Charlton Athletic squad is at breaking point as injuries keep on coming – getting to bottom of muscle injuries has to be a priority

CHARLTON 2
Gallagher 13 Leko 42
CARDIFF CITY 2
Mendez-Laing 52 Tomlin 73

BY RICHARD CAWLEY AT THE VALLEY

How many injuries can one football club cope with? Charlton manager Lee Bowyer would answer the question if it didn’t take so long to add them all up.

No Addicks players were put on media duties after Saturday’s draw with Cardiff City, maybe that is because there was a fear that they could trip down the steps beside the press conference table and do something nasty.

Charlton had 10 players injured for the visit of the Bluebirds – the absences of Lyle Taylor and Jonny Willliams have undoubtedly been the biggest bonuses for opposition bosses – with Darren Pratley suspended.

And while the experienced midfielder is available again for tonight’s trip to Luton Town, Josh Cullen will miss out after the West Ham loanee was stretchered off in the second half with an ankle injury. Erhun Oztumer also needed lengthy treatment from physio Adam Coe and is a doubt for the fixture at Kenilworth Road.

Charlton are running on empty in terms of options, but they are still running. Their graft is undeniable as they try to cope with their squad shortages.

Bowyer only named six substitutes on Saturday. The last time he did that was on the opening day of the League One season in August 2018 – which could also have been seen as a public move to rouse owner Roland Duchatelet into getting deals done.

This time the blame doesn’t lie with the Belgian.

Seven of the injuries are muscle related – Taylor, Chuks Aneke, Tomer Hemed, Lewis Page, George Lapslie and Beram Kayal have all been back on the training pitch and then broken down again.

In the case of the injury-ravaged Page – who has played so impressively under Bowyer in those brief passages when  fit – the left-back has not played in more than a year despite the initial injury being supposed to keep him out for a matter of weeks.

Something is not right, and getting to the bottom of it has to be a priority.

Has Bowyer been able to pick his preferred side yet this season? I’d argue he did in the 2-0 victory at Reading at the end of August. Then he had the luxury of bringing on Aneke, Pratley and Hemed.

Albie Morgan and Alfie Doughty – on loan at National League sides this season – were his changes against Cardiff. While both did well, you can’t beat having players with experience and know-how to come on in finely-balanced games.

Charlton’s winless run of five matches would be a whole lot more concerning if they didn’t have such a crammed treatment room. The likes of Taylor and Williams are game-changers and both could be back by the time the Addicks head to Middlesbrough on December 7.

The Addicks have dropped into the bottom half of the table for the first time this season and it is the worst run under Bowyer, who still has a 49 per cent win record.

It looked as if it would be another three points at 3.45pm as Charlton headed back to their dressing room with a 2-0 lead – Conor Gallagher and Jonathan Leko converting the hosts’ only two efforts on goal in that period.

Did Cardiff deserve to be trailing by that margin? Not really.

“Harris, what’s the score?” chanted the fans in the top tier of the Covered End as the former Millwall manager appeared to be heading to defeat in his first match since replacing Neil Warnock at Cardiff City.

But you knew there would be a response from the Welsh club and that Charlton would need to absorb some early second-half pressure.

Referee Darren Bond did not thrill home fans when he awarded a penalty – ruling that Ben Purrington was doing more of the grappling than Callum Paterson at the back post. Junior Hoilett produced a poor spot-kick which Dillon Phillips saved.

But Cardiff cut the deficit in the 52nd minute, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing swiped home after a penalty box scramble fell in his favour.

The second period was end to end – Charlton producing 15 of the 38 shots  in a typically frantic Championship match.

If the Addicks had made it 3-1, it would have been goodnight for Cardiff. But they couldn’t restore their previous cushion and Tomlin threaded a strike between the legs of Oshilaja and past Phillips, who lost his footing as he tried to save.

Charlton couldn’t have a burning sense of injustice at the final outcome – but the fact they dropped two points from a position of half-time strength left real disappointment.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-1-1): Phillips 7, Matthews 6, Pearce 6, Lockyer 6, Purrington 6, Oshilaja 6, Cullen 6 (Morgan 56, 7), Gallagher 7, Oztumer 7, Bonne 7, Leko 7 (Doughty 79). Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Solly, Sarr, Davison.

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