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Preview: Charlton Athletic V Nottingham Forest

It would be wrong to suggest that events on-the-pitch are irrelevant when Nottingham Forest visit The Valley on Saturday.

Points are important. For Forest, as they look to move into the top half of the table, but more so for Charlton, in order to drag themselves out of the bottom three.

Another dreadful defeat would only increase the depression in SE7, and the fear among supporters that the Addicks are doomed to a bottom three finish. Mathematics show the gap between 23rd place Charlton and safety is only two points, but the mental gap is more of a sinkhole.

Performances worsening, effort and fight lacking, and an underqualified ‘interim’ head coach still occupying the home dugout. Trust in the club to strengthen in January, or even get round to employing a proper head coach, non-existent. League One awaits, unless events on-the-pitch dramatically improve.

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And yet, it is away from the 90 minutes on Saturday where the focus of many Addicks lie. The points that will be made during the post-game protest, organised by Voice of The Valley editor Rick Everitt, more important than any points that will be added to Charlton’s total. The protest in general more vital to the future of this football club than a single victory.

For while Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Meire continue to cripple the club, results are almost meaningless. Not enough to cover up their flawed philosophy, dreadful running of the club, and dire treatment of supporters. Not enough to heal the broken bond between the club and its fans.

Get them gone.

http://www.votvonline.com/

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LAST MEETING – NOTTINGHAM FOREST 0-0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC

Simon Makienok’s inability to finish meant The Addicks were forced to settle for a point at the City Ground in August.

The giant Dane had a mixed night, putting himself about with a degree of threat but struggling in front of goal. Somehow heading Morgan Fox’s cross over and pouncing on Cristian Ceballos’ delivery but knocking it wide in the first half, before being denied by Forest goalkeeper Dorus De Vries in the second.

And the Dutch stopper was also needed to prevent Patrick Bauer from scoring, superbly keeping out the centre back’s header with a reaction save.

But the stalemate was arguably a fair result. Guy Luzon’s side having the better chances, with Forest struggling to create meaningful openings, but sloppy and lethargic for large parts of the game.

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FORM

Nottingham Forest: DDWDDW

Losing just one game in nine might not totally answer the doubts Forest fans have about boss Dougie Freedman, but it’s a commendable way for the former Palace forward to have responded to question marks over his future.

For having gone eight without a win between September and November, and been looking over their shoulders, Forest are now just a point away from the Championship’s top half.

Of course, simply aiming to finish in the top half of the second tier doesn’t really match the ambitions of a club the size of the City Ground club. A transfer embargo and draws, with four in their last five, among the factors holding Forest back.

But there is a degree of resolve about Freedman’s men that was absent during the winless run. Forest stealing narrow victories in tight games, and doing enough to earn acceptable points away from home.

An improving side, and one unbeaten in seven, but a side that needs to continue to improve.

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Charlton: LDLDDL

The defeat witnessed at The Valley on Monday, the seventh game without a win, has been seen on various occasions so far this season.

The Addicks just about competing until the opposition helped themselves to an opening goal, and being unable to respond. Fight and drive completely absent from the moment Jordan Graham put the visitors ahead.

But this defeat, sealed by Harry Lennon’s late own goal, felt more costly. We were informed that Lennon’s late equaliser at Bristol City on Boxing Day would be the turning point, but nothing has changed. The mentality of this side still so very wrong.

We’re all going on a League One tour, a League One tour, a League One tour.

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THE OPPOSITION

Having rotated his side for the trip to Cardiff in midweek, Freedman is likely to bring back a number of players who weren’t in the starting XI for the draw in Wales.

Henri Lansbury, Nelson Oliveira and Ben Osborn among those set to return, but youngster Oliver Burke could keep his place in the side after scoring his first senior goal in the draw with the Bluebirds.

Elsewhere club captain Chris Cohen is in line for a long-awaited return after recovering from a third cruciate ligament injury, this one keeping him out since September 2014.

Though almost certain not to start, the talismanic figure simply being named in a matchday squad would provide a massive mental boost.

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THE ADDICKS

Charlton are likely to be without Ademola Lookman after the 18-year-old appeared to pull his hamstring during the defeat to Wolves.

With Johann Berg Gudmundsson also a doubt, it leaves the Addicks desperately short of any sort of attacking flair. The return of Cristian Ceballos, who made his first appearance since August from the bench on Monday, at least giving Fraeye another option.

So too are there concerns at the back, with Bauer unavailable, and Alou Diarra unlikely to return from the injury suffered at Ashton Gate on Boxing Day.

But Jordan Cousins, after fainting at half-time against Bristol City, returns to training on Thursday and has a reasonable chance of making a return.

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KEY BATTLE – NOT BEING UTTERLY DREADFUL AT THE BACK

The most important battle will be fought outside the West Stand following the completion of the game, but during the 90 minutes, the Addicks must discover some resolve at the back.

Against Wolves, the centre-back pairing of Lennon and Naby Sarr were horrendous. The former bullied by Benik Afobe, and the latter continuing to struggle to coordinate his feet. No better than the defensive efforts that should have led to at least four or five being conceded against Bristol City on Boxing Day.

And with Bauer and Diarra unlikely to make a return, it will be to down that inexperienced pair to stand up to Forest’s forwards at The Valley on Saturday.

The relatively inform Oliveira, who has five goals since the start of Forest’s upturn in form, will be a threat, but it is the men who could potentially partner him who offer a greater concern.

