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  • Writer's pictureBy Dan Evans

“I want to build something here”: Lincoln draw offers hope that Nathan Jones can construct his own Charlton empire

Charlton Athletic (0) 1 Ladapo 72’

Lincoln City (1) 1 Hackett 37’

Nathan Jones secured his first point as Charlton manager as a moment of quality from recent signing Freddie Ladapo rewarded an energetic second half showing on the pitch and in the dugout.


Ladapo stepped off the bench to net a well-taken first goal for the club as Charlton’s winless run stretched to 16, but they did at least move a point clear of the League One relegation zone.


In truth, for long periods there was little to distinguish the home bow of Charlton’s latest boss from what has come before, as a performance lacking fluency looked set to result in defeat when former Addick Reeco Hackett lashed beyond Harry Isted in the first half.


However, the appointment of Jones has had a clear and undeniable impact on the mood at the Valley, and there were early signs that his forceful personality could be what is required to get Charlton out of the mess they find themselves in.


“It’s only the start, only a point, but I saw a lot tonight that I’m pleased with,” assessed the Welshman. “This won’t just change overnight. We will turn into the team that we want to be, but that depends on everyone getting behind everything.”


There have been none of the awkward soundbites or out of place intensity that undermined his 95-day spell at Southampton so far. Having to wait a year and drop two divisions to take his next job would suggest Jones’ abrasiveness in the Premier League put off potential suitors.


A return to the Championship would surely not have been beyond him but, given the haste with which he was discarded on the south coast, maybe he felt he could only return somewhere he would feel truly needed.


Jones’ success at Luton is undeniable, yet on the two occasions he decided to step away from a club that was near-enough built in his image to take on a challenge higher in the league pyramid with a more diffuse power structures to match, he has struggled.


Charlton are in a desperate state. Players keep being brought in and managers continue to change but neither has done much to help them move closer to a return to the Championship. This most miserable of seasons has made an unthinkable relegation a remote possibility.


A weekend defeat at Reading in Jones’ first game meant Charlton were above the relegation zone on goal difference alone at the start of this one, and there was little in their first half showing to suggest they should be much further up the table.


There were no signs that Charlton would soon be “one of the most aggressive sides out of possession, pound for pound” as Jones had once claimed of his Luton team. He has instead called for a focus on getting the basics right and allowing a group of players that is both expensively assembled and talented to gently find its feet once more.


Lincoln arrived at the Valley unbeaten in their last five, but there was little between them and their out of sorts hosts. The sides only mustered two shots on target between them in the first 45 minutes, but one was all that was needed for Hackett to lash beyond Isted at his near post after a ball into the box was not adequately cleared.


Jones on the touchline was undeniably the main event. He may well have to put the entire club on his shoulders to carry it clear of League Two. There was nothing vicious or overly aggressive about the enthusiasm he showed on his Valley debut. Misplaced passes were clapped, and the former Charlton academy coach even stepped on to the pitch at times in what looked an attempt to lift those under his charge.


“They’re going to get it whether they want it or not, that’s what we do,” he said of the exuberance he brought to the touchline before opening up for an unexpected moment of self-reflection.


“I’ve had a year out where I’ve rested, recuperated, paddle-boarded – had a great life; sipped wine at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I’m ready now to come back in. Every day the club is going to get that energy to drive something forward. I work long hours and I want to achieve something here; I want to build something here.


“I believe this club is a special football club. It’s lost its way a little bit for whatever reason but the fanbase has stayed. There are good people throughout who just need that guidance and, God-willing, I can drive something, and everyone can buy into it.”


But Charlton lacked familiarity throughout this encounter. Jones had made four changes from the side that had lost at Reading, having made three alterations to the team that had started Curtis Fleming’s final game as caretaker boss for that one.


An underlying theme of Charlton’s recent disappointment seems to be that the more players they sign, the more confused team selection and the performances that follow become. Conor Coventry was brought in for a significant fee on an three-and-a-half year contract just four weeks ago but did not make the matchday squad against Lincoln.


One of Jones’ more surprising switches had been to leave January signing Ladapo on the bench in favour of academy graduate Daniel Kanu. Within a minute of taking the field in the second half, the 31-year-old had shown why he is among the latest of Charlton’s costly recruits.


After fellow substitute Chuks Aneke had made the ball stick in the Lincoln half, the striker took a touch to create the angle for a strike from the edge of the box and then executed it perfectly.


For all Charlton seem to lack familiarity and belief, the quality among their squad is hard to deny. How successful Jones is in convincing them of his motivational methods will surely make all of the difference in avoiding relegation this season and achieving something more in line with the club’s true ambition in the long-term.


Even if this team’s quality on the pitch is yet to match their new manager’s grand plans for them, it already seems that Jones has found a project he can rehabilitate and in turn mend his own reputation. The reception he was afforded as he made his way down the Valley tunnel at full-time suggested he already has a more than willing audience to work with.


Charlton: (3-4-1-2) Isted – Edmonds-Green, Jones, Thomas – Ramsay (Edun 81), Bakinson (Camara 71), Dobson, T Watson – Anderson – Kanu (Ladapo 71), May (Aneke 64). Subs not used: Maynard-Brewer, Campbell, Gillesphey


Lincoln: (4-4-2) Jensen – Sorenson, Mitchell, O’Connor, Roughan – Mandroiu (Duffy 90), Bishop (Moylan 57), Erhahon, Hackett – Draper (House 57), Taylor (Makama 90). Subs not used: Wright, Eyoma


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