Inconsistency is rife in the Championship. Always has been. If it wants to keep its most competitive league in the world tag, it probably always will be.
It’s why no side really loses sleep over a defeat, or gets too carried away by a victory. Inconsistency has left the table tighter than Karl Oyston, Tony Jimenez and Roland Duchatelet when searching for a striker combined, even with 20 games played.
But inconsistency has affected Charlton in an unconventional way. Bob Peeters’ side have had periods where they’ve impressed in the majority of their fixtures this season, but consistency from minute to minute, rather than game to game, has meant the Addicks have stumbled somewhat.
And with Charlton frequently failing to turn their periods of dominance into goals, games that should have been won have ended in points being dropped in a rather frustrating manner.
So a game against the division’s bottom side, regardless of Blackpool’s victory over Birmingham last weekend, has probably come at the best of times for the Addicks. An opposition that will be less of a threat and provide weaker resistance may be what’s needed to click Charlton fully into gear and see Peeters’ side produce a 90 minute performance.
Nonetheless, that isn’t to say it’s a case of turn up and win for the Addicks. But it’s a game where victory could, and should, be achieved.
To suggest must win games exist in the middle of December is a nonsense. But if Charlton want to not only get over their inability to play for an entire match, and maintain a push for the play-offs, these are the sort of games they must win.
LAST MEETING: BLACKPOOL 0-3 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
In Charlton’s final game of an emotionally draining season, Callum Harriott’s impression of Lionel Messi provided a rare moment of enjoyment for Addicks.
The young winger, who had scored twice in the 3-1 win over Watford that confirmed Charlton’s Championship survival four days earlier, recorded a first career hat-trick as Jose Riga’s final game in charge ended in the most convincing victory of his reign.
Riga may have enjoyed his time in the away dugout, but that was about as good as it got at Bloomfield for the Belgian boss. His time in charge of the Tangerines not an enjoyable one.
Helpfully, the Tangerines have decided to find something resembling form just in time for their trip to The Valley.
Having replaced Riga following his rather unfair sacking, Lee Clark and his numerous recruits, most of which you had presumed retired, have picked up five points from their previous three games.
And while a win over Clark’s old club Birmingham, one he would have been desperately to achieve, and two draws with Bolton and Rotherham aren’t exactly ground-breaking results, there’s a suggestion that confidence is building.
For all the apparent positives that have been on show since the previous international break, two points from a possible nine isn’t exactly much reward for the Addicks.
The previously spoken about inconsistency is partially to blame, but so is an inability to take chances. Had the clear-cut opportunities been taken in the last three fixtures, Peeters’ side would certainly have a number of additional points to their name.
Nonetheless, those draws against Millwall and Nottingham Forest have prevented the Addicks from falling away from the top six too dramatically. Although they’re five places away in eleventh, the points’ gap is just three points.
It means that a win on Saturday, you would think, is vital.
Following Blackpool’s victory over Birmingham last weekend, Clark looks set to name an unchanged side, the first time the Tangerines, who have regularly had players arrive and depart since August, have done so all season.
That would mean a start for former Bolton winger Chris Eagles, who turned down a move to The Valley in March.
There could also be some involvement for recent signing Darren O’Dea, who may be on the bench for the first time since arriving at Bloomfield Road.
Charlton will be without influential skipper Johnnie Jackson after the midfielder picked up a calf injury in last weekend’s draw with Nottingham Forest.
It means the talismanic figure will miss a league game for the first time this season, and Chris Solly will take over leadership duties.
Jackson’s absence could also see a recall for Yoni Buyens, who has missed the previous two fixtures with a hamstring injury picked up against Millwall.
But Rhoys Wiggins and Stephen Henderson remain out injured, so Morgan Fox and the impressive Nick Pope will keep their places in the starting XI, while Franck Moussa is still a few weeks away from a return.
KEY BATTLE: WINNING THE MIDFIELD WAR WITHOUT THE CAPTAIN
There’s no question that, individually, Jordan Cousins and Francis Coquelin are excellent central midfielders. In fact, you could argue they have the potential to be complete players; their ability to break up play as good as their creative talents.
But in the second-half at the City Ground on Saturday, the pair struggled. It’s not that they were necessarily dominated, but Forest’s midfield were first to every ball and always seemed to have the space and time to pick out the next pass.
A part of the problem was that Coquelin was on a yellow card, and seemingly unwilling to commit to pressing his opponents as a result, but the absence of Jackson was the more obvious issue.
Criticised unfairly, and rather oddly, in some quarters, Jackson’s leadership and off-the-ball work, particularly his persistent pressing, is painfully missed when it’s not there. He does the unglamorous stuff, slogging it out each week for his side.
And despite Blackpool’s struggles this season, their new centre midfield duo of Jamie O’Hara and Stuart O’Keefe has, somewhat surprisingly, impressed.
Of course, the return of Yoni Buyens means he’s likely to start, but even he lacks the off-the-ball intelligence and determination that Jackson has.
Coping without the skipper won’t be as easy as some would like to believe.
If this fixture had taken place just a few weeks ago, I would have seen nothing but a routine victory for the Addicks.
However, Blackpool’s new found backbone has made me a little concerned, but not concerned enough to think The Valley won’t be celebrating three points at 5pm on Saturday.
Perform for the majority of the game to the level seen for brief periods against Millwall, Ipswich and Nottingham Forest, and this will be Charlton’s first victory by a greater margin than one goal.
Charlton Athletic 3-1 Blackpool