Charlton traded in their free-flowing passing football for turgid, hopeful lumps towards Kermorgant as they lost 1-0 to Ipswich on the 21st anniversary of their return to The Valley.
Tuesday night against Doncaster saw the Addicks return to a 4-4-2 with Kermorgant returning alongside Simon Church. It worked too, with the home side keeping the ball on the floor and using Stephens and Stewart with the two forwards. After Stephens’ spectacular opener, the Addicks continued to dominate an admittedly poor Doncaster side, and Simon Church doubled the lead to see the home side win comfortably.
Despite unchanged personnel for the visit of the Tractor Boys, it seemed like a different eleven that took to the field on a cold Saturday afternoon in SE7. The away side, backed by a numerous and vocal support, came out of the blocks like a Tasmanian devil, piling 90 minutes of attacking football into a frantic opening three minutes. Charlton had their warnings, but after Alnwick made two heroic saves, Ipswich broke the deadlock; Tommy Smith steering the ball passed Charlton’s second-choice ‘keeper.
That was pretty much it for the game, as Ipswich sat back and defended their slender lead against a poor home performance. Charlton failed to take the game to their opponents, with Jackson looking off the pace and Kermorgant lacking support. Stephens too many times found himself deep alongside Cousins, whilst Stewart spent too much time turning back towards his own goal rather than taking on his full-back. Morrison and Dervite resorted to long balls towards Kermorgant, but the big Frenchman was isolated and his hard work was all for nothing. The ball spent more time in the air than on the floor, and there were more headers than passes as the first 45 minutes passed without any real football being played.
Powell had stern words at half time, and the Addicks’ football improved in the second half. They kept the ball on the floor, dominating possession and territory, but failing to test Gerken in the Ipswich goal. Ipswich continued with their defensive, mundane football, McGoldrick working hard off scraps up the top. Whilst the Charlton defence and midfield continued to sit deep, Ipswich were proactive in stepping out and pushing up with any clearance, and Charlton failed to break through the lines and create any clear-cut chances.
Defeat leaves the Addicks back in 20th place, but the win on Tuesday night means that they are 5 points off the relegation zone. Having said that, Powell will rue the opportunity to go level on points with today’s opponents. The Doncaster game aside, Charlton have looked short on goals, and short on attacking options in general. Kermorgant continues to dominate the forward play, but the lack of runners off him and bodies getting forward is cause for concern. Jackson looked off the pace, Stewart wasn’t attack-minded enough, and Stephens seemed to spend far too much time in his own half.
On the plus side, Charlton’s second half performance showed that they have the ability to play good football. With a bit more bravery in the attacking third and disciplined build-up, the Addicks can be a good side, but if they’re not prepared to get forward then they’re going to struggle.
The game on the whole was a poor standard, but games come thick and fast in the Championship and Charlton won’t have long to stew on the performance. Tuesday sees the Addicks travel to high-flying Reading, and Powell will be looking for an immediate reaction. They’ve been good away from home over the last two years, and they’ll need that to continue. With the takeover seemingly ever closer, there’s still no official news, and with players anxiously waiting for news of their futures, they need to get their heads down and do the business on the pitch.
In Powell We Trust!
By Tom Wallin