Scott Fraser never had any doubts that Charlton Athletic’s results would improve and feels that some of the criticism aimed at their campaign has been premature.
The Scot turned in a man-of-the-match display in Monday night’s 3-0 win over Portsmouth at The Valley.
Fraser provided the cross for Ryan Inniss to break the deadlock in the 17th minute and his interception cued up a counter which was finished off by Corey Blackett-Taylor.
Marlon Pack was sent off for a late challenge on Fraser in the 66th minute, his second bookable offence, before the Charlton midfielder’s delivery on the free-kick was perfect for Eoghan O’Connell to head home.
The Addicks are two points behind sixth-placed Barnsley but have played an extra match.
“I always knew we weren’t far away,” said Fraser, who signed last January from Ipswich Town. “I had complete faith. I see the work we do in training and the work the coaches and manager put in – when you see that day to day you know you’re going to get rewarded.
“I look back at the Fleetwood and Oxford matches and we had chances in the last seconds – we should score both. That’s an extra six points – then you’re in the play-offs and it’s a completely different thing.
“We’ve lost three league games all season and if you had offered us to lose that many in the first 13 or 14 games then people would say: ‘Yeah, we’ll take that’.
“We lost at Sheffield Wednesday and that was probably our best performance. We had chances and didn’t take them. Okay, we were poor at Bolton in the first half but we had three or four chances where we could score. Barnsley score a worldie and we also had chances in that game.
“Portsmouth are a very, very good team – they’ll be right up there. Before the game I kept hearing about how good a season they’ve had, but we’ve now gone three points behind them and I keep hearing how bad a season we’ve had. That’s why I said not to react too much.
“Football can change really quickly. You get back-to-back results and it shoots you right up there. People are talking about the play-offs whereas before we were getting told to watch behind us.
“Portsmouth are a really good side and we’re a really good side. We’ve shown that against the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Oxford and Portsmouth – all teams expected to be up there.
“The league is stronger than ever. There are probably 10 or 11 clubs who think they could be up there, us included. But we need to take it game by game, that’s what we’ve been doing, move on to Shrewsbury and see if we can make it three wins in a row.”
Manager Ben Garner has switched formation in recent weeks, going with a 4-4-2 formation which he persisted with despite striker Miles Leaburn being ruled out for a number of weeks with ankle ligament damage.
Charlie Kirk, normally a winger, was shifted alongside Jayden Stockley up top.
Fraser has been playing in a midfield two with George Dobson and the pair have clicked.
It is no surprise that the dogged Dobson had five interceptions against Portsmouth. But Fraser, signed for his passing range and composure in possession, made the most tackles – nine.
“I can’t think of any time where I’ve played in a flat two before this,” said Fraser. “I’ve always been either a 10 or an eight. But I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve even enjoyed the other side of the game, off the ball.
“I think I’m helping in that sense and I’m getting better each day in training, you learn the position more and more.
“With Dobbo, what you see is what you get. You’re going to watch him rat about for 90 minutes – making tackles, interceptions and winning second balls. We balance each other out in terms of a right-footer and a left-footer. I probably like to get on the ball a little bit more, he likes to do the other side. We just work together.”
Fifteen of Charlton’s 19 points this season have come at The Valley. They have scored 16 times in the league at home compared to six on their travels as their wait for a maximum haul away has stretched into a third month.
Fraser knows that home support is crucial.
“I remember watching the Doncaster play-off game and the place was full – it looked like a Premier League stadium,” he said. “The capacity is 27,000, even if we got close to 20,000 then teams won’t be wanting to come here if we get a goal up and the fans get behind us.
“We’re not the biggest squad but we’re working so hard in every training session with the coaches and the gaffer to give them something to get behind.
“When I was at Ipswich and Jacko [Johnnie Jackson] was still caretaker we got beaten here. I didn’t think Charlton were better than us that night but it was the energy of the fans. I remember coming into the dressing room and saying we didn’t deal with it properly. It’s not we didn’t deal with the players, it was more the fans that got spoken about after the game.”
PICTURES: KEITH GILLARD
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