Charlton AthleticSport

Richard Cawley’s big-match verdict as Charlton Athletic fail to put on a performance as fans allowed back into The Valley

Fraser 75

When digesting Charlton’s fourth defeat of the League One season, it’s hard to think of too many plusses to come out of their deserved defeat to Milton Keynes.

About the only one would be the return of Akin Famewo, the Norwich City loanee had been an impressive performer before he missed the last month with a hamstring injury.

I’d also add the return of supporters – with 2,000 allowed in as the government restrictions on attending matches was eased slightly. But even that wasn’t seen as a positive by Addicks manager Lee Bowyer, who felt those spread around The Valley did not show enough positivity and encouragement on a night where his players were distinctly below their best.

These are strange times. The fans are kind of back, but with constraints when it comes to the noise they can generate – not least because they can’t mass in the Covered End.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic there were 18,080 in SE7 for the visit of Middlesbrough. Wednesday night was a fraction of that and dotted all around the stadium. Until crowds are back – and in serious numbers which allows them to mingle – it’s unrealistic to expect much of an atmosphere.

Plus Charlton’s players produced little to make it feel like a special moment for those that did manage to end their football famine.

Sometimes the stats don’t tell anywhere near the full story. But they did in midweek as Scott Fraser – vying with Carlton Morris and Matthew Sorinola for the most effective attacker on the pitch – slammed a 75th-minute winner past Ben Amos.

The keeper was the Addicks’ man of the match, denying an MK side who had 19 shots with eight of those on target.

It took the hosts 68 minutes to produce their one and only effort on goal.

But despite lacking that cutting edge they still came agonisingly close to walking away with a point.

Visiting keeper Andrew Fisher just about beat Chuks Aneke to push away a Marcus Maddison cross, but Darren Pratley’s follow-up effort crashed back off the underside of the crossbar.

MK were more fluid and confident in possession. That isn’t usually a problem for Charlton, who have regularly won games when they have had less of the ball. The issue this time is that they couldn’t match the vibrancy and movement of their opponents.

A sign of Bowyer’s displeasure was that he made four changes by the hour mark – replacing three of his four midfield and bringing on Aneke, who has been so effective after coming off the bench.

But the striker could not quite reach a tantalising and brilliant low ball from the right by Maddison just moments before Fraser – his run not tracked by Alex Gilbey – finally beat the defiant Amos.

Bowyer was asked about the inconsistent nature of Charlton’s recent performances and made the point again that he is trying to meld together a new squad, many of the players assembled in the latter stages of the transfer window.

But the South Londoners will be expected to be in the conversation when it comes to promotion.

They already are – three points behind a Lincoln side who beat them in late September just days after Thomas Sandgaard’s takeover.

Sometimes it’s hard to look at the bigger picture. Both Burton and MK have made a mockery of their lowly positions in the table. Did they raise their games against one of the division’s big guns? Maybe. What it underlines is that getting back to the Championship isn’t going to be easy.

But Sandgaard will surely support further squad strengthening in January. Famewo coming back into the fold allows Bowyer to push Pratley back into midfield. Jason Pearce can’t be far behind being ready to get stuck back in. Ian Maatsen has served his suspension.

It’s not all bad news. But it’s also not all good news. That’s football.

Ben Amos. If you’re including the opposition then the accolade should go to Fraser. But the Addicks keeper made some key saves to ensure a draw was still in reach going into the closing stages.

Gilbey roused the crowd as he chased down MK keeper Fisher, whose poor kick wasn’t punished by the hosts. It tells you there weren’t many highlights.

Pics by Keith Gillard and Paul Edwards

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