Charlton must once again treat the FA Cup with as much seriousness as they do the league, and not only because football’s oldest competition is worthy of it.
As incredible as another cup run would be, last season’s unforgettable despite the messy end, the more immediate concern is that the Addicks desperately need to start winning games again.
A lack of confidence has been evident in recent weeks, culminating in Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat to Ipswich which left Bob Peeters’ side with just one win in eleven. Charlton now seemingly trapped in a cycle of needing confidence to win games, but can only get confidence by winning games.
In fact, Gary Bowyer’s Blackburn dealt an equally painful blow when these two sides met in the league just before Christmas. The worst performance of the Peeters era resulting in a completely demoralising 2-0 loss; the scoreline generous to the woeful Addicks.
Nonetheless, there is some hope. The second-half performance against Cardiff may have been slightly blown out of proportions, myself guilty of that, with the Bluebirds having just 32% of the ball against Watford in their next game, but there was clear quality on show.
For the first hour at Portman Road, too, Charlton were competitive. The midfield pressed, the back sort-of-three-sometimes-four dealt with Ipswich’s threat for the most part and the Addicks got into promising positions when going forward.
They issues, however, were those that have been seen throughout this poor run. A failure to deal with set-pieces, wastefulness in attack and heads dropping the moment things get tough. Some luck needed, but so too must Peeters’ side make improvements in key areas.
A scrappy cup win against what is likely to be a rotated Rovers side may just rekindle Charlton’s best form. At the very least, progression offers a chance to keep this season competitive, with the best hope in the league a dull shuffle towards 15th.
Defeat, and worries about where the next victory, and thereby worries about entering a relegation battle, extend.
There’s more to it than just a dull FA Cup affair between two Championship sides.
LAST MEETING – BLACKBURN 2-0 CHARLTON
A dire display from Charlton allowed Blackburn to comfortably collect three points at Ewood Park in December.
Jordan Rhodes capitalised twice on horrendous defending from the visitors in the first half, and the Addicks never recovered.
In fact, were it not for a handful of saves from Nick Pope, it might well have been a much bigger margin of defeat.
Having completely ripped the Addicks apart, Blackburn have been unable to replicate that sort of performance in their following two fixtures.
A disappointing defeat to Lancashire rivals Bolton was followed by a slightly more respectable goalless draw with Middlesbrough, but Rovers are in desperate need of wins if they are to sustain their play-off bid.
A run of one win in eleven has all but ended hopes of Charlton finishing in the top six this season, and attentions have instead turned to consolidating in mid-table.
Wins, however, are as desperately needed in South East London as they are in Blackburn. A cup run might well inspire the Addicks and give their league form the lift it needs.
Blackburn will be without several first-team players for their trip to The Valley, effectively forcing Bowyer to name a rotated side.
The likes of Josh King, Markus Olsson and Lee Williamson are all doubtful, while Corry Evans sits out the game through suspension
It could mean appearance for midfielder John O’Sullivan and defender Jack O’Connell, who have recently returned from loan spells at Accrington Stanley and Rochdale respectively.
Peeters may well revert to a four at the back formation after defender Oguchi Onyewu suffered a hamstring injury in the warm-up before Tuesday’s clash with Ipswich.
Such a change in formation could see Morgan Fox recalled at left-back, while Harry Lennon will hope to be involved having returned from a loan spell at Gillingham.
There could also be some involvement for fringe players Lawrie Wilson and Simon Church, who will be hoping to prove their worth on the back of Charlton’s recent poor run of form.
Elsewhere, the Addicks remain without the injured Stephen Henderson, Franck Moussa and Rhoys Wiggins, while Callum Harriott fulfils the second game of this three-match ban.
KEY BATTLE – CHARLTON’S FORWARDS VS THE THING WITH THE NET ATTACHED
Assuming, or at least hoping, that Rudy Gestede and Jordan Rhodes could potentially be rested, Charlton’s biggest challenge comes at the other of the pitch.
For on so many occasions this season, points have been dropped by a failure to make the most of openings. The wrong ball played, a poor touch in a promising position and woeful finishing costing the Addicks.
You would like to think, however, that one fortunate goal is all that’s needed to click Charlton, and Igor Vetokele especially, back into life.
The Angolan forward has been poor of late, and seemingly lacks confidence. A weakened Blackburn side might well be the perfect opposition to spark Vetokele back into the life.
Given the recent run, and how much the Addicks struggled against Blackburn a few weeks ago, it’s hard to be confident.
Nonetheless, a much changed opposition could give Charlton a chance.
I’d settle for the scrappiest, most undeserved victory imaginable, but I’m not so sure that’ll be the case. Charlton Athletic 1-1 Blackburn Rovers