Charlton Athletic man has only had briefest of tastes of play-off football – that’s set to change in May

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Ben Purrington has only played around 10 minutes of play-off football – but looks set to add to that total in May.

Charlton Athletic seem destined to miss out on an automatic promotion spot in League One barring a dramatic collapse by both Barnsley and Sunderland.

And that means it will be a case of take two for the Addicks in the play-offs under Lee Bowyer after being knocked out in last season’s semi-final against Shrewsbury Town.

Purrington, signed by Charlton on loan from Rotherham United in January, was a late replacement for Hiram Boateng in Plymouth’s 2-2 draw with Portsmouth in the 2016 League Two play-off semi-final.

Charlton Athletic’s Ben Purrington

He played no part as Argyle went on to lose to AFC Wimbledon at Wembley later that May. And he did not get on the pitch in 2018 when Rotherham gained promotion to the Championship via the same route.

There should be no watching brief this time around. Purrington has started every match for the Addicks, who have kept five clean sheets in his 12 outings.

“I’ve had a lot of experience of the play-offs without necessarily playing in them,” he said. “I was only 18 or 19 for the first one and had been playing more in midfield.

Shrewsbury Town’s James Bolton (Left) tries to block a shot on goal by Charlton Athletic’s Ben Purrington.

“Gary Sawyer was the first-choice left-back and was getting on for 30. At Rotherham I had Joe Mattock ahead of me, he was a lot more experienced.

“The play-offs are massive pressure. But as a footballer they are the games you want to be involved in.

“You dream of winning promotion when you’re young. We’ll thrive off of it. I’ve played quite a few games in my career and wouldn’t class myself as inexperienced anyway. I’m on 120 or 130 games. For my age that is not too bad really.”

Purrington has swollen those appearances figure during a productive campaign. He started off at AFC Wimbledon but Bowyer moved for his services at the start of 2019, the Exeter-born full-back swapping a survival scrap for a promotion push.

If he steers clear of injuries then he should hit 50 games in all competitions this season – he is just eight shy of that milestone.

“It’s the most I’ve played in a season,” he said. “Before that it was the season I split at Plymouth and Rotherham where I played 35. I’ve surpassed that now.

“I’ve had to change a few things in terms of training. I’ll always give 100 per cent – the manager demands it – but before when you’re not playing you almost push yourself harder. At Rotherham last year I had a few injuries which kept me out a lot of the time.

“I don’t think I even played from October to January. I had a hamstring injury and when I came back it was still niggling. It didn’t help with my appearances that year.

“I’m not saying the training isn’t tough here, because it is. The standards are very high. But I’m probably working harder in the gym with leg weights and upper body than I was at previous clubs. I’m benefitting from it because it is keeping me fit.”

Purrington heads back to Argyle tomorrow. His impressive emergence on to the senior ranks for the Devon outfit led to Rotherham paying £300,000 in January 2017.

His brother Tom, 18, is on Plymouth’s books.

“It’s always a big game for me because I was there from the age of eight until I was 20,” said Purrington. “I’ll see some old faces and my brother keeps me up to date with what is going on down there.

“They’ve had a few good results and it has pulled them up a bit. It was a similar story last year, they had a real push in the second half of last season. I hope they stay up.

“I’m really close to Tom. He’s my only brother and we’ve always played together growing up. He doesn’t get the chance to watch me very often because he is usually playing at the same time. It’s the same the other way around. I watch him whenever I do get the chance.

“He should be there [on Saturday] unless he is playing for the U23s.

“I’ve been back playing there two or three times. I got an alright reception when I went back with Rotherham and with Wimbledon this year it was really good – myself and Jake Jervis both got a really nice reception.

“I don’t know if it will be boos or cheers. It’s a good club.”

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