Charlton and new boss Ben Garner grabbed their first maximum of the season in what was a quintessential game of two halves against Derby County. Here’s Louis Mendez’s four takeaways from the clash.
YOU WOULDN’T HAVE CALLED IT AT HALF-TIME
Nobody who saw the Addicks toil through a harrowing opening 45 minutes would have predicted that they would go on to take all three points. A half in which any deeply held fears about Charlton not being good enough to play the way Garner wants them to seemed to have come to fruition.
Their illustrious visitors dominated possession and carved out plenty of opportunities during the opening half-hour. Charlton looked nervous on the ball and were wrenched out of shape too easily when the Rams pushed forward. The smattering of boos at half-time of the first home game of the season must have broken some sort of record for the earliest show of discontent from a Valley crowd.
But something clicked after the break. A burst of confidence seemed to ebb through the South Londoners and they found a breakthrough when Scott Fraser and Charlie Kirk linked up well to release Albie Morgan in the area. His shot was palmed to Corey Blackett-Taylor – who had the simple task of turning into an empty net.
There were still chinks in the Addicks armour. Jason Knight certainly should have hauled Derby level with a free header 20 minutes from time. But the vast second-half improvement is something to be celebrated.
Charlton’s home form must improve. They’ve failed to win more than 10 of their 23 league games in SE7 in each of the last three seasons. So, it’s a good start in that respect.
Garner’s Swindon side last season famously struggled at the County Ground, taking just nine maximums on home soil and picking up the majority of their points on the road. They won fewer and lost more home games than anyone else in the top 10 in the fourth tier.
As the season progresses, the Addicks are likely to face very different propositions at The Valley to a Derby side who came out to try and impose themselves on the game. Finding ways to win different types of games at home, as they did yesterday, will certainly be a boost in any push for the play-offs that might materialise.
GEORGE DOBSON STAKES A CLAIM
Heads were turned when last seasons’ player of the year was left out of the starting line-up and replaced by Conor McGrandles. But the unfortunate injury suffered by the new arrival meant Dobson was introduced on the half-hour mark and he showed Garner exactly what he was missing.
“It was a case of picking a team that was right for the game,” explained Garner when I asked him about the decision to bench Dobson.
“And it wasn’t right for the game first-half because we didn’t do it. George came in at that stage of the game and really helped us. He gave us energy and bite. He’s a player that’s done very well last season.”
It’s no coincidence that Derby’s first-half dominance did seem to wain when the tenacious midfielder entered the fray to play the role of disruptor the Addicks had been missing. Displays like that last season were why he was undroppable from October onwards.
JOE WOLLACOTT OFF TO A GREAT START
It was clear to me that Charlton needed a fresh face between the sticks this season and Wollacott has been a breath of fresh air. The Addicks had him to thank for parity at the midway point yesterday – his early stops from James Collins and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing catching the eye.
He’s justified the decision to award him with the number one jersey so far – he’ll just hope that his defence tightens up in the weeks to come so he needn’t be as busy as he’s had to so far.
PHOTOS: PAUL EDWARDS AND KEITH GILLARD
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