A fit and focused Taylor is crucial to Charlton Athletic’s promotion prospects

CHARLTON 3
Jombati 32og Taylor 71 Sarr 80
WYCOMBE 2

Williams 7 Cowan-Hall 90

BY RICHARD CAWLEY AT THE VALLEY 

Lee Bowyer revealed that Lyle Taylor had been given an extra running session in the build-up to Saturday – which seems a gamble considering Charlton’s chequered history of injuries.

You can understand the logic of the now permanent Addicks manager as he seeks to boost the striker’s fitness after he missed the final stages of pre-season with a foot injury.

But the thought of Taylor becoming the latest casualty added to the list of unavailable players would be an absolute disaster.

Charlton are not a one-man team, but the former AFC Wimbledon forward’s fitness and form are likely to be absolutely pivotal to whether they can mount a promotion challenge this season.

Taylor has scored four goals in the opening seven League One matches. Josh Magennis, sold to Bolton Wanderers in the summer, managed 10 in 43 appearances last season. Surpassing that total should not be a problem.

But there is a reliance on Taylor, or at least that has certainly been the case in the opening seven league fixtures. The Addicks have only had four different goalscorers with the Montserrat international netting just under half of their total haul.

Saturday’s was a scrappy one but finished off some incisive build-up play. Lewis Page and Joe Aribo combined to slip in Karlan Grant and his low cross was astutely steered back across the face of goal  by Patrick Bauer for Taylor to produce a poacher’s finish.

Charlton’s approach has shifted this season without a classic big man to hit as an option.

Bowyer handed a first league start to Jed Steer and cited the Aston Villa loan signing’s distribution as the reason for dropping Dillon Phillips. Steer did a good job of producing balls that bounced up for Taylor to control rather than making it an aerial duel with a centre-back.

Some home fans got frustrated at Taylor’s repeated imploring for free-kicks, but the number nine seemed to have an excellent case. His shirt was almost constantly held when he tried to turn in possession and he was forced to strong-arm his marker off.

Sido Jombati was finally booked for pulling him back as he tried to race onto a ball that had been threaded through.

Charlton were sluggish at the start of both halves and fell behind when former Crystal Palace winger Randell Williams curled sweetly past Steer. But Bauer, Jason Pearce and Naby Sarr were largely dominant over Adebayo Akinfenwa and Craig Mackail-Smith.

The Addicks had laboured until a lucky equaliser, Jombati slicing Page’s cross into his own net.

Nicky Ajose cued up Grant for an excellent chance to quickly make it 2-1 only for Ryan Allsop to come out on top.

Soon after a marauding surge by Grant saw Taylor produce a spectacular overhead kick which was only narrowly off target. If it had gone in then the goal of the season debate would have been wrapped up early.

Charlton looked home and dry when Sarr punished Wycombe’s initial botched attempts to clear a Ben Reeves free-kick. But Wycombe ensured the five minutes of stoppage time would be stressful when former Millwall winger Paris Cowan-Hall powered in a header.

Bowyer was able to celebrate his first three points since shedding his caretaker tag and Charlton are not in a bad place. Eighth in the table is acceptable considering the amount of knocks and niggles which have ruled players out, plus the fact a lot of their incoming transfer activity happened once the campaign got underway.

Josh Cullen and Jamie Ward will boost options after being away on international duty.

But Krystian Bielik missed Saturday with a calf strain while Ajose and Darren Pratley both came off with hamstring problems.

Injuries and Charlton Athletic have been depressingly twinned together in the past couple of seasons – at least – and Bowyer has yet to name his strongest starting 11.

Sarr is trying to stake a claim to be a regular starter rather than back up. The French defender is beginning to pay back the faith shown in him – and being a threat down the other end of the pitch in the last two matches is an added bonus of his inclusion.

Charlton (3-5-2): Steer 6, Bauer 6, Pearce 6, Sarr 7, Solly 6, Aribo 7, Pratley 6 (Lapslie 57, 7), Grant 7, Page 7, Taylor 7 (Dijksteel 90), Ajose 6 (Reeves 48, 7). Not used: Phillips, Marshall, Morgan, Vetokele.

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