Michael Appleton claimed that his Lincoln City side failed to play with their normal edge at Charlton Athletic – and that it will be a different story if they meet again in the play-offs.
The Addicks won 3-1 at The Valley on Tuesday night to ensure they go into the final round of League One fixtures with a chance of finishing above Portsmouth and Oxford to snare the sixth and final spot.
Appleton made three changes to his side which drew 3-3 against Peterborough at the weekend. The midweek reverse in SE7 scuppered their hopes of climbing above Sunderland and Blackpool and into third. Instead they are fifth.
“We’ve had a massive chance in the first half to go 1-0 ahead and we’ve had a massive chance to equalise within 50 seconds of the second half [after Chuks Aneke’s goal],” said Appleton.
“It could’ve been very, very different. On a different day I believe it would be different. I’m not going to make too many excuses for the players but if there was a lot more on the game I think it would be a different story tonight. You never know, we might get the opportunity to put it right at some point.
“I’ve been in their shoes and qualified for play-offs and I know how difficult it can be at times. Sometimes you haven’t got that edge to you that you need. Three points were available tonight but three points means nothing to us tonight.
“I wanted a performance from certain players to force my hand and make my selection for Sunday and the play-offs be difficult. One or two maybe gave me food for thought but a couple of others didn’t.
“I’m disappointed that one or two personnel hoping to show me they should be in the starting 11 and pushing…it didn’t quite happen.”
Aneke’s introduction at the start of the second half energised Charlton. He assisted Jayden Stockley’s opener and netted the third goal of the evening.
Appleton said: “They are up against two young centre-halves who have done brilliantly for us. It was interesting to see Joe Walsh came on and the first thing he did was smash one of them.
“A little bit more experience in the centre of that defence might have helped us but the idea was always to give Walshy around 20 minutes. I don’t apologise, it is about trying to build up the players and making sure we don’t overload them – to get in their peak at the right time.
“In the first period of the second half we just lacked that little bit of aggression and intensity. They stepped it up a little, went two up top and went even more direct – they caused us a few problems.
“We’ll look very, very different on Sunday and we’ll look very different on the 18th or 19th.”
PICTURES: KEITH GILLARD
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