Though not necessarily potent, Chris O’Grady and Dexter Blackstock are the sort of forwards that have made Charlton’s defence struggle this season. Strong and experienced, and able to draw fouls from inexperienced defenders.

Ishmael Miller, for example, bossed Sarr in the defeat to Huddersfield, while Lennon struggled with Emile Heskey during the capitulation against Bolton.

It’s time for both to step up.

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PREDICTION

See you all outside the West Stand at 5pm. And at Port Vale away next season. Charlton Athletic 0-2 Nottingham Forest

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Charlton Athletic Moments of the Year 2015 – Part Two

Part One


Watt a start – Charlton 2-0 QPR (08/08/15)

Nervousness rather than excitement was the overriding feeling for supporters of the Addicks as the current season got underway. Questions still unanswered about the ambition of the club, the credentials of the head coach, and the suitability of many of the new additions.

And events prior to kick-off in the first game of the season only increased the anxiety. Tony Watt, after an apparent disciplinary issue, starting on Charlton’s bench, while regular tormentor Charlie Austin started for QPR. Particularly with Nick Pope standing in for Henderson in goal, Luzon’s side appeared huge underdogs.

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Little shown to suggest otherwise in the opening 45 minutes. Pope competent, saving well from Tjaronn Chery, but those wearing red looking like a side that hadn’t played together before. No particularly poor individual efforts, but cohesion and a collective effort lacking.

But once Watt had been introduced at half-time, confidence spread throughout the Addicks. A roar of expectation heard each time he carried the ball forward, dancing past QPR defenders.

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And it was the Scot who gave Charlton an unexpected lead. Cutting in from the left, and drilling past Rob Green. The combination of the skill involved and the shock of going in front creating incredible celebrations in the Covered End.

Even more so when Morgan Fox was given far too much space on the left, drove forward and rifled an effort into the bottom corner from distance. The score now a reflection of Charlton’s performance, and QPR’s efforts.

The R’s stunned, and several individuals visibly beaten. The visitors providing absolutely no threat whatsoever after conceding a second.

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So too were supporters of the Addicks shocked by what they had witnessed as the full-time whistle blew, but with more positive consequences. A performance this good, with a slightly weakened team, against strong opposition suggested promise for the season ahead.

At the very least, the nerves had been settled.


Luzon losing it – the stoppage time winner against Hull City (22/08/15)

Not since Johnnie Jackson bundled in Astrit Ajdarevic’s stoppage-time corner to record a Charlton victory over QPR in February 2014 has a Valley goal been celebrated like this.

For though nothing can compare to the emotion felt as the skipper grabbed Chris Powell’s side a vital victory, this was a late winner as dramatic.

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Like that QPR stoppage-time win, this didn’t appear possible. Both before kick-off, with relegated Hull possessing quality far superior to an injury-hit Charlton’s, and as the game moved towards its conclusion.

Momentum firmly with the Tigers as eight minutes of stoppage time were announced. Simon Makienok’s opener cancelled out as Abel Herndandez pounced on Pope’s error with a minute of normal time to play, and the visitors pressed with intent for a winner.

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And only the assistant’s flag denied them it. Hernandez turning away in celebration after heading beyond Pope, only to be adjudged offside.

But as the Covered End begged for the final whistle, the Addicks staged an unlikely attack. Makienok flicking Ahmed Kashi’s delivery into the path of Johann Berg Gudmundsson, and the Iceland international able to turn home his low header.

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Chaos in the stands, those on the pitch celebrating with real emotion, and Guy Luzon sprinting down the touchline to join in with their bundle. Unforgettable.

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Remember when things were positive?


Gary, from the halfway line – Ahmed Kashi’s goal against Peterborough (25/08/15)

The Addicks, undoubtedly, would still be in a state of crisis on and off-the-pitch had Kashi been fit for the duration of the season. One additional player probably not even enough to earn Charlton a handful of extra points.

But there certainly would have been a bit more fight and resilience had the Algerian been available in the bleakest of times.

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For his impact at the start of the season, having signed from French club Metz, was huge. His mere presence providing organisation to the Charlton side, with the 27-year-old performing the holding midfield role to perfection. Strong in the tackle, relentless in his pressing, and possessing a killer pass.

Those attributes missed since his last appearance against Cardiff at the end of September. Particularly with Jordan Cousins underperforming, and El Hadji-Ba failing to impress.

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But before a heel issue ruled Kashi out for the season, the midfielder was able to provide a spectacular moment of quality during the 4-1 rout of Peterborough United in the League Cup.

With the Addicks already two goals up, through Mikhail Kennedy’s first senior strike and Ahearne-Grant’s penalty, Kashi picked up the ball just inside in the opposition’s half. He took a stride, noticed that former Charlton goalkeeper Ben Alnwick was off his line, and decided to try his luck.

To use a phrase like ‘luck’ when describing this goal, however, is doing it an injustice. With the ideal amount of dip and swerve, Kashi picked out the top corner with perfection. Disbelieving celebrations in the away end.

Celebrations that were followed by a chant of “Gary, from the halfway line”, with the visiting supporters spotting a similarity between Kashi and the illegal immigrant ‘Gary’ who appears in Only Fools and Horses.

Kashi responded positively, but was unwilling to answer the cries of “shoooooot” whenever he picked up the ball on the halfway line again.

Goal of the year? Only Watt’s solo strike against Huddersfield comes close.


