Aribo 8 Grant 62
BY LOUIS MENDEZ AT EAST COURT
When your squad is as thin as Charlton’s current playing roster, the last thing you need is an injury to one of your most influential stars.
The Addicks ran out comfortable 2-0 victors over Crawley Town at East Grinstead Town’s East Court on Saturday afternoon, but it came at a cost. Tariqe Fosu’s premature departure served as a stark reminder of just how light the South Londoners are – and how one knock can throw everything out of kilter.
The 22-year-old was the surprise package in the Addicks side last term, bagging nine goals after joining from Reading – but he had his injury issues and still seems to be suffering a hangover from them now. He limped out of Saturday’s friendly win in the first-half, with boss Lee Bowyer frustrated the winger’s hamstring hadn’t recovered sufficiently from last term.
Fosu could be joining Billy Clarke, Ben Reeves and Igor Vetokele on the list of players to sit out the start of the new League One campaign at Sunderland in less than two weeks.
Injuries crises have ruined Charlton seasons in the last few years. You can’t expect to go through rigorous campaigns without set-backs in this department – and you simply have to have the strength in depth to deal with them.
Both midfielder Jake Forster-Caskey and captain Jason Pearce have admitted in interviews recently that there are gaps in the squad that need plugging – but this transfer window is a very unusual one for Charlton.
Hugely unpopular Addicks owner Roland Duchatelet has never provided his managers with a well-populated, balanced squad to work with – even if previous incumbent Karl Robinson and then Bowyer did manage to drag their charges into the top-six last season. But with the Belgian tycoon now looking to offload the club, he is not going to be splashing out on transfer fees.
It’s been left to Bowyer to probe around for free agents. He has already recruited two impressive ones. Lyle Taylor, who also withdrew from the Crawley win with what was mercifully just a bruised foot, has looked sharp so far in a side that desperately lacked a goalscorer last year. Darren Pratley isn’t fit yet but will add some bite to the midfield. They are the only two who have come in. Ezri Konsa, Harry Lennon and Ahmed Kashi have all left SE7 this summer, along with the five loanees who ended last season at The Valley returning to their parent clubs. Caretaker assistant-manager Johnnie Jackson has also hung up his playing boots – the tide has drifted further out rather than in.
Duchatelet is looking to cut costs while waiting for an Australian consortium to finally complete their takeover at The Valley. This will certainly effect what Bowyer can do. The club have even boasted recently of shrinking their electricity bills by 11 per cent. The lights aren’t on but there’s hardly anybody at home anyway.
It may well be that Bowyer will need to see some youngsters step up to the plate this season – so he will be encouraged to have seen the newly re-monikered Karlan Grant grab his first goal of this pre-season campaign when he coolly lifted the ball over Red Devils goalkeeper Yusuf Mersin in the second-period. The academy product scored a hatful on loan at Harry Kewell’s Crawley last season and will hope to continue his coming-of-age this year.
Grant’s goal was preceded by Joe Aribo’s header that had opened the scoring early on – an Addicks lead that was preserved by a superb first-half penalty save from Dillon Phillips, plunging to his right to keep out Josh Payne’s spot-kick.
Phillips is a talented player and may be called upon to fill the number one spot if a more veteran stopper can’t be found. But Bowyer admitted after the game that he would be uneasy about the 23-year-old’s inexperience – Charlton fans will remember how England keeper Nick Pope struggled with nerves in fledging stages of his career.
The opening day clash at Sunderland is looming menacingly around the corner – there will no doubt need to be some more meat on the bones of the squad by then.
Charlton: Phillips, Solly, Bauer, Pearce, Page, Marshall, Aribo, Forster-Caskey, Fosu (Doughty 37), Taylor (Morgan 70), Grant. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Blumberg, Lapslie, Maloney, Morgan.
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