Chris Powell’s Charlton Athletic side dropped their first points of the season at the weekend, after surrendering a two goal lead to Scunthorpe. Most fans appreciated the work rate, talent and desire to win, with the players and fans alike feeling the draw was more like a loss.
It may come as a surprise to some therefore that I feel, tactically, Powell was wrong. I don’t blame him – it is after all a learning curve and when you give the job to someone who has not had management experience previously, mistakes will be made.
Powell has made similar substitutions in each of the games so far this season, particularly with the introduction of Gary Doherty as an extra centre back in the closing stages of the game. On paper, this does not seem that unreasonable – Doc is a very experienced player, his legs will easily last the injury time in a game and it’s an extra body at the back. When we dig a little deeper, you see the effect it has on the team in a number of different ways.
Firstly and probably most importantly, it disrupts the two centre backs. Matt Taylor and Michael Morrison, are forging a strong, reliable partnership, they are beginning to learn each other’s games and they have not really struggled very often. Most notably, when against Colchester in the week, where Morrison struggled against the strength of the Colchester front line, Taylor was always there to mop up.
Bringing in Doc really does disrupt this. It presents a back to the wall mentality and the whole defence changes from an assured back line to a shaky, panicked defence.
The other notable effect this has is on the midfield partnership of Dale Stephens and Danny Hollands. I’m fast become a huge fan of these two – their skill on the ball and determination off of it are going to be something that excites fans this season. Having played four days before the Saturday fixture, they were visibly tired after 75 minutes. They needed help, their legs were going, and were getting beaten to the ball by the attacking substitutions made by the fresh, Scunthorpe bench. They needed help to see out the game, but instead they got Doherty.
I don’t blame Gary Doherty. At times this season he will be valuable to us, both off the bench and starting in order to rest the first choice players. He’s not going to provide the last minute pace and determination to help see the game out, and relieve the pressure off of the midfield duo. Perhaps when we’re being bombarded with high balls into the box then this is the right substitution. When you have a player like Andy Hughes on the bench, you have to wonder what benefits Doherty would provide in that position over him.
I don’t really blame Powell – to quote a cliché heard too many times at the Valley in recent years – ‘he’s a young manager’. The truth is, Powell really is a young manager. He’s shown his tactical awareness, particularly when we see the quality of squad he’s assembled at the first opportunity. He was tactically naïve on Saturday but I have no doubt he’ll learn quickly – hopefully he’ll get plenty of time to practice.
Written by Sunny Seabrooke, We Are Going Up’s Charlton Athletic Blogger
Sunny tweets at @sunnyseabrooke