It’s a combination to make Charlton supporters shudder more than the deadly – to those sitting in the crowd – strike force of Pawel Abbott and Akpo Sodje. The Sky cameras appearing at The Valley, ready to broadcast a fixture with Ipswich Town.
For not only is the club’s record in TV games astonishingly poor, with the comeback draw against Fulham in October at least preventing a 14th defeat in 22 games since the start of the 2009/10 season, but Ipswich are yet to be denied three points on their visits to The Valley beyond Charlton’s return to the Championship.
The Tractor Boys have delivered three almost perfect away performances in SE7 in the previous three seasons. Danny Haynes’ penalty against his former club providing the Addicks false hope in 12/13 after a dire first half performance had left the two goals down, Tommy Smith’s fifth minute header all that was needed in the following season as Mick McCarthy’s side expertly ground out the remainder of the game, and Noel Hunt, a man who had not scored since 72BC, grabbing a stoppage time winner in last season’s televised encounter providing further frustration.
Charlton fans, therefore, are well within their right to feel less than confident about Saturday’s lunch time kick-off. Some of the more sensible supporters may well take part in the second minute protest, then escape The Valley in order to avoid the predictable frustrating events that will follow.
Or at least that would be the extent of the fear heading into this game had the Addicks not proving themselves to be made of tougher stuff in recent weeks. In the backdrop of off-the-pitch chaos, those on-the-pitch have provided hope to supporters with an impressive victory over Sheffield Wednesday, and a dogged win against Birmingham City.
And though Town, unbeaten in five, are in decent form themselves, any belief that Charlton may get something from the game is not at all irrational. A tough encounter, obviously, but fear is minimal.
LAST MEETING: IPSWICH TOWN 3-0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
A Charlton side riddled with defensive errors and toothless in front of goal were crushed at Portman Road in their final fixture of 2014.
Though the Addicks were more competitive for much of the game than the scoreline suggests, they were spineless in the areas where it mattered most. A failure to clear a corner allowed Ipswich the softest of openers, with defender Tommy Smith converting.
A weakness existing in attack, too, as George Tucudean failed to convert when one-on-one with Bartosz Bialkowski, and Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s team follow-up effort cleared off the line by Christophe Berra.
Such failings meant confidence was crushed, and the game over, by the time Ipswich doubled their advantage just before the hour. David McGoldrick’s header from yet another poorly defended corner bouncing back off the bar, and Daryl Murphy able to capitalise.
Given the somewhat half-hearted manner in which the Addicks performed for the rest of the cold December evening in Suffolk, the only surprise to those frozen souls in the away end was that Ipswich’s third didn’t come until the 90th minute. McGoldrick played through, and easily finishing beyond Neil Etheridge. Grim.
Town midfield Jonathan Douglas expressed his frustration after his side were held to a draw by Wolves last weekend, and that’s possibly the emotion that best sums up Ipswich’s season so far.
For though McCarthy’s side, given the club’s lack of financial clout, are always overachieving when they challenge for the play-offs, their efforts in recent seasons mean there is now a certain expectation on them to be serious contenders for a top six spot.
As such, despite sitting three points off the play-offs and seemingly starting to build momentum after five games without defeat, there is an element of annoyance that the Tractor Boys do not have more points to their name at this stage of the season.
That seven games have been drawn is a particular frustration, especially those stalemates in games that appeared winnable. The Wolves game a perfect example of that, with town leading twice, and performing well enough to deserve victory, but unable to avoid being pegged back on both occasions.
Town not too far away from being where they want to be, and a 5-2 away win at Rotherham prior to the international break shows their ruthless streak, but the strive to be more consistent continues.
There is an argument that Saturday’s hard fought win over Birmingham was more beneficial in improving the confidence of the Charlton side than the impressive display in victory against Sheffield Wednesday.
For not only was a first away win since March recorded, and back-to-back wins achieved for the first time this season, but a show of character in somewhat testing circumstances was required to secure the result.
Given the pressure applied by the Blues, a weaker Charlton would have crumbled. That they were able to hold on after Johnnie Jackson’s 50th goal for the club suggests the mentality of the side has dramatically improved, and Karel Fraeye has at least had a short-term impact.
With the Addicks still hovering just above the bottom three, two victories does not address the issues the club faces, both on and off-the-pitch, but Charlton supporters will certainly tell you that it’s a welcome relief to have something to smile about after yet another period of extreme misery.
The trip to Charlton is expected to come too soon for Ryan Fraser, despite the Scottish winger closing in on a return to full fitness.
Fraser, who impressed in the opening months of the season, has been out since the start of October with a knee ligament injury, but McCarthy is keen not to take any risks on the Bournemouth loanee.
Elsewhere, Town will be without forward McGoldrick, who remains a few weeks away from recovering from a groin injury, while long-term absentee Teddy Bishop is the only other player not available for the game in SE7.
Having narrowly missed out on selection for last weekend’s win over Birmingham, Chris Solly could return to the Charlton side that faces Ipswich.
The vice-captain, who was ruled out of the victory at St Andrew’s through injury, could come in for Morgan Fox, allowing the impressive Tareiq Holmes-Dennis to keep his place. The youngster moving to his preferred position of left-back.
There could also be a return to the starting XI for Reza Ghoochannejhad, who couldn’t begin the game in Birmingham after a gruelling time travelling on international duty, while Ricardo Vaz Te is moving closer to full fitness after getting more minutes under his belt for the U21s in the week.
Ademola Lookman will have something to say about the chances of either of that pair starting, however, given the excitement he provided on his full debut.
Elsewhere, the Addicks remain without Igor Vetokele, Ahmed Kashi, and Cristian Ceballos, but El-Hadji Ba returns from suspension.
KEY BATTLE – LIMITING IPSWICH’S CHANCES
The victory over Birmingham has been heavily celebrated, and so it should be. The determined 1-0 win reminiscent of Charlton away performances of old, digging deep to grind out a result that didn’t appear possible before the game, or at moments during it.
At the very least, it was heart-warming, with the Addicks showing the sort of character that had absent during the 12-match winless run. The mentality of this side stronger than they had us believe.
Nonetheless, it would be wrong to suggest the performance at St Andrew’s was faultless. Gaps found in the back four on a number of occasion, and both supporters and players left thankful that the Blues lacked composure in front of goal.
For not only could Birmingham have very easily equalised, given the quantity of very good openings they produced in the dying moments of the game, but logic suggests they would have won the game had they taken the lead. Momentum firmly with them if they had managed to take one of their chances either side of half-time.
Charlton possibly fortunate that Clayton Donaldson was absent from Gary Rowett’s side. City’s top scorer possessing the finishing ability that was required.
So it is of some concern to the Addicks that Saturday’s opponents have not only scored nine goals in their last three games, but possess a potent strike force, even with McGoldrick injured.
Murphy, including a hat-trick against Rotherham, has four goals in his last two appearances, while Brett Pitman has contributed a further two over the course of the three most recent games, and has five for the season. Even Freddie Sears, though goalless since September, has an impressive scoring record overall since signing for Ipswich last January.
As such, presenting chances to the Tractor Boys is likely to be suicidal. The Addicks will need to be tight, rather than fortunate.
It appears the Addicks have finally found something that resembles a backbone. It needs to be shown again. Charlton Athletic 1-1 Ipswich Town