Charlton AthleticSport

Junior defenders being picked ahead of Sam Lavelle is no reflection on him – Ben Garner

Charlton manager Ben Garner says it’s no reflection on Sam Lavelle that two junior centre-halves were picked ahead of him for the defeat against Cheltenham.

Lucas Ness, 20, and 17-year-old Zach Mitchell both made their full league debuts for the club as part of a back three with Ryan Inniss, while Lavelle was dropped to the bench.

Former Morecambe captain Lavelle, 26, had started each of the South Londoners last five League One and FA Cup games but was overlooked ahead of last night’s clash at The Valley.

Asked if it reflected poorly on Lavelle that he was behind a 17-year-old in the pecking order, Garner said: “I don’t think that at all. It’s just an opportunity for Zach. He deserved it. Zach is more comfortable playing on the outside of the three than Sam is.

Charlton Athletic v Cheltenham Town SkyBet League One, The Valley, 02 December 2022
Picture : Keith Gillard

“It was purely a decision based on that. It’s not that comparison directly between players, it’s what works best as a group.

“It was a case that Sam and Ryan, when we play a three, are both suited to playing in the middle of it. It was a case of choosing one of them for tonight and then having the two young ones either side. That was the decision that I made, and I think it was the right thing to do. I still stand by that.

“Lucas and Zach, congratulations to both of them on their full league debuts. They were excellent. I knew what I was going to get. They’re both brave. They accept the ball in any situation. They defend well and gave us nice balance on either side of Ryan. They were real positives in the performance tonight.”

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