Charlton are now winless in five league games following their home defeat against Cheltenham. Here’s Louis Mendez’s four takeaways from a chilly encounter at The Valley.
STRANGE GAME – FAMILIAR ENDING
A bizarre game with a depressingly familiar outcome – Charlton not taking maximum points. The Addicks started reasonably brightly before their momentum was halted during a two-minute spell in which Ryan Inniss inexplicably gifted the visitors two golden openings. These resulted in Cheltenham hitting the bar and having three shots cleared off the line during a madcap few moments.
But the South Londoners regained composure and a measure of control before the interval – and then the second half told a well-known tale. Charlton dominated the ball, enjoying 71% of second half possession. There were some good moments created but not enough for the Addicks to find a winning goal.
To cap it off, the visitors sealed all three points in calamitous fashion late on to register their second maximum in as many league visits to The Valley. Charlton have five wins out of 20 so far this season. Time and time again, they don’t make any positive spells count.
The Addicks always feel like they’re moments away from calamity at the back. Defensive slips have been a mainstay this season although rarely are they as clearcut as Craig MacGillivray’s unfortunate expedition out of his penalty area to try and head a hopeful ball forward clear.
MacGillivray was criticised last season for not commanding his six-yard box at crosses but had always been proactive when sniffing out opportunities to cut out long balls into his domain. But he completely misjudged this one and attempted to head it out when he could have comfortably stayed inside his 18-yard box to make a catch after the ball bounced.
A disastrous moment for a goalkeeper desperately trying to re-establish himself at the club after playing second-fiddle to Jo Wollacott for most of the campaign.
PLAY OFFS % AND MANAGER FUTURE
It feels churlish to bring up stats relating to Charlton’s play-off hopes but it is significant now that any scenario that will see the Addicks reach the magic 75-point mark needed to hit the end of season shake up requires them winning at least half of their remaining games.
Their current win ratio of 25% is the reason why any talk of finishing in the top six is futile. It’s also why Ben Garner’s future has started to be questioned in some reports.
The seemingly endless cycle of Thomas Sandgaard appointing and then changing managers is still yet to yield any positive results. Garner has started to speak himself as if his future is uncertain and says that the issue at the club is cultural and won’t be fixed by changing manager every three to four months.
Whilst this particular turkey isn’t exactly going to be advocating a managerial changing Christmas, the fact that Sandgaard is now on his fourth boss and things continue to decline does suggest he has a point.
That doesn’t mean that Garner won’t know there are things the current side could be doing better – particularly with regards to the concentration lapses at the back.
LAVELLE LEFT OUT IN THE COLD
Garner’s mantra of not speaking ill of his players individually was taken to the next level on Friday evening.
Sam Lavelle has needed to be withdrawn from the firing line for a while but with the lack of senior options available to the Addicks, it seemed like that the former Morecambe man would be sent over the top once more.
To find himself ousted by 17-year-old Zach Mitchell and Lucas Ness, 20, who had just been recalled from his National League loan with Torquay, must have been humiliating for the centre-half. The two youngsters played well.
He’s not the only player who has performed below expectations this season, but it speaks volumes when a senior pro is shunted aside for young guns. Garner wouldn’t be drawn into conversations about how this reflects on Lavelle – but the fact he made the decision at all tells us all we need to know.
PICTURES: PAUL EDWARDS/ KEITH GILLARD
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