SWANSEA CITY 2
Dhanda 17 Ayew 65
BY RICHARD CAWLEY AT THE VALLEY
Charlton Athletic were as committed as they always have been on Lee Bowyer’s watch, but the lack of cutting edge told on Wednesday night.
Sidelined top-scorer Lyle Taylor was sporting highlighter pink coloured hair at The Valley in midweek – all part of his October fundraising push for Cancer Research UK – but there was little that was as striking on the pitch for the home side.
The Addicks’ best attacking moment came early as Jonathan Leko smashed them into a second-minute lead – the power of his rising drive too much for Swansea keeper Freddie Woodman.
A dream start, but that was as good as it was going to get for the South Londoners. There was not too much wrong in terms of reaching the final third, but once there the Addicks seemed short of ideas and bereft of the quality to crack open a Swansea side who have the second best defensive record in the Championship.
Charlton did manage to score against the division’s meanest backline – Leeds United – but it was their only chance of note. While Macauley Bonne claimed the final touch in that 1-0 win at the weekend, it really should go down as a Stuart Dallas own goal.
Bonne’s performance against Swansea pretty much summed up the offensive display by the hosts. The former Leyton Orient striker provided a nuisance but failed to genuinely trouble them. Woodman only partially fisted a corner away in the second half with Bonne completely miscuing inside the area.
Charlton have lost three and won once in Taylor’s absence. The greatest impediment to them maintaining their fine start to the league campaign is being unbale to create more chances. There weren’t loads against Leeds but they defended excellently. They laboured in the home defeat to Birmingham, ditto the 2-0 reverse at Wigan.
Charlton haven’t got the budget to have a squad that has proven Championship class running right through it like tomorrow’s opponents Fulham.
That’s why losing Taylor until at least the end of this month is such an annoyance – he was one of the division’s star performers in the opening weeks.
Leko took his goal well but if the West Bromwich Albion loanee was the finished product then he wouldn’t be in SE7. Instead you get moments of quality interspersed with him losing possession or making the wrong passes.
Charlton have once again underlined that there is nothing to fear in this division. They have faced the division’s top two back to back and pushed them. It has been fine margins in terms of the outcomes and you’d expect that to continue to be the case.
The Championship isn’t a stroll for any club – whether their target is automatic promotion or finishing fourth from bottom.
Charlton have 17 points – the same amount as Norwich City had after 10 matches last season.
I’m not saying for one second that Bow’s boys will be breaking open the champagne in May and toasting being title-winners, but it does show they are in a healthy position.
Only the most optimistic of people must have thought that the Addicks would head into the Swansea match with a win putting them level on points with Leeds.
Instead it was Steve Cooper’s side who picked up maximum points to move to the summit.
October always looked a tough month with the quality of opposition and Bowyer hasn’t been helped by the fact that the fixtures have been bunched together before the international break.
He made four changes the other night to try and freshen his side up with Adam Matthews, signed as a free agent in September, handed his debut.
The right-back was solid in the opening 45 minutes but struggled more against the pace and directness of the tricky Bersant Celina after that.
It was Matthews’ first competitive game since May 4 and he did make one superbly timed tackle to dispossess the Swans’ number 10 in the box late on.
Bowyer continues to rotate at the base and the tip of his midfield diamond but little magician Erhun Oztumer left his spellbook at home.
Swansea’s equaliser on 17 minutes arguably came a little against the run of play, Yan Dhanda’s effort possessed little power but took a slight deflection to beat Dillon Phillips.
Swansea just had that little more in attack. Phillips denied Jay Fulton at his near post with Andre Ayew’s follow-up header ending up in the net but scrubbed off for offside.
The clincher came from a corner. A near post run lured a couple of Charlton defenders away from the middle of the goal and opened space for Ayew to volley in.
Charlton’s players, entire bench and most of the crowd appealed for a penalty when Chuks Aneke was blocked off by Joe Rodon. It was one of those type of incidents that rarely get awarded.
Celina was respectably close with a curling right-footed strike before the Addicks switched to a 3-5-2 formation when Ben Purrington was forced off with a groin injury.
Bowyer admitted afterwards that the lunchtime kick off at Fulham will probably come too soon for the left-back. It’s a problem – because Lewis Page is the only other natural to fill the role and he has not been seen for 12 months.
Fulham was already set to be challenging without additional issues.
The Whites, managed by former Charlton midfielder Scott Parker, had 24 hours extra to recover for the 12.30pm kick off by the bank of the Thames. They also played for 70 minutes against 10 men at Reading on Tuesday after John Swift’s dismissal, able to shift into cruise control on their way to collecting a 4-1 win.
Fifteen of Fulham’s 18 goals this season have come from open play, the highest in the division.
Charlton will go and compete, you can take that to the bank, but it is whether they can relieve pressure by asking questions the other end.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Phillips 6, Matthews 7, Lockyer 7, Pearce 6, Purrington 6 (Forster-Caskey 77), Field 6, Cullen 8, Gallagher 7, Oztumer 5 (Williams 66, 6), Bonne 5, Leko 6 (Aneke 66, 6). Not used: Amos, Oshilaja, Sarr, Pratley.