The skipper-inspired comeback – Charlton 2-2 Fulham (04/10/15)

Quality and composure non-existent. Effort and a willingness to fight minimal. A poisonous atmosphere building around The Valley.

An acceptance existing that the Addicks, trailing Fulham by two with half an hour to play, were set for their fifth consecutive defeat, but not an acceptance that such a run was in any way justifiable.

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Particularly given the attitude of those wearing red. Competitive until Ross McCormack, punishing some soft Charlton defending, doubled the lead that Ryan Tunnicliffe, pouncing on a Nick Pope howler, had given the visitors, Luzon’s side now appeared mentally beaten.

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In fact, the only effort and determination being exerted by anyone connected to the Addicks was from those in the Covered End, unrelenting in their chanting of Johnnie Jackson. Desperate for their skipper to come off the bench, and attempt to inspire as he so often does.

It took until the 80th minute, a time where large parts of the crowd were too flat to care, for their calls to be answered. Luzon introducing Jackson as a token gesture, and without enough time to make a difference.

But the skipper’s inspirational qualities have no limit. Immediately meeting Gudmundsson’s corner and powering home via the underside of the crossbar, the deficit had been halved.

More importantly, Jackson’s goal provided genuine belief and hope, helped by his teammates finding a level of energy and effort that had been missing previously.

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So while he had no direct involvement in Charlton’s 96th minute equaliser, it was a goal that owed a lot to his leadership and presence. Ahearne-Grant picking out Cousins at the far post, and the academy graduate completing an unlikely turnaround.

A moment made particularly enjoyable, because of the bond between Jackson and his supporters. More on that later…


A pressing protest; a pressing performance – Charlton 3-1 Sheffield Wednesday (07/11/15)

Meire laughed in mockery at supporters from behind the West Stand’s glass windows, and Jackson bowed in appreciation in front of the Covered End.

The combination of those two very different responses, from two very different club figures, making this one of the better afternoons in SE7 this year. A successful protest, undermining the CEO despite her show of contempt, and a side successfully supported to victory for the first time in 13 games, valued by an inspired skipper.

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First, the protest. A very healthy number of disillusioned supporters, angered by the leadership of the club and the appointment of Karel Fraeye as ‘interim’ head coach, stood outside the West Stand and made their feelings known.

The return of their club asked for, calls for Duchatelet to depart, and Meire informed that she doesn’t have a clue. Her decision to come to a window, laugh and take a photo only increasing the opposition. The lack of respect she has for supporters, her customers, confirmed.

But that anger was used positively once the game itself, against Sheffield Wednesday, got underway. The emotion leading to a strong, supportive atmosphere, encouraging the Addicks as they pressed the in form Owls with energy, intent and desire not seen in the preceding weeks.

And it was Jackson who was the catalyst, inspiring his side to give the supporters the reward they deserved. His header opening the scoring, and Makienok doubling Charlton’s advantage before the break.

As the support remained unrelenting, the Addicks added a third. Ghoochannejhad turning into Fox’s delivery and sealing Charlton’s victory.

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A Naby Sarr slip up, allowing Fernando Forestieri to score, provided some late nerves, but all that was left was for Jackson to receive the appreciation his efforts deserved. As the Covered End applauded and the skipper bowed, the bond between the two could not have been any stronger. That Jackson was at the heart of it made the day even greater.

And, as the ground emptied, there was still time for one last anti-Duchatelet chant. The victory not enough to deter supporters from their opposition to the way the club was being run.

The perfect outcome, and an almost perfect day.


The captain’s half-century – Johnnie Jackson’s winner against Birmingham City (21/11/15)

There are few things more enjoyable, more emotional and more special than a Johnnie Jackson goal.

Partly because of his bond with Charlton supporters. Jackson doesn’t celebrate goals for himself, and supporters don’t celebrate Jackson goals. Jackson and his supporters celebrate them together.

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So too is it the skipper’s ability to score important goals that makes them so incredible. Match-winners, game-changers and season-defining strikes on tap.

And then there’s the manner in which he can triumph in adversity, which has proven particularly important during this year. Providing hope and jubilation to beleaguered supporters.

It was, therefore, fitting that Jackson’s 50th goal for the club was as typical a Jackson goal as you could imagine.

A bullet header, turning in Tareiq Holmes-Dennis’ cross, to give Charlton the lead against Birmingham at St Andrew’s. An unexpected lead, giving the form of the Blues, and the pressure they were applying to the Addicks goals.

The celebration incredible. Both during the moment, as he raced towards the away end, and after the game, where he was appreciated by the visiting supporters.

A true club legend. A true leader. The new contract he received following his 50th goal a rare positive move by the club this year.

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Standing up for the two percent – the Ipswich protest (28/11/15)

Events that occurred on the pitch are best ignored. The disorganised and gutless Addicks left embarrassed by a ruthless Ipswich side.

But before Daryl Murphy had struck either side of a Freddie Sears goal , the home supporters had shown the organisation and commitment that was missing from their side.

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For in the second minute, the so called “2%” rose. The apparent percentage of Charlton supporters unhappy with the way the club is being run, in the view of Meire.

It was already quite apparent that more than 2% of supporters were unhappy. The empty seats, the previous protest, and the unrest expressed online suggested that. Meire delusional and ignorant. Embedded image permalink

But the number of supporters on their feet, singing “stand up for the two percent”, with posters in their hands affirmed it. Meire fully aware of the opposition to her and Duchatelet’s running of the club.

