Whether it’s Alex Gilbey’s second bookable offence against Lincoln or Ryan Inniss’ straight red at AFC Wimbledon, Charlton Athletic’s indiscipline has been in sharp focus over the last few weeks.
Despite successfully keeping 11 players on the pitch during last weekend’s impressive 1-0 win at Rotherham United, the solitary booking of Akin Famewo took the Addicks’ overall card tally to 107 for the season.
Over the course of the last two League One campaigns, Charlton have been the most booked side and this season’s second-placed Accrington Stanley are considerably further behind with a total of 95 cards shown.
Although the Addicks don’t appear to be an overly aggressive side, recent incidents have raised question marks as to why their disciplinary record is so bad.
The impact of these red cards is further exacerbated by the fact both Gilbey and Inniss are experienced senior players, but their recent dismissals have betrayed their years.
Against Lincoln, Gilbey’s cynical 25th minute shirt pulling offence was followed up 12 minutes later with an almost identical misdemeanour to leave Charlton with 10 men for nearly an hour of the game.
In the following game against Wimbledon, Inniss received a straight red in the 56th minute after a horrifically mis-timed challenge on George Marsh.
However, speaking ahead of Saturday’s trip to Rotherham, manager Johnnie Jackson denied Charlton had a particular problem with ill-discipline to address .
“A particular sit down isn’t planned along those lines, it’s something that we talk about all the time,” Johnnie Jackson said.
“If you’re going to go down to 10 men, then it’s going to make it more difficult to get a result, which is something we want to avoid.
“It just so happens it has been back-to-back games. I don’t think we’ve got a discipline issue in the squad. Until now it hasn’t cost us too much, but in the last two games it has.
“I’d like to think the last two incidents were outliers and the two lads will hold their hands up and say they made poor decisions in the heat of the moment, which can happen in football.”
One possible reason for Charlton’s perceived problem comes from a clumsiness brought about by the fact Jackson’s current 3-5-2 formation often sees a number of players playing out of position.
For instance, midfielder Sean Clare has frequently had to fill in at centre-back, while Corey Blackett-Taylor and Diallang Jaiyesimi are wingers who have played wing-back – meaning they all have had to make a greater defensive contribution than they are perhaps used to.
Charlton’s recent eight-game winless run also came about when the side had three of their first choice strikers injured, leaving them devoid of an attacking outlet.
It meant the Addicks spent a large part of those games on the back foot, making them more susceptible to committing fouls and receiving bookings.
Interestingly, George Dobson, arguably Charlton’s Player of the Season, has collected the most cards with 14 in total – although most have been tactical fouls and he has not been sent-off or suspended.
It’s testament to Dobson’s maturity and his effectiveness in his defensive midfield role – one that saw him score the winner against Rotherham in a much-improved and disciplined away performance.
Charlton’s interventions and challenges were well timed and their game management exemplary as they did not let Rotherham’s direct threat draw them into giving away cheap fouls which would give the referee a decision to make.
On the win, Johnnie Jackson said: “Overall, I thought it was a disciplined performance, in terms of how we stuck to our task and stuck to our shape.
“I always encourage my players to make tackles, compete and fight in a fair way.
“In the week we got that wrong and went over the top, but I’m really pleased with it today, I think we did fight, we competed, we made the tackles and we did it in a fair way.”
Hopefully Saturday’s win is a turning point in more ways than one because if Charlton can cut out the careless mistakes moving forward, their competitiveness and physicality could become an edge rather than a liability.
‘LONDON FOOTBALL UNITES FOR UKRAINE’
Liaising with the UK Ukrainian Sports Supporters Club (UKUSSC) and the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB), London Football Scene has launched ‘London Football Unites for Ukraine’ – a fundraising campaign to provide as much relief to those in need.
We are urging all the Capital’s clubs, players and fans to raise as much money as possible for British-Ukrainian Aid (registered charity No. 1164472).
Please visit our JustGiving Page to give as much as you can and look out for more events and fundraising activities over the coming few weeks.
London Football Unites for Ukraine: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/londonfootballunitesforukraine