On Saturday we face a Charlton Athletic team on a decent run of form, writes Tom Morton.
A few weeks ago I wrote about our run of away games against teams fighting to stay out of the drop zone. At the time, Charlton were very much one of those teams. Since mid-March, though, they’ve had a nice little run of games (the sort we really need to be honest) which has taken them out of the sharp end and in a position to threaten a mid-table finish.
Those wins came against Doncaster, Burton, and Gillingham. Admittedly that includes two of the worst teams in the league this season, but it shows they have worked out how to take full marks from the lower half of the league. Something we haven’t done. On top of this their home form seems to be pretty good for their position. The Addicks have won nearly half of their home fixtures this season (in contrast we’ve only managed a quarter) and have scored in 70% of them.
One thing is certain, Charlton will line up 3-5-2. Often it’s a bit of a guessing game working out what formation a team might deploy against us, but manager Johnnie Jackson knows what he likes, and he likes 3-5-2. Jackson has also named the same starting eleven for their three latest wins. So I’d feel pretty confident about who we will see on the pitch at The Valley on saturday.
I may be being over-confident, but really the Addicks are not that outstanding. Watching clips they are certainly a team that can play football. But, similar to our own struggles, have trouble finishing the final ball. It’s worth watching the highlights of their 1-0 win over Doncaster, aside from the goal there are three misses (including a dire penalty) that wouldn’t look out of place in some of our season lows. I think we can expect to see them trying to find space in the box to get a shot away (or fizz a low cross) and so it will be a test of our latest star Wright’s form in goal.
As with all 3-5-2 formations, Charlton leave a lot of space on the edge of the box. Their three centre-backs play a lot more loosely than some we’ve seen which creates lots of gaps. The sort of gap to tempt the likes of Scully, Whittaker or even Maguire into a shot.
As far as I can tell, Charlton have very few injury worries going into the game and so can deploy their key strike partnership of Jayden Stockley and Connor Washington. The pair are worth nineteen goals this season and from clips clearly work well together (possibly in a way we’ve yet to see Hopper and Marquis click). Stockley in particular comes across as an out-and-out striker with a high work-rate. Another to watch is winger Corey Blackett-Taylor. He has some real pace and is going to be the person supplying Stockley and Washington. It feels from clips and reports that his season has struggled, following some injuries, to get started but he is coming into form at just the right time.
We took full honours in the home fixture; you might remember it was a late Poole header to win it. Prior to that, we faced Charlton in the 20/21 season where we took it in turns to win our home fixtures. Of course, the Addicks are another team who have spent a lot of time in the higher leagues. So it’s been some time since we’ve faced each other regularly in the league (again you have to head back to the 60s). After exiting the Premier League in 2007, Charlton quickly slipped down to League One and have generally hovered in the top half of the table (with a flit back into the Championship for a couple of seasons). This is about the worst season Charlton has faced for a long time so I imagine their fans will be relieved to be back mid-table.
Overall, though, Charlton don’t feel like a team radically out of our league. They’ve gotten the decent run of wins that we all need at this point in the season, which takes them to safety, but they feel very beatable.