Of course, these sort of displays change very little. More definitive and emphatic protests are going to be needed in order to oust Duchatelet and Meire.

But successfully showing an organised protest is possible suggests more will come, and apathy won’t override the desire to fight back against this failing regime.


Lennon’s late leveller – Bristol City 1-1 Charlton (26/12/15)

I questioned whether to add this moment to this list, and not just because the timing of it meant I had some more writing and editing to do.

For Harry Lennon’s stoppage-time equaliser at Ashton Gate, the most undeserved goal that Charlton have scored in 2015, was not a moment that should have been celebrated with any real joy or enthusiasm.

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The goal not enough to cover up Fraeye’s ineptitude and a pathetic performance from the Addicks, that should have been punished by a five or six goal defeat. Bristol City desperately unfortunate in front of goal, with Jonathan Kodjia wasting several glorious chances and Marlon Pack crashing a penalty against the crossbar.

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The draw not a result worth celebrating. The Addicks stuck in the bottom three, and dropping points against a relegation rival.

But, just maybe, Lennon’s 93rd minute could prove to be one of the moments of the year. A moment of this current season.

For we have been told it could be a turning point. Confidence and belief restored to this side, that capitulate and cave in so easily. Some fight shown, though assisted by good fortune, for the first time in several weeks.

That disproved two days later, as the Addicks were crushed by Wolves, but maybe it will be a crucial point. Possibly.

All we can have is hope. Without it, we’d have all gone insane this year, and wouldn’t bother entering next year.


Stand up if you want them out – The response to Wolves going ahead (28/12/15)

One final bleak Valley afternoon. This year ending in fitting fashion, with a desperately tame 2-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, and the connection between club and supporters growing further apart.

The Addicks not testing Carl Ikeme in the Wolves goal, and offering little fight once Jordan Graham had turned in Benik Afobe’s deflected to delivery to give the visitors the lead. Harry Lennon’s own goal confirming Charlton’s pathetic defeat, and ensuring that Fraeye would head down the tunnel to a chorus of boos. Grim.

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But there was one brief moment of hope. If not hope, then at least something to warm the heart.

Not long after Graham had punished the Addicks, the majority of the ground stood in unison. “Stand up if you want them out” chanted in the direction of Meire in the directors’ box, and back to wherever Duchatelet is hiding in Belgium.

The unity felt an antidote to Meire’s attempts to split “weird” supporters from their club. A genuinely powerful moment.

And one that has increased the desire for further protests. One already planned for the game against Nottingham Forest.


The emergence of Ademola Lookman

The first month of 2016 will be one full of worry for supporters of Charlton Athletic.

For not only will they have to endure the regular causes of concern, such as whether Naby Sarr will be able to coordinate his feet and what will leave Meire’s mouth next, but panic will exist until the transfer window closes that their latest talented academy graduate will be snapped up.

Arsenal, Chelsea and Southampton have all been mentioned alongside Ademola Lookman’s name, and with good reason. In a situation, and in a team, that does not appear conducive to a young player impressing, the 18-year-old has shown an incredible level of quality and confidence.

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So much so that Lookman’s emergence, from Sunday League football just over a year ago to being arguably Charlton’s most potent threat, has provided a source of genuine excitement and enjoyment in this torrid final period of 2015.

His attempts to carry the ball forward and cut inside after coming off the bench the only positive to take from the lacklustre effort against MK Dons, while his cameo in the victory over Wednesday made that afternoon even sweeter.

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But it was in disappointing results that Lookman showed the true extent of his ability. His first senior goal against Brighton a superb finish, with his attacking play relentlessly threatening for the remainder of the first half, and the anger that followed his substitution against Bolton, against who he scored twice, was telling.

A genuine talent, and a joy to watch, even in this period of suffering. There would surely be no way for Duchatelet and Meire to regain any sort of confidence from Charlton supporters if he was to be sold in January.


And Finally… 

Thank you for all your support and appreciation this year. I’ve had a pretty tough year personally, and this blog has been a welcome distraction.

Hopefully 2016 will be a better year for myself, and for Charlton. Up the Addicks!


 

Charlton Athletic Moments of the Year 2015 – Part One

Three head coaches, one dubiously appointed with the tag of ‘interim’, occupying The Valley’s home dugout primarily for their ability to work within and accept a flawed structure.

The second half of a horrendous winless run, and the entirety of another, both including some of the most desperate afternoons and evenings that many supporters have spent at The Valley.

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The continuation of a transfer policy that, irrespective of the occasional high quality player recruited, has seen players signed without the ability or application to perform in the Championship.

It is fair to say that 2015, with 22 defeats in 46 league games, will not be remembered fondly by supporters of Charlton Athletic. Fitting that their side ends the calendar year in the bottom three of the division.

In fact, it will be remembered as the year that supporters, on mass, turned on the club’s ownership. A year of outrage and protest, if not apathy and disconnection, that has built as the year has gone on.

As such, the negative periods far outweigh the positive ones. The positive periods tainted by the extent of the overriding crisis.

But the off-the-pitch situation does mean that those genuinely positive moments that have occurred in the previous 12 months have provided necessary distractions. The unexpected victories celebrated with real vigour, players rewarding supporter effort appreciated even more so than in normal circumstances, and moments where a feeling of unity has existed particularly embraced.

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It means there remains a number of moments that have occurred in the calendar year which can be looked back on with a degree of fondness.

