Charlton Athletic manager Lee Bowyer says that Darren Pratley has earned his chance to continue his run of starts at centre back for the Addicks in recent weeks.
With Akin Famewo, Deji Oshilaja and Ryan Inniss all absent in recent weeks, central midfielder Pratley has dropped back into a role at the heart of the Charlton defence in the absence of the trio.
Oshilaja has now returned to contention, but has been forced to settle for a place on the bench for the past three games despite offering the Addicks a more natural option in the centre of defence, with Pratley so far retaining that place.
Explaining the reasons for keeping Pratley in that position after his side’s 2-2 draw with Plymouth Argyle on Boxing Day, Bowyer told London News Online: “Darren has been excellent for us playing there. Last weekend [at Swindon], he was probably one of our top two players.
“You can’t then change it if he was one of your best players. He’s played there a few times now, it’s not like the first time. Last season he played there a few times as well as a third centre-half.”
Indeed, it seems Bowyer’s confidence is growing in the 35-year-old in that position, as he went on to add: “His experience gets him through it, he’s a lot more comfortable on the ball as he steps in now. I think Darren is doing a good job for us there filling in.”
So far this season, Pratley – whose contract expires in the summer – has featured in all 18 of Charlton’s league games, scoring once in that time.
This does feel like an interesting one for Bowyer and Charlton to consider.
As the Charlton boss says, it is hard to justify dropping a player if he is going through a decent run of form, as he feels Pratley is.
However, with the games coming thick and fast, you do wonder if Charlton could be forced to rotate in that position sooner rather than later.
Even so, having someone with Pratley’s versatility to call upon is an asset for any club, and you wonder what sort of an impact that could have on the 35-year-old’s future at The Valley beyond the end of the current campaign.