“Sack him now or we’re going down,” chanted the home fans at The Valley, comfortably outnumbered by empty seats, and at full-time Appleton headed straight down the tunnel to a chorus of boos while many of his players remained on the pitch to applaud what was left of the crowd.
Supporters were underwhelmed by Appleton from the off and he did little to empathise with the fanbase, in stark contrast to his popular predecessor Dean Holden.
He often dismissed supporters’ concerns about his decisions - including playing Alfie May, the joint-top scorer in League One, out wide - and soon became a pantomime villain, his dispassionate demeanour on the touchline and stock phrases to the media only increasing the disconnect.
Although his dismissal came to feel inevitable, the circumstances of his exit are jarring.
News of his impending sacking was leaked at the weekend after he was jeered by the away end in the defeat at Burton, and the club announced he had gone in a 38-word statement, released just 28 minutes after the full-time whistle on Tuesday.
There has since been a fuller message on behalf of the ‘board of directors’, saying the Addicks’ League position “does not match the ambition and investment of the club’s owners” and confirming a search for a new manager is under way, with Curtis Fleming in interim charge.
Fans remain in the dark, however, over who exactly is calling the shots. Nominally, technical director Andy Scott, who sits on the club’s five-man board of directors, has the final say on football decisions, but it is not clear how much influence Charlton’s seven co-owners - collectively known as Global Football Partners (GFP) - have on day-to-day decisions.
Charlie Methven - formerly co-owner of Sunderland, who caught the eye on the Netlfix documentary Sunderland ’Til I Die - is among Charlton’s seven shareholders and was caught on camera through the glass-fronted boardroom talking animatedly after Tuesday’s defeat.
The official line is that Methven is a conduit between club and ownership and has no say on day-to-day decisions, although many fans suspect he is the power behind the throne.
Whatever the case, the vibe is of a disparate ownership structure, in which no one is willing or able to take direct responsibility for big decisions. The sense of disconnect between supporters and club is therefore bigger than Appleton and will not necessarily be fixed by his departure.
"The sense of disconnect between supporters and club is bigger than Appleton and will not necessarily be fixed by his departure"
On the plus side, the new owners have strengthened the squad with seven new signings this month, energising fans, and the club is hopeful of more additions before next week’s deadline.
Their biggest signing will be crucial; GFP only took charge of the club in June, but already they are searching for a third permanent manager.
With Charlton just four points clear of the relegation zone and four of their next six games against clubs in the top eight, the margin for error is small.