City extended their unbeaten run to six games on Tuesday night, with a battling draw against Charlton Athletic.

Michael Skubala was forced into a few changes following Saturday’s win over Fleetwood Town. Lukas Jensen started in-between the sticks. Lasse Sorensen and Sean Roughan continued as the full-backs, while there was a change in the centre of defence alongside Paudie O’Connor with Alex Mitchell returning from suspension to replace the injured Adam Jackson. Ted Bishop and Ethan Erhahon started in midfield, with Danny Mandroiu replacing Conor McGrandles, who was unable to play against his parent club. Reeco Hackett continued his run in the side, while Joe Taylor started alongside the returning Freddie Draper.

Ben House dropped to the bench as he continues his recovery from a long spell out on the sidelines. Ethan Hamilton, Jack Burroughs and Adam Jackson missed out with injury, alongside long-term absentees Lewis Montsma and Tyler Walker. 

Credit: Graham Burrell

Charlton started having a good spell of possession, but we managed to regain control of the game fairly quickly with a series of throw-ins on the right-hand side. The game was really high tempo, and although that can be a good thing, I thought it meant both sides couldn’t show much quality in the opening exchanges of the game. 

The first chance of the game changed proceedings a little bit. Dobson’s defensive header was poor and allowed Lasse to get down the right-hand side. The Dane’s low cross found Bishop’s late run into the box. His effort went wide of the past, but it was a big chance and one that shook the opposition.

We were the better the team, but lacking that final ball. Taylor was in on goal on at least two occasions but wasn’t picked out with a pass. There was also one occasion when Mandroiu had the freedom of The Valley in midfield but someone played a pass backwards rather than into him. There were a few half chances that came our way. Mandroiu fired over from the edge of the box following some poor defending from a corner and we had a few corners cleared.

We weren’t creating the chances we had done over the past few weeks, but it wasn’t as bad as what we created under the previous manager. We were defending well too, Charlton only really had one clear-cut chance, coming through Alfie May. We struggled to deal with a set piece from the hosts and it fell to May in the area. The former Cheltenham man fired his shot fiercely but it deflected through a number of Imps bodies and into the arms of Jensen.

There were signs that Charlton had quality. Just look at their squad, they have a squad of good League One footballers. I think the best example for our fanbase is Tayo Edun. He was on their bench yesterday and for us he was 90 minutes away from the Championship. Tayo has Championship ability, as do the likes of Freddie Ladapo in that squad as well. George Dobson is a top quality footballer in this division too. They have quality all over the pitch and with Nathan Jones in the dugout it’s only a matter of time until they pull themselves out of the situation they have found themselves in.

Despite all the quality I’ve mentioned above, it was Skubala’s men that took the lead, and I think it was a lead we deserved. Hackett was the man to get the goal, with an exceptional finish inside the area. The winger started the move on the wing, before laying it off to Roughan. The Irishman’s ball was cleared but the Charlton defender’s header fell to Hackett inside the area. The former Charlton man smashed the ball home for his fourth goal of the season, and his second in three games.

Charlton looked nervous, it wasn’t just the players either. You could feel it around the stadium too. That wasn’t going to last forever though, and in the second half they came out a completely different side. Nathan Jones is a top manager and big coup for Charlton. Obviously his spell at Southampton casts a shadow over what he’s achieved but for a club at this level to have him as head coach is impressive. They came out with purpose and started getting the basics right. 

Another turning point was Chuks Aneke coming on for The Addicks. He’s had a tough time with injury and similarly to the impact House had on Saturday, he changed the game upon his return to action. He had a chance within just a few minutes after coming on, but he was unable to capitilzie. 

Despite a second half lacking in quality on the ball, we could’ve wrapped up the game with a second goal. Jack Moylan came on for a limping Bishop early in the second half, and the January signing won a free-kick on the edge of the box after some impressive dribbling. Hackett rolled the ball to Mandroiu and the Irishman’s effort bounced back off the post from 30 yards. It was a big chance, but not a clear cut one or one I’d consider wasted but if that goes in, we win the game and potentially even get another one. A second would’ve killed a low-confidence Charlton side.

No less than 10 minutes after, Charlton found their equaliser through substitute and Freddie Ladapo. It didn’t take the Ipswich loanee long to make his mark but the goal we conceded was a frustrating one. There’s some poor marking and some things we could’ve done better but considering how we defended throughout the whole game, it was just a lapse that has cost us. I’ve seen some people saying Jensen should do better but there’s no way. The ball is clearly curling away from him and you have to credit Ladapo, it’s a brilliant goal.

Credit: Graham Burrell

The home side certainly finished the game stronger. We weren’t hanging on, but it was nervy. Camara shouldn’t have stayed on the field when he pulled back Dylan Duffy late on, but it wasn’t the first odd call he made in the final 15 minutes of the game. Charlton were given a series of soft free-kicks on the edge of the box.

Edun came on and nearly scored the winner, but Jensen once again came up trumps for us. I think he’s a top goalkeeper, which is something I don’t hear enough and that’s probably because the quality we’ve had in-between the sticks for the last few years. When you’ve had three consecutive England U21 goalkeepers, it’s not easy to get a permanent keeper that reaches them levels. Jensen has been very good for us this season, I feel just as confident with him in goal as I did with Carl Rushworth last season, and that’s the biggest compliment I could pay him as Carl is a fantastic keeper.

We managed to hold on despite Edun’s best efforts to put his side ahead, and the result has to be considered as an excellent point. I think the second half of that game will be a turning point in Charlton’s season (similar to our second half performance against Wycombe), and like I’ve already said, I think Jones will keep them up comfortably. We missed McGrandles and Hamilton in the middle, and when Bishop came off we had squares pegs in round holes in midfield. If we have Hamilton and Bishop in there for 90 minutes then we might have come away with 3 points.

Exeter is a massive game on Saturday I feel. It’s a big chance to get 3 points and extend our unbeaten run to 7 games. McGrandles being back will be a big boost, and hopefully we’ll House available for another start. If we win then this point will look even better, and I have confidence we can get all 3 on Saturday.

By Joe Briley

AllLincoln Site Owner.