So many that this look back at the moments of the 2015 has been split into two pieces. The second includes an opportunity to vote for your favourite moment.

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Ending the winless run – Charlton 3-0 Brentford (14/02/2015)

The cancer that runs through Charlton Athletic has inflicted deep suffering upon its supporters at various points during this calendar year.

And on few occasions has there been such a heavy sense of seemingly incurable misery as there was prior to the February clash with promotion-chasing Brentford.

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The Valley overwhelmed by a poisonous atmosphere during the 3-2 defeat to Norwich City on the Tuesday before. A gutless performance, instigated by half-hearted effort from those in red and the tactical naivety of the controversially appointed Guy Luzon, resulting in a 14th game without victory.

So not only was this a result that provided relief, moving the Addicks away from the relegation zone they were heading towards, but halted a more perilous slide into deep apathy and disillusionment. A spectacular Valley afternoon, after one of the most desperate evenings, that helped temporarily heal the cancerous wounds.

A poisonous atmosphere replaced by a supportive one, called for by the players and maintained by their efforts. Johnnie Jackson’s influence the catalyst for both supporters and his teammates, with Johann Berg Gudmundsson giving the Addicks the lead with a stunning finish before the skipper was forced off through injury.

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Important, too, was Luzon showing a degree of tactical intelligence. The Bees, in their own state of crisis following the news that Mark Warburton would be leaving the club, constantly frustrated by a resilient defensive effort, and frequently caught out by a potent Charlton threat on the counter. The second, ten minutes after the break, coming after the unplayable Tony Watt teed up Igor Vetokele to round off one such break.

And the final cogs in this almost perfect performance were the contributions from players who hadn’t made an impact in recent weeks.

Stephen Henderson playing his first game since Charlton’s last win, against Reading in November 2014, and showing the importance of his defensive leadership, while Frederic Bulot, previously failing to impress, at the heart of almost every counter and getting the reward his efforts deserved with a coolly finished third in stoppage-time. The winless run ending in emphatic fashion.

The overall picture not necessarily changing, but a sensational afternoon in SE7. The performance sublime, the atmosphere memorable, and a much needed boost provided to those in despair.


More than just a fluke – Wigan Athletic 0-3 Charlton (20/02/15)

There was some pressure on the Addicks as they travelled to the DW Stadium on the Friday night that followed their first victory in 15 games.

A different sort of pressure, but arguably the same amount that existed in the midst of their winless run. They needed to give at least some indication that their victory over Brentford was not a fluke.

And that they did, in emphatic fashion. The Addicks decimating Wigan to record their second consecutive 3-0 win, and their first of only four away victories in the entire calendar year.

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In truth, it was not as comfortable as the win over Brentford. Had the Latics possessed any sort of composure in front of goal, lacking most notably when Marc-Antoine Fortune got the better of Roger Johnson but not a defiant Stephen Henderson, they would have taken the lead long before Bulot’s fierce strike put Luzon’s side ahead.

Behind and continuing to struggle in front of goal, Wigan quickly grew frustrated. Something the Addicks were able to take advantage of again before half-time, with Vetokele rising superbly to head home Bulot’s delivery.

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It allowed Charlton to be resilient and watchful in the second period, protecting their lead despite the woeful efforts of Yoni Buyens in midfield – a contender for worst performance of the season despite victory being achieved.

And that victory was sealed with two minutes to play, as a quick Charlton counter concluded with Gudmundsson squaring to debutant Chris Eagles. His cool finish only adding to the unified and joyful celebrations come full-time.

The mood in some contrast to the weeks preceding this trip.


The Flat-Capped One’s return – Charlton 3-0 Huddersfield Town (28/02/15)

As a player, there were 270 appearances in Charlton red, with excellent performances at left-back rewarded with five England caps. As a manager, a League One title was won with 101 points, and a unified squad was able to provide some unforgettable moments in the Championship. As a person, he enjoyed the strongest possible relationship with supporters of the club.

And yet, a degree of cynicism existed over Chris Powell’s first return to The Valley since his untidy sacking. Supporters excited to welcome back a Charlton hero, and take the opportunity to show him their appreciation when he was dismissed in March 2014, having their loyalty to the Addicks questioned.

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For there was a small section of fans who were unwilling to view the Charlton legend who would stand in The Valley’s away dugout as anything more than the opposition manager. Showing admiration and appreciation to the opposition manager equates to not supporting your side, apparently. 

But such a theory is disproved by the fact that Charlton’s impressive 3-0 victory over Powell’s Huddersfield only enhances the fondness with which his first return to SE7 is looked back on. A complete contrast to the horrendous performance in defeat that made his second return later on in the year impossible to enjoy.

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From the near sold-out home ends rising as one to applaud and appreciate their former boss prior to kick-off, until Powell’s classy acknowledgement of his former supporters despite his obvious sadness at full-time, it was a day of high emotion.

Sandwiched between all that was arguably the best performance of the calendar year. Gudmundsson’s stunning free-kick the perfect reward for a first-half performance packed with high-intensity pressing and threatening play on the break.

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It provided a platform from which Watt decimated Huddersfield’s backline in the second half. Unselfishly teeing up Vetokele to double Charlton’s lead, before gliding through the Terriers and lashing in a stunning individual strike.

The day could not have gone any better.


