The last time Charlton travelled to the Cardiff City Stadium, the feeling at both clubs was a mixture of delirious positivity and enormous pride
The Bluebirds would celebrate promotion that night. Although they should not have enjoyed that moment at their own ground in red, the goalless draw, which gave them the point they needed to go up, was followed by an incredible pitch invasion that was memorable even for myself as an away fan.
But Charlton, in the midst of an outstanding run of form, held their own that night. Chris Solly utterly brilliant, the midfield tireless in their work and Ricardo Fuller so close to giving Chris Powell’s side victory. A platform set for future success.
Alas, events haven’t quite followed the path both sets of supporters hoped they would after that night. While the Bluebirds are once again blue, the club was relegated with little fight from the top flight, and are finding their return to the Championship something of a struggle while doubts about Vincent Tan remain.
For the Addicks, disillusionment, despair and apathy have been popular emotions since then. A failure to invest crushing that platform built, and questionable investment and decision making from Roland Duchatelet leaving many disconnected from the club in a similar way to the affect Tan had on Cardiff supporters.
So the recent upturn in form for both sides has been desperately required.
Questions are still being asked over whether Russell Slade is the right man to lead the Bluebirds, but the success of losing just once in seven games, although including some relatively disappointing draws, is not to be dismissed.
Guy Luzon, or at least the manner in which he was appointed, may never be truly accepted in SE7, but his managerial skills have so far stood up to what was a very tough test. Fourteen games without victory followed by four fantastic wins in five.
It’ll take some going to get back to the feelings both sets of supporters had when these two clubs met two years ago, but the winner in Wales on Saturday has every right to feel optimistic, at least about on the pitch events.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 1-1 CARDIFF CITY
Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s stunning late strike earned 10-man Charlton a deserved point in a pulsating Boxing Day clash.
At a time when the Addicks were completely devoid of confidence, Tom Adeyemi’s early header from Aron Gunnarsson’s long throw looked to killed off the chances of Bob Peeters’ side taking anything from the game.
And those chances were decreased further when Callum Harriott was dismissed for a two footed challenge on Craig Noone.
But a brave formation change, with three across the back, from Charlton’s former boss saw the Addicks completely dominate the second half. George Tucudean close to drawing the hosts level on a number of occasions.
Charlton, however, looked set to be left frustrated by their failure to take their chances. That was until Gudmundsson won the ball 30 yards from goal, drove forward and lashed an effort beyond the reaches of David Marshall to claim a point for his side.
Six league defeats in eight between December and January had called the validity of Slade’s managerial reign into question before he’d even had a chance to test out the range of caps on offer in the Cardiff club shop.
But four draws and two wins from the previous seven games suggest Slade has steadied the ship in South Wales. At the very least, he’s brought himself some time, and laid something of a foundation.
It might even be fair to say that some bricks have been placed on that foundation after the 3-1 win over Rotherham in midweek. The Bluebirds had not scored more than once in the league throughout 2015, so to finally break the shackles can only be promising.
The Addicks had proven they could decimate disorganised and sloppy opposition, but Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest was arguably more rewarding than the three goal victories.
For it showed they could fight their way to victory in a resilient and gritty fashion. Forest providing a serious forward threat for much of the evening, but Charlton standing firm at the back.
And such defensive resolve did not take away from the quality and confidence the Addicks have found in attack. Jordan Cousins relentless, Frederic Bulot’s turnaround incredible, and Tony Watt simply marvellous.
Cardiff look set to be without David Marshall after the goalkeeper was substituted at half-time during Tuesday’s victory over Rotherham.
The Scotland international was withdrawn after complaining of a tight groin, and Simon Moore will come into the side should Marshall not recover in time for Saturday’s game.
The Bluebirds could also be without former Millwall man Scott Malone, who is yet to regain fitness after picking up an injury against Huddersfield last month, while winger Anthony Pilkington is definitely out.
But Slade will be able to call upon Peter Whittingham once again after the playmaker missed the trip to the New York Stadium through suspension.
Whittingham, however, isn’t guaranteed an automatic return to the side after Matthew Kennedy, Gunnarsson and Joe Ralls impressed in a midfield three on Tuesday.
Charlton should welcome back Solly and Gudmundsson after the vital duo missed Tuesday’s win over Forest with slight knocks. Joe Gomez and Chris Eagles likely to fill in if they don’t recover in time.
There could also be a return for Roger Johnson, whose lack of football before breaking into Luzon’s side probably prevented him from being fit enough to fulfil three 90 minutes in a week. Andre Bikey and Alou Diarra waiting in the wings if the former Wolves defender was absent for more serious reasons.
But Tal Ben Haim, who has missed Charlton’s last two games, remains a doubt, while the injury Callum Harriott picked up against Forest means he’s likely to join Johnnie Jackson and Rhoys Wiggins in the treatment room.
KEY BATTLE – THE FIRST GOAL
For all Charlton’s stunning attacking play at The Valley, there remains a slight doubt about their competence away from home.
The determined defensive effort in midweek provides evidence that this might not be the case, but when forced onto the back foot outside of SE7, the Addicks seem to struggle.
Against Wigan, the opening period was gruesome viewing; Latics could have easily been two or three up before Bulot’s opener on the break. Against Derby, Charlton were a complete mess after the Rams took an early lead.
So it would appear key that Luzon’s side grab the game’s first goal, and do so early, if they want to get into the attacking flow they have done at home.
That especially true when you consider Cardiff’s midweek result. The dominant victory over Rotherham will have increased the confidence in Slade’s slide, and that will only multiply should they take the lead and the home crowd get onside.
Cardiff’s victory in midweek, and a few other positive results in recent weeks, suggests the Bluebirds have got some sort of resilience about them. But the way in which the Addicks are currently playing means they should fear no opponent, even away from The Valley. Cardiff City 0-2 Charlton Athletic