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Charlton Athletic boss Garner: Three-man central defence can work – but players need to commit to it

Ben Garner is adamant that a three-man central defence can still work for Charlton Athletic – despite shifting to 4-4-2 at half-time in today’s 1-1 draw with Oxford United.

The Addicks did not have a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes and centre-back Sam Lavelle was one of two changes – Jack Payne also making way – as Charlie Kirk and Miles Leaburn were introduced at the start of the second period.

Charlton equalised through Jayden Stockley and had an excellent opportunity in stoppage time when Diallang Jaiyesimi sent George Dobson through on goal, only for Oxford keeper Simon Eastwood to foil the defensive midfielder.

Asked by the South London Press whether he felt playing three at the back was a viable option, Addicks boss Garner replied: “It can work. I’ve played it numerous times before. I played it a lot last season and it can work – but you have to commit to it and do what we’ve worked on.

“I didn’t think we did that, for whatever reason we went inside ourselves and played within ourselves. Any formation wouldn’t have worked first half when you are like that. I don’t think it is the formation as much, I think it’s the commitment to what we’re doing and the mentality to go for it a little bit more.

“If we’ve won five out of the last five games and we’re doing that today, it would look completely different – I’m sure. It’s building confidence and the best way to do that is to win games. We target two wins this week and that will give the players more confidence than I can ever do. As much as I can encourage, speak to them and try to motivate – we’ll keep doing that as a staff – but nothing will give them confidence more than winning games.”

Marcus Browne produced a long-range strike past Joe Wollacott in the 11th minute.

“Disappointing,” said Garner. “We’ve got three centre-halves there – one has got to go in and get pressure on the ball. It’s a kick and a dropping ball, then it’s hitting the back of our net. It’s not a good goal to concede.

“There were grey areas first half where people took the opportunity to go: ‘I’m not sure that’s my responsibility – someone else can go and do that’. We took that away second half by basically being matched up and everyone having a clear responsibility of what they had to do with the ball.”

Sam Lavelle in action against Oxford United
Picture: Paul Edwards

Dobson last scored for Charlton in the 1-0 win at Rotherham on April 9. It is the former Sunderland and Walsall player’s only goal since joining in July 2021.

“Dobbo’s had a knack of doing that in games when he has burst through in midfield,” said Garner. “Great energy to get there. At the time I thought he took a heavy touch but, seeing it back, his touch was okay – he probably just delayed the strike a little bit. Credit to the keeper, he came out very quickly and made himself big. By the time he struck it there wasn’t much to aim at. It was just a case of taking it a little bit earlier.

“He’s disappointed, because he feels he should score and he’s that type of lad. I’m pleased to see him get in there and create the opportunity.

“We’re one of the top sides for creating opportunities, we just need to take them more.”

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