Saturday, 23 January 2021

Charlton Athletic 2 v Swindon Town 2

Another frustrating day for Charlton fans and another two points lost. We cling on to sixth place in the table but the games in hand other sides have over us makes that a flattering position. Realistically, when matches even out, we really sit about 10th and the only hope from here is a play-off finish.

I was delighted to see Bowyer revert to the back four which kept a clean sheet at Bristol Rovers by bringing Matthews back to right-back and dropping Jason Pearce. Unfortunately, after only five minutes Matthews was unable to stop Hope from rounding him in the box and firing in an acute shot which Amos failed to hold at the near post. It was a gutting start to the match in which we might have already taken the lead. Ronnie Schwartz had ghosted onto a back-pass and seen Travers in the Swindon goal get enough on his shot to steer it onto the post and Chuks Anneke had seen a snapshot fizz across the face of the goal. 

We looked like there were goals in us but we laboured to create the clearcut chances after going one down. Chuks got up to a decent ball in from Williams but he planted his firm header straight at Travers when any angle would have asked big questions of the Town stopper. I think we were guilty of over-playing. Every seemed to want to make another pass and too often we picked the wrong options. 

By contrast, Swindon were much more efficient in possession. They made clear space to receive passes when in possession and moved the ball forward quickly and with some directness. Deji Oshilaja was having another commanding performance in defence alongside Gunter and we didn't look like conceding again. However, on 39 minutes, Swindon worked the ball up on our right and played it in across the box. Millar attacked from the left but was a fraction late and would have committed a foul had he gone through with his challenge. Instead, Palmer was able to drill a shot from 20 yards which Oshilaja tried desperately to block but succeeded only in forcing the ball down as it sped goalward and as it rose it beat Amos' dive. 

Two-nil down at half-time and that horrible stat that we haven't won a match after going a goal down since the play-off final at Wembley again roared into view.. 

Our now weekly procession of early second-half substitutions started with Andrew Shinnie for Jonny Williams. I love Jonny Williams but he looks to me like he's been struggling this season with the pace of games. He can't do more than hour anyway and looks an older player than his 27 years. You could be forgiven for thinking he is a veteran of over 300 games but in reality he has only made around 170-odd first-team appearances (61 for us) in his career.

We started the half brightly and Chuks Anneke was lurking at the back post when Liam Millar swung a quick cross from a Pratley pull-back to reduce the arrears. With plenty of time on the clock we needed some composure but Swindon did well to slow the game down and break our rhythm. Albie Morgan came on for Darren Pratley as Bowyer tried to turn the screw. We continued to get forward but it was all a bit too frantic and we couldn't get the break we needed. Pearce was called on after Ian Maatsen limped off and Jayden Stockley came on with 15 minutes to go for Chuks Anneke who had been our biggest goal-threat up to then and had rattled the bar from close range with a thunderous shot minutes before. 

Ronnie Schwartz hadn't seen much of the ball but he did get it in the net after beating Travers from close range but he had gone a second too early in his desperation to score. He too made way for Washington as Bowyer gambled on fresh legs.

I was bemoaning Shinnie's contribution on 90 minutes when he scored. The impressive Liam Millar had slid a pass through to Forster-Caskey whose touch found Shinnie close in on goal and he beat Travers. He had seen plenty of the ball since coming on but was not finding any space so had struggled to do anything with it. Too many of his passes were underhit or too hopeful but he was at least there when it mattered.

With a total of nine second-half subs, it was no surprise that there were six minutes of added time. We continued to batter away and Conor Washington might have won it at the death when he was played in and rounded Travers but he had been forced wide and with a covering defender scampering for the line, he could only force his shot into the side netting. 

Lee Bowyer would have blown a gasket had we lost but I suspect he will choose to see the positives in this showing and try not to be overly critical of his players. What he can't cover is the fact that we have again given two goals away and left ourselves too much to do in the second-half. 

The arrival of Stockley this week was criticised by some who thought another central defender should've been the priority. I understand that given our struggles of late but I think a forward was the right decision. Famewo and Inniss will return but whatever happens at the moment we look like we need to be out-scoring our opponents to win and that was never going to happen with a reliance on Omar Bogle.