2017. Another testing calendar year for Charlton Athletic, and those that follow them. Even when they appeared to have themselves in a positive position, a run of seven winless games at the end of the year put pay to that.
But there have been moments to enjoy. Wins, heroic efforts and emotional scenes. Games, days and events to appreciate and remember, amid the difficulties.
Marvellous Magennis’ hat-trick (v Bristol Rovers, 02/01/2017)
Charlton’s 2017 began by achieving their joint-highest winning margin of the calendar year.
Bristol Rovers beaten 4-1 at The Valley, and that coming after the visitors had taken the lead. An advantage gifted to the visitors. Patrick Bauer slipping, allowing Jermaine Easter through on goal, and the striker, who infamously scored for League Two Wycombe Wanderers to deny Premier League Charlton a place in the League Cup semi-final, rounded Dillon Phillips to score.
Karl Robinson’s side not responding well to falling behind in such a fashion with only 12 minutes played, and there little suggestion that the deficit would be overturned. But there improvement as half-time neared, and the Addicks were able to go in at the break level. Josh Magennis heading home from Joe Aribo’s free-kick.
A vital goal, for it set the foundations from which the hosts would emerge for the second period with much greater intensity and confidence. Five second-half minutes all that were required to put the Addicks ahead. Magennis again heading home from an Aribo free-kick to put Robinson’s side in control of the contest.
And, quite incredibly given how much they struggled after falling behind, the points appeared to be theirs with a little less than half-an-hour to play. A third assist from Aribo, as Teixeira turned in his low cross. A position that the vastly improved Addicks deserved to be in.
So too did the excellent Magennis warrant the hat-trick that was to follow. And the Northern Ireland international claiming it in style. A long ball over the top from Andrew Crofts brought down well, before the ball was curled beautifully beyond Rovers goalkeeper Will Puddy.
Not a bad little way to begin the year.
Battling to overcome Bolton (28/01/2017)
Charlton’s victory at Bolton Wanderers in January is certainly one of their most impressive wins of the calendar year, and quite possibly the most unlikely.
For total humiliation appeared to be on the cards just 12 minutes into the contest at the Macron Stadium. Lewis Page dismissed for stopping Josh Vela’s run on goal, and the promotion-chasing Trotters, who ultimately finish second, scoring through Zach Clough from the resulting free-kick. A heavy defeat surely on the cards.
But ten minutes later, the Addicks had levelled. Patrick Bauer converting from Jake Forster-Caskey’s free-kick. No real faith that it would mean much, but at least Karl Robinson’s men weren’t lying down and accepting their fate.
Incredibly, though, the visitors took the lead in first-half stoppage-time. Possession almost entirely belonging to Bolton, Charlton’s goal had been peppered, and only good fortune had prevented the score-line returning to what seemed inevitable. But, with their next shot after drawing level, Nathan Byrne took Forster-Caskey’s through ball in his stride, and finished superbly.
Disbelief that the Addicks had pulled in front, but the celebrations were made with the knowledge that there remained 45 minutes to keep Bolton’s 11 men at bay.
The extent of Bolton’s domination reaffirmed in the statistics. The Addicks managing just three shots and a single corner, while the Trotters had 15 attempts on goal and eight corners. And yet, Robinson’s side managed to stand firm.
Each man in red gave more energy and determination that they had to give, Bauer and Konsa were immense at centre-back, and as full-time drew near Bolton’s control of the contest turned to a frustrated lack of threat.
A belief created, though ultimately misguided, that this side could fight for something in the remainder of the 2016/17 campaign under Robinson’s stewardship.
Robinson’s 40% (v Shrewsbury, 28/02/2017)
Right, give me a moment. I’ve not lost the remaining marbles I had, or at least yet. I don’t enjoy hilarious failure, unless it’s Leon Best scoring an own goal three minutes after coming on against a club who despises him.
Robinson’s rant at the end of the ridiculous 4-3 defeat to Shrewsbury Town, in which Charlton came a distant third behind Ricky Holmes FC, almost has something of an iconic status. Reflecting the state team, in addition to club, were in at the end of last season. Reaffirming that relegation was a real possibility.
Players not fit to wear the shirt, 40% not caring, and an event pre-game that Robinson had never seen before at any club. A rallying cry would have hidden certain details. This was the brutal truth.
But it was a brutal truth, fairly obvious to the eyes of most Addicks in recent seasons, that needed to be said. In the words of Robinson, “for too long too many people have dodged bullets”. No other boss has had the bollocks to say anything like that under Roland Duchatelet’s reign.
Bob Peeters seemed like he wanted to bemoan what was occurring in certain times, but never quite managed. Russell Slade, despite being outside the network, lacked the strength of character to make such a statement. Jose Riga, Guy Luzon and Karel Fraeye abiding by the rules they were given.
At the time, it only increased the pressure on Robinson, failing as the side slumped towards the bottom four. But, on reflection, it showed Robinson was going to fight. Fight for what he wanted, for his own squad, and to at least remove the poison from the pitch, if not the club.
He’s not necessarily had perfect results, but he’s gone further to getting what he wanted than any other Charlton manager in recent times. A reasonably strong side, with what appears a good team spirit, that have managed to win games. His determination the sort of attitude required to work under this regime.
I don’t always like the nonsense Robinson comes out with, and I would suggest that some degree of disliking to his words in certain moments isn’t uncommon. The AFC Wimbledon stuff was pathetic, like a teenager looking for a response on Twitter, and his assessments of games can sometimes be confusing. Living in Milton Keynes, my mum drinks in the same pub as him, and his rather boisterous words aren’t reserved to press conferences, although my mum might have just been pissed and made it up.
But he stands up for himself. For the club. And offers some fight.
Tony Watt (Watt, Watt, Watt) (v Scunthorpe, 07/03/2017)
Talented and committed players have upheld the connection between supporters and club, and many with questionable attitudes and ability have been ridiculed, but few have proved as divisive in such a black or white period as Tony Watt.
The glimpses of individual skill and quality meant he had many backers hopefully he could display his talents consistently, others felt his heart and head weren’t in it. A number felt constant loan spells and fortunate injury meant he didn’t get enough chances, others assumed he was lazy. Some believe his interests away from football make him human, others want to bizarrely waste time sending him abuse on Twitter knowing full well he’ll have a response.
But there no doubt the frustrating Scot united The Valley when Scunthorpe United visited in March, converting a last-minute penalty in front of the Covered End to earn the Addicks a first win in nine games.
Robinson’s side performing in pathetic fashion – the 40% speech following the defeat at Shrewsbury Town occurring just a week prior to this contest – and another defeat anticipated against second place Scunthorpe. But the Addicks competed against the Iron, and a change of fortune anticipated when Johnnie Jackson volleyed home from close range with 33 minutes played. A Johnnie Jackson so often inspires in desperate times.
But the visitors, as a consequence of a horror error, were able to equalise through Kevin van Veen with 15 minutes to play. A draw against a side competing for promotion, in Charlton’s state, would have been a commendable result, and at least ended a run of four consecutive defeats. But not winning the game would have been crushing to a side who already had nil confidence.
The draw, and the consequence it might have, anticipated until the final minute. Jorge Teixeira dragged down inside the box, and a penalty award. Soft, but certainly enough in Murray Wallace’s contact for the decision to be made, and the prematurely celebrating supporters didn’t care regardless.
Jackson, with an inconsistent penalty record but someone you would certainly trust in such a circumstance to convert, still on the pitch, but Watt claiming the ball and placing it on the spot despite not scoring for the Addicks since returning from Hearts in January.
The Valley not convinced the Scot would convert, but the ball confidently fired into the bottom corner, and impressive celebrations following. More ones of relief for both parties, given Watt’s run without scoring and Charlton’s form. But a goal and a moment so desperately needed.
PC Keith Palmer (v MK Dons, 04/04/2017)
Pride in Charlton Athletic Football club had on few occasions in 2017. But it was certainly there as the Addicks honoured PC Keith Palmer. The season ticket holder killed in the Westminster terrorist attack.
His red seat changed to a white one, inscribed with his warrant number. His brother, effectively held by Johnnie Jackson, and 22 members of the police force, on the pitch as wreaths were laid and a minute’s silence had. “PC Palmer, he’s one of our own,” sung by his fellow supporters.
A fantastic tribute to a hero. One that saw emotion spread around the ground. Hard not to feel on the verge of tears as he was honoured.
Some contrast between the respect offered to PC Palmer, and the Charlton performance that followed that left supporters singing “you’re not fit to wear the shirt”.
The season saving Southend win and the efforts that followed (08/04/2017)
The intense worry suffered at the start of April that the Addicks were set for a second successive relegation were not irrational or hysteric. One win in 14 games had left Robinson’s side in 16th, just four points above the relegation zone with five to play. Pathetic defeats to Peterborough United and MK Dons, in which Charlton’s performances were so poor hostile chanting of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” were produced, stripping supporters of all confidence.
So that the Addicks were able to comfortably pull away from the bottom four was an achievement in its self. To do so with four victories in five games, given that another victory all season seemed unlikely, was mightily impressive. A run beginning with an unlikely victory against Southend United four days after the MK Dons humiliation.
Adam Thompson turning Nathan Byrne’s delivery into his own net with 16 minutes to play to give Robinson’s side their first victory in seven, after the Shrimpers had previously responded to Ricky Holmes’ opener with an equaliser from the head of John White. Though the real match-winner was former Charlton loanee Franck Nouble. An open goal missed in the dying moments to confirm victory for the Addicks.
