For some time, derbies have been a source of suffering for supporters of Charlton Athletic. Ten games against either of their South East London neighbours passing without the Addicks recording victory.
Not since Matthew Spring volleyed Charlton to a one-goal victory over Crystal Palace in January 2009, ending an 18 game winless run, has the desired amount of character been displayed. Too often have those wearing red failed to match the adrenalin and emotion in the stands.
And yet, excitement and expectation has existed in relation to the third round League Cup tie at Selhurst Park ever since the draw was made. The buzz that a derby clash creates, especially one away from home, overruling rational thought.
For the likely outcome of Wednesday’s tie isn’t pleasant. Charlton succumbing to stronger opposition, allowing Alan Pardew, whose misspending and dire management while in charge of the Addicks makes him a figure of hate, to celebrate the toppling of his former club.
But with the somewhat misguided excitement comes the belief that the Addicks, having blown brilliant opportunities to end their winless derby run, could record an unlikely victory over Premier League Palace.
Form makes Charlton’s chances ever slimmer, with Guy Luzon’s side desperately poor since the international break, before even considering the gap in quality that unfortunately cannot be denied.
This group of players, however, have already fought to achieve unlikely victories this season, showing that the recent run of results is not reflective of their true ability. A determined effort at Selhurst and some of the misery he inflicted may well be returned to Pardew.
LAST MEETING – CRYSTAL PALACE 2-1 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
A late capitulation at Selhurst Park saw Charlton, having been in control for much of the afternoon, gift Palace all three points in February 2013.
A failure to take more than one of a plethora of chances the visitors created during a dominant first half performance ultimately proved costly, with Johnnie Jackson missing two fantastic openings to add to Ricardo Fuller’s stunning solo effort.
It meant that when then Palace boss Ian Holloway introduced Stephen Dobbie and Johnny Williams with just over 20 minutes to play, the playmakers were able to put the Eagles on the front foot and help turn the game on its head.
And that was done in the space of just four minutes, with Glenn Murray pouncing twice from close range. The Addicks losing a game they seemed in a fantastic position to win.
Crystal Palace: LLWWWL
Some would suggest it speaks more of the arrogance and delusion expressed regularly by Pardew during his time as Charlton boss, but that the Palace manager was left genuinely angered by two narrow defeats to Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur indicates the extent to which the Eagles have grown in recent seasons.
For while you could argue endlessly about which club is the biggest in historic stature, there is no debate as to which South East London club are currently the strongest. Palace rising from mediocre Championship outfit, with financial difficulties and relegation worries, to a competitive Premier League club.
And their results prior to those single-goal losses to City and Spurs show just that. Chelsea beaten at Stamford Bridge, with wins also recorded against Aston Villa at Norwich in addition to progressing to this stage of the League Cup with a victory over Shrewsbury.
Following Charlton’s impressive start to the season, there were expectations that this South East London derby would become a Premier League fixture in 2016/17. The third round of the League Cup reached by scoring four against Dagenham & Redbridge and Peterborough, and eight points gained from the first four league games.
But supporters of the Addicks have been brought back down to earth in recent weeks, with just one point gained from the previous four league games.
And that is made even more disappointing by the fact that that last three sides played were without a win in the Championship this season. Luzon’s side left frustrated by Rotherham, punished for an error-ridden effort against Huddersfield, and simply abysmal in the defeat to Blackburn.
A response, therefore, is desperately required. There no better way than a derby encounter to get the best out of an underperforming group of players.
Palace will be without Scott Dann after the defender picked up a calf injury during training on Saturday.
And Dann, who missed Sunday’s defeat to Tottenham, is unlikely to be the only member of Palace’s first choice backline who will be absent on Wednesday. Joel Ward struggling to recover from a knee injury that kept him out of the trip to White Hart Lane.
But Pardew will have an additional option to call upon in attack, with Connor Wickham set to return from an injury of his own.
The former Sunderland man, who is yet to score for the club he joined in the summer, could come in for Wilfried Zaha, whose performance was criticised by Pardew on Sunday.
Luzon will be sweating over the fitness of forward Simon Makienok, who missed Saturday’s defeat to Blackburn.
The absence of Makienok, whose physique will provide both an outlet should Charlton be penned in and a constant test to Palace’s back four, was significant as the Addicks struggled at Ewood Park, and fingers will be crossed that he can recover from his training ground injury.
Elsewhere, there has been significant calls in recent days for skipper Johnnie Jackson to come into the side, with his leadership required to lift Charlton out of this poor run of form.
Should Luzon share the views of many supporters, then Jordan Cousins will head back out wide, or a change to a formation that accommodates three centre-mids may have to be made.
KEY BATTLE – RISING TO THE OCCASION
Having to play opposition of greater quality shouldn’t leave the Addicks in fear. Their best performances this season coming against QPR, Derby County and Hull City.
But their disappointing efforts in the past week and their recent record in derby encounters means that there’s genuine worry that Luzon’s side will be unable to replicate those determined, counter-attacking displays at Selhurst Park and will instead crumble.
With Palace’s side, irrespective of the absence of Dann and Ward, possessing a solid defensive unit and an exciting attacking threat, Charlton will be punished if they are not at their best. Tony Watt will find no way through if his poor decision making continues, and the likes of Yannick Bolasie and Bakary Sako will enjoy themselves if Alou Diarra and Morgan Fox are more Blackburn away than Derby away.
As such, Charlton’s greatest battle on Wednesday night will be with themselves. Their mentality needs to be spot on, and certainly not as weak as it was in the defeats to Huddersfield and Blackburn.
For this is a tie that the Addicks stand a chance of competing in if they rise to the occasion, and perform with determination, resolve and composure. The defensive organisation, seen superbly at the iPro, and effective threat on the break, not the indecisive that has been on show in recent weeks, that has been at the heart of Charlton’s best performances under Luzon required.
For every ounce of excitement in my body, there’s ten ounces of fear. Crystal Palace 2-0 Charlton Athletic