This football management in England lark had been rather easy for Bob Peeters. Having picked a fight with a then Wigan manager, won a few games his Charlton side weren’t expected to and conducted himself in an endearing manager, supporters of the Addicks were contemplating putting an image of him on top of their Christmas trees.
Alas, while others are beginning to wind down for the festive season, Peeters is gearing himself up for the most taxing time of his period in charge of the club. It’s not there’s any form of pressure on Charlton’s boss, but the true extent of his management credentials are about to be tested.
For Saturday’s draw with Blackpool was less disappointing, more shambolic. Too many square pegs in round holes, a complete lack of organisation and a failure to turn possession into meaningful attacks contributed to a performance that simply wasn’t good enough.
Peeters seemingly experimenting unnecessarily, and too committed to his passing beliefs to alter his side’s style of play when it quite clearly isn’t working. Not a one off, but part of a number of sluggish and inconsistent performances that have seen the Addicks win just once in eight games.
A response, therefore, is needed. In normal circumstances, a draw at Ewood Park, against a very handy Blackburn side, would be a commendable result. But given that a failure to turn draws into wins has been part of Charlton’s problem, it might not the fix the cracks that are starting to appear in the eyes of some supporters.
Regardless, an organised side putting in an acceptable performance is a must.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 1-3 BLACKBURN ROVERS
Charlton’s relegation worries were prolonged as an in-form Blackburn side blew them apart at The Valley, increasing what proved to be misguided hope that they would achieve a top six finish.
Although he went onto score, Marvin Sordell’s missed penalty added to Charlton’s woes, with goals from Rudy Gestede, Michael Keane and Tom Cairney giving Rovers a convincing victory.
Two defeats on the bounce has seen Blackburn’s play-off ambitions take a hit, with a club that would have been realistically aiming for a top six finish at the start of the season now four points back in eighth.
However, those defeats to Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford take nothing away from the quality that Rovers possess within their squad. It’s a quality that saw them go unbeaten throughout October and November, picking up four wins and three draws, and will surely guide them close to a top six finish come May.
Unlike Blackburn, Charlton’s realistic hopes before the season got underway were for a more comfortable retention of their Championship status than the season before. But the manner in which the Addicks started this campaign had supporters dreaming of a return to the top flight.
Alas, performance levels have dropped, injuries have taken their toll and, in current form, Charlton no longer look anywhere near good enough to challenge for the top six.
However, with a five point gap separating the Addicks and the play-offs, the early season form has at least provided a platform from which Peeters’ side can build if their squad is strengthened in January.
Nonetheless, it’s important to grind out a few results and put in a few promising performances to keep in touch with the top six and renew hope that Charlton are capable of pushing for a play-off spot.
Blackburn look set to bring Jordan Rhodes back into the starting line-up having been benched by boss Gary Bowyer for Saturday’s defeat to Brentford.
Rhodes, who has scored seven times this season, will partner another regular foe of the Addicks, Gestede, in attack.
Bowyer may also be able to call upon a host of key players who have sat out previous games with injuries. Impressive playmaker Tom Cairney, speedy winger Josh King and centre-back Matt Kilgallon are all likely to be involved, while Chris Brown could return having missed the trip to Griffin Park with a knee injury.
Charlton remain without a number of key players, limiting the amount of changes Peeters can make to his side following the poor display against Blackpool.
Johnnie Jackson, Rhoys Wiggins, Stephen Henderson and Franck Moussa are all unlikely to be involved, seriously hindering a squad that is already small, but that doesn’t mean Peeters won’t look to make at least a couple of changes.
Chris Solly, having not taken too well to playing in the centre of midfield, will surely revert back to his favoured right-back position, allowing Jordan Cousins and Yoni Buyens to play together in the centre.
However, such a change would see the impressive Joe Gomez miss out, with George Tucudean, Frederic Bulot and Lawrie Wilson competing to replace him and take up a more advanced position.
KEY BATTLE – STOPPING A POTENT PARTNERSHIP
Charlton don’t score goals. It’s been a major issue for the Addicks, with a huge number of points lost owing to the fact that chances haven’t been taken.
They have, however, often been able to frustrate and prevent the opposition from scoring. Much of Charlton’s success this season has come from resolute displays at the back, with Andre Bikey and Tal Ben Haim impressive, while Stephen Henderson and Nick Pope have largely been excellent between the posts.
But that resilience was nowhere to be seen on Saturday. Catastrophic for a side who struggle to score when at their best, but even worse for one who were performing poorly in all areas of the pitch.
Bikey lacked composure throughout, Ben Haim was guilty of some costly errors while Pope had an absolute nightmare dealing with deliveries sent into his box.
Should the same sort of mistakes be made on Saturday, Charlton’s punishment could be even more brutal. Rhodes and Gestede, especially given how strong they both are in the air, will not waste opportunities handed to them via incompetent defending and goalkeeping.
It’s vitally important Charlton’s resilience at the back, and some organisation from set-pieces, returns at Ewood. If not, their chances of stopping one of the best strike partnerships in the division, and gaining a much needed win, look slim.
In a sense, it’s one of those games where the performance is arguably more important than the result. It’s a tough game that the Addicks aren’t anything like favourites for, but an improvement on the showing last Saturday is required. For there to be enough positives on show to feel pleased, you would think Charlton would have to gain at least a point. Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Charlton Athletic