It’s crunch time in south east London, the Addicks are running out of games to save their Championship status, and Tuesday represents a great opportunity to ease relegation fears.
Yeovil Town are the visitors to The Valley under the lights, and the contest is a vital one as both teams are fighting for their lives at the foot of the table.
The Glovers find themselves at the bottom of the division in 24th place, whilst Jose Riga’s side sit in 21st place – just two points above the drop zone.
It really is a six pointer.
In their last six matches, Riga’s men have alternately won and lost. A 1-0 home victory over Bournemouth was followed by two impressive away wins at Nottingham Forest and Leeds respectively – both by the same score line.
In between these victories, the Addicks have been defeated by Burnley, Derby and Reading – and in all of those matches they’ve failed to score a goal.
However, the three losses have come against teams who all find themselves in the top six of the division – no great disgrace.
The bones that have been picked from the defeats is the side’s inability to create chances and provide a cutting edge in the final third – a worrying sign given the amount of strikers Charlton have on their books at the time of writing.
Yeovil’s last six games have yielded six points – a healthy return from a tough set of fixtures.
Creditable away draws at Wigan and Leicester, along with a hard fought point at home to Bolton secured three vital points for the Glovers in their fight for survival.
In both the Wigan and Leicester games, the result was decided in injury time, demonstrating Yeovil’s never say die attitude – given the Addicks recent reputation for last gasp action, fans may not want to be leaving The Valley early on Tuesday evening.
On Saturday, Yeovil were 2-1 winners at fellow relegation strugglers Blackpool as goals from James Hayter and Tom Lawrence sealed a fantastic win for Gary Johnson’s men.
Jose Riga made two changes to the side that won at Leeds on Tuesday for the visit of Reading on Saturday.
Callum Harriott and Simon Church were brought into the side, leaving Reza Ghoochannejhad on the bench, and Joe Piggott missing out altogether.
The must win nature of the game means that I’d hazard a guess that we’ll line up as follows on Tuesday evening:
Wilson Morrison Dervite Wiggins
Poyet Cousins Jackson
Obika Sordell Reza
Martin Baker from ‘Ciderspace’ – @ytfcciderspace on Twitter, gave me his thoughts on The Glovers chances on Tuesday, his opinion on his side’s recent fortunes, and how he thinks Yeovil will line up:
1. With six games to play you find yourselves bottom of the division. However you’ve only lost once in the last five, and have drawn away to both Leicester and Wigan, is Gary Johnson the man to keep you up?
I don’t think anyone has seriously contemplated changing managers as a solution. Gary Johnson has given us three promotions across two spells with the club, as well as the FA Trophy during our non-league days, and so his success rate at the club is entirely unprecedented in our club’s history. We’ve got undoubtedly the smallest playing budget in the Championship, and so the fact that we’re 40 games into the season and are still with a chance of staying up is of great credit to Gary and the coaching staff. If anything, we’ve been gradually improving during the second half of the season – our problem has been our slow start to the season when we only had nine points going into the last week in November. Since then we’ve been playing catch-up.
2. Before the weekend’s victory at Blackpool you suffered what must have been a crushing defeat at home to relegation rivals Barnsley, what went wrong that day?
It’s very hard to say. I can only think that the game had a little bit too much build-up and that we froze a little bit. We had played really well in our preceding fixtures against Leicester City and Wigan Athletic, and so the feeling was that if we could take that form into the Barnsley game that we would get the win against a ‘lesser’ side. Perhaps we misjudged the fact that Barnsley were going to be fighting for their own Championship status just as hard as ourselves and didn’t go into the game in the right way. In the end, some of our usually reliable players made individual errors which led to goals – Barnsley capitalised well on our mistakes.
3. The weekend’s Blackpool victory was your first since 8th March versus Sheffield Wednesday – what wasn’t working, why weren’t you winning matches?