It followed by a draw away at Coventry City, which relegated the Sky Blues, and three successive wins, with Gillingham, Chesterfield and Swindon Town the victims. As many wins achieved in five games as Robinson had managed in his previous 22 league games in charge.
The final four results achieved against teams who would finish in the bottom five, but the Addicks were in such a state prior to the Southend victory that defeats to teams of that standard appeared likely. The win over the Shrimpers the catalyst for avoiding being drawn into the bottom four. A relatively comfortable, though still horrendous, 13th-place finish achieved.
Bauer’s opening day ‘goal’ (v Bristol Rovers, 05/08/2017)
A new season. Encouraging signings made over the summer. A desperate need for a positive start after the season before.
So Lee Novak receiving a red card six minutes into the campaign wasn’t exactly ideal. The forward, who would leave the club before the end of August, dismissed for a heavy challenge on Bristol Rovers’ Stuart Sinclair. Victory unlikely.
However, 38 minutes into the game, Patrick Bauer headed the Addicks in front. A ‘goal’ more dubious than Novak’s dismissal. The ball probably not crossing the line.
But whether it did or not was of no interest to the Charlton supporters inside The Valley. The first goal of the season to celebrate, and now 52 minutes for these ten men to hold on. Victory still seeming unlikely, but the Addicks had given themselves a chance.
The response determined and resolute. Bristol Rovers applying pressure throughout the second half, and Ben Amos appearing uncomfortable in the Charlton goal, but those in red stood firm. The ten men defending superbly, and the character of Robinson’s fresh side indicated for the first time.
An ugly start to the season, but a hard-working performance earning the Addicks an unlikely win.
Fosu’s form-inspiring hat-trick (v Fleetwood Town, 30/09/2017)
Heading to Fleetwood Town in September, the Addicks were without a win in four. Not just without a win in four, but without an encouraging performance in that time. Having thrown away victory at Walsall in the midweek that preceded the game at Highbury, there little confidence that a positive result would be achieved.
Confidence crushed when, with their first shot of the game, Fleetwood’s Bobby Grant was allowed through on goal to finish with 25 minutes played, and cancel out Tariqe Fosu’s opener. A set-back for a side that had lacked resolve in recent weeks. A worry that such a moment would be crushing.
But this was an excellent Charlton performance, one of the best of the year, not to be interrupted by the Trawlermen’s equaliser. They pressed, they attacked with intensity, and they controlled the game. Fosu scoring an excellent second to restore the visitors’ lead five minutes before half-time.
The Addicks, however, having thrown away two advantages at Walsall, would not feel confident until a third was struck. A third struck by Fosu, breaking through and finishing coolly beyond Alex Cairns. A marvellous hat-trick from the winger, playing the lead role in an outstanding collective performance.
It would inspire a run of nine games without defeat, pushing the Addicks towards the top. We’ll simply disregard that it was immediately followed by seven winless game to end the year, and that positive work was undone.
Amos’ stunning saves (v Bradford City, 21/10/2017)
Charlton supporters were, justifiably, not convinced by Ben Amos during the opening games of the season. Not only had he flapped to allow Plymouth Argyle’s Jake Jervis score a second at Home Park in August, but the on loan goalkeeper’s overall efforts did not inspire confidence. Little control of his penalty area, poor distribution, and early calls for Dillon Phillips to be made number one.
By the end of the calendar year, however, Amos had most certainly earned the trust of Addicks. A consistent performer, claiming crosses with considerable resolves and making many vital saves, as well as becoming the first Charlton stopper to save a penalty denying Portsmouth’s Brett Pitmam, since Stephen Henderson against Leeds United’s Billy Sharp in 2015. But it his efforts in the victory over Bradford City that not only cemented faith in the Bolton loanee, but confirmed to supporters they had a quality goalkeeper.
Protecting a single-goal advantage at Valley Parade, given to them by Jake Forster-Caskey’s goal, the Addicks found themselves the subject of a late Bantams siege. Charlie Wyke first drawing a fine save out of Charlton’s goalkeeper, diving to his left to keep out the effort as the striker slid in to connect at the near post, but it dwarfed by an extraordinary double save from a corner that soon followed. Matt Kilgallon’s header destined for the top corner, before Amos somehow clawed it away, and then managed to pick himself up to deflect the defender’s follow-up over the bar.
A sensational piece of goalkeeping, assuring victory over a promotion rival. Seemingly a statement of intent, and celebrated by all under windy and wet conditions. Certainly no longer any animosity towards Amos.
Holmes match-winning free-kick (v AFC Wimbledon, 28/10/2017)
Such was its occurrence throughout the month of October, winning while not play well might have actually been a planned tactic.
The majority, during the run, not fearing that the Addicks would ultimately be found out. Instead believing that this was a platform, with points gained and confidence built, from which a talented side would begin to dominate games. The platform for promotion.
But some of the games were a difficult watch. Turgid encounters in which both sides lacked quality. Gritty defending required for 90 minutes, the game not controlled even when in the lead, and a tame attacking threat that meant sealing victory wasn’t possible.
And against AFC Wimbledon, such was Charlton’s attacking threat, it appeared they were going to put in a below-par performance that would result in a below-par performance. Barely a chance created as the game entered its final 15 minutes. In fact, the visitors had had the better openings, with Lyle Taylor exploiting some uncertainty in defence in the early stages, and Deji Oshilaja not long missing a golden opportunity after a corner wasn’t properly dealt with.
But the Addicks have a match-winner. The sort that a club like AFC Wimbledon lack, who can’t turn a slight overall advantage into an actual advantage. The sort that can make a difference, even when the side are offering little to no threat.
A free-kick awarded in a tight angle, hugging the edge of the area so closely that supporters were frustrated the ball hadn’t been placed on the spot. Instead, Ricky Holmes placed the ball into the far top corner. A wicked strike, over Simon Moore in the Dons goal and firing in from a position that seemed impossible to score from, that decided the contest.
Having a player of Holmes’ quality, a match-winner of the standard that few other teams in this division can match, is undoubtedly worth several points a season. A frustrating run of individual form towards the end of the calendar year, but that not putting the impact he’ll have at the start of 2018 in doubt. The winger might well prove the difference between stagnation and promotion.
An excellent academy
Calling an event that occurred with little immediate connection the Addicks a Moment of the Year may, for some, sum up 2017. But a man of the match display on Joe Gomez’s full England debut was not only an individual award, nor one for Liverpool to enjoy. It a reflection of the success of Charlton’s academy.
A debut against Germany from the bench, followed by a start against Brazil in November. An up and coming talent called Neymar kept in Gomez’s back pocket, and the 20-year-old certainly not overwhelmed by the experience, as he’s not been while performing consistently in an unreliable Liverpool defence throughout the campaign. A real moment of pride for Gomez, and for the Addicks.
Success of the club’s academy, and its ability to develop players, celebrated both in and away from SE7 during 2017. Rob Elliot Newcastle United’s number one, and quickly reclaiming a starting place after Karl Darlow’s return to fitness, Ademola Lookman’s making an increasing impression at Everton, and Jonjo Shelvey, when he’s not getting himself sent off, has had pundits purring over his passing abilities. While Nick Pope, though signed from Bury Town as a youngster, feels like one of ours, and has been crucial in Burnley’s successes.
Back in Charlton’s present, and discounting what are effectively U23 sides in the Checkatrade Trophy, 11 academy graduates have played for the Addicks in the calendar year, making a combined total of 129 appearances. Joe Aribo, signed from Stains Town at the age of 19 after 22 appearances for the non-league club, developed into a professional player by the club but not technically academy graduate number 12. Either way, those are mightily impressive numbers.
There the undertone that young players are being forced into first team action as a consequence of Duchatelet leaving the squad short on numbers. So too the frustration caused by the rate in which they are sold, with Ezri Konsa appearing to be the next in that category. But it doesn’t take away from the fact, with talent consistently churned out, the strength of Charlton’s academy produce.
Chris Solly’s 250
A player’s longevity at a single club is almost always celebrated. A player’s longevity through times of strife appreciated further. A player’s longevity when he’s one of your own cements his place as an iconic Addick.
Chris Solly made his 250th appearance in Charlton colours during the defeat to Scunthorpe United in November. From making his debut as an 18-year-old in 2009, with his diminutive figure and youthful face not giving the impression of someone ready for first-team football, to a consistent full-back who has claimed the captain’s armband. The world ‘legend’ is thrown around too easily in modern times, but the academy graduate might well be one.
Reaching such a number of appearances, and performing consistently over such a length of time, is made more remarkable when his injury issues are considered. A knee injury meaning he missed most of the 2013/14 season, and the nature of the issue meaning he’s rarely played two games in a week since. But he remains one of the first names on the team sheet.
And possibly more remarkable still in the context of the Duchatelet era. Players appreciated by supporters, not least those that were part of the 2011/12 title-winning squad, quickly moved, or at least replaced by bizarre recruitments deemed to be better. The 26-year-old has stood his ground.
This Solly’s tenth season in the first-team, having made his debut during the final game of the 2008/09 season. But more frequent appearances followed in the next two campaigns, before becoming a regular during the title-winning season. A testimonial due?
The stoppage-time comeback (v Peterborough United, 28/11/2017)
Charlton were dire for 89 minutes against Peterborough United in November. Decimated on the break by a lively Peterborough front three, struggling to maintain possession, and offering little attacking threat. The two-goal defeat they were set to suffer deserved punishment.
A penalty being awarded to the Addicks, after goal-scorer Gwion Edwards hauled down Jake Forster-Caskey in the box, seemed little more than consolation. Ricky Holmes converting. Defeat still imminent.
