Had Charlton travelled to Portman Road straight after the lifeless defeat to Blackburn Rovers just over a week ago, then only the misguided would have felt positive. Most Addicks wouldn’t have been against conceding the game to avoid embarrassment.
In fact, there would have been similar feelings at half-time of the Boxing Day game with Cardiff. Bob Peeters’ side lacking the energy and determination we have come to expect from the Addicks in previous, while Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich led 3-0 at fellow promotion challengers Brentford. Gulp.
And yet, there’s renewed confidence among supports of the Addicks. Whisper it quietly, but there’s almost a feeling Charlton could cause a bit of an upset.
Because, although Ipswich eventually went onto record a 4-2 victory at Griffin Park, Charlton displayed great character and fight to put in a stunning second-half performance against the Bluebirds. Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s stunning late equaliser the very least their efforts deserved.
Of course, no one is underestimating the challenge facing the Addicks. Second place Ipswich are currently unbeaten in ten and have lost just once at home all season.
But such was the level of performance shown in the latter period of the Cardiff encounter, there’s a feeling that replicating such a standard will see Charlton give their opponents a test at the very least.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 0-1 IPSWICH TOWN
We’ve reached the stage of the season now where each side has already played each other. In fact, these two met barely a month ago.
Having offered a very strong threat in the game’s half hour, the Addicks eventually lost their spark, allowing Ipswich to take control at The Valley.
A goalless draw, however, would have probably been about fair. Each side could claim their spell of dominance was enough to win them the game.
But Charlton were eventually punished for not taking their earlier chances. Some pretty average defending allowed Noel Hunt, scoring his first goal since 1938, to grab a last minute winner for the Tractor Boys.
Mick McCarthy is absolutely incredible. In fact, I’d go as far to say he’s the best manager in England outside of the Premier League.
Because this is no fluke. It’s no fluke that his Ipswich side, put together in exchange for three bottle tops and a shiny Pokemon card, are on an incredible run of form and looking likely to achieve promotion come May.
McCarthy has done this before. Sunderland and Wolves may have spent money, but their squads were similar. Few players that made you go ‘wow’, but the charismatic boss was able to get the very best out of a group of hardworking players.
The record now reads just one win in ten, or two wins in 13 since October. Whatever way you want to dress up Charlton’s poor run of late, it’s not pretty.
For all the signs of promise in certain moments of those games, the lack of wins means they’ve counted for very little. Excellent first halves followed by poor seconds; a decent performance and a well-earned point followed by an effortless display in defeat.
So it’s absolutely vital that Charlton’s second half performance against Cardiff is replicated. Not just as Portman Road, but thereafter. Wins will soon be needed.
Given Ipswich’s outstanding run of form, McCarthy is likely to name an unchanged side for the third consecutive game.
But should talented full-back Tyrone Mings (infected toe) recover in time to face the Addicks, then the Arsenal target will replace Jonathan Parr at left-back.
There could also be an appearance for former Addick Darren Ambrose, who has appeared from the bench on several occasions in recent weeks. An unpopular figure among Charlton fans, Ambrose is unlikely to get a pleasant reception from the visiting Addicks.
Charlton will be without Callum Harriott, who starts his three-match ban following his dismissal against Cardiff on Boxing Day.
If fully fit, Igor Vetokele will replace Harriott in attack, partnering George Tucudean, who impressed against the Bluebirds.
Also impressive was Charlton’s three at the back formation used in the second-half, and Peeters may be tempted to go with an attacking 3-5-2 at Portman Road. Brave, but countering for the fact the Addicks have a lack of options at left-back.
KEY BATTLE – THE MOST PRESSING MATTER
Charlton seemingly had an impossible task the last time they travelled to East Anglia. Playing top of the table Norwich, whose form at the time was similar to Ipswich’s currently, all the signs suggested the Addicks would lose.
However, against Norwich’s unrelenting attacking threat, Peeters’ side stood firm. In fact, it was constant movement, energy and pressing that allowed Charlton to stand firm.
For Charlton’s pressing was as important to victory as Johnnie Jackson’s late goal. Without out, Norwich would have run riot.
And with Ipswich strong in midfield, the experienced Jay Tabb and youngster Teddy Bishop both able to dictate play, it’s vital the likes of Yoni Buyens and Jackson hassle and press to the extent they did back in September.
Effectively a bonus game. Only three teams have come away from Portman Road with anything this season, and we’ll do well to become the fourth. Show a bit of effort, attempt to have a go at them and make them work for the win and I don’t think you can complain too much. Ipswich Town 2-0 Charlton Athletic