After a frankly abysmal performance against Wycombe on Saturday, significant changes were clearly needed against Gillingham.
Very much a game of two halves, few can argue with Charlton’s dominance in the first period. The half began with a shot on target within six minutes. It goes to show how poor Charlton have been recently that this is a point of interest. That said, Charlton were on the front foot throughout the half, winning the majority of second balls and playing positively. Much of this went through Elliot Lee who took the time to look up and pick a forward pass. Elsewhere, Blackett-Taylor took full advantage of his first start for the club and looked exciting in the free role, leading the line and creating several chances. His touch for the goal took the Gillingham defence out of the game completely, putting it on a plate for Lee to finish. Also, in contrast with the Wycombe and Cheltenham games recently, there was a conscious attempt throughout the game to pass out from the back (with mixed results). When the half-time whistle blew, Charlton should’ve been two or three up, but good chances were not taken by Washington and Davison. That said, the first half was generally encouraging, Charlton were holding Gillingham back in midfield and were in control.
That all changed at half time.
Tactically, Gillingham rolled the dice with two substitutions before the restart. These changes allowed Kyle Dempsey to push forward from the base of midfield to a more advanced role. From this position, he dictated play along with Vadaine Oliver, who came to life after an ineffective first 45. Oliver played wider in the second period, finding success competing with Matthews in the air. Overall, Oliver both won and lost the most aerial duels in the match (17 and 14 respectively), highlighting his importance in how Gillingham play.
In the 56th minute, a short corner caught Charlton unawares and a goalmouth scramble off the post led to an own goal from Purrington. By 58 minutes, the travelling supporters had started to turn on Adkins. Charlton were firmly on the back foot as Gillingham hit the post and had a stonewall penalty for handball turned down.
Later, a good run from Blackett-Taylor created a chance across goal for Davison but his shot was well saved by the keeper. Davison perhaps should’ve done better with it. As the game continued, Gillingham dominated and Charlton were lucky to get away from Priestfield with a point.
Where do we go now? Judging from Sandgaard’s post-match comments on Twitter, a point has eased the pressure on Adkins slightly, particularly if the first half performance was anything to go by. However, it’s hard to deny that on paper, the squad is severely underperforming. The second half was poor again and Charlton seemed unable to respond to the renewed threat from Dempsey and Oliver once they had adjusted their game.
Saturday against Portsmouth has the potential to be toxic if performances do not improve significantly. It’s very hard for a manager to come back once the crowd had turned, but it’s not impossible.