But there was energy and intensity, for the first time all night, as play resumed. The players believed, and their belief inspiring the crowd. The Covered End spreading noise around The Valley.
And in the fourth minute of stoppage-time, incredibly, the Addicks drew level in a game that had seemingly been lost. Naby Sarr flicking, on Karlan Ahearne-Grant bundling in at the far post. Incredible scenes of celebration following.
Back to The Valley (v Portsmouth, 09/12/2017)
Appreciation for supporters has largely been a token gesture under the Duchatelet regime, with its consistent efforts to leave fans isolated. The classic “we appreciate the support” from player or coach after a 7-0 defeat on a Tuesday night in front of 238 occupants of the away end. But it was much more meaningful as 25 years back at The Valley were celebrated.
A celebration not only of the anniversary of the first game played back in SE7 after seven years of exile, but of the efforts of supporters to get the club back home. The Valley Party’s success admired and appreciated. A day for Addicks to remember the special role supporters have played in this football club’s history, whether young or old.
Just a shame the players didn’t respond to the occasion. The performance poor, and Portsmouth able to win 1-0. A reverse of the scoreline that occurred 25 years ago.
Continued efforts against Duchatelet, that are reaching a conclusion
While the second part of the calendar year saw protests cease inside the ground, in order to focus attentions solely over the course of 90 minutes on Robinson’s men, opposition to the Duchatelet regime has remained as strong ever.
And for those who protested, who boycotted, or even held opposing positions, reward for them is finally coming. A club that has instigated a disconnection from its supporters about to lose the figures that have caused. An opportunity for change on the horizon.
Katrie Meire leaving her position as CEO in the final week of the year, with takeover talks confirmed. Years of insults off on the pitch, and insulting failure on it, about to reach an end. The relief substantial.
We are, it would seem, getting our Charlton back in 2018.
When it appeared that 2017 was to be ending in disaster, Charlton Athletic were able to end the calendar year by restoring some pride.
Their determined and spirited performance away at Wigan Athletic on Friday night a mightily impressive one. The League One leaders, rampant in recent weeks and threatening to be on the night, maintained for 90 minutes. Admirable defensive resolve, each member of the side working tirelessly, and appreciation shared between players and supporters at full-time.
A moment of pride to be had in their side, as it appears pride will soon return in their club. Despised CEO Katrien Meire departing from her position the day before the game, and owner Roland Duchatelet confirming the club was in the process of being sold. A hellish experience under this regime, on the pitch but more importantly in the disconnection achieved between club and supporters, coming to an end.
But while supporters await the finalised sale of the club, and allow themselves to continue to appreciate the performance at The DW, there no denying that attentions must firmly be on what is to follow on the pitch.
For the goalless draw, though feeling like a victory, extends Charlton’s winless record to seven games. The play-offs now four points away from their reach, despite a spot in the top six looking so secure not so long ago. The change of ownership might not occur before the end of January, and Karl Robinson will have to make do with the restricted resources he currently has available.
The Wigan result, and hopefully the news of a change in ownership being on the horizon, needs to be a foundation for positivity. Positivity displayed in performances and results. Failure to record victory against the Gills on New Year’s Day, and the hard work in Lancashire becomes undone.
The Kent side beatable opposition, but they arrive in SE7 having lost just one of their previous ten games. A much more resolute unit under Steve Lovell than the relegation certainties that Ady Pennock led. Though the Addicks were the only side to lose to the Gills under Pennock’s leadership this season.
Victory, therefore, not assured. But victory must be achieved.
LAST MEETING – GILLINGHAM 1-0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC (16/09/2017)
Charlton became the first side to suffer defeat at the hands of Gillingham in September, as the then bottom-of-the-table club claimed a single-goal victory over a group of Addicks who lacked cutting edge.
The Addicks sluggish, and undeserving of a result, but the Gills did have goalkeeper Tomas Holy to thank for a series of saves throughout the game. Reacting well to keep out Josh Magennis, after the forward hadn’t quite got enough power behind a Ricky Holmes delivery. Decent save, Charlton player should have done better; a story that would repeat itself.
But if the hosts had their goalkeeper to thank, the visitors had the crossbar and the assistant’s flag. Sean Clare’s free-kick rattling the woodwork, before Gabriel Zakuani turned in the rebound. The defender, however, a yard offside.
For all the faults in their performance, however, it remained Robinson’s side who looked most likely to score. Just that, when the chances came, they continued to be finished poorly. Magennis had to score after controlling a Holmes pass-cum-shot, but could only prod straight at Holy.
And punishment for wasted chances and overall lethargic effort would come with 54 minutes on the clock. Clare allowed to move down the left wing unchallenged, Max Ehmer fed in behind, and his ball across the face of goal turned home by Tom Eaves. All far too simple.
Time for Charlton to find an equaliser, but their own finishing capabilities and Holy continued to deny them. With two minutes to play, Holy parried a Patrick Bauer header straight to Konsa, but the defender fired straight at the goalkeeper, who reacted well to block the follow-up as well. Much like the other openings, a fine piece of goalkeeping but the chance had to be taken; the Addicks victims of their own downfall.
Frustration the overwhelming emotion at Priestfield on Saturday. AFC Wimbledon’s Harry Forrester levelling late on to deny the Gills three points that appeared theirs. The hosts leading twice in the 2-2 draw, but unable to do enough to secure victory.
But frustration, and most certainly discontent, has quietened since the dismissal of Aidy Pennock in September. Steve Lovell, initially caretaker before being appointed permanently in November, has overseen commendable improvement. The Dons draw making it just one defeat in their previous ten league games.
Four of the games during this current resulting in victory, with particularly impressive away wins over Rotherham United and Fleetwood Town, along with a 4-1 home thumping of Bristol Rovers. The three points collected at Walsall in November accounting for the other victory.
It enough to take a side that looked certain for relegation into 18th place, four points above the bottom four.
But no one at Gillingham will yet believe they’re anything like out of very real danger of losing their place in the third tier. Defeat to Plymouth Argyle in December, another side struggling to avoid the drop, a reminder that they’re still in a fight to stay up. But Lovell’s leadership has certainly put them in a better place to achieve safety.
From the outside, a club of Charlton’s pedigree effectively celebrating a goalless draw in the third tier of English football may seem a little odd.
From within, an injection of pride had been given to supporters of the Addicks having seen their side perform without determination or fight in recent weeks. A disgraceful capitulation at Southend United on Boxing Day followed by a display of character and fight. A threadbare Charlton side holding Wigan, and immense credit warranted.
Of course, the Latics had chances to win, not least when Sam Morsy struck the inside of the post in the stoppage-time, but defeat would have been incredible cruel on the Addicks. Each member of the side working relentlessly. Each member of the side worthy of the result they achieved, and the praise received.
Unfortunately, previous efforts mean that, for now, it a result that can only be celebrated in isolation. Seven winless games, one win in nine, and 14 points off second. Automatic promotion dead, and four points to make up in order to get back inside the top six.
But it a result that can become the catalyst for improvement in performances and results. After such a dire spell, to see a battling display was encouraging. A battling display from which the Addicks can build, and build up some form.
Scott Wagstaff’s return to The Valley is in doubt having missed the previous two games for the Gills with a hamstring injury.
Academy graduate Wagstaff, a popular figure during his time in SE7, also missed The Valley fixture between these two sides last season, and will no doubt receive a positive reception if he does feature.
Another former Addick is also a doubt for the game, with one-time loanee Lee Martin missing the AFC Wimbledon draw through illness.
But long-term absentee Billy Bingham will definitely be unavailable, with a broken ankle having kept the midfielder out since October.
Charlton’s injury crisis is on the brink of easing slightly, with a number of players having a reasonable chance of returning to action on Monday.
Jake Forster-Caskey and Patrick Bauer could return from their quad and knee injuries, while Leon Best may feature again following the hamstring injury he picked up during the draw with Blackpool.
Ricky Holmes should also be fit enough to start against the Gills, having made the bench on Friday night.
But Chris Solly (calf), Jason Pearce (knee) and Tariqe Fosu (quad) all remain unavailable, alongside long-term absentee Billy Clarke.
There also some concern about Harry Lennon, who hobbled off at The DW during his first start for 14 months following a long injury lay-off.
KEY BATTLE – ROLES REVERSED
The Addicks stood firm on Friday night, placing ten men behind the ball and holding structure for 90 minutes, to record a determined point that seemed unlikely before kick-off against the League One leaders.
But their task as Gillingham come to The Valley is a very different one. Grinding out a goalless draw is not to be celebrated. There will not be a feeling of immense pride if such a result is achieved; rather immense disappointment.
And so Robinson’s side must get at the Gills, who are likely to attempt to emulate Charlton’s structured and defensive approach applied at The DW.
Taking games to the opposition has been as problematic in recent times as defending without error. Threat lacking in forward moves, and chances wasted when they have arrived. Breaking down Lovell’s side won’t be a simple task.
But there is attacking quality in this side. Ricky Holmes and Ben Reeves likely to return to the starting XI, and an improved Karlan Ahearne-Grant might well keep his place in the side ahead of Josh Magennis and the potentially returning Leon Best. It’s just attacking quality that hasn’t performed in recent weeks.
With defensive resolve discovered, there a foundation from which the attacking quality can be found once again. At the very least, intent is required on New Year’s Day. And intent that will result in three points being claimed.
