A sunny afternoon at The Valley saw a new-look Charlton side welcome a determined Derby County, as the travellers had their sights set on back-to-back wins. Meanwhile, Charlton looked to put last weeks last minute disappointment behind them.
Ben Garner made his home debut as the manager of Charlton Athletic and made two changes to the starting eleven that drew against Accrington Stanley. Charlton’s player of the year George Dobson was surprisingly dropped for new signing Conor McGrandles, who appeared as a substitute the week before, meaning Albie Morgan was called into a more defensive duty. Charlie Kirk was given the opportunity to secure his place in the team after an unsuccessful start to his Charlton career that saw him leave on loan to Blackpool just 5 months after he was bought from Crewe Alexandra. Diallang Jayesimi took his place on the bench. Meanwhile, Liam Rosenior named an unchanged starting eleven to the Derby side that beat Oxford United 1-0.
Before the game even started, an act of shame came from one of the 3,072 Derby fans as the spectator ran onto the pitch during a minute’s applause for three former Charlton players, Graham Tutt, Phil Walker and Brian Tocknell, who all sadly passed away this summer. Derby County have publicly slammed the act and have stated that they “are incredibly disappointed” and that they “will work with the relevant authorities to establish the identity of the individual and take subsequent action”.
The game kicked off and it was Derby County who found their rhythm first as Charlton struggled to get out their own half. 9 Minutes in and the first big chance of the half fell for Derby’s new number 9, James Collins. The ball was cut back to him on the edge of the 6-yard box, but he was denied at close range by an excellent save from Ghanaian International and Charlton’s new number 1, Joseph Wollacott.
A minute later, the Addick was called into action again as Mendez-Laing tried an instinctive flick following a corner, but Wollacott’s good reflexes tipped it away. Derby kept piling on the pressure, not allowing Charlton to play their newfound style of football, providing plenty of possession and chances for themselves, however, they were unable to capitalise on any of them.
A well needed break came for the home team, as McGrandles went down for a head injury, after getting caught in an arial challenge with two Derby players. Despite his brave attempt to carry on, he went down again and could not continue, forcing Charlton to use a concussion substitution. George Dobson was brought on in his place to a loud roar from the Valley, faithful in hope that he would change the game for them. Dobson returned to his natural ball winning position in front of the back 4 as Garner pushed Morgan further up the pitch, to utilise his passing abilities.
After the substitution, The Addicks started to find their feet after weathering the Rams storm and were slowly growing in confidence. Dobson was proving to be an effective substitution as he broke down the Derby lines and pushed the team higher. The change in momentum eventually provided an excellent chance for Charlton right before half time as Kirk hit a perfect early ball into the box, catching the Derby defence asleep as it fell for target man Jayden Stockley, but the chance went begging as he could only head it right at the keeper. In the last minute of the half, Derby found themselves unlucky again as Collins rifled an effort against the far post.
The half time whistle came, and boos rang around the stadium for the disappointing first-half performance from the home team. However, Charlton went into the changing rooms with a bit of momentum following the lacklustre first 30 minutes of the game, which frustrated the Derby players as they had dictated the game but couldn’t find the clinical edge needed.
The second half started, and the tables had well and truly been flipped as Charlton came out with a point to prove, looking unrecognisable from the first half. The Addicks started knocking on the door, dominating most of the possession and playing nice football in and around the box. Charlton’s first clear-cut chance arrived at Stockley’s head again in the 50th minute as lighting quick winger Corey Blackett-Taylor crossed it, but once again he could only head it towards the keeper. The Charlton pressure forced Derby into their first substitution as Louie Sibley replaced Korey Smith in the 55th minute.
After a very bright start to the half, Charlton were able to capitalise on their ascendancy in the 62nd minute, as Blackett-Taylor put the home side 1 goal to the good. A lovely touch from Kirk released Albie Morgan into the box for a shooting opportunity. The shot was saved but only as far as Blackett-Taylor who couldn’t miss as he slotted it home into an empty net, opening his account for the season.
It was the same old story for Derby as 6 minutes later they looked for an instant response. Max Bird found Jason Knight all alone at the back post with a great ball, but the Rams fullback headed somehow headed wide, wasting yet another golden opportunity for Derby again. 70 minutes gone and with Derby still lacking the finishing touch, they brought on the Everton loanee Lewis Dobbin for his debut in Barkhuizen’s place.
The final 20 minutes were like a basketball match. It was back and forth as Derby searched for that late equalizer, pushing their players forward. However, Charlton stayed defensively strong and exposed them on the counter attacks but similar to Derby, they lacked that final ball.
Charlton refused to give in to the Derby pressure as Garner made 3 attacking substitutions that saw highly rated academy prospect Miles Leaburn, son of former Charlton player Carl Leaburn, come on for Blackett-Taylor. New recruit Jack Payne, who followed Garner from Swindon, came on in place of Scott Fraser and Jayesimi replaced Charlie Kirk. Derby also made like-for-like a change, bringing Craig Forsyth on for Haydon Roberts.
After a cagey 6 minutes of added time that involved a lot of time wasting, the final whistle was eventually blown much to The Addicks relief, as they overcame a very tough fixture in Derby County. The players and manager were sung and applauded off the pitch as Garner got his first taste of what The Valley feels like post victory. Despite the score line, Ben Garner will know that his side will not always get as lucky as they did against Derby and must be prepared for another difficult league fixture on Saturday as they head to promotion favourites Sheffield Wednesday.