Lincoln City 3 (Adelakun 33, 57, Roughan 78) Charlton 1 (May 10).
Charlton’s five-game unbeaten run under new boss Michael Appleton came to a sobering, juddering halt on Tuesday night when Lincoln City came from behind to win this clash of sides probably destined for mid-table mediocrity. Or, if you’re one of those glass-half-full characters, you might choose to regard it as mid-table security.
It had all looked encouraging as the Addicks got off to a rare front-foot start and made it count by taking the lead in fine style after only ten minutes. Taking up where they left off in destroying Reading three days earlier, they were irresistible as Scott Fraser arrowed an inch-perfect pass outside Jack Mitchell to send Tyreece Campbell on a lung-busting sprint to the left byline. Reaching the ball on its last revolution before going out of play, the speed merchant managed a low cross into the six-yard box where Alfie May forced it over the line with an unspecified part of his anatomy. Fraser’s vision, Campbell’s blistering pace, May’s predatory finish – they all combined to convince us that Charlton’s miserable away record was about to improve drastically. How wrong we were – the goal was in fact as good as it got on a thoroughly chastening evening.
Though maintaining his customary calm demeanour, there was simmering anger underscoring Appleton’s post-game analysis. “We just didn’t give ourselves a chance tonight” he remarked, “we just didn’t compete enough with them. And if you do that against a really physical side like Lincoln, there’s only going to be one scenario that’s going to happen and that’s what happened. Once the second goal went in, there were one or two players who didn’t really think they could get back in the game. I’ve not seen that so that’s something I’m certainly aware of tonight and I don’t want it to happen again.”
Appleton is clearly a cool customer who treats victory and defeat with equal equanimity but the soft-centred nature of this first reverse appears to have got under his skin. He was, of course, unlikely to name the “one or two” players he had in mind but he might want to re-think the number involved. There were, in fact, more than a few guilty parties as Charlton seemed at pains to re-habilitate the stricken Imps once they’d taken the lead. Possession was abjectly surrendered, passes went astray, not a single one-on-one duel was won. The Addicks were strangely spiritless and their opponents sensed the shift in momentum. They could hardly have done otherwise.
Inspiring City’s immediate recovery were long-throw specialist Hakeeb Adelakun and Danish wingback Lasse Sorensen. They were first heard of when Adelakum’s guided missile reached Sorensen, who forced a brilliant diving save from Ashley Maynard-Brewer, virtually alone in emerging with credit from this unnerving fiasco. Another personal delivery from Adelakum was met on the volley by Sorensen and was goalbound until Sean Roughan gamely blocked it with his unmentionables. As the visitors continued their self-harm policy, an equaliser seemed not so much likely as inevitable. It duly arrived just past the half hour mark.
A dangerous right wing cross from Jack Burroughs pitted Adelaku and Lloyd Jones in direct confrontation with each other, a head-to-head confrontation, from which the former predictably emerged the winner. Cleverly turning the defender to his advantage, Adelakum exploited a favourable bounce and hammered an unstoppable drive into the roof of the net. Charlton were already a beaten rabble. Only the formalities remained.
Before the interval, Sorensen wasted Ethan Erhahon’s measured cross by blasting hopelessly wide, then was foiled twice by Charlton’s defiant goalkeeper as their personal duel continued. Maynard-Brewer’s heroics ensured that his sleepwalking team reached half-time on terms. Hardly any witnesses at LNER Stadium or more sensibly safe at home expected anything but a comfortable home win. Shortly after the break, they were proved right.
Thwarted by Maynard-Brewer in their first half confrontations, Sorensen changed tack and combined with Roughan in setting up Adelakum to tap home Lincoln’s second and ultimately winning goal. Lincoln were already home and dry by the time Jack Vale’s luckily deflected pass sent Roughan through to complete what was, scoreline apart, an embarrassing rout.
On the back of a five-game unbeaten sequence, this defeat would normally be treated as inevitable and as no reason to panic. Losing goes with the territory and the eleven points won since Appleton took over have already re-energised Charlton’s drab season. But the boss plainly sensed, indeed saw, an ominous lack of backbone in what might be argued his strongest team. Even while in front, they were easy meat for one of League One’s more modest sides. There’s an immediate opportunity to put things right on Saturday when Blackpool visit us but… let’s put it this way, the bookies won’t be besieged by punters anxious to lump on Charlton, even at the inviting odds anticipated. This one sort of knocked the stuffing out of both manager and fans. But there you go… see you at The Valley. No sense, no feeling, didn’t get where I am today with either of those bringing me down.
Lincoln: Jensen, Mitchell, Jackson, O’Connor, Burroughs, Hamilton, Erhahon, Roughan, Sorensen (Eyoma 89), Adelakun (Vale 72), Smith (Duffy 79). Not used: Wright, Brown, Makama, Shodipo.
Charlton: Maynard-Brewer, Asiimwe, Hector, Jones, Thosmas, Dobson, Fraser (L.Watson 74), T. Campbell (C.Campbell 74), May, Blackett-Taylor (Tedic 84), Leaburn (Camara 61). Not used: Walker, Ness, T.Watson.
Referee: Daniel Middleton. Att: 7,314 (600 visiting).