Charlton continued their excellent run of form with a 2-0 victory over local rivals Gillingham, thanks to goals from Reeves and Fosu, to make it an impressive seven wins from the last eight.
The Addicks received a boost before the game with the announcement that league one top goal scorer Tom Eaves was absent with injury and the game showed how important Eaves is to the Gills. The visitors started the better side, in stark contrast to previous opponents AFC Wimbledon, but lacked cutting edge in the final third.
Indeed it was a scrappy and sluggish start from the hosts, despite some good free flowing moves and a good number of chances created the Addicks gave away lots of sloppy fouls and couldn’t get going as well as we know they can.
However, Charlton managed to grow into the game, by and large able to deal with anything the visitors threw at them, and it wasn’t long before Bowyer’s men were able to take the lead. A defence splitting pass from Fosu sent through Ben Reeves who was able to slot home in the 6th minute.
The reds carried on to control the match and had numerous chances to put the game to bed. Ben Reeves had another chance to make it 2-0 but couldn’t quite strike the ball cleanly and saw his effort saved by the legs of Holy. Fosu also saw a deflected strike hit the cross bar.
Fosu, who hasn’t really hit the heights of last season, continued to be a threat throughout the first half and caused full back Barry Fuller all kinds of problems. The tricky wideman got his reward as he played a one-two with Aribo and struck a beautiful shot from 25 yards out into the back of the net.
The Addicks professionally saw out the remainder of the game to make it four straight wins at home. Despite it not being a classic performance, as Bowyer spoke about after the game, it is the mark of a good side who can grind out results like this. Maybe if Eaves was present it would have been different game but you can only beat what’s put in front of you.
Huge credit must go to Bowyer and Jackson. What they have achieved so far given the state of play at the start of the season with the injury crisis and not being able to name a full bench at the first game at Sunderland seems a lifetime ago.
In years gone by we would have crumbled in games like this but the management appear to have instilled a great sense of togetherness and belief in the injury hit squad. You have to think, if we can continue to grind through back to a fully fit squad, that anything is possible this year.
Billy Clarke is still building back his match sharpness, Josh Cullen’s return is on the horizon, George Lapsile and Jamie Ward should be involved against Coventry on boxing day. All this returning players will be a huge boost to Bowyer, the need to rotate the squad over this busy period will be vital.
Indeed even having Darren Pratley back was a noticeable boost, the former Bolton man put in a good shift and helped to keep Charlton solid as he replaced Aribo who picked up a knock.
At the halfway stage of the season the Addicks are certainly beating the expectations I had at the start of the season. They find themselves in fourth place and four points away from an automatic promotion spot. Although Sunderland have two games in hand and this shouldn’t be taken lightly.
I still think an automatic place will be a step too far for the Addicks but with the momentum they currently have, anything is possible. Much will depend on January, I’m not expecting anything more than possibly a new left-back, the extension or replacement of Jamie Ward will also be important. As well as obviously ensuring we keep all our players, although if this will happen under Roland remains to be seen.
But things are positive and we have every reason to be happy, the December hoodoo looked to continue with with Blackpool defeat but Charlton now have more wins in December than they’d managed in the previous 33 games that fell in the winter month.
Maybe, just maybe, something special is brewing down in SE7. A huge congratulations to Bowyer and the players, it hasn’t always looked good this season but something seems to have clicked recently and have the potential to get even better with returning players.
Long may it continue, we’re half way there but there’s still a long old way to go. Come on you reds.