Watt rounding off victory – Charlton 2-1 Nottingham Forest (03/03/15)

Charlton’s first three wins under Luzon had come in impressive style. A style not normally seen played by Charlton, traditionally at their best when gritty and determined.

Three teams decimated by unstoppable counter-attacking play, ultimately cowering in the face of Watt, Bulot and Gudmundsson. Brentford, Wigan and Huddersfield simply unable to test the resolve of the Addicks, for they were rather preoccupied attempting to find some of their own.

But when character and resilience was required to secure victory, something that had been absent for the duration of the 14 game winless run, Luzon’s rejuvenated side did not shy away.

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For Nottingham Forest were dominant. The fearless Michail Antonio, whose stunning individual goal cancelled out Bulot’s early free-kick, a constant menace. Lawrie Wilson terrorised, but a collective defensive effort keeping the winger and the rest of a rampant Forest side at bay.

Even the struggling Wilson, replaced at half-time, was able to show a degree of character before the break. His cross perfect for Bulot, who gave the Addicks the lead against the run of play.

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A lead, despite persistent promising attacks from the visitors and increasingly desperate defending from the hosts, that Charlton would ultimately cling onto. Their determination and fight, particularly for a side that had seemingly possessed none less than a month previously, commendable.

And the composure and class that was shown to see out the game in the closing moments topped off a very impressive effort. Watt, with the support of Bulot, dancing around Eric Lichaj and Antonio by the corner flag for the majority of the three minutes of additional time. His efforts earning a standing ovation, and a memorable Charlton victory.


Church providing divine intervention – Cardiff City 1-2 Charlton (07/03/15)

It’s accurate to suggest that Simon Church was not a fan favourite during his time in SE7. Loathed by many, not least a succession of Charlton bosses who limited his first-team chances, for his inability to hold up the ball and ineptitude when in front of goal.

But so too is it fair to say that the abusive nature of the criticism he received was unfair. His effort and endeavour, even in the most trying of circumstances, never questionable, occasionally resulting in some gritty and important contributions.

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That the case when the Welshman was introduced with just over 15 minutes to play at the Cardiff City Stadium. The Addicks lethargic and, though only one goal down, showing no signs of mounting a comeback in the forward’s homeland.

But Federico Macheda’s early second-half strike was cancelled out just seconds after Church had been brought on. The scenes of celebration, enhanced by the goalscorer standing with arms out-stretched on an advertising hoarding in front of the away end, memorable as Watt turned in Johnson’s low cross.

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And though Church had no direct involvement in the equaliser, his tenacity and workrate shown in the remainder of the contest encouraged the Addicks to press for a winner.

Even holding the ball up well to draw a foul off Sean Morrison, and win his side a penalty. One that Buyens duly dispatched, given Charlton a victory which seemed unlikely less than twenty minutes previously.

A marvellous show of character, from Church and his teammates. The first, and penultimate, time the Addicks came from behind to win in 2015.

It was also the first time Luzon had approached Charlton fans during the full-time celebrations. The controversially appointed boss seemingly now willing to attempt to build a relationship with supporters, who sung his name from the away end.

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Something special building? Obviously and ultimately not, but that moment of false hope was one to savour.


A moment of celebration in the dark side of South London – Alou Diarra’s goal against Millwall (03/04/15)

It is fitting both of Charlton’s calendar year and their long struggles in derby fixtures that a moment from a game that ultimately ended in misery makes this list.

But the joy felt as Alou Diarra superbly flicked home Morgan Fox’s cross to give the Addicks the lead and score their first goal against Millwall in seven encounters with their South East London rivals cannot be understated.

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The circumstances of the game made the goal even more enjoyable. The Addicks not only relatively lacklustre, but down to ten men. Solly dismissed for blocking Aiden O’Brien’s shot with his hands, and parity only maintained by Henderson denying Lee Gregory from the penalty spot.

So when the former France international gave the Addicks the lead with 67 minutes played, it was somewhat undeserved. At the very least, against the run of play and something of a shock to those in the away end.

Chaotic scenes of celebration followed, the first at The Den for a generation. Even a few current Addicks joined.

Undoubtedly, this was ultimately a wasted opportunity. The Addicks, winning seven of their previous nine going into the game, with their best chance to beat Millwall, plummeting towards League One, since their last victory over the Lions in 1996.

They should have been tamed. A chance to decimate a weak team should have been taken, and the lead Diarra gave the Addicks should have been protected. The capitulation that followed, with Luzon’s substitutes and tactical changes weakening his side to the point that Magaye Gueye and Jos Hooiveld turned the game on its head, embarrassing.

But that brief period where all was well could not have felt any sweeter.


Witnessing Kermorgant’s joy – Charlton Athletic 0-3 Bournemouth (02/05/15)

To include a moment with little direct relation to the Addicks probably isn’t wise. In fact, I can hear you tutting from here as you read this. The little credibility I had lost.

So it is probably best to think of this not as a Charlton moment of the year, but a personal moment of the year while watching the Addicks. For myself, and for any others who share equal admiration of Yann Kermorgant.

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In fact, there was very little focus on the hosts when Bournemouth visited The Valley on the final day of last season. Only defeat by a ridiculous margin would deny the Cherries promotion to the Premier League, and it was not out of the question that they could snatch the title from Watford’s hands.

That made more the case with Charlton, marooned in mid-table, playing like a team with nothing to play for. Eddie Howe’s side ruthlessly capitalising upon the half-hearted Addicks, scoring twice inside 12 minutes.

