Charlton entered this fixture full of confidence and high hopes after an impressive victory and battle against Bolton Wanderers. A team to be fielded against Fleetwood which were part of that impressive Bolton performance, but with Ricky Holmes starting and Lewis Page being unavailable due to the red card he picked up at the Macron.
Robinson instructing his team to retain possession, play from the back, passing movement to be direct. It was also evident that Robinson did not want his side to press down the wings like he usually does but instead in the final third, the wingers cutting inside to close down on the goal in a more narrow fashion.
Declan Rudd was challenged twice in the first half by Devante Cole, but our consistent shot-stopper saved both attempts with his legs in the first half. An attempt to head the ball in by Cian Bolger was also kept out by the Canaries’ loanee.
Ricky Holmes was the first to break the deadlock in the 37th minute. Jake Forster-Caskey continued to impress, the new signing worked himself into the far end of the penalty box, before directing a low pass across to Holmes, who tapped it into the back of the net from close range.
After the break in the 60th minute, the Cod Army looked like they were going to find an equaliser, Cole found space and was almost one on one with the keeper, before Rudd stepped up once again to propel the ball away.
Moments later the referee paused the game when Fleetwood had a throw-in for the fourth official to replace the assistant referee closest to the Jimmy Seed stand, I am still unaware for why there was a switch, the most likely reason being an injury. The swap took an extremely long time, as it seemed the fourth official was struggling to get his socks and football boots on.
Once the game continued there was one more clear-cut chance for Charlton, but Tony Watt missed a sitter in front of goal in the 77th minute, but would have been ruled offside even if it had found the back of the net.
In the final fifteen / twenty minutes of the game Charlton were struggling to hold on, Fleetwood continuing to knock on the door of goal, a team which is unbeaten in 12 and have the men up front to put balls in the back of the net.
Adam Chicksen was substituted off due to an illness and injury, being replaced by Skipper Johnnie Jackson who would continue to play in the left-back position. Ricky Holmes was substituted off to be replaced by Lee Novak who moved into the holding up-front position, Tony Watt dropping back onto the left wing. Our final substitution was moments later in the 84th minute, Jorge Teixeira replaced the impressive Forster-Caskey in the middle.
At this point we had five minutes left of normal time, 3 centre backs on the field, Johnnie Jackson playing as left back, and Tony Watt on the wing, several players playing out of their usual position in order to consolidate in front of goal. Meanwhile, Fleetwood continuing to apply pressure and look for an equaliser.
The clock approached 90 minutes, and the fourth official announced there would be a total of 10 minutes added time! An extension of time that many forgot would occur, including Robinson who ordered his side to go defensive and sit deep for over 15 minutes when you include the extra-time. As a result Fleetwood were now dominating in the final third and central midfield. A rather Slade-esque tactic if we are to be completely honest.
Eventually, in the 94th minute the inevitable occurred, and Bell equalised as a result of a Kyle Dempsey corner. To make matters worst, moments later, Nathan Byrne received a straight red card for a strong two-footed challenge.
The back five showed another strong performance, Konsa and Bauer showing an effective partnership, Chris Solly working hard as a full back, and Adam Chicksen slotting in to the left back position like he had never been away from playing in defence. Our Norwich City loanee making some important saves too.
The midfield worked hard, the likes of Ricky Holmes, Nathan Byrne and Jake Forster-Caskey making a strong three-man attacking combination.
However, the lone striker Tony Watt having somewhat of a lacklustre game, and is most definitely no Josh Magennis replacement. He had a few decent moments, from making some good runs and applying pressure, but showed no real danger for the Fleetwood keeper. A lack of match fitness and sharpness most likely having an affect on his possible contributions. Karl Robinson has confirmed that Josh Magennis will be back for AFC Wimbledon.
Social media kept making the point that Fleetwood Town are unbeaten in 12, but we were ahead for over ninety minutes, and our defeat largely comes down to the fact that Robinson made defensive substitutions far too early. A late questionable formation shift, which lead to the likes of Johnnie Jackson, Jorge Teixeira and Tony Watt playing far from their comfortable positions also having a direct impact on the result of the game.
We did not win one point against a side who sits fourth in Sky Bet League One, who are unbeaten in twelve. We lost and slipped two points due to a tactical ineptness and maybe slight panic from Karl Robinson in the closing stages of the game.
It is still worth noting that the men in red did not lack fight or determination, the back five putting their bodies on the line on several occasions. But unfortunately it simply was not enough, especially after Robinson asked some of his team to perform roles they are far from capable of completing.
In the first half, the Covered End and Charlton fans acted on their promise of tribute for Liam Meadows. A powerful round of applause in the 29th minute, and a proud bellowing of Valley Floyd Road to respect the late passing of the young Addick.
After the result today, Charlton have extended their unbeaten run to six, sitting six points away from a possible Wembley promotion, but still have one or two games in hand in comparison to the teams above them.
The dream is not dead yet, but one or two more draws, and the slipping of points like we did today in the final stages of the game, will see the dream of a Wembley promotion fade very quickly!