Johnnie Jackson has defended Jonathan Leko’s display in Charlton’s 4-0 loss to Oxford United on Saturday.
Injuries to Jayden Stockley, Conor Washington and Chuks Aneke saw the Birmingham loanee, normally more comfortable in a wide role, in an advanced central position with Elliot Lee and Alex Gilbey stationed just behind.
But Leko had the fewest touches of any starting player – just 11 – with only three of those coming after the break. Mason Burstow, introduced at the start of the second half, had 21.
Charlton switched to a back four as they already trailed to two Matty Taylor strikes. But Leko was the player to make way after Sean Clare was dismissed in the 62nd minute.
Asked about Leko, Jackson said: “What he did do, and he might not have been involved as much, is he did occupy their centre-backs to get our two 10s on the ball in the first half an hour. He opened up some space for some people and he made some good runs that we didn’t quite find.
“It is a difficult role when you’re on your own up there. Then going behind, we lost our dominance in the game.
“When you have a sending off then you have to bring off one to bring a defender on. So I don’t think it was necessarily his fault.
“We were chasing the game and thought getting two strikers on would be proactive from two down. But the third goal killed the game.”
Tyreece Campbell, who has been on the club’s books since U9 level, made his senior debut in the 88th minute.
It follows 17-year-old striker Daniel Kanu coming on in the 2-1 defeat at Wigan in the fixture before.
“The two debuts for the young lads have come a lot sooner than any of us expected,” said Jackson. “In the forward areas we are depleted and it’s something we had to look at.
“Tyreece is another really bright young player who we think a lot of. He was a different option to have on the bench – a winger-type – to bring on.
“Dan came on at Wigan and struggled to get into it, through no fault of his own. I hoped Tyreece would get on the pitch in different circumstances. I looked at it in the 80th minute, I was pretty sure we were not going to get back into the game – so at least give the kid a debut and a day he remembers – even though the rest of us want to forget it.”
PICTURES: PAUL EDWARDS