As Charlton entered their penultimate home fixture of last season, their Championship status remained in the balance.
In fact, following the completion of that penultimate home fixture, their Championship status was no closer to being secured. A worrying performance in a 3-1 defeat to Blackburn Rovers had many nervous.
The Addicks went on to secure their safety with a Callum Harriott-inspired victory over Watford three days later, but it remained an incredibly stressful period for supporters.
It means that having something to play for isn’t always worthwhile. Charlton’s sluggish grind to the end of the campaign may be rather dull and a little bit disappointing, but it certainly beats a constant feeling of impending doom.
Nonetheless, a continuation of such below-par performances will see the summer entered with a little bit of a bitter taste in the mouth. The run of seven wins from nine tainted by the half-hearted end to the campaign.
It is therefore vital, if not for league position then future confidence and current enjoyment, that the Addicks take advantage of a Leeds side whose end to the season, despite having nothing to play for, hasn’t quite been so stress free.
LAST MEETING – LEEDS UNITED 2-2 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s brace twice begged back the hosts to earn a share of the spoils for his side at Elland Road in November.
Leeds went in front just after the break through Alex Mowatt, who was given the space to curl an effort beyond the reaches of Stephen Henderson.
And although Gudmundsson, stabbing home from a tight angle, soon equalised for the Addicks, Neil Redfearn’s men were back in front five minutes later when Mowatt crashed in an effort from distance.
But Charlton were given the chance to rescue a point with less than ten minutes to play, with Tal Ben Haim dragged to the floor by Giuseppe Bellusci at a corner.
While Leeds continued to bemoan the rather dubious award of the spot-kick, Gudmundsson stepped up and coolly converted to deny the hosts victory.
Most clubs dabble in being in crisis for a few months or so. A period of utter chaos before an owner gets his act together, the threat of administration is resolved or a manger is binned that can be looked back on with laughter when the club’s on sound footing again.
But Leeds have seemingly been in crisis for 12 years. Their periods out of it merely false dawns, as some initial positivity about Massimo Cellino’s reign has proven to be.
With the owner currently suspended, and doubts remaining over whether he will be allowed to return, assistant boss Steve Thompson suspended for disputed reasons and popular boss Redfearn facing an uncertain future, Leeds supporters have been left confused and angered.
Oh, and they’ve not won in five, which seems like a bit of an irreverence given the nature of their off-the-field issues and their mid-table position.
It was a familiar tale for the Addicks as the full-time whistle blew at the Macron Stadium on Tuesday night.
They had been bright in sparks, and had arguably done enough to win the game, but this remained a comparatively flat performance. A game they would have won had it been played during their winning run instead ended with Guy Luzon’s side clinging on for a point.
For the constant spark in Charlton’s play has vanished since the international break. The Addicks sitting far too deep, no longer pressing with intensity and energy, and lacking a consistent threat on the break.
Their three gritty 1-1 draws in a row reflective of that.
Leeds will welcome back Rudolph Austin after the combative midfielder completed his suspension in midweek.
The Whites could also welcome back 19-year-old Lewis Cook, who has been a revelation in another disappointing season for the Yorkshire club.
But manager Redfearn won’t want to rush back the promising youngster, especially with Leeds having little to play for.
Luzon looks set to continue his end of season rotation policy, with 17-year-old Joe Gomez likely to come back into the side.
He’ll replace Alou Diarra at the back, who could move into midfield are a number of disappointing displays from Yoni Buyens and Jordan Cousins in recent weeks.
There’s also competition for the left-back spot, with Rhoys Wiggins impressing on his return from injury in midweek, but Morgan Fox more than deserving of keeping his place in the side following an excellent few months deputising for his fellow Welshman.
KEY BATTLE – SHOWING ENERGY IN MIDFIELD
For all Leeds’ woes in recent weeks, and throughout the season, their midfield offers something for supporters to be excited about.
With or without the return of Cook, it contains a number of promising players, who had performed with character in the midst of worrying time #356353 at the club.
Alex Mowatt showed his ability in the return fixture, Charlie Taylor scored his first professional goal in the recent defeat to Wolves, while Luke Murphy has been considerable improvement after an indifferent start to his Leeds career.
And with Charlton sluggish in the middle in recent weeks, with Cousins showing signs of fatigue and Buyens continuing to start his months and months of struggles, it’s certainly an area from which Leeds could look to dominate the game.
Nonetheless, without a win in a five, the visitors to The Valley on Saturday will be depleted of confidence and there for the taking.
A return to the pressing play that was so crucial to Charlton’s winning run would give them every chance of controlling the game. Motivation and energy, which has seemingly been lacking since the Fulham game, needed.
Endless binary. Charlton Athletic 1-1 Leeds United