Not immediately expecting the Addicks to become a fluent attacking unit on the back of Friday’s efforts, but the hard work at The DW is undone without a positive result here. Charlton Athletic 1-0 Gillingham
The increase in volume from the stands that met each move forward had grown from a tone of encouragement to one of desperation. Anger increasing around The DW Stadium with each positive attack wasted; by misplaced pass, tame delivery or unthreatening strike. Testing efforts on the opposition’s goal no longer a sign of promise, but a source of immense frustration.
You needed only to listen to the collective sounds of the home supporters to tell you that Charlton Athletic were standing firm in the face of immense pressure. Wigan Athletic held control, the League One leaders constantly asking demanding questions, but the battling Addicks continued to dig as deep as possible to find answers. A side that had crumbled, both in terms of previous performances and available numbers, rediscovering structure and resolve.
Possession belonged to the hosts by default, much of which occurred inside the opposition’s half. The visitors sat so deep that Johnnie Jackson was often the player second most forward, and only five shots were offered. It by a collectively organised defensive effort, relentless hard work, and the occasional moment of fortune that the Addicks found themselves in a position from which to claim the point a goalless draw provides.
For such a battling display, ugly and gritty though it was, to go unrewarded would have been a cruel fate that the exhausted bodies of those in red did not deserve. The Latics, given their domination of overall play and regular threatening attacks, might suggest the real injustice would come if they failed to find a winner against this side with little interest in committing men forward. But when it considered how tamely the Addicks have wilted in recent weeks, how injuries have crippled their squad, and how desperate the travelling supporters were to see some fight in a game where comprehensive defeat seemed almost certain, admiration for the efforts of Karl Robinson’s side could only be held highly.
Admiration coming in spurts from a tense away end, where a fear of capitulation was beginning to become belief in containment. But there always a worry, regardless of how well the Addicks were battling, that the attacking quality of the Latics would ultimately secure victory for the hosts. The voices of frustration around the ground a source of encouragement, confirming the visitors’ resolve was not fading, and easing the panic that came with each Wigan attack.
But it another sound that stands to display the game’s decisive moment, heard two minutes into second-half stoppage-time. A sound that possibly increased claims that some fortune was involved in Charlton coming away from Lancashire with a point to their name. But it the sound that confirmed pain would lie with Latics, and pride with the Addicks.
The ping of the ball hitting the inside of the post heard as Sam Morsy struck from the edge of the box, only for Ben Amos to superbly deny Wigan’s skipper. Silent panic in the away end as the ball rolled back across the face of goal, but substitute Anfernee Djiksteel was the first to react, and relieve the Addicks of danger. The post’s ping a source of torture for the home supporters, denied what they would have believed to be a warranted victory; the post’s ping a source of relief for the visiting supporters, knowing that a shared moment of pride between players and a tiny pocket of Addicks would not be taken away.
A shared moment of pride, with admiration for those in red reciprocated towards the hardy travelling fans, standing in some contrast to the boos and heckles directed towards a set of players who had performed without quality or resolve at Southend United on Boxing Day. The man whose connection with club and supporters greater than all others, evidently still fuelled by determination and fight, even provided passionate fist pumps. That Johnnie Jackson could enjoy the sort of battling effort he is so often been a part of, and so often united supporters around him, particularly enjoyable the day after Katrien Meire, the CEO whose determination has been directed towards dividing club and supporters, had her departure announced.
If ever there was a good point, this was it. Entering the game without hope, and without a win or promising performance in six, the punishment the runaway leaders were expected to inflict blunted by the relentless Addicks. If ever a point provided pride, this was it.
The expectation before kick-off most certainly that pride was about to take a battering. Five wins in six, 19 goals scored in that time, and a four-point advantage at the top of the table would have made a trip to Wigan unwelcome at the best of times. That Charlton came into this having lost their spot in the play-offs, following a dire performance at Southend that saw a fourth defeat in six winless games, made this terrifying.
Made more so by what was available to Robinson. Though Mark Marshall returned, and Ben Reeves and Ricky Holmes sat in reserve, this was undoubtedly a makeshift unit. Harry Lennon with a first start in 14 months after injury as Ezri Konsa moved to right-back, the attacking midfield position withdrawn in order to have three battling figures – Jackson, Ahmed Kashi and Joe Aribo – sit deep together, and Josh Magennis forced to continue out wide.
The task of this makeshift unit becoming immediately obvious, as Marshall and Magennis involved themselves heavily in defensive duties, and Karlan Ahearne-Grant effectively became a stranded figure in attack. Men behind the ball, don’t get drawn in and give them any space to exploit, battle and frustrate. Shrewsbury Town had managed to succeed with such an effort on Boxing Day; a source of encouragement, if faith in Charlton’s defensive capabilities hadn’t been totally lost by the debacle at Roots Hall.
But the Addicks started strongly, unfortunately reflected in the game’s tedium. Wigan’s attacking threat nullified, and even when Michael Jacobs fed through Will Grigg dangerously, the striker was harried quickly enough to prevent him getting a shot away from a strong position. Composure, coherent structure and simple defensive quality seen in much greater abundance than three days ago; at the very least, the visitors were to survive 12 minutes without conceding twice.
The Latics even had some defending to do of their own. Aribo bursting through midfield, breaking dangerously into the box, but becoming the meat in a Dan Burn/Chey Dunkley sandwich. An ambitious penalty shout turned away by the always helpful Trevor ‘he-of-Oldham-away-with-nine-men’ Kettle.
In fact, it not until beyond the 20th minute that the first serious fault in Charlton’s defensive line was exploited, and exploited dangerously so. A bit too much space offered to the Latics on the left, with Lee Evans ultimately crossing, and far too much space offered to Grigg in the centre, heading downwards at the back past and over the bar. A forward of his quality should probably have done better.
While Grigg moved to find space and waited for a chance to finish, another striker was sprinting and battling as much as possible with the thought of being inside the box simply a dream. Ahearne-Grant working as hard as anyone in red, and it his willingness to collect balls and subsequently run at the Wigan defence that meant the Addicks weren’t devoid of all attacking intent. A run down the right-wing, a low cross, but a blue and white body preventing Jackson from turning the ball goalwards.
A break from the relentless resolve Charlton were being required to display, but such were there continued efforts that a created Wigan opening offered a break from frustration. A corner half-cleared, Callum Elder delivering a bouncing ball back into the box that feel kindly for Grigg, but Amos able to claim what was ultimately a tame effort. Probably worth not letting Grigg go unchallenged in the box for a third time, mind.
But as Paul Cook’s side’s control of the game’s overall pattern increased, the ball almost always at the foot of a Latic, before being passed on at a reasonable tempo, so did the defensive resolve of Robinson’s men. The backline continuously tested, but Amos not required to make a meaningful intervention until stoppage-time. A crucial intervention, however, as Nick Powell’s beautifully struck volley, timed perfectly after a blocked Morsy effort fell his way, was held well by the diving goalkeeper.
Powell’s attempt one of few Wigan had mustered in the opening 45, but a few more than Charlton’s none. It not until almost the final kick of the half that the Addicks finally struck towards goal, with Ahearne-Grant battling his way into the box and firing against the side netting from a tight angle. Shots not what best reflected the determined effort of the Addicks in the first period, but the relative lack of opposition strikes as they were continuously halted in their attempts to turn possession into something more meaningful.
Just do the same thing again for another 45 minutes and Robinson’s side could come away with a respectable point, and an overall resolute effort that offered something to build upon. Problem being that, particularly as legs tired and with Wigan possessing attacking options in reserve, that wasn’t so simple. It didn’t look particularly simple just two minutes into the half, as Amos was forced to save a placed effort from Morsy following a half-cleared corner.
So too, however, was there any early reminder that reward could be had for testing Wigan’s backline. Dunkley climbing on Magennis, in the midst of a silent but hardworking performance, and a free-kick in an encouraging position presented. Jackson stood over the ball, the away end with a rendition of his name, but Ahmed Kashi taking, and curling the ball just over the bar.
In fact, amid the unrelenting defensive work, there certainly a greater willingness from those in red to get forward in the early stages of the second period. Something certainly helped by Wigan committing more men forward, and their backline rising further up the pitch. Space for Marshall to send Ahearne-Grant through on the break, and the striker taking himself beyond home goalkeeper Christian Walton, but Dan Burn’s presence between him and the goal meant his effort from a tight angle was cleared.
Maybe, just maybe, there was a chance to win this. A thought immediately ended by Powell heading narrowly wide at the far post from a Jacobs delivery, and Josh Magennis getting booked for time-wasting. The pattern of play restored.
A pattern of play that, unfortunately, was ending with more Wigan chances. The Addicks continuing to battle, and show immense resolve, but the Latics had found a greater tempo. Amos only able to parry Jacobs’ effort from the edge of the box, and a scramble ensuing that just about saw the ball cleared.
Although greater carnage inside Charlton’s box was to follow. The aerial ability of substitute Ivan Toney had given the hosts another dimension, and the forward was able to rise to collect a ball played to the back post, before having his shot from an inviting position blocked away. Lee Evans first to follow up, but falling as he was challenged for the ball, only for vigorous penalty appeals to be waved by Kettle.
With 15 minutes remaining, the pressure on the Addicks was immense. This as threatening as Wigan had looked all evening, and as fragile as Charlton had appeared. Toney challenging for a delivery with Amos, the goalkeeper fumbling, and those in red somehow doing enough to prevent Grigg turning home the loose ball.
With Toney lurking, the Addicks could no longer sit too deep and allow Wigan to deliver from distance. But coming out of the structure brought with it dangers of being exploited. No questioning their efforts and determination, but the resolve was being tested somewhat, as Toney headed into Amos’ hands.
