VERDICT: Charlton 0 Fleetwood Town 0

As crisps littered the pitch at the Valley, Town were left ruing that lack of a little bit of bite in the box.

Monday, 27th August 2018, 7:39 am
Updated Monday, 27th August 2018, 8:06 am
Crisps on the pitch at the Valley

As crisps littered the pitch at the Valley, Town were left ruing that lack of a little bit of bite in the box.

In a week that saw them smash five past Scunthorpe, fireworks were expected once again at Charlton.

But that was to come from the stands, crisps stopping playing as they were scattered like confetti from the protesting home faithful.

They wanted to make their feelings about their owner known – just a shame there were to be no crisp touches to bring either side a goal.

On Wednesday we witnessed a 20-minute spell of Town’s blistering attack, but here we saw a different move in the chess game Joey Barton talks about that is the 46-game season.

Despite the off-the-pitch shenanigans, this is a Charlton side littered with talent and one will once again be up there.

Lyle Taylor was a thorn in Fleetwood’s side from the off but the last two games really have been a case for the defence.

Ash Eastham’s 100th game and a clean sheet on Wednesday was overshadowed by that first-half attack.

But Saturday’s game really was a showcase for Eastham and company.

Yes, Taylor had chances but most of the time he and his team-mates were limited to efforts from outside the box.

That was testament to Town’s ability but they certainly were asked questions by Taylor, the forward drilling the ball down Alex Cairns’ throat and nearly forcing Craig Morgan into an own goal.

One of the big changes from last season is that Town are starting to fully clear their lines.

That starts from the front and then the counter comes into play, though it does require patience.

The 80-strong travelling Cod Army who had to battle motorways and a lack of rail routes had to wait until the 34th minute for Town to show that Scunthorpe bite.

Ched Evans was the man who sent the ball past the post after good work by wing wizard Wes Burns.

The patience could be seen in Fleetwood’s biggest chance of the first half. Evans won the ball on the edge of his own box, slid it to Dean Marney and then the runners go.

His fellow midfielder Jason Holt steamed over to the left and showed his Premier League pedigree with a defence-splitting pass that found Holt.

He combined with Ash Hunter and new left-back James Husband, who pulled the ball back for Burns.

Wednesday was Burns night but this time defender Patrick Bauer had other ideas, stopping his effort on the line.

That shows just what Town have at their disposal but a clinical touch is needed.

A goal just before the break would have swelled the feeling of discontent already rumbling round the Valley.

This game was all about Ash Eastham. Harshly omitted from the squad on the opening day, he has come back with a bang.

The centre-half was at his sharpest to thwart Karlan Grant as he cleared an effort off the line.

Fleetwood’s Mr Consistent was back to save the day but despite a clean sheet and strong display there are still creases to be ironed out. The gap at times between midfield and defence is too great

For the first time Barton had named an unchanged side – nobody deserved to lose their shirt after Wednesday.

But as the half wore on Town started to tire. For me an earlier substitution would have helped.

Charlton sensed this just after the hour mark and pushed on.

Town were greatful for the offside flag when Grant netted – Charlton hampered by a lack of clinicality too.

Darren Pratley blasted over and Aribo will be left kicking himself at not scoring.

The lively Chris Solly got in on the right and fed him in the box but Aribo rifled wide.

Husband has slotted in at left-back like he has been here all summer but that chance showed that work can still be done to shore up that flank. Aribo should have tested Cairns at least but it was not all one-way traffic.

Hunter has only scored one headed goal – in a 2-2 draw with Sheffield United back in 2016 – but he nearly added another, pouncing on Paddy Madden’s cross only to be thwarted by a good Phillips save.

Fleetwood’s ability on the counter is undisputed but Madden will be kicking himself for his choice in the dying embers.

He led a four-on-one breakaway, but instead of releasing Burns to run clean through on the left he went for the glory, his strike deflected wide. It was the wrong choice.

But as Barton has said time and time again: you win or you learn.

Town need to be more ruthless and make right decisions in the final third.

How ironic to be writing that after Wednesday’s five-star show.

The big plus from this is how Town’s defence handled Taylor. And a cup game tomorrow should give forwards like Conor McAleny, Bobby Grant and Chris Long a chance to show why they should be getting more minutes.

Given his recent back issues, Evans could have been brought off earlier and I’d have liked to have seen a bandaged Dempsey thrown in to add more ingenuity in the middle.

But Fleetwood have taken four points from two of last term’s play-off contenders in four days, scoring five and conceding none.

If all I can find to moan about are a few bad decisions in the final third and the substitutions, then this could be one hell of a season.