After a tough start to the season, Powell described Charlton’s hard fought draws against Nottingham Forest and Blackpool as ‘a foundation to build on’. A wonderful attacking display against Forest, having fallen 1-0 behind early on, perhaps deserved more than just the one goal, whilst a resolute defensive display against Blackpool saw the Addicks record their first clean sheet of the season.
With several key players still out injured, the recent performances have served to remind the fans, and players, of the Charlton of last season. On paper, October looked like a tough month, with the Addicks hosting Forest and Blackpool, before taking on Blackburn in Lancashire, and then returning to The Valley to host FA Cup holders Wigan in the club’s annual (and now worldwide twitter trending) ‘Football For A Fiver’ game. The players have soared in the face of adversity however, and head into the game against Wigan with 5 points from an unbeaten three games.
More than the points gained, it is the manner of the recent performances that will please both Powell and the fans. The international weekend saw England play attacking, creative football in two of the most important matches of the qualifying campaign, and the neighboring weeks have seen the Addicks adopt similar tactics. Their performance against Forest could easily have resulted in 5 or 6 goals, whilst Simon Church’s volley against Blackburn was hit with the same clinical confidence as his winner for Wales last week.
At the other end, the defence that have looked shaky since the opening day defeat to Bournemouth have finally started to find the robust character that served them so well in their League One title-winning campaign. Hamer, who has come under extensive criticism this season, has looked much more confident in the last three games. After conceding early to an Andy Reid free kick, Hamer made some vital stops against Forest, and continued his upturn in form against Blackpool in a more reserved affair. In front of him, Morrison has begun to look more reliable, whilst Wood is growing in confidence with every game he plays.
The game against Blackburn brought together the best of the Addicks’ previous two performances. Stephens’ expertly clipped through ball was chested down by Church who slotted the volley past the despairing Kean in the Rovers goal. This free-flowing attacking move was complimented by a resolute defensive display, which saw the back four put their bodies on the line as the away side held on for their first away win of the season.
Powell will also be pleased to see the return of Johnnie Jackson and Yann Kermorgant. Kermorgant’s cameo from the bench indicates he has returned to full fitness, whilst Jackson offers further options in the middle of the park. Having said this, a key feature of the Addicks’ recent successes has been the unchanging and consistent nature of the starting 11. Whilst Kermorgant and Jackson are two of the key players for Charlton, Powell will be anxious not to upset the continuity when the Addicks welcome Wigan next weekend.
Last season was built on little runs of good results. The Addicks often went several games without a win, but with the defiance of the supporters and the determination of the players, they would grind out their biggest results with their backs against the wall. If they can do the same this campaign, using games like Forest as Powell’s ‘foundation to build on’, the Addicks will soon be able to look up the table rather than down.
The game in hand against Doncaster, after the original attempt was abandoned due to a waterlogged pitch, will tell a lot about what Addicks fans can expect for the remainder of the season. Having been 3-1 down prior to the abandonment, the rematch offers Charlton the chance to address the early season issues, an opportunity that other teams won’t get. If Powell’s players can turn the game into three points, they could enter the Xmas period in a comfortable mid-table position.
As it stands, Charlton remain locked in an early-season relegation scrap. Only two wins all season has left the Addicks looking nervously over their shoulder, but recent performances have served as a confidence boost to those in the stands. With the defensive unit shoring up, Hamer growing in confidence, Stephens looking creatively dangerous, Cousins covering the back four with confidence far above his years, and Church’s work rate up front, Charlton could cause a few upsets this season. Throw in the return of Kermorgant and Jackson and perhaps the assent up the table is not that far away.
Charlton welcome Wigan to The Valley next Saturday. With a bumper crowd of 20,000+, the players will want to put on a performance that encourages many of the spectators to return. Wigan are struggling to cope with the requirements of Championship and Europa League football, and with the vocal backing of the Covered End, Charlton will hope to make it two from two and four games unbeaten.
In Powell We Trust!
By Tom Wallin