BY RICHARD CAWLEY AT THE VALLEY
The frustration felt by Lee Bowyer after yet more vital League One points were dropped was clear and unmistakeable on Saturday night.
There was frustration that his Charlton Athletic side lacked the cutting edge and end product to beat opposition who played 69 minutes with a man less – when you add in the major chunk of stoppage time.
There was frustration that some of his players did not follow orders as he tried a different way to offset the absence of Lyle Taylor.
There was frustration that the gap to the top two has been increased to seven points with Barnsley – handsome 4-1 victors at Gillingham – also having a game in hand.
There was frustration that Krystian Bielik picked up a 10th booking to become the latest suspension as he sit outs the next two matches.
And last, but not least, there was a frustration that Charlton are unable to make the striker signing which would make it easier to keep a push for the Championship on track.
Since the talismanic Taylor’s suspension – which also coincided with Karlan Grant’s sale to Huddersfield Town, the Addicks have taken two points from a possible nine.
That isn’t top-two form. And after an underwhelming end to the January transfer window, I think most fans would not be expecting much more than a repeat of snagging a play-off spot in May.
The post-match comments from Bowyer seemed to suggest that his hopes of delving into the free agent market – with former Cardiff and Wolves frontman Joe Mason the target – were dependent on owner Roland Duchatelet sanctioning the deal.
And the Addicks chief confirmed to our paper on Monday that Duchatelet had ruled out bringing in another striker. Ex-West Bromwich Albion and Stoke front runner Peter Odemwingie had also been flagged up as an option.
“I got a phonecall from Steve Gallen [head of recruitment] saying the owner said no,” explained Bowyer. “We can’t bring in another striker because we’ve got Lyle [Taylor], Josh [Parker] and Igor [Vetokele].”
If Duchatelet still watches the Charlton matches, then the draw with Southend should have swayed him from that viewpoint.
Vetokele made no discernible impact. Since arriving in SE7 in a big-money deal – certainly by Duchatelet’s standards – he has scored 15 goals in a touch over four-and-a-half years.
And 11 of those came in his first seven months after signing from FC Copenhagen. Not all the blame for that lies with Vetokele, who has been loaned to Waregem and Sint Truiden in the previous two campaigns. Plus he did an interview with me in January 2016 admitting that he had contemplated quitting football over a groin problem which took a year to sort out.
Vetokele’s last league goal for Charlton came in January 2016, a 4-1 win in the Championship at Rotherham United.
He didn’t look like ending that wait at the weekend in an unlikely front pairing with Mark Marshall. The winger, starting for the first time since the end of December, managed to partially obstruct the Angolan when he tried to get his head on the ball as a first-half chance dropped his way.
It was no surprise to see Marshall pushed out into his natural wide right role at the start of the second half – Bowyer switching to a 3-5-2 formation as he brought Josh Parker on for Ben Purrington.
And it was Marshall who got the assist for Charlton’s 59th-minute equaliser. Ben Reeves produced an excellent header beyond Nathan Bishop and in off the inside of the left upright.
But Bowyer was critical of the crosses put in by his side. Too many of the crosses lacked the kind of venom and accuracy required, although the Shrimpers goalkeeper did make flying stops from Bielik and Parker.
Southend’s goal was highly fortuitous, Stephen Humphrys’ hopeful hit arcing off Naby Sarr’s outstretched leg with a cruel trajectory that prevented Dillon Phillips reaching it.
The Addicks’ number one could have spent the early stages of the second half checking the small print one last time on that newly-signed contract.
But he was needed to save at his near post from Michael Klass. Southend had their own near-misses at the end.
Klass whipped the ball across the face of goal while former Addicks boss Chris Powell had his hands on his head when Michael Turner – another with connections to the hosts – failed to get clean contact in the penalty area.
There are only seven matches in which Charlton have scored and either Taylor or Grant did not net, and just one of those was a win – 2-0 against Gillingham at The Valley in December. The return of Taylor for this weekend’s home game – a chance to significantly weaken play-off hopefuls Blackpool – is a real shot in the arm after a tough couple of weeks.
The Addicks are unbeaten in 10 League One matches on their own patch but only have six fixtures remaining there – compared with eight away. Four points from a possible 15 outside SE7 needs to be tweaked up a touch.
Powell had no complaints over Dru Yearwood’s 27th-minute dismissal – although the teenager slipped on the turf as he careered into Jonny Williams. His pleas to look at the sliding stud marks did not invoke any leniency by referee Simon Hooper.
Williams was the only one who looked able to go through the gears and quicken Charlton’s play – breaking through Southend’s defensive lines. He really needs to be made of titanium to withstand some of the frustrated or just downright cynical fouls on him.
Tarqie Fosu should try and take a leaf out of the former Crystal Palace man’s more simplistic approach. Too often he wants to squeeze in that extra party piece or skill move, frittering away a dangerous moment.
Charlton (4-4-2): Phillips 7, Solly 6, Bielik 6, Sarr 7, Purrington 6 (Parker 46, 6), Cullen 6, Marshall 6 (Lapslie 90), Reeves 7 (Hackett-Fairchild 81), Williams 8, Fosu 5, Vetokele 5. Not used: Maxwell, Dijksteel, Stevenson, Pratley.