Pratley is Mr Reliable
Pratley is Mr Reliable

Darren Pratley is one of football’s unsung heroes. At 35-years-old, he still covers the miles in midfield, does the ugly things well, and weighs in with the odd goal.

Come the end of the season, the strike he notched against QPR on Saturday could prove to be vital.

Pratley met Josh Cullen’s righ-wing corner perfectly, and though the keeper got a hand to his header, it had too much power and ended up in the back of the net.

Pratley‎ said this about his teammates’ attitude:

“Everyone has come back with the bit between their teeth. It was another dogged performance where we managed to win with a set-piece but, to be honest, I’m not really bothered about how well we played. There’s no point playing well if you don’t get the points.

“It was another clean sheet for the boys. Dills (Dillon Phillips) made a brilliant save again at the end and it’s another three points in the bank that can get us out of this relegation battle.

“I thought we defended well. We changed our shape a little bit, played a 4-4-2. The two boys up front (Macauley Bonne and Tomer Hemed) have been brilliant for us.”

Pratley reserved special praise for Dillon Phillips, who he considers to be the best keeper in the Championship:

“The subs coming on as well made a massive difference. Everyone is fit at the moment, everyone is hungry wanting to play the games.”

“QPR are going to have chances, they’re a good team, they’ve got good players who can hurt you. 

“Luckily, we’ve probably got, in my opinion, the best goalkeeper in the Championship. He had nothing all game and then he makes a save like that. Credit to Dillon for keeping focused and keeping the ball out of the net and getting us the points.”‎ 

Pratley commented on the vital role subs play, especially when a game is played in heatwave conditions.

The game is – temporarily – a little different at the moment. Teams can make up to five changes, but these must still take place in just three windows.

Also, the game is further punctuated by a drinks break midway through each half. These changes interupt the flow of the game, and make it difficult for ‎a team to build momentum.

Handling the interuptions, and fitness, are key components to winning the game.

Set pieces are still massively important though. The Addicks have won both their comeback games thanks to goals scored from corners.

Pratley revealed the masterminds behind the team’s set piece routines:

“We worked on it all week, we know in a lot of the games, set-pieces have been the ones where the goals have won the games.

“We knew that was a big factor for us to go and get the points. We looked at QPR this week and worked out how they defend.

“You’ve got to get the delivery right and the runs right and we managed to do that.

“It was a good ball by Cullen and I managed to get on the end of it. If I didn’t get on the end of it maybe Tom Lockyer would have. 

“Fair play to Johnnie Jackson and Andy Marshall who do the set-pieces, we’ve got two clean-sheets and two goals from it.”

Neat, tidy, reliable and unfussy, Pratley is a consumate professional whose experience will be hugely important in the next few weeks.