SOUTH LONDON rivals Charlton and Millwall do battle with different aspirations in mind and EFL connoisseur Gab Sutton (@_FootbalLab) previews the action.
Charlton vs Millwall | Friday 3rd July 2020, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Not only did Millwall beat Charlton 2-1 at The Den in November thanks to an injury-time winner from Matt Smith, they have a notoriously strong historical record against their South London neighbours: they have not been beaten by them since 1996.
Charlton boss Lee Bowyer is already popular with natives, but he would be even more so if he can end the club’s 24-year hoodoo against the Lions.
A 19-year-old Bowyer scored in their last victory – so can the former midfielder be a lucky omen?
Addicks picking up
Charlton nullified Cardiff in midweek with a disciplined display in a 0-0 draw. They restricted the play-off candidates to few chances and while goalkeeper Dillon Phillips has often been the saviour this season, he had to face just one shot on target in the Welsh capital.
Tom Lockyer, Jason Pearce and Naby Sarr were imperious at the back while George Lapslie, a midfielder by trade, was a revelation as a right wing-back.
Bowyer’s decision to go with wing-backs was a pragmatic call based on the absence of conventional right-back Adam Matthews and Deji Oshilaja’s fatigue, but it worked a treat and brought the best out of left-sider Alfie Doughty, who possesses obvious dribbling ability.
Josh Cullen, meanwhile, continued his promising form in midfield in a workmanlike display, which gave the Addicks seven points from the first three games of project restart.
The point at Cardiff follows up back-to-back 1-0 wins over Hull and QPR, which means the Londoners have not conceded since the resumption, highlighting excellent fitness and organisation.
Dropped points for the Lions
Millwall also drew on Tuesday, like Charlton, but they will be more disappointed by the outcome. The Lions pressed well in their 1-1 draw with Swansea, especially in a first half in which they were by far the more prominent side.
The attacking combination of Jed Wallace, Tom Bradshaw and Mason Bennett posed a huge threat in transition, before the latter was forced off at the interval.
Plus, while Gary Rowett has gained a reputation for being a conservative manager, he took a risk in midweek in foregoing terrier Jayson Molumby to pair two technical central midfielders in Ryan Woods and Shaun Williams.
That combination helped Millwall use the ball far better than they did in the preceding 0-0 draw at Barnsley – and it was only a 10-minute second half drop in standards, combined with a sublime free-kick, that denied them all three points.
The tactics board
Although Rowett has by no means given up on the Play-Offs, he is openly keen to rotate and experiment in the final six games so that he can learn key lessons about his group, which will help him get a clearer idea of transfer requirements.
Rowett is likely to bring Molumby in for Williams and perhaps shuffle the pack further by handing opportunities to the likes of defensive leader Alex Pearce, wide man Connor Mahoney and target man Matt Smith.
Ben Thompson could gain an extended run-out – the attacking midfielder looked bright in his cameo in the 0-0 draw at Barnsley and could become an asset once he has more minutes under his belt.
With some of the Millwall team likely to be short on sharpness, though, they could suffer an off-day against a Charlton side scrapping for safety with bullish determination.
Plus, while the Addicks did not have an attacking focal point at Cardiff last time out, Lee Bowyer can now call upon Tomer Hemed.
The Israeli front-man is likely to help the hosts compete physically against potentially three centre-backs to bring into play creative forward Chuks Aneke, who has taken some time to win Bowyer’s approval but earnt the manager’s praise in the week.
Macauley Bonne and Andre Green are full of running and will pose a threat, too, either from the start or off the bench.
The betting angle
In project restart, top half teams have taken 51 points from a combined 36 games, giving them 1.42 points per game. Bottom half teams, meanwhile, mustered 43 points from 34, 1.26 PPG, which means that top half sides have collectively been performing just 12.7% better than bottom half sides.
On top of that, the bottom three teams going into lockdown – Charlton, Barnsley and Luton – have each since accrued more points than each of the top three – Leeds, West Brom and Fulham.
On that basis, it is difficult to say with any confidence that the higher placed team in any match will have the upper-hand.
The value, therefore, may be to back the outsiders and considering what Charlton have at steak, the 11/4 on the home win looks generous value.
Charlton vs Millwall – Charlton to win (11/4 William Hill)