But, as has been the case on several occasions this season, a Charlton defensive effort was backed up by their goalkeeper when the opposition began to find ways through. Toney again the target from a delivery from the left, his knock down falling to Grigg, and another moment where the sight of the net rippling was anticipated. Amos, however, off his line and blocking the Northern Ireland international’s strike; a fine piece of goalkeeping.
And he would be needed again with five minutes to play, though on this occasion questions had to be asked of the forward involved. Powell getting space from a corner, a free header on offer, but able only to nod downwards. Amos reacting well to make what was ultimately a comfortable stop.
The away end tense, but believing. Those on the pitch under constant pressure, but their determination to protect this point unrelenting. Though it might not have been just a point they were protecting in the game’s final minutes.
The blue and white Alamo meant the thought of the Addicks breaking away had long been forgotten, but a cleared ball fell to Ahearne-Grant on the left flank, and the forward simply got his head down and ran. Ran past the few Wigan players that were back inside their half, and into the box. Ran before collapsing in a heap beyond the goalline, having seen his shot beat Walton but skid across the face of goal; agonising.
With such a determined effort, and now with a chance not being taken with three minutes to play, the thought of losing this was an agonising one. Five additional minutes not meant with pleasant thoughts. Five minutes that were going to fill like 50.
And after just one of those minutes, Wigan came arguably as close as they had come to finding the decisive goal. The ball half-cleared, it ultimately falling to Morsy, and his strike looked destined for the far corner. But Amos’ fingertips turned the ball onto the inside of the post, physics was wearing a Charlton shirt as the ball trickled across goal, and the sigh of relief from 300 in the away end was louder than the cries of frustration from the 9,000 home supporters.
Four more minutes to survive. A corner and a free-kick in a crossing position wasted by the hosts. The most wonderful piece of time wasting ever seen by Naby Sarr, as he ran to take a free-kick before stepping over the ball and leaving it to Amos, should have given the Addicks the point by default, but apparently that’s not how these things work.
And these things don’t work like that because, as the full-time whistle blew, the fight and determination of the Addicks met they warranted this point. The depleted and out of form Addicks, battling a Wigan side into frustration. The hosts with every right to feel they could have, and should have, won the game, but that taking nothing away from the efforts and deserved reward of those in red.
A classic determined, resolute and hard-working performance. Charlton’s signature in years gone by. Achieved at a time when we might just be getting our Charlton back.
Roland Duchatelet, as has always been the case during his time in charge, would not have understood the emotion of the supporters come-full. Pride in a goalless draw. Unthinkable.
Pride in the way the Addicks battled, against a Wigan side who had near total control of the entire game. The true extent of the hosts’ attacking threat may not have appeared until the latter stages of the second half, but throughout those in red remained determined, structure and resolute. They had a plan, and they stuck to it.
Appreciation for both manager and players in how they responded to the Southend defeat. Robinson not demanding that his side play his way, but instead being a pragmatist, and overseeing an excellent defensive display. Those on the pitch that looked so frail at Roots Hall, like Sarr, Konsa and Jay Dasilva, immense in their defensive duties.
And an effort made all the more impressive by the missing bodies, and those that came in performing. Ahearne-Grant, irrespective of the missed openings, immense in his role. Jackson and Aribo given a thankless task in the centre but, along with Kashi, maintaining shape, structure and defensive solidity throughout.
And when they failed, another stood up. Amos with a performance equalling his heroics at Bradford City. A command of his box, and important saves to prevent the work of the Addicks from being undone.
It is, ultimately, only a point. It now seven games without a win. Still Charlton sit outside the top six.
But, aside from being an achievement in itself to come away from the league leaders with a point, it lays a foundation. It injects confidence and belief into a side that had looked crippled. It makes the games to come, not least Gillingham on Monday, appear winnable.
And it sits on top of what will potentially be a firmer foundation. The club being sold, the short-term improvement to the squad made, and the long-term feeling of the club reconnecting with the supporters it has left disillusioned. That long-term feeling hopefully beginning with a hearty performance to admire.
Instigating competition between each failure of Roland Duchatelet’s regime is a pointless exercise. No winner, for each one has been as misguided as the last. The combination of countless faults coming together to cause significant damage.
But if there is to be a symbol of this regime’s disastrous impact on the club, then it stands in the shape of Katrien Meire. The CEO that reinforced footballing success or fair treatment of supporters were not high on the regime’s list of prerogatives. The figure who constantly assisted in Duchatelet’s desire to turn what is a club with great history and traditions into an experimental source of financial gain.
That she now departs is worthy of a celebration as great as any victory achieved over the previous four years. In any other circumstance, consistent failure to succeed would have seen the CEO removed from her position much sooner. Duchatelet’s unbroken support for her showing that failure had little consequence as long as his experiment continued.
Meire’s main ‘achievement’ a mighty one. To create division between the club and its supporters. A special bond existing between club and supporters at The Valley, and yet she managed to break it.
An undermining of the value of fans that verged on insult. Repetitive lying, not least when it came to attempts to backtrack on her words and the appointment of head coaches from inside the regime, in order to reinforce the hurtful decisions undertaken by Duchatelet and herself. A dramatic disconnect, felt as keenly as on-the-pitch failings, that left supporters feeling like an unwelcome annoyance to the hierarchy in SE7.
There little to no division between supporters. The belief that this regime, and Meire, were damaging one shared by a vast majority of Addicks. Just between supporters and club.
The disconnect substantial enough for long-standing supporters, whose lifelong commitment to Charlton Athletic Football Club cannot be questioned, to lose love. Difficult to embrace the club, when a CEO and a regime constantly insult the club and fans who follow it. Whether by protest, staying away from The Valley, or simply maintaining a discontent for Meire and the regime she works for, passionate opposition to the regime has been as constant as its failure.
The news that she departs coinciding with Duchatelet firmly admitting he is in talks with parties to sell the club. This nightmare, this disconnect, is coming to an end. Supporters have toiled in their opposition, and they may finally be getting their reward.
A mightily unpleasant experience to have supported this club under their stewardship. And it not just because of on-the-pitch failure instigated by the appointment of network managers and a flawed transfer strategy, seeing dire players arrive and the likes of Yann Kermorgant and Michael Morrison forced out, overseen initially by the laughable Thomas Driesen. It not just because of the undermining of Chris Powell, forced to play the poor players handed to him, investment in the form of a high-interest loan that has increased club debt, or another season occurring at present in which squad depth is minimal.
It the overall atmosphere that this regime has created. At times poisonous, at others one of disillusionment, but always demoralising. Supporting the side a role not passed up, but the rare moments of success or joy heavily tainted by the conditions created.
A notion that has created division among supporters otherwise united. Over what the response to opposition to the regime should be, and what defines a ‘proper’ supporter. That such pettiness will come to an end, along with the need for many to make the following of a football club one of stressful protest and boycott, a joyous relief.
For me personally, it not simply the hope of the club rebuilding and future success that makes Meire’s departure and the sale to follow a moment of celebration, but the hope the club itself will now stop being a reason why following the Addicks hasn’t provided the distraction it used to do. An important distraction for myself, from crippling mental health problems. The atmosphere this regime has created contributing to what was previously a key release slowly fading away.
There are more complex issues as to why following Charlton has stopped being the distraction it should be, relating to moments of anxiety around leaving the house, a growing fear of crowds, and victories becoming tainted by a pressure to feel a release from a low state that I find difficult to contend with. The regime’s departure, therefore, will not address it. But I want to believe the environment will soon be one more conducive to distraction.
I want to believe the suffering that all supporters have suffered over the previous four years, through disconnection and on-the-pitch failure, will now reach its conclusion.
It not too long ago that Charlton Athletic were breathing down the necks of Wigan Athletic. Five points behind the Latics after November’s win against Rochdale, with both a game in hand and the confidence a nine-match unbeaten run provides strengthening their position. The Addicks seemingly the most likely side among the chasing pack to break into the top two.
Alas, come forward a little over a month and a mere nine games, and Charlton now sit 16 points and eight places behind Wigan, who have risen to the top of the division. Karl Robinson’s side winning just one of their previous eight games. Paul Cook’s men unbeaten in six league games, with only second-place Shrewsbury Town taking any points off them during that run, and only Rotherham, in a 3-1 defeat, scoring against them.
While the Latics were putting seven past Oxford United, the Addicks gifted a late equaliser to a poor Blackpool side. While Charlton were capitulating in embarrassing fashion at Southend United, Wigan were frustrated that their dominance wasn’t rewarded with victory over the side they share the automatic promotion places with, rather than congratulating themselves for claiming a decent point. It not difficult to see why the two sides have grown apart over recent weeks.
It not difficult to see why the prospect of travelling to The DW Stadium on the final Friday evening before the New Year is one that has brought fear to supporters of the Addicks. Already an unpleasant prospect, given the three-goal defeat at The Valley in September, now seemingly a case of self-inflicted torture for those who are going to travel. A dreadfully performing collective without confidence, brought down further by a series of injuries, and a manager struggling to inject any life or improvement into his side up against the rampant league leaders away from home.
Any sort of result would be against the odds, a victory hard to imagine. Though a victory in these circumstances, against such opposition, could provide a huge turning point. The catalyst for Robinson and his side to find their feet again.
Realistically, however, there little hope of Friday being very pleasant.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 0-3 WIGAN ATHLETIC (12/09/2017)
The Addicks capitulated in the face of Wigan’s substantial threat at The Valley in September, with the Latics inflicting Charlton’s first home defeat of the campaign.