Their third coming almost simultaneously with Sheffield Wednesday’s equaliser at Watford, allowing the Bournemouth fans in the away end to celebrate with incredible intensity. The title theirs come full-time.

But instead of feeling anger and sadness over the heavy defeat, there was instead a feeling of warmth in witnessing Bournemouth’s joy. In particular, the joy of Kermorgant.

The only real competition between the two sides during the game had been between the two sets of supporters, in showing their admiration for the Frenchman, and Kermorgant had the generosity to acknowledge his former fans in the midst of his current side’s celebrations.

So too did he depart the pitch to embrace his friends and family in the West Stand. His name sung by Charlton supporters and applause sent his way as he did. The connection with the Frenchman still stronger than with most that were wearing red that day.

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It was also quite a nice feeling knowing that Meire had to watch Kermorgant collect his league winners’ medal, despite the fact he was surplus to requirements in SE7. I imagine I’ll still be expressing my displeasure at his sale in the 2016 version of this.

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The emergence of Joe Gomez

If there remains just one thing related to Charlton that you can feel a sense of pride in, then it is the continued development of exceptional young talent.

The motives behind Ducahtelet and Meire’s focus on youth development remain questionable, with it used to justify the lack of squad depth and the benefits it can have financially seemingly more important than any potential on-the-pitch success, but it takes little away from the joy of seeing a homegrown player excel.

And while Chris Solly’s longevity and Player of the Year Jordan Cousins’ tenacious work are both admired, the excitement and pride provided by watching a teenager with the aura of class and quality that Joe Gomez is unmatched.

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Nine of is 24 appearances for the Addicks came in 2014, and his potential was proven during those, but the maturity and brilliance shown throughout his 15 games in 2015 was incredible.

The then 17-year-old standing up and excelling in an environment that didn’t at all seem conducive to a young player impressing, performing in a position that traditionally requires a greater deal of experience.

For the centre-back’s efforts were vital to Charlton turning a run of 14 games without a win to seven victories in nine. Composed, dominant and assured when the likes of Andre Bikey had previously been anything but.

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But his best performance came at right-back, dragged across to attempt to fend off the rampant Antonio that Wilson could not stop in the aforementioned game against Forest. The winger much quieter after the break, struggling to beat Gomez.

And such is his quality and maturity, there was no anger sent the way of the young defender when he departed for Liverpool. Frustration with the club’s decision to sell, but only good wishes for Gomez himself, and further excitement when he began the season in Brendan Rodgers’ side.

Equally, there was disappointment when the 18-year-old picked up a season-ending injury while representing the England U21. He will surely bounce back, and we’ll be able to say he’s one of ours when he pulls on the full England shirt.


Part Two

Wolves Worsen Regime’s Woes

This annus horribilis could not have ended in more fitting fashion. One final bleak Valley afternoon in 2015, with a performance from those in red reflecting the overall shambolic state of a football club that has insulted its supporters with increasing offence as the year has progressed.

So much so that it is not these dire displays, unpleasant whether a committed supporter or a casual observer, that sit at the heart of the anger felt by Addicks. Nor that the 2-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers means Charlton will enter 2016 in the Championship’s bottom three.

The failure merely a symptom of Roland Duchatelet’s flawed philosophy and Katrien Meire’s ignorance. A result of their desire to run a football club in a manner which puts no focus on footballing success, which recruits players without the quality or heart required, and appoints head coaches on the basis of their likelihood to abide by their ways. That is intent on divorcing supporters, so crucial in this club’s history, from Charlton Athletic.

But having to endure this side, weakened further by injuries and Karel Fraeye’s tactical naivety, perform so poorly is only increasing the disillusion, and the discontent. Encouraged in moments during the first half, against a Wolves side that were solid but unable regularly test Charlton’s resolve, a second-half capitulation inflicted yet more misery.

Seven minutes all that the Addicks could last beyond the break without imploding. Benik Afobe too quick and too strong for Harry Lennon, driving into the box and cutting across the face of goal, via a deflection or two, for Jordan Graham. The youngster making no mistake from close range.

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Fight not visible from most of those in red, and a lack of quality meant it would have been hidden if it was. Fraeye, via substitute Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, passed a bit of paper to Johnnie Jackson, but nothing changed. There was an acceptance, a deflated one possessed by the players and an angered acknowledgement from those in the stands, of defeat.

Confirmed when Lennon turned Graham’s corner into his own net with seven minutes to play. The clattering of seats and the emptying of the stands fitting of the apathy that has been instilled in supporters by this regime in 2015.

But this was a performance so poor, so weak and so effortless that such apathy was overridden. Wolves’ first responded to with a chant of “stand up if you want them out”, with almost all inside The Valley participating in a powerful display of collective opposition, and those that remained at full-time vicious in their booing of Fraeye as he walked down the tunnel.

That such a strong and collective opposition exists provides the faintest of hope that change will occur in 2016. For if next year continues from where this one has left off, supporters will continue to split from their club, and Charlton will split from the Championship.

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There was little optimism before kick-off, irrespective of the narrative that suggested Lennon’s unlikely equaliser at Bristol City would be a season-changing goal.

For the Addicks were depleted. Alou Diarra joining Patrick Bauer in the treatment room, meaning Lennon and Naby Sarr would have to deal with Afobe, while the absence of Jordan Cousins meant a start for El-Hadji Ba.

