Charlton AthleticSport

Richard Cawley’s big-match verdict: Charlton Athletic need some light at the end of the tunnel – both with injuries and a barren run of form

Daly 90+2


Huddersfield’s team coach got stuck in a tunnel before this match, Charlton just want some light at the end of one.

If the Addicks don’t beat Hull City tonight then it will be more than two months since they had that winning feeling.

The fact they have pocketed just five points from a possible 30 is reflected in their slide down the Championship table. The bottom three is uncomfortably close.

But, and I’m going to get a bit boring making this point again, the injuries have killed Lee Bowyer’s options.

Tuesday night’s shift to a 3-4-3 formation – Chris Solly and Ben Purrington playing in the wing roles – was a move borne out of necessity. The Addicks boss has long been at the point of hammering square pegs into round holes.

Before the visit of Huddersfield, there was a telling stat. Bowyer has used more players – 28 – and made more changes to his starting 11 – 57 – than anyone else at this level. And while he does look to rotate in key positions, those numbers are greatly increased by a debilitating list of injuries.

For Charlton to be competitive they need their star men to be available.

But Lyle Taylor – such a potent force – is easing his way back from three months out with knee ligament damage.

No Jonny Williams, such a vibrant attacking presence in the opening weeks of the season. He opened up opponents with his pace and quick changes of direction.

Josh Cullen’s absence has only served to underline that the West Ham loanee is the glue that binds the Charlton midfield together. Their play looks so much more clunky and disjointed without the Republic of Ireland international pulling the strings.

That’s not to say that the current available crop can be absolved of any blame, because the South Londoners have been particularly toothless in their last two fixtures.

Still images seem to show that the referee’s assistant was wrong to disallow Naby Sarr’s goal in the second half – which came well before Huddersfield sub Matty Daly’s stoppage-time sickener – but the hosts were witless in how to create chances.

Kamil Grabara did not have a save to make. About the only other effort I noted was Conor Gallagher’s shot being blocked just inside the penalty area by Elias Kanchunga. When you’re listing moments like that it is a sure sign you’re clutching at straws.

You can write off the opening 45 minutes – nothing happened. Maybe Huddersfield had a partial excuse, their prep not helped by the fact an accident left them stuck in the Blackwall Tunnel. They arrived after 7pm and it forced a 10-minute delay to kick off.

Danny Cowley’s side definitely had the best opportunities to score in the second period with Dillon Phillips twice plunging to his left to push away turf-skimming efforts.

The Terriers had injury issues of their own but some of those not involved in their matchday 18 were omitted out of choice.

They still had Jonathan Hogg and Juninho Bacuna, part of their Premier League side last season, in central midfield.

The duo did a number on Conor Gallagher, dispossessing the Chelsea youngster three times early on and depriving him of game-changing moments that he was regularly producing when Charlton started the season with a bang.

There seems to be positive signs for Bowyer with Williams set to be on the bench this evening. Sam Field is the next expected returnee.

The Addicks need their injury fortunes to change. They have already shown they can match sides when near to full strength – but the challenge now is to also inject some belief that has been knocked out of them by a barren run.

Charlton (3-4-3): Phillips 7, Sarr 5, Lockyer 7, Pearce 7, Solly 6, Gallagher 6, Pratley 5, Purrington 6, Doughty 5 (Vennings 73), Bonne 4, Leko 5 (Taylor 69, 5). Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Matthews, Oshilaja, Morgan, Ledley.


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