Paul Cook’s side the first that had to SE7 for some time and attempted to take the game to the hosts. Something they did incredibly successfully. Their intense pressing exposing the sluggishness and slowness in Charlton’s passing play, and their subsequent exploitation of the wide areas – with former Addick Nathan Byrne rampaging forward from full-back and Michael Jacobs a menace on the opposite flank – giving them near total control.
Jake Forster-Caskey briefly interrupted the Wigan siege, with a strike that cannoned back off the upright, but the only surprise about the visitors’ 44th-minute opener was that it came so late in the half. No surprise that Jacobs was involved, sending full-back Reece James free down the left, and his ball across the face of goal converted by Gavin Massey. All far too easy.
A chance, nonetheless, with the deficit only one for the Addicks to respond in the second period. But Wigan’s domination only grew. Charlton without structure, without a plan to deal with the intensity of the opposition’s play, and their hopeless long balls causing no danger whatsoever.
Victory for the visitors sealed with 20 minutes to play, as Byrne pulled back for Massey, and the forward finished from inside the area. Byrne bombing forward with ease, Massey free far too much space in the centre, and those in red just watching as the ball rolled goalwards. At least it ended any sense of false hope.
And a margin of victory that reflected the dominance of Cook’s men was achieved with three minutes to play. Neither Chris Solly not Jay Dasilva able to deal with James’ delivery, and the latter effectively teeing up Sam Morsy to finish from the penalty spot. A clear indication of the qualities of this Wigan side, and the improvement the Addicks needed to make to challenge throughout the campaign.
Robinson holding his hands up in apology to the Covered End at full-time reaffirming that Charlton were as poor as Wigan were excellent.
In scoring seven without reply against Oxford United last weekend, Wigan scored more goals in a single game than Charlton have managed in their previous seven league games.
In scoring seven without reply against Oxford United last weekend, table-toppers Wigan moved seven points clear of second. An advantage that, having played out a goalless draw with Shrewsbury on Boxing Day, has since been reduced to five. But it an advantage that will surely only be built upon.
For the scintillating form of the Latics is, well, not just form. It a reflection of the quality of their side, organised into a dominant unit under Cook’s guideship. Promotion is theirs to throw away, and they don’t look like doing it.
A combined score of 19-1 in their previous six games. A strong centre-back pairing of Shay Dunkley and Dan Burn, the midfield controlled by Sam Morsy and Lee Evans, and goals coming from Michael Jacobs, Will Grigg and Nick Powell. With options in reserve, they’re a complete side.
Shrewsbury may have halted their ruthless winning run on Boxing Day, but the Latics were in control and somewhat unfortunate not to win. Frustration not something that’s likely to become a regular occurrence. If nothing else, the fact that the side in second felt they needed to go to The DW and stick ten men behind the ball, and celebrated the success of a point, shows the fear that Wigan have inflicted upon the rest of the division.
It would be more remarkable now for Wigan to fail to achieve promotion, than actually achieve it.
“Well done, Karl, that’ll show them you’re doing something,” said the voice inside Robinson’s head following the pathetic Boxing Day defeat to Southend United.
The boss revealing that his players would be called in at 7am the following day to re-watch their gutless efforts at Roots Hall. A nice story for the media. But frustrated Charlton supporters not at all won over.
For it would probably have been more beneficial if he’d done something, and something more meaningful than a bit of PR, over the course of the previous eight games. With just one win in eight, and one point from the previous five, the Addicks have been in dire form for some time. Robinson doing very little to alter his side’s set-up or performance levels, and creating bizarre positive assessments from dreadful displays.
Of course, to focus the attention solely on Robinson would be incredibly unfair. Individual mistakes, a build up of injuries, and the exposure of a squad lacking depth are not his fault. The lack of options in reserve, with a weak bench of six at Roots Hall, restricting the changes the boss can make.
But he’s not doing himself any favours. In his words, and beyond. It up to him to get the best out of a starting XI that should still be winning games, it up to him to find a plan ‘B’ in this time of struggle, and it up to him inject confidence into a side that have roughly none; he’s not succeeding.
The consequence of which is a fall from challenging the top two, to ninth place. From a position where a play-off place seemed certain, to a really struggle existing to finish inside the top six. A struggle that will become almost impossible to overcome if this form isn’t quickly addressed.
Despite the pressure of the festive period, Wigan boss Cook is unlikely to make changes to his in-form side ahead of the visit of Charlton on Friday.
There options for Cook to introduce if rotation is required, with Max Power, Paul Roberts and Ivan Toney among those in reserve, but the confidence and quality of a side who won 7-0 less than a week ago likely to guide them through.
The chance to continue with an unchanged only possible given that Wigan haven’t collected any new injuries. Goalkeeper Jamie Jones, well deputised by Simon Walton since sustaining a shoulder injury at the start of the month, remains unavailable, while defender Craig Morgan (hip) and midfield Shaun MacDonald (broken leg) are long-term absentees.
Charlton will remain without a series of injured players, with two more likely to be absent at the DW Stadium.
Ahmed Kashi, making his first since returning from an ankle problem, was hauled off at half-time against Southend United, while a hamstring injury meant Mark Marshall was unavailable. Kashi unlikely to be rushed back for a second time, but Marshall has a chance of being in contention with his problem only light.
But Patrick Bauer (knee), Jason Pearce (knee) and Chris Solly (calf) will all definitely fail to face the Latics. Their absences keenly felt, given Charlton’s recent defensive efforts, and not least those seen at Roots Hall on Boxing Day. Robinson limited in the alterations he can make.
Further forward, Billy Clarke (knee), Leon Best (hamstring) and Tariqe Fosu (quad) will also remain absent, with midfielder Jake Forster-Caskey (quad) also unavailable to Robinson.
KEY BATTLE – STOPPING THEM FROM SCORING SEVEN(TEEN)
Wigan were stopped from scoring for the first time in seven league games on Boxing Day. Stopped from scoring two or more for the first time in six. The Latics, with 19 goals scored in the five league games the preceded the draw with Shrewsbury, aren’t too bad in front of goal.
Credit to the second-place Shrews, therefore, for frustrating Cook’s men for 90 minutes. Not a meaningful chance created, with just four shots on goal to Wigan’s 17, but they stood firm and halted their rampant opponents. They took a point away from The DW that was celebrated.
Unfortunately, Charlton aren’t Shrewsbury Town. At the very least, they don’t currently possess the structure, organisation and defensive resolve of Paul Hurt’s side. They possess the structure, organisation and defensive resolve of a Sunday league team with a collectively high blood alcohol level.
And if the Addicks perform with the sort of defensive quality that was seen at Roots Hall on Tuesday, then the scoreline will probably need to be spelt out in capital letters to reaffirm its accuracy when published online or in print.
The sort of defensive quality that has been on display for several weeks. Opponents gifted goals, breaking in behind with ease, and neither Naby Sarr nor Ezri Konsa looking totally comfortable in the centre. A desperate need to find some sort of defensive resolve if a surprise result is going to be achieved in Lancashire.
Given those defensive weaknesses, you could argue Robinson’s side are better off throwing caution to the wind and having a go. But the attacking tameness is as serious a fault, and the Latics will simply exploit us on the break. Crumbling in the face of their pressing game, as was the case in the reverse fixture.
And so, from somewhere, a defensive resilience needs to be found to frustrate as Shrewsbury did. Or even just finding a way to avoid assisting Wigan for 16 of the 17 goals they’re going to score. That would be nice.
Be lovely to get it over and done with, really. Wigan Athletic 3-0 Charlton Athletic
Usually effervescent, the man who would celebrate a victory with supporters more than anyone else, but on this occasion absent. His players tentatively approaching the angry remains of an away end, rightfully outraged by a dire performance. Karl Robinson hiding from the heckles of Charlton Athletic supporters.
A reflection of how weak his side were in defeat to Southend United, unwilling to gather and support his players after a 3-1 loss. A reflection of Robinson’s own growing faults, unable to inspire improved performances as failures repeat. A reflection of a tame capitulation over several weeks that has seen the Addicks win one league game in eight, and fall outside of a play-off place that appeared so secure.
So too is the nature of this performance reinforced by the fact the visiting supporters produced vigorous boos inside the game’s first 15 minutes at Roots Hall. And certainly not irrationally. The game effectively lost after just 11 minutes, with the Shrimpers capitalising twice on a shambolic Addicks unit, and the response in the moments that followed equally pathetic.
The defensive unit non-existent as Nile Ranger was too easily allowed to head a looped block across the face of goal, Anthony Wordsworth initially denied as he attempted to turn the ball home, but no one in red alive to the loose ball and Simon Cox able to convert from close range.
And Southend’s second minute lead, which might have been added to in the interim with Cox failing to get a proper shot away from a glorious position after the Addicks watched a Stephen McLaughlin delivery fall to the unmarked forward at the back post, was doubled just nine minutes later. Anthony Wordsworth floating a free-kick into the centre, no challenge on Michael Turner as he leapt to meet the ball, and the Charlton academy graduate’s glanced header finding the bottom corner. To say there was disbelief would be inaccurate, only anger, for this was entirely what the unstructured visitors warranted.
A regrouping of sorts from Robinson’s men as the game developed, to the point that a side who had embarrassed managed to enjoy an extended period of pressure on Southend’s goal. Pressure that resulted in Ben Reeves collecting Josh Magennis’ knock down and finishing coolly with 24 minutes still to play. Brief belief that something might be salvaged from this dire performance.