Apart from the Barnsley defeat, it wasn’t that things weren’t working – it largely came down to the standard of the opposition we played between those two games. Ipswich Town were on the edge of the play-offs when we played them, whilst Wigan Athletic, Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City are all top six sides. So it was more of a quirk of the fixture list, than any loss of form. The top six in the Championship seem to be a class above the rest, and you can see that by the current Championship league table. The division seems to have split into roughly three groups, which means that when a team in the bottom group plays one of the teams in the top group, it is very difficult for them to compete with those clubs.
4. James Hayter scored from the spot on Saturday and earned great praise from your manager afterwards, is he someone the Charlton defence should look out for?
Yes, he’s got a very cool head, and it helps us in that he is one of the few players in our side who has genuine Championship experience, through his time with Doncaster Rovers. It’s his 35th birthday the day after our meeting at The Valley, and so his time in the side has been rationed a little bit during this season, particularly when we’ve been playing two games a week, but he’s a typical ‘old pro’ – his experience and professionalism can win sides matches at a time when younger more inexperience players can go into their shells a bit. We’ve got a very young side overall, and so in this sort of pressurising situation, people like James will be key.
5. Ishmael Miller has returned to Nottingham Forest, there’s no doubt that severely hampers your chance of survival. What did he bring to the side?
Ishmael brought us goals. Despite what’s happened at the end of his loan spell with us, we should be grateful for him giving us ten goals in twenty appearances. If we do stay up, he’ll have played a big part in that happening. That said, he was at times a frustrating player to watch, in that he didn’t always have a particularly high workrate. I personally shrugged that off with the view that ‘he scores goals’ but other fans saw him as ‘lazy’. It seems as though our manager Gary Johnson had similar reservations. He will be a big loss for us, but Gary places a big emphasis upon team bonding and team spirit, and he no doubt sees the team as being more important than the individual.
6. And finally, are there any other key players Addicks fans should be wary of? And what’s your score prediction?
We’re getting to the point of the season where Yeovil Town supporters are being asked to cast their Player of the Season votes, and this season I think it will be a tight one. This year, I think it’s going to be the engine room of the side that will probably lift the main trophies, rather than the flair players that usually grab the headlines. We have two excellent centre-backs with Byron Webster our vice captain, and Everton loanee Shane Duffy, whilst Joe Edwards has been Mr Consistent in the centre of midfield. All three work very hard for the team, and they would be my top three for this year – but don’t ask me in which order yet!
Finally, my predicted line-up for the big match at The Valley. This is probably the easiest question to answer because we played so well up at Blackpool. In that situation, I cannot see us meddling too much with our stating eleven at all. The one question mark is that our first choice goalkeeper Marek Stech didn’t make it up to Blackpool due to illness. Hopefully he’ll be fully fit for Tuesday night and at least be in the squad. At that point Gary has a bit of a dilemma – does he recall his first choice keeper, or does he stick with Chris Dunn who has been excellent in the games that he’s played as a deputy?
I’ll go with Stech, but unless we’ve picked up any injuries up at Bloomfield Road, I really can’t see anything else changing. As for the substitutes, the only senior player who was left out of Saturday’s squad was striker Adam Morgan – if anyone has a fitness problem, he’ll be the one who will be drafted onto the bench:
1. Marek Stech
2. Luke Ayling 5. Byron Webster 15. Shane Duffy 3. Jamie McAllister (Captain)
23. Joel Grant 4. Joe Edwards 19. Joe Ralls 21. Liam Davis
9. James Hayter 11. Tom Lawrence
24. Chris Dunn 7. Kevin Dawson 8. Ruben Palazuelos 13. Kieffer Moore 14. Sam Hoskins 18. Matteo Lanzoni 26. Seth Nana Ofori-Twumasi
Yeovil have turned a corner of late, and Gary Johnson has them playing with confidence and belief.
Charlton’s home form is still a major concern for all connected with the Addicks, and home games just don’t fill me with confidence, no matter who the opponent is.
I’m ever the optimist, but I’m predicting that the Glovers will hold us to a draw on Tuesday.
Charlton 1-1 Yeovil Town
By Alex Stedman