Tonight the Imps tackle a Charlton side much improved from the start of the season and led by our ex-ex-manager, writes Tom Morton.
Does Tom Shaw have anything to prove against Michael Appleton? I don’t think so but he should have a good idea of the tactics and insight the latter relies on – having been manager of the development squad (and Gainsborough Trinity) during his tenure. Appleton joined the Addicks at the start of September after Dean Holden was let go following a string of early-season losses.
Since that point, Charlton have picked up their performance with four wins and three draws. That leaves them currently two places above us purely on goal difference. That’s a good turnaround for a team that started the season with just one win in five games and scoring just five games.
Over the summer the Addicks made a number of changes to their squad. They let go of former regulars such as defender Ryan Innes and forward Albie Morgan. In return they’ve made some really handy signings; including Lloyd Jones, who impressed in Cambridge’s defence last season, and Right-Back Tennai Watson from MK Dons.
But the most important signing by far is the excellent Alfie May, who Charlton picked up from Cheltenham. It’s literally daylight robbery by the Addicks. Cheltenham have scored twice this season whereas May is currently on a tally of 8. He is an incredible threat going forward and already seems to enjoy being partnered with the tenured Chuks Aneke and Corey Blackett-Taylor.
In theory, Charlton’s squad is stuffed with ex-imps. Jack Payne has been with them a while, Conor McGrandles obviously chose to leave ahead of last season and they just bought Tayo Edun from Blackburn. However, don’t expect to see any of those names. Payne is on loan to MK Dons for the season and McGrandles and Edun appear to be on long-term injury.
Tactically you might expect to see the Appleton 4-3-3, but recently Charlton seem to be playing a traditional 4-4-2. It seems to be working, with the Addicks scoring sixteen times in the last seven games. Going forward they love to play at pace, with May and Taylor in particular enjoying running at defences. They aren’t afraid of physicality to bring out a bit of space. Last time out at Reading they scored four excellent attacking goals that relied on pace and skill. If they have one attacking drawback it is a weakness at set pieces.
At the back, they seem well-drilled for a relatively new defensive group. That will be helped by Ashley Maynard-Brewer in goal, who has been with them for a good while. That said they do seem to find set pieces hard to defend and Reading came close from corners. They don’t look the tallest of defences and so can be dominated in the air a bit.
This feels like a game where the midfield is key. Charlton aren’t afraid of possession and so will look to tie up the game in the middle of the park. We’ll need to take that game to them and will need Hamilton and Erhahon. The Addicks got away sixteen shots at the weekend, eight on target and scored four of those. They are definitely in a bit of a goal glut at the moment so keeping them pinned back is essential.
It’s definitely going to be an odd game tonight. Without a manager, floods threatening the stadium and facing our ex-manager under the lights. There were definitely highlights of our best form from the weekend and Charlton are a clear example of how changing managers can radically change performance. That said, the Addicks are clearly on the up and I will not be surprised to see Appleton look to bring the game to us later.