Brief, for with 11 minutes to play the Shrimpers confirmed their victory. Half-time substitute Harry Lennon heading away a delivery from the right, but only as far as Cox, allowed to lurk inside the box unwatched and subsequently volley emphatically beyond Ben Amos. Charlton’s defence remaining incredibly frail throughout the contest, far too easily cut apart by balls spread to the flanks, and a third goal ultimately coming as little surprise.
More anger in response from the supporters than energy from the players, but both feeling the pain and embarrassment of performance and predicament. There was confidence in this side, and among those involved in it, before the beginning of this run of one in eight that the Addicks would find their way into the top two. Now they sit outside the top-six, with confidence, and promotion hopes, punctured further by another dire effort.
Injuries, and important players who remain failing to perform, exposing the lack of depth in the squad. Robinson’s inability to adjust his side’s style, or inspire, when improvement is desperately needed evident. A run that have left supporters deeply concerned that their club isn’t in a state to achieve promotion; promotion that would be undeserved reward on the basis of this debacle at Roots Hall.
Bizarre to reflect on the increased sense of belief that existed before kick-off. Structure seemingly reintroduced with the return to the starting XI of Ahmed Kashi, and attacking quality in the side with Ricky Holmes in the side after injury. Their respective recoveries enough to ignore the absence of Mark Marshall, another trapped in the treatment room, while Karlan Ahearne-Grant came into the side in place of the unavailable Leon Best.
But just two minutes into the encounter, before the Addicks had claimed any real possession, that belief was replaced by expectance of defeat.
Frustration from the away end heard as Jason Demetriou was allowed to travel down the right, cut inside, then gallop towards the centre without challenge. The shot that followed from the Cypriot blocked by Naby Sarr, the ball ballooning up in awkward fashion, and Charlton not alert to its danger. Ranger meeting the hanging ball as if it were a pre-match exercise to get accustomed to using his head, a scramble in the centre seeing Wordsworth unable to force the ball beyond the bodies ahead of him, but a lack of red shirts around him and the loose ball falling kindly gave Cox a simple finish at the far post.
The Addicks only having themselves to blame, being dealt worthy punishment for such shambolic defending. Punishment that really couldn’t be afforded, particularly so early in the contest. The side already lacking confidence, and it hard to have faith that an adequate response to falling behind in such a fashion was possible.
Faith decreasing, and anger increasing, as a Charlton side that still couldn’t get a foot on the ball allowed Southend to attempt to build on their opener in all too easy fashion. The ball moved quickly by the hosts, and simple balls spread wide exploiting the lack of cohesion and composure in the backline. Cox with a fantastic opportunity to score for a second time as he collected McLaughlin’s delivery, but a combination of hesitation and falling to the ground having trapped his foot in a poor playing surface meant the Addicks escaped.
They would not, however, escape further punishment for much longer. The struggle of Robinson’s side to get out of their own half not helped by a needless push from Magennis on Southend’s Ryan Leonard, and the struggle of Charlton’s backline not helped with a free-kick in a crossing position to deal with. A free-kick, delivered by Wordsworth, that could not be dealt with; Turner rising without pressure to glance beyond Amos.
The game only 11 minutes old, but defeat seemingly confirmed. In fact, there a sense that a more embarrassing defeat had all but been confirmed. The Addicks embarrassing, and the boos beginning with force as Josh Wright was given space to feed Cox, with the ball only just escaping the through-on-goal forward.
If not boos, then ironic chants that reaffirmed how far Charlton were from offering an acceptable level of performance. Holmes breaking through in a wide position, but his strike comfortable for Shrimpers stopper Mark Oxley to push away. “We’ve had a shot,” emerging from the away end.
Another strike from Holmes following, as he volleyed comfortably over the bar from distance, but it not a sign the pattern of the game was changing. The midfield being controlled by the hosts, as Kashi consistently conceded possession, and the defence still an unorganised mess backed with individual weakness. Concern each time Southend came forward that the Addicks would cave in once again.
But if they could, against the run of play, half the deficit than maybe momentum and an injection of confidence would at least make the visitors a greater attacking force, and subsequently push Phil Brown’s men deeper. A scenario that should have been played out with half an hour gone. Reeves sending Ahearne-Grant in behind, but the forward firing a fantastic chance into the side netting.
A miss maybe confirming that this would not be the Addicks’ afternoon. But at least Southend, though still exploiting the flaws in Charlton’s defensive strategy, weren’t making the most of the excellent positions they found themselves in. Cox fed through down the right with several unmarked players in the box, but Wright could only loop a header into Amos’ clutches, before Ranger, having dispossessed Kashi in the centre, overhit a pass that would have sent McLaughlin through on goal.
And with Ranger heading over in the final minute of the half, Robinson’s side had somehow got through to the interval without suffering further punishment. Not that the fact Southend hadn’t added to their two-goal advantage provided any comfort. Heavy boos for the Addicks as they slumped off the Roots Hall pitch.
The problems exacerbated by a lack of options on the bench. In fact, there only six bodies available in reserve, and none of them likely to make much of a difference. Though an enforced change had to be made before the start of the second period, with Kashi seemingly injured once again, Harry Lennon making his first league appearance since returning from injury, and Konsa heading into midfield.
Alternations to the defensive structure probably no bad thing, but it took only three second-half minutes for Southend to break in behind again. Cox setting McLaughlin free down the left, with bodies available to him in the centre. But the winger instead shot powerfully towards goal, with Amos doing well to save, and subsequently claim the ball at the second attempt.
However, not that it could be any worse, there were signs of improvement among the Addicks at the start of the half. If nothing else, there was greater attacking intensity. Although whether to call it threat was questionable, as Ahearne-Grant got himself into an excellent shooting position, only to effectively pass the ball into Oxley’s hands.
But Charlton’s best chance since the game began, and one that would begin a period where Southend were made to struggle, came moments later. Big bodies in the centre making a Reeves corner difficult to deal with, the ball falling to Joe Aribo at the far post, and the midfielder, having scored such a wonderful solo goal against Blackpool at the weekend, somehow managed to poke wind. The away end had started to celebrate, only to see the ball roll against the side netting and away from goal.
Possibly a familiar tale of wasted chances, combining painfully with dreadful defending, but you had to take some belief from this increased pressure of sorts or the suffering would become too much. And that Charlton’s increased pressure was largely coming from corners was a reflection of the fact they were getting forward, and they were asking questions of the Shrimpers. Sarr and Lennon a nuisance, and the latter heading goalwards for Oxley to save.
Nonetheless, a third Southend goal seemed as likely as a Charlton first, despite the Addicks being on top during this passage of play. McLaughlin again allowed to break free down the right, and again arguably making the wrong decision as his tame effort with his weaker foot was saved by Amos while men stood in the centre. Holmes responding for the Addicks by bursting through Southend’s defence promisingly but, like his fellow left winger, making the wrong decision to shoot, allowing Oxley to save.
But there nothing wrong with Holmes’ decision making in the next Charlton move forward. His cross finding Magennis, performing poorly but doing superbly to hold up the ball and lay it back for Reeves, with the playmaker finishing in composed fashion to half the deficit. All of a sudden, having looked set for a heavy defeat, this group of Addicks had given themselves a sniff in the final 24 minutes.
It was, however, only a sniff. Charlton coming forward, but with very little meaningful threat. Aribo and Lennon heading corners straight at Oxley, with another tame effort from Holmes sandwiched in between; something more testing required with only 15 remaining.
And it not as if Southend were under so much pressure they couldn’t get forward. And why wouldn’t they, with chances still being gifted to them. No one alive as substitute Jermaine McGlashan rolled a free-kick to Wordsworth, and the midfielder really should have done better with his first-time effort.
But it mattered little. Charlton’s attempts to get back into the game even less so. For the Shrimpers restored their two-goal advantage, a margin that was the minimum true reflection of the contest, with 11 minutes to play.
Again a moment in which Charlton’s defence failed to cover themselves in glory. Former Addick Wright doing well in the build-up, and Lennon ultimately failing to get the ball put into the box away sufficiently enough to avoid further threat. The ball falling to Cox, and a striker of such experience was never likely to miss, volleying home to secure his side’s victory.
And secure misery for the Addicks. Silence in the away end quickly replaced by the sound of foot steps as many escaped, and the sound of outraged supporters. Dire.
In fact, as the anger intensified with Charlton ending the game in uninspiring fashion, Southend might well have added in a fourth in stoppage-time. Substitute Marc-Antoine Fortune teed up in an excellent position, but the forward able only to blast over the bar. Supporters and players just wanting this to end.
The end coming, to the sound of vocal boos. Boos that those in red could only accept. The performance catastrophically poor, the recent collapse moving from worrying to disastrous, and the ninth-place position that the Addicks would end up in by the end of the day reaffirming the fact the players could not hide from their failings.
Robinson, however, decided he would hide from them. A man in charge of a side without structure or consistent attacking threat, a man who has previously pretended performances have been better than they were, and a man who cannot inspire improvement from his side. Criticism just for him as much as those on the pitch.
But it would seem, without the need for facing the full-time heckles, the boss has cracked. Calling his players in at 7am tomorrow to watch the game is bizarre, and stinks of desperation. Almost like a PR message, or an attempt to just do something, without having any meaningful impact.
Of course, there no doubt that the errors made in defeat at Roots Hall need to be assessed and altered. But so too have the errors made in previous games, with Robinson making little alteration to his game plan. With the attempts to make other dire performances seem better than they were, I’m getting the impression he doesn’t want to take the responsibility he should be taking.
