Richard Cawley’s big-match verdict on Charlton 4 Rochdale 4 – Addicks’ push for Championship return is proving a tough slog

BY RICHARD CAWLEY

Charlton Athletic’s attempt to only make it a one-season stay in League One is meeting heavy resistance. And there is a distinct lack of fear being shown by the opposition towards Lee Bowyer’s side.

The Addicks are only four points worse off than the total they had after 21 matches in the promotion-winning 2018-19 season.

But that side went on to take 51 points from their remaining 25 games to only just be pipped by Barnsley for second spot.

It’s difficult to envisage the current Charlton crop managing to repeat that return – for a whole number of reasons.

They have been plagued by selection issues and will be without Ryan Inniss, Akin Famewo, Andrew Shinnie, Ben Watson, Darren Pratley and Jason Pearce for tomorrow’s match at Bristol Rovers.

Even if Lee Bowyer has an idea of his strongest line up, he hasn’t been able to field it.

And it’s hard not to feel like this Addicks squad is not on a par with the one which trumped Sunderland at Wembley to reach English football’s second tier.

The midfield was a huge strength with the perfect blend – Joe Aribo as a box-to-box operator, Krystian Bielik imperious in the challenge and Josh Cullen industriously knitting it all together.

What Bowyer would give for a Patrick Bauer-type now at the back. Karlan Grant scored 14 goals in 28 starts before being sold to Huddersfield. Lyle Taylor finished top-scorer with 25.

You can always look back with rose-tinted specs – but it’s beyond dispute that Bowyer and director of football Steve Gallen moulded together an excellent squad.

Nothing lasts forever, but the nature of Roland Duchaelet’s tenure and then the laughable East Street Investments meant that change was significantly expedited.

By the time Charlton had a serious owner again in Thomas Sandgaard, the financial landscape of League One had changed.

Charlton are constrained by the salary cap. Ten points from the last 10 matches is not good enough.

Bowyer would shake up his squad this month – but there is no financial room to do so without outgoings.

The gambles of signing Marcus Maddison and Omar Bogle haven’t paid off up to this juncture.

Without the spending restrictions a centre-back would surely have been brought in – even though Charlton look suitably stocked in that area when Inniss and Famewo are both back fit.

The duo’s absence has been a double whammy as Bowyer opted to shift Pratley back – losing the veteran’s physicality in the middle of the park.

It’s been criminally easy for the opposition to cut through the South Londoners.

Colby Bishop’s opener in Friday’s 2-0 loss to Accrington was a clear example of Charlton’s defensive fragility. And while Rochdale’s finishing for all four of their goals on Tuesday would not have looked out of place in the Premier League, they were afforded far too much time and space for the first three of those.

“Have the blip now in mid-season if you’re going to have one – you don’t want it in the last 10 or last eight games,” was the verdict of Alan Curbishley, who was on punditry duty for the club’s in-house broadcast of a chaotic but exciting fixture.

There are only three Addicks managers to have won a promotion since the turn of the millennium – Curbs was at the helm when they romped the old Division One title. Bowyer is the most recent success story and although some of the fanbase are beginning to get restless, it needs to be remembered he is only in his third full season as a boss. It’s never going to be all roses and red wine.

What will have improved his mood is the way his players responded to the setbacks against Dale – because every time they did attempt to respond in the first period it was met with another wonderstrike by the lowly visitors.

Charlton should have won. Chuks Aneke was denied a hat-trick by Gavin Bazunu – without the Manchester City loanee’s intervention it would have put the home side ahead for the first time on the night. It would have been some goal, largely due to Liam Millar’s driving run in the build up.

We’ll only know after this weekend’s fixture at the Memorial Stadium if the decision to keep Aneke on for the full duration has any unwanted consequences.

The former Milton Keynes man’s game time has been carefully managed – usually making way no later than the 70-minute mark.

When Charlton play more direct he is a vital focal point. Bogle has lacked the ability to hold up the ball or possess the same goal threat.

Ronnie Schwartz has served notice that some of the scoring onus on Aneke – now on nine goals in all competitions – can be lifted.

The Dane looked sharp on only his second substitute outing and made a difficult finish look effortless.

Charlton are going to need those extra goals if they cannot tighten things up at the back.

STAR MAN
Chuks Aneke. Crucial to Charlton’s comeback – showed power and persistence for the first goal of the evening.

BEST MOMENT
Schwartz clinically picking his spot to announce his arrival in English football.

Photos by Paul Edwards and Keith Gillard


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One thought on “Richard Cawley’s big-match verdict on Charlton 4 Rochdale 4 – Addicks’ push for Championship return is proving a tough slog

  • 16 January 2021 at 10:11
    Permalink

    I think your comments are pretty spot on. Despite the fact that Lee Bowyer and Steve Gallen have again worked wonders to put together this squad, there is something definitely missing compared to the one that got promoted in 2019. Yet again, like last season, there have been too many injuries to key players, particularly Fanewa and Innis. It is no coincidence, that they were playing when Charlton had that 6 game, no goals conceded run in October. The Charlton midfield and strikers were not creating that many chances, but when your defence is that frugal, then one or two goals will win matches. I am hoping that when those two return and if they can stay fit, then the last 12 games or so, could see us reach the play offs. I think automatic promotion is beyond Charlton this season. If Schwartz can stay fit and continue to put away chances like Tuesday night, and if Aneke can also stay fit, then the goals may flow again. The midfield area, even when all are available, is not as competitive as the one of 2019. As I have mentioned before, the EFL cap has not done Charlton any favours, as I am sure if Sandguard had been at the helm earlier, a stronger squad would have been assembled. Finally, again you are right, Bowyer has done extremely well, all things taken into consideration during his time as Charlton manager and for some fans to be asking for his dismissal is ridiculous. No one is perfect, but it is sometimes difficult to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear and in that way, Lee Bowyer has excelled during his tenure.

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