It wouldn’t have been deserved, but it was a win Charlton needed. The importance of taking all three points from last weekend’s game with Rotherham United multiplied by the run of fixtures the Addicks are about to face.
Alas, the hope given by Jordan Cousins’ late goal turned to misery, provided by Danny Ward’s stoppage time equaliser, quicker than supporters could register that alien positive feeling.
For now only the naïve, or disturbingly positive, can pretend Guy Luzon’s side aren’t in serious trouble. Saturday’s draw made it twelve games without victory, left Charlton six points from the bottom three, and games against four of the Championship’s top eight in the next five don’t offer much hope of ending such a poor run.
And without adequate reinforcements added to the squad in the final days of the transfer window, the final chance to improve both the quality and confidence within the side has been passed up.
It means the Addicks travel to Middlesbrough, a side they haven’t beaten in nine, without realistic hope of achieving a positive result. Boro having won twelve to Charlton’s three since the side’s last met in September.
It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 0-0 MIDDLESBROUGH
In a game largely devoid of action, a late rally from Charlton was almost enough for them to claim all three points.
After the visitors had the better of the first half, it was the Addicks who looked more likely to score after the break, and only the width of the post prevented Frederic Bulot from sending The Valley crowd into celebration late on.
The facts and figures tell the best story, here:
Four consecutive wins, including a superb 2-0 victory over Manchester City in the FA Cup.
Eight games unbeaten, conceding just once in that run. The run made more impressive when you consider Boro have lost just twice in their previous 22.
They haven’t lost at home since August, winning by two or more goals six times during that run.
Aitor Karanka and Lee Tomlin are up for Manager and Player of the Month respectively.
The facts and figures associated with the Addicks couldn’t be more contrasting:
No win in twelve, losing six of them and scoring a lowly seven goals during that run.
One win in sixteen and three in the twenty games since Charlton last played Boro.
Two away wins all season, and no away goal in the previous four.
A head coach without knowledge of the Championship and a group of players desperately lacking confidence.
A potential crisis at right-back has been averted with the news that both Ryan Fredericks and Tomas Kalas are fit to face the Addicks.
Fredericks is likely to keep his place at right-back, while Chelsea loanee Kalas will battle with Ben Gibson and Kenneth Omerou for a place at centre-back.
But long-term absentees Damia Abella, Rhys Williams and Mustapha Carayol remain unavailable, while Equatorial Guinea international Emilio Nsue hasn’t yet returned from the Africa Cup of Nations.
Alas, the options available to Aitor Karanka remain plentiful, with new signing Adam Forshaw available if needed.
New signing Roger Johnson is unlikely to feature for Charlton after signing for the club on Tuesday.
Made an outcast at Wolves, the centre-back has admitted he doesn’t have the match fitness and sharpness to be thrown straight into a game.
The same can be said of fellow new signing Christophe Lepoint, who looked considerably rusty in his brief appearance off the bench in Saturday’s draw with Rotherham.
But two men who might finally have enough in the tank to start a game are Tony Watt and Johnnie Jackson. Having signed a month ago, Watt must surely be fit enough to last for at least an hour, while Jackson has been nearing a return from his calf injury for quite some time.
KEY BATTLE: FRUSTRATING BORO’S FORWARDS FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE
The one and only performance in recent weeks that left you proud of Charlton’s efforts came against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
While there remained a tameness in attack, Wolves themselves were limited in their efforts to get forward thanks to a resolute defensive effort from the Addicks.
Luzon’s two banks of four did their job superbly, meaning the opposition attackers grew increasingly frustrated. There was a sense not long after half-time that Charlton’s backline would not be beaten.
It’s therefore the case that only a repeat performance will get the Addicks the positive result that looks so unlikely at The Riverside.
And it’s especially important that Charlton don’t concede early on. Should they, there is neither the fight nor goal power in this side to come back. Instead, it’s more likely that they’ll wilt in the manner they did against Watford.
Given Boro’s potency, with the likes of Patrick Bamford and Tomlin giving them more of a threat that Wolves, the chances of grinding out a result are slim. But attempting to do so with a level of fight, organisation and determination would be worthy of praise.
Hoping for a repeat of the Wolves performance; fearful of emulating the display against Watford. The latter seems more likely. Middlesbrough 3-0 Charlton Athletic.