Individuals deserving plenty of blame. There not a player in red who performed. The individual errors whenever Southend attacked consistently pathetic.
For 15 minutes the Addicks were okay going forward, but otherwise they were dreadful. Even during that 15-minute spell, they remained a mess defensively. It simply incredibly how easy it was for Southend to get in behind, with their no structure or resolve on offer from Charlton’s backline.
Incredible how easy it was for Southend to score their three goals. Incredible that, throughout the game, they found themselves in positions to score more. Incredible that the Addicks only conceded on three occasions.
And Robinson does have the excuse of injuries. No denying that they’re harming this side, reflected most obviously in the lack of options on the bench. But it doesn’t protect him from responsibility.
The same set-up played each week, despite this run of one win in eight, and the same set up revealing a lack of structure, and how a bit of opposition pressure easily exploits it. And it not as if one or two players are underperforming; the collective performances have been poor. He needs to be doing something different.
Improvement, or at least an injection of life into the side, needed from both players and Robinson. Not least with this slide out of the play-offs. Not least with Wigan Athletic to play on Friday.
The Grinch might well be wearing a Charlton shirt this Christmas, for the festive period hasn’t come at an ideal time for the Addicks.
There a possibility that the hectic schedule might offer several opportunities to break out of their run of form that has seen them win one league game in six. But it appears unlikely. Performances poor, confidence low, and a lengthy list of injuries restricting improvement.
Not least when the opportunity to achieve the victory so desperately required was thrown away on Saturday. Dire Charlton defending punished as Armand Gnanduillet met a free-kick and Clark Robertson helped the ball over the line to give the Tangerines a late equaliser. It would have been a scrappy and somewhat unpleasant victory for the Addicks, but one that they should have had.
And without time to address faults or instil a fluent alternative style, the Addicks head to Southend United on Boxing Day, with confidence crushed further.
Southend themselves not in the greatest of nick, with defeat to Scunthorpe United at the weekend their third in succession. Three defeats that have seen them lose their unbeaten record – falling 2-1 to Bradford City – and drop outside of the top half. Boss Phil Brown demanding more from a side that finished just outside the play-offs last season.
Encouragement possibly to sought from Southend’s form. But the Shrimpers, not least on their own patch, will seek encouragement of their own from Charlton’s efforts. It understandable that playing against a flimsy group of Addicks, struggling to threaten and wobbling at the back, is seen as a promising way in which to at least address their first home defeat of the campaign.
But with a trip to Wigan Athletic to follow for the Addicks, an almighty amount of pressure is on them to record a Boxing Day victory.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 2-1 SOUTHEND UNITED (09/09/2017)
A three-minute burst from the Addicks, in a game that had previously seen both sides cancel each other out, meant the season started with five victories from six, and a sport in the automatic promotion places.
Each side generating half-chances, but turning them into genuine openings a problem. Cutting edge in the final third not quite there. Strong defending cancelling out the threats that appeared to be turning into something more serious.
But with 25 minutes to play, Charlton were able to find a way through. Tariqe Fosu and Chris Solly linking up nicely on the right, with the latter delivering perfectly for the head of Josh Magennis. His header right in the centre of the goal, but far too powerful for Southend goalkeeper Mark Oxley to react.
And just three minutes later, a game that appeared destined for deadlock seemed to have a certain winner. Ricky Holmes turning on the edge of the box, and converting into the far bottom corner. The first goal giving the Addicks confidence, and possibly dismantling what had been an excellent defensive structure from the Shrimpers.
Victory, however, was not yet confirmed. A concerning final 12 minutes as Luke White, in all too simple fashion, was able to head home from Stephen McLaughlin’s corner. Any failure to record victory would have been entirely self-inflicted.
And come full-time, the Addicks were somewhat fortunate to have maintained their advantage. Ben Amos, under pressure from Nile Ranger, getting nothing behind a punch, Ranger able to scoop the ball onto Ryan Leonard, and the midfielder seemingly about to volley into a near-empty net. But Magennis, amid a sea of bodies, was able to clear the ball off the line, and protect a win that his opening goal had instigated.
Given that the Shrimpers finished just a point off the top six last season, losing four of their final six games to gift the final play-off place to Millwall, it not unreasonable of the club’s supporters to be demanding more.
Brown’s men hovering around mid-table for much of the campaign, usually keeping their place inside the top-half, but never doing enough to push towards the top six. Occasionally in positions where a run of form might see them challenge for a play-off place. But those runs of form never materialising.
And with a third successive defeat suffered on Saturday, the Shrimpers find themselves closer to the bottom four than they do the top six. Trailing Charlton by eight points, and only five above AFC Wimbledon in 21st. A touch of pressure on Brown.
Southend’s manager turning most of the blame onto his players after Saturday’s defeat at Scunthorpe, after some dire defensive efforts. The Shrimpers taking the lead at Glanford Park, but the Iron overturning their deficit with three goals that all came from corners.
They have, however, had their home form to fall back on. Victory at Roots Hall over Oldham at the start of the month moved them to ninth, a point behind Portsmouth and Peterborough, and made it ten games unbeaten at Roots Hall this season. But Bradford becoming the first visiting side to come away with points this campaign means faith in the side to perform at home is also slipping.
Confidence low among the Shrimpers.
Had Leon Best converted two excellent first-half chances to double Charlton’s advantage, given to them by a wonderful individual goal from Joe Aribo, then the Addicks might well be heading to Roots Hall with greater confidence.
Had they not invited Blackpool into the game in the second half, and subsequently gifted a poor 89th-minute equaliser to a weak side, then the Addicks might well be heading to Roots Hall with greater confidence.
But there certainly no sense of injustice or misfortune in the events of Saturday’s draw with the Tangerines. It a poor result, in a performance that became increasingly poor, which the Addicks invited upon themselves. That extends a torrid run, a torrid run of performances, and cripples confidence further.
Too often have wasted chances been punished. Too often has sitting deep, and subsequently untidy defending, allowed opponents to come back into games they should have been out of. Too often in recent weeks have the Addicks not looked like a side capable of promotion.
With just one win in six league games, Robinson’s side have slide 11 points behind the top two. Their gap actually increasingly over seventh, as a result of Portsmouth’s defeat, but, with Peterborough United wining, now two teams sit a point behind the Addicks. What was an incredibly secure play-off place on the verge of being lost, along with automatic promotion ambitions.
Southend goalkeeper Mark Oxley is a doubt for the Boxing Day fixture after sustaining a hand injury during Saturday’s defeat to Scunthorpe.
Oxley, a league ever-present this season, was replaced by Nathan Bishop at half-time, with the 18-year-old stopper making his first appearance in senior football. The youngster set for a full debut if his senior doesn’t recover in time.
Oxley will join Michael Timlin in missing the game against the Addicks if he’s deemed unfit to play, with the midfielder recovering from an ankle injury sustained in the loss against Bradford City.
But the Shrimpers will have Ryan Leonard available, with the midfielder returning having served a suspension following his dismissal during the Bradford defeat.
Leon Best has joined an already overpopulated treatment room after pulling his hamstring during the defeat to Blackpool at the weekend.
The absence of the forward, battling strongly but guilty of failing to take two big chances against the Tangerines, will likely see Josh Magennis move into the centre-forward position and, with attacking options limited, Karlan Ahearne-Grant start out wide.
Billy Clarke definitely out with a season-ending knee injury, while the Boxing Day fixture is likely to come too soon for Ricky Holmes and Tariqe Fosu, who are both recovering from quad injuries.
Chris Solly, an unexpected absence from Saturday’s game with a calf problem, will also be unavailable, while Patrick Bauer and Jason Pearce’s respective knee injuries leave the Addicks light in defence.
However, Ahmed Kashi’s appearance from the bench against Blackpool means he’s likely to come back into the side, replacing Johnnie Jackson despite the skipper performing well. But regular midfield partner Jake Forster-Caskey’s quad injury means he won’t feature at Roots Hall, and Saturday’s goal-scorer Joe Aribo will continue in his absence.
KEY BATTLE – BREAKING DOWN THE OPPOSITION WITH WHAT REMAINS
Despite losing their unbeaten record to Bradford City this month, Southend’s home record is a stubborn one.
Even with that defeat, no side has lost fewer games at home this season than the Shrimpers, while only three sides – Shrewsbury Town, Wigan and Portsmouth – have conceded fewer goals. A struggle to turn draws into wins means there many sides that have picked up more points at home than Brown’s men this campaign. But few have found the trip to Roots Hall anything less than difficult.
Meanwhile, the Addicks have scored just one in their previous three league games, and three in the previous five. A lack of pace, fluency and final ball making their attacking play easy to defend against, and chances wasted when they do come. Saturday seeing the first part of the problem in the second half, and the second part in the first half.
There no doubt that injuries in attacking positions made the problems in attack worse. Tariqe Fosu and Ricky Holmes desperately missed, and Leon Best’s absence leaves the Addicks further limited in attack. But the failure to take chances has been an issue all season, that quickly needs resolving.
There some hope that the Southend side the Addicks face at Roots Hall won’t be the structured and defiant one seen for most of the campaign. And it not simply a consequence of the unbeaten record falling. Brown critical of his side’s sloppy defending in the defeat at Scunthorpe on Saturday, while the possibility of an 18-year-old goal hardly helps matters.
But the Addicks need to turn their tame threat, both in terms of creating and then making the most of what is created, into something more substantial on Boxing Day.
Increasingly difficult to feel confident. Southend United 1-1 Charlton Athletic