BY RICHARD CAWLEY
The last two times that Charlton Athletic won promotion from League One they had a striker who scored in excess of 20 goals in a season. Alfie May is comfortably on course to also achieve that milestone, but whether team glory follows could end up being a greater challenge.
The Addicks’ 3-2 win at Wigan Athletic on Tuesday evening was certainly a timely shot in the arm to their play-off hopes and, just as pertinently, prevented a run of three straight defeats.
May has more than started to pay back his transfer fee – in the region of £250,000 – with his first-half double at the DW Stadium moving him on to 11 goals for the campaign.
Lyle Taylor had eight goals at the same stage of the 2018-19 season – Charlton defeated Sunderland in the play-off final – and finished on 25.
Bradley Wright-Phillips scored 22 when Chris Powell’s Addicks powered to the League One title in 2012.
May is already halfway to Wright-Phillips’ total and there are still 31 matches to go.
He bagged 22 for Cheltenham Town last season but was only on four at the end of October.
May needs six more goals to better Jesurun Rak-Sakyi’s haul compiled during his excellent season-long loan from Crystal Palace.
There were concerns that the absence of Rak-Sakyi, especially when you factored in his assists, would be keenly felt.
But the Wigan match once again underlined that Charlton have the attacking prowess to trouble any opponent at this level – provided they do not get any more additions to their treatment room.
Chuks Aneke is facing at least a couple of months out with his hamstring injury while Panutche Camara was also forced off in the opening 10 minutes in midweek.
The Ipswich Town loanee’s visibly anguished reaction did not allay fears that he could also be sidelined for an extended period.
Camara’s premature withdrawal worked out. May moved to the number 10 role with substitute Tyreece Campbell, who had endured a difficult opening 45 minutes in last Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Bolton Wanderers, once again underlining he is one of the club’s prize assets.
Campbell, Miles Leaburn and Corey Blackett-Taylor had a game-high five touches in the opposition box with May finishing with the highest xG of 1.12.
His first goal of the evening was slightly fortuitous, the ball rebounding back off him after Latics keeper Sam Tickle parried his initial attempt.
But May’s second strike underlined his clinical qualities and moved him joint-top of League One’s top scorers alongside Barnsley’s Devante Cole.
Blackett-Taylor’s low and emphatic finish beyond Tickle appeared to have Charlton home and hosed by the interval. But this is Charlton, it’s not meant to be easy. Thelo Asgaard and Stephen Humphrys cut the arrears in the final six minutes of normal time to ensure there was a nervy finish.
If the Addicks had thrown away a first away win of the season from such a position of total dominance then it could have had a lingering effect, albeit they now switch the sights to FA Cup first round action against Cray Valley.
“It’s one of those where if we had already got three or four wins on the road then I don’t think they get a second goal,” said Charlton head coach Michael Appleton.
“It is that mentality of ‘oh my god, surely this can’t happen?’ You could sense that. But there were a few players out on the pitch who rallied around and got after some of our younger players to make sure they saw the game out.
“I’m one of those that even if we are three or four up then until the board goes up I don’t start relaxing because games can turn on a sixpence – especially away from home. If you give them (the home team) a little bit of belief and encouragement then anything can happen.”
PICTURE: KYLE ANDREWS
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