so too a side that’s entered the season without being shaped and sculpted anywhere near completion.
They didn’t need an injury crisis, one that left Sheridan able to name just three players on the bench for their weekend defeat to Blackpool, to prove their squad lacked bodies. But it certainly helped prove a point. The Latics are in a concerning state.
A 90th-minute Walsall winner in the second League One game of the season, a game in which Oldham took the lead, is as close as the Latics have come to both taking a point from a contest and successfully competing. The deficit, two by the time 15 minutes had passed, halved at Bloomfield Road on Saturday, but Sheridan’s decimated side always one foot off the pace.
And time is running out for the issues with Oldham’s squad to be addressed, on two fronts. The transfer window of course closes on Thursday night, but talk of investment into the club from Dubai-based agent Abdallah Lemsagam has hung around for quite some time. Completing some sort of deal before the transfer deadline may allow Sheridan to strengthen a side that so desperately requires it.
If not, then Sheridan must battle on with limited resources. He managed to maintain the Latics’ League One status last season, arriving in January and pulling them away from the bottom four in impressive fashion. But this appears an even harder challenge.
They certainly rode their luck, but it was ultimately a clinical edge in front of goal and a steely determination in defence that meant the Addicks came away from Rotherham United’s New York Stadium with their first away league win of the season last season.
Jamie Proctor should have given the Millers the lead, Semi Ajayi and Kieffer Moore were both wasteful, and questions were asked after it appeared that Chris Solly fouled Proctor in the build-up to Charlton’s second goal, but that things went the way of Robinson’s side didn’t diminish from the effort and character shown.
Two genuine chances offered, with Patrick Bauer left unmarked to power home a corner and Josh Magennis converting from Ricky Holmes’ delivery, and two genuine chances taken as Rotherham wasted anything that fell their way. When the Millers were searching for a route back into the game, they were so often thwarted by the excellent Bauer and Jason Pearce at centre-back. The visitors not as fluent as they were in their mightily impressive display against Northampton Town, but showing an equal amount of fight to record a different type of victory.
A third league victory in four, that not only provides the perfect foundation from which to build at the start of this season, but has also offered supporters genuine belief that this side can compete for promotion. Promise in attack, character and quality at the back, and ultimately signs that this group knows how to win games of football.
Such is the extent of Oldham’s injury troubles, Sheridan was able to name just three substitutes for last weekend’s defeat to Blackpool, and an international call-up means one of those that managed to take to the field at Bloomfield Road won’t at Boundary Park on Saturday.
Full-back Cameron Dummigan has been called up to Northern Ireland’s U21 squad, and he’ll be absent alongside Ryan McLaughlin, who is involved with the senior Northern Ireland side having missed last weekend’s defeat with a slight niggle.
And with none of the weekend absentees returning for the Checkatrade Trophy clash with Port Vale in midweek, it likely that the Latics will again be low on numbers as they welcome Charlton this Saturday. Young defender Jamie Stott (back) midfield pair Ryan Flynn and Paul Green (Achilles), and winger Tope Obadeyi and forward Craig Davies (hamstring) join summer arrivals Gyamfi Kyeremeh and Courtney Duffus in the treatment room.
But Sheridan will have Jack Byrne available, after the midfielder made his debut for the Latics in midweek having joined on loan from Wigan Athletic.
International call-ups mean Robinson will need to make changes to his league starting XI for the first time in four games, as the Addicks are left without a recognised left-back and their regular centre-forward.
Jay Dasilva’s efforts as captain of the England U19 side that won the European Championships in the summer have seen him called up to the U20s, while Josh Magennis joins Oldham’s McLaughlin and retains his regular spot in the Northern Ireland squad.
With Ezri Konsa, still eligible for England’s U20s but not picked, and the now departed Jordan Botaka often also required for international service last season, the Addicks had enough players away to call their fixtures off on international weekends. But with only two on duty this Saturday, one less than the necessary three, Robinson’s side will need to make do without Dasilva and Magennis. Two players that have impressed so far this campaign, and are difficult to replace.
Given that there’s no natural alternative to Dasilva, with Lewis Page still recovering from a long-term ankle problem, Johnnie Jackson may have to fill in at left-back. Robinson could also decide to move Chris Solly to the left side of defence, and hand a league debut to Anfernee Djiksteel after the youngster’s positive impressions in cup competition. But either option is a little uncomfortable.
While in attack, as Charlton’s search for additional forward options continues to frustrate both Robinson and supporters, the likely replacement for Magennis lacks the trust of supporters. Despite scoring against Norwich City in the League Cup recently, Lee Novak has struggled in Charlton colours, and lacks both the presence and potency that Magennis provides. International weekends only highlighting the need for another body up top.
Elsewhere, Mark Marshall and Harry Lennon remain in the treatment room, but Ben Reeves is pushing to be involved having appeared and scored in the Checkatrade Trophy win over Crawley Town in midweek.
KEY BATTLE – DEALING WITH DISRUPTION TO THE STARTING XI
With the Addicks first playing with an impressive level of attacking fluency during their victory over Northampton Town, then showing a certain amount of character and resilience to record a hard-fought win over Rotherham United, disruption to their starting XI comes at a time when it seemed to have clicked into place.
A frustrating time, therefore, as you want to see Charlton’s strongest XI continue to perform and build up both belief and momentum. An XI that relies as heavily on each member that forms it for its strength. And an XI that unfortunately loses two of the more difficult players to replace, on the basis of what is available in reserve.
Magennis’ ability to hold up play and cause a threat inside the box, not least with often the Addicks utilise the flanks going forward, is vital, while Dasilva’s contributions both defensively and when joining in on the counter have belonged to a left-back much older than 19. The focal point of Charlton’s forward line lost, with pressure on Novak who will likely slot in, and some untidy reshuffling required at the back that will leave someone unfamiliar to the left-back role starting there.
It not to say that Robinson’s side don’t have the quality to contend with such disruption – their first win of the season over Bristol Rovers came without Magennis and without an 11th man for much of the game – but it’s certainly an annoyance.
At least the fixture list has been kind to the Addicks. It would be more accurate to say that Oldham’s starting XI, both through injury and international call-ups, has been bulldozed rather than disrupted. They not looking to fill in holes within a fluent unit, but scramble together something in which there is little faith of useful functioning.
But, with two important cogs absent that Charlton’s somewhat restricted options in reserve make difficult to replace, it will be interesting to see if Robinson’s side can maintain the same level of defensive stubbornness and attacking fluency.
Glad we’re not facing tougher opposition, for the absentees might well be felt in other circumstances. Oldham’s start to the campaign, along with absentees of their own, suggests victory should still be a comfortable one. Oldham Athletic 0-2 Charlton Athletic