Preston North End boss Alex Neil impressed by Lee Bowyer’s Charlton Athletic side

Charlton's Josh Cullen (centre) after scoring a last-gasp penalty to earn a point at WBA last Saturday
Charlton's Josh Cullen (centre) after scoring a last-gasp penalty to earn a point at WBA last Saturday

Clubs in the upper reaches of the Championship have found Charlton a tough nut to crack this season and Preston boss Alex Neil is not surprised.

The Addicks beat Leeds a month ago, while they’ve drawn with West Bromwich Albion, Nottingham Forest and Fulham.

North End venture to The Valley on Sunday to take on Lee Bowyer’s men, with Neil well aware of the ‘competitive’ opponents awaiting them.

Neil said: “Charlton have been a real thorn in a lot of teams’ sides this season.

“They have played a lot of the big guns and acquitted themselves really well.

“I’ve watched the games back against Fulham and West Bromwich and you can see from those that they are a competitive team who work very hard.

“Their set-up without the ball has been very good, they are probably as dangerous when you have the ball as they are with it.

“They don’t seem to need a lot of possession to be a threat.

“These stats that people fling out about expected goals and how many crosses you put in, don’t make a difference.

“It is what the scoreline is that counts and Charlton are typifying that.”

Charlton came up from League One via the play-offs in May, beating Sunderland 2-1 in the final.

They then almost lost the services of Bowyer, who had guided them there, he and the club initially unable to agree a new contract.

But within a few hours of it being announced Bowyer was leaving, there was a U-turn and the Addicks boss signed a new deal.

The South London outfit are in ninth spot in the table, the best performing of the three promoted clubs by some distance.

Neil said: “When you come up a league, no matter where that is, the aim to start with is to stay in that league.

“You aim to consolidate, be competitive, then you can build your squad and team, improve the club.

“I would think that is the remit at Charlton and they are doing very well.”

Charlton’s good start has been achieved despite a long injury list.

Striker Lyle Taylor has not played since the end of August, while experienced midfielder Jonny Williams is currently sidelined.

Macauley Boone has taken up the scoring mantle in the absence of Taylor, scoring five goals in his last six games.

Boone was signed in the summer after helping Leyton Orient win promotion from the National League.

Former North End loanee Chuks Aneke was a summer arrival at The Valley.

The striker was signed on a Bosman from MK Dons and has in the main been used from the bench by Bowyer.

Preston had Aneke on loan from Arsenal in 2012 when Graham Westley was in charge.

Last week, Charlton drew 2-2 at WBA.

They left it late to get a point, Josh Cullen scoring from the penalty spot in the last minute. Boone had scored earlier in the second half.