All’s Square In Love and War: Charlton Athletic 1-1 Imps

Credit Chris Wray

The Imps’ unbeaten run extends to six games, but it had to be earned against a Charlton side that was certainly looking to improve for their new manager.

The game was a tale of broken love affairs, with Tayo Edun and Reeco Hackett facing off against former clubs and Conor McGrandles sitting in the stands. At times, it was a war, not an aggressive one, but just hard to watch for everyone involved. In the end, a point shared was probably fair.

Sadly, Michael Skubala was once again restricted in who he could pick, with Ethan Hamilton missing out, along with the injured Jack Burroughs and Adam Jackson. McGrandles was unavailable due to him being on loan from the Addicks, but Freddie Draper did make the side, meaning Ben House dropped to the bench.

Credit Chris Wray

It was an interesting night in terms of opinions for me, as my mate Pete was watching on iFollow. We don’t usually see games at the same time, so to have a neutral perspective was fascinating, and I’ll share a bit of that as we go through the report.

City had to weather the first five minutes or so as Charlton had a bit of the ball, but it wasn’t really with a purpose. There were a few big balls forward, but the Imps managed to get a foothold in the game. It wasn’t particularly pretty. Mandroiu and Bishop weren’t having bad games, but the midfield dynamic didn’t quite work as it did on Saturday. I still feel Mandroiu and Bishop are a bit like our Lampard and Gerrard, although, in fairness, Mandroiu was playing out of position. I felt he was off the pace, but interestingly, Pete felt I was being a little harsh. One thing is for certain: we never had the midfield dominance we enjoyed on Saturday, and McGrandles’ return will be welcome against Exeter City.

The first chance of the game fell to Bishop, and it came from an error by the home side. A header from George Dobson, who I liked at Walsall, was aimless, freeing Lasse on the right. His cross was delicious, and Bishop decided to feast, but like trying to eat soup with chopsticks, his effort wasn’t successful. He might be frustrated at not doing better, but it was an early indication of how soft the Addicks’ defence could be.

Credit Chris Wray

Charlton’s big threat seemed to be on the break. Every time the Imps attacked, Charlton looked to drop it over the defence to hit us with pace. It didn’t really work, but it was hard to tell who was the home side. When they have Ladapo and Aneke sitting on the bench, it must be tough for home supporters to see their lack of attacking prowess. Aneke has been out injured, and it was interesting listening to the home comms bemoan their injury problems, just as we do ours.

On 20 minutes, the Imps could have had an opening, but for a poor pass. Joe Taylor was finding space across the field, but the passes didn’t come. Mandroiu missed him as he found space on the right, and then Bishop’s pass was just behind him as he stripped the defence. It was a case of the final ball just lacking. We lacked cohesion, and I felt Draper had a really tough half. He hugely impressed me in his first couple of games back, but it felt a bit like we were juggling him and House as two half-fit players we didn’t really want to play. He worked hard enough, but this wasn’t a good night for Freddie.

In fact, Charlton’s indecision was our main asset, and more poor defending from a corner led to Mandroiu lashing the ball high and wide. It felt like a matter of time before we got the opener, but just like that, we tumbled out of the game for a short spell.

Alfie May had a good chance. We struggled to deal with a corner, and his shot found its way through a crowd of players but deflected into Jensen’s arms. The big Danish stopper was having a confident night, commanding his area with certainty, and he got his angle just right for the next chance. Bakinson could have had an opener; the break saw him drag a shot wide when he could have done better. Jensen had it covered, but it was a reminder that the home side has quality, and their current plight is as much about organisation and confidence as anything.

Credit Chris Wray

Just before half time, we got the goal I felt our first-half performance deserved. It did feel a bit more attritional than the last couple of matches up until Reeco pulled out some magic, but his goal had me wondering where we might be if he hadn’t been injured through November and December. He started the move with some silky skills, only for the attack to seemingly break down as a defender headed Roughan’s cross clear. It fell to the former Charlton man’s feet, and he weaved into the area to lash an unstoppable shot past Isted in the sticks. That takes Reeco onto four from open play in the league, our leading scorer discounting penalties. I wonder if a few Addicks fans wished they’d hung on to him – they could be loving him like one of their own right now.

I felt it was probably deserved on the balance of play. Alfie May, one of those strikers that wannabe pundits always say ‘I’d have him a Lincoln’ as if it were insightful, was poor. Charlton’s main threat was a big ball, and there was little quality on display from either side. I felt Erhahon was fighting hard in the midfield, but we lacked any real cohesion. That said, when we did get on the ball and made runs, the home side looked nervous. The second goal was absolutely crucial – if we’d got it, we might have got three or four. If they got it, then it was going to be a challenge for us to hold on to the point.