After torrential rain halted Charlton’s first attempt to welcome Doncaster to The Valley, London’s public transport did it’s very best to ruin the second try. The Addicks were 3-1 down in August when the game was called off due to a waterlogged pitch, and welcomed Doncaster back to SE7 after a tough away defeat to QPR at the weekend.
Problems at London Bridge and North Greenwich meant that buses and trains ground to a halt in the hours before kick off, and it was a sparse crowd that welcomed the players on to the pitch.
Once the game did kick off however, it was clear that the Charlton players had very much turned up. The side looked lively from the get go, as they reverted to a 4-4-2 formation. Ben Hamer injured himself in the warm up, and so Alnwick was handed his debut in the Charlton goal. Wilson, Morrison, Dervite and Wiggins made up the back four, with Stewart on the right and Jackson on the left of a diamond midfield. Jordan Cousins played the defensive midfield role, with Stephens in front of him, whilst Kermorgant lined up just off Simon Church up front.
The Addicks started extremely brightly, Stewart looking much more comfortable back on the right side of midfield. After just two minutes, Cousins played a delicate chip through to Church who found himself unmarked in the box. He brought it down brilliantly only to stab the ball wide when it seemed easier to score. It seemed that it was going to be one of those nights, as shortly after Kermorgant’s effort bounced off the post, with most of the crowd already off their feet in celebration.
Charlton’s attacking play was met with enthusiasm from the crowd, and having missed three golden opportunities to go ahead, the goal that put them in front was something special. The ball fell through the air towards Stephens on the edge of the box, who watched it onto his foot before thumping it into the top corner of the net.
Charlton attacked with far more intent than they had in recent weeks. Stewart looked comfortable on the right, taking on his full back on numerous occasions with consummate ease. On the other side, Jackson and Wiggins overlapped and linked well, whilst Stephens and Cousins ran the midfield for the majority of the game, breaking up play and driving forwards.
Despite Kermorgant’s return to the side, the Addicks were disciplined in keeping the ball on the floor. Whilst he was utilised at times as a target man, the side looked to play the ball through the midfield, with Kermorgant dropping back to receive the ball from deep. The talismanic Frenchman showed his class throughout the game, and is simply not droppable. His quality completely outshines that of his colleagues, and Church also benefited visibly from a striking partner. On the whole the Addicks had more shape, more penetration and more options with the 4-4-2 formation, and when fit Kermorgant and Church could make a dangerous pairing up front.
Despite dominating the game, Charlton had to wait until the second half to make the match safe. The ball fell to Jackson, who’s exquisite through ball ran beyond Church. The tireless forward caught up with it 35 yards from goal, and dribbled towards goal before clipping the ball past Turnbull.
At the other end, Alnwick was largely unchallenged, but when called upon he did his job well. The defensive kept another clean sheet, but the defensive shape of the side still requires work. When on the back foot, Charlton’s shape can fall apart a little. The players can get dragged out of position easily, and they need to ensure that they constantly communicate to avoid sloppy mistakes. At times there were a few too many sideways passes, but this did prevent the Addicks from lumping the ball to Kermorgant. Keeping the ball is fine and if Stephens and Kermorgant continue to drop into the hole to receive the ball, with Stewart and Church running in behind, Charlton might finally have an attacking threat.
Doncaster never really turned up tonight, but the Addicks could only play the team in front of them. They did their work diligently, and the midfield controlled the game. Stewart has to retain his place on the right, he looks far more comfortable attacking on that side. Despite his lack of pace, Jackson can make the left his own, although Evina might feel hard done by not to have had an opportunity to play behind him as Wiggins has been unconvincing in recent weeks. Cousins’ defensive assurance allows Stephens to delve forward and express himself more freely. Kermorgant links everything together, imposing himself in the air, on the ground, and generally looking a class above, whilst Church’s tireless running should not be underestimated.
As important as the win is, Charlton remain in the bottom half of the table. Another win against Ipswich on Saturday would go a long way to stabilising this season, but it’s not a forgone conclusion. Maintain the defensive organisation, and be more clinical in front of goal, and the Addicks could be a dangerous side.
In Powell We Trust!
By Tom Wallin