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Fraeye’s unenforced decisions also appeared a little bizarre. Morgan Fox, despite an error-prone display at Ashton Gate, keeping his place ahead of Holmes-Dennis, while Karlan Ahearne-Grant was preferred to Simon Makienok.

But the tempo of Charlton’s start went against those perceptions that they were simply going to cave in. Not that this was glorious football, with a Reza Ghoochannejhad’s blocked curler and Ricardo Vaz Te’s horribly wayward strike the only consequences of it, but the Addicks were moving the ball much quicker, looking much more composed and pressing with greater intensity than they did on Boxing Day.

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Much of that was down to Ademola Lookman. Lively on the ball, and constantly harassing off it, there was at least a small squeal of expectation each time the 18-year-old received the ball in his wide left position.

Lookman, however, probably summed up the frustration of Charlton’s efforts. Some energy, no doubt, but absolutely no end product. Former Addick Carl Ikeme might have finally been tested had Morgan Fox’s long range strike not been blocked.

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And without that end product, Wolves were always likely to grow into the game as they regained possession from failed attacks, and panicked Sarr clearances. Not the scintillating attacking force that they were last season, but the visitors still giving Charlton’s backline plenty to do.

Afobe wrestled with Lennon, one-time Charlton target James Henry often led the Wolves counter attacks, while the pace of Graham left and full-back Dominic Iorfa on the right constantly tested Chris Solly and Fox.

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As such, the uncomfortable moments for the Addicks increased in severity as the half went on. Henry beating Fox, but no one alive to his superb driven ball across the face of goal, before the winger sent Iorfa free, only for Lennon to crucially hack away the full-back’s delivery. Panic in Wolves’ box restricted to Lookman’s underhit corner bouncing into the middle before it was cleared.

But, reflecting the lack of true quality on show, it took until just shy of the half hour mark for either side to produce a genuine opening.

And even then, it was a genuine opening that was squandered. Afobe with the space just yards from goal to bring down Danny Batth’s headed pass with his chest, but the ball somehow got away with him as he attempted to poke beyond Stephen Henderson. The goalkeeper bravely claiming.

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Brave, too, was Lennon’s intervention to deny Graham. The academy graduate blocking what appeared to be a goal-bound strike from the lively Graham with his head. With half-time approaching, there was a though that that would be enough to get the Addicks in at the break without incident.

Alas, with two minutes to play before half-time, Charlton’s main source of hope pulled up as he chased the ball. Lookman seemingly pulling his hamstring, and unable to continue.

The youngster visibly devastated, probably only made worse by a hug from Fraeye, as he left the pitch to a round of applause. You can only hope that won’t be the last time the 18-year-old appears at The Valley in Charlton red.

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In the short-term, there were fears that, without Lookman on the pitch, another capitulation from the Addicks would follow. The referee taking an accidental blow to the face from substitute Makienok and falling to the ground as a result, providing some much needed light relief.

But it soon became apparent referee Keith Hill was in a degree of discomfort. Able to finish the half, receiving applause from the Covered End and an apology from Makienok, but not reappearing for the second. My hopes that a qualified official from the stands would be asked for, like myself, not fulfilled.

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Nor were my hopes that the Addicks would start the second period with a degree or resolve and composure. Fox’s horrendous corner allowing Wolves to break, with Dave Edwards sending Graham through on goal. A collective sigh of relief expressed as his strike flashed narrowly wide.

And though Henry’s wild strike from the edge of the box, both high and wide, suggested Wolves might not have the potency to capitalise on Charlton’s incredibly uncomfortable start to the second half, that feeling of relief was soon replaced by despair and anger.

Lennon had been struggling to deal with the dangerous Afobe since the game got underway, and the pressure applied by the robust forward finally told. Making the space to beat him on the right, Afobe then shrugged off the academy graduate’s attempts to halt his run, before squaring to Graham. Desperate dives unable to prevent him from thundering home.

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Boos immediately ringing out around a much fuller Valley than in recent weeks. The volume of which only increased as Lennon gifted possession to Afobe, and Henderson was forced to make a fine diving save to prevent the forward doubling Wolves’ lead.

This the catalyst for a response from not just the Covered End, but the entire ground. Even those in the Jimmy Seed Stand appearing to join in as almost all rose to the chant of “stand up, if you want them out”. An as vigorous cry of “two percent, you’re having a laugh” following. Poisonous, but powerful.

It should, however, have also been a catalyst for a response from those on the pitch.

And it could have been, had Vaz Te been more alert. Fox doing superbly to dispossess Matt Doherty, and his low cross turned away into the centre of the box by Ikeme, but the former West Ham could only slice a strike wide. In truth, he faced considerable pressure from the Wolves defence, but he should have done better.

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Instead, large parts of the Charlton side looked beaten. Too physically tired and mentally deflated to fight. For every Solly and Jackson, continuing to give their all, there was a Vaz Te and Ghoochannejhad. At least Fox, hacking away a Conor Coady cross from another rampant Wolves break, kept the deficit at just one.

But with scuffed Lennon strikes and tame Makienok headers all Charlton could throw at the visitors’ goal, despite Fraeye’s piece of paper interesting Jackson for quite some time, there seemed little hope of that deficit being eclipsed. The Addicks lethargic, lacklustre, and only increasing the loathing felt among supporters.

So too were they guaranteed to be on the losing side with seven minutes to play, as Graham’s corner was met by Batth, and deflected into his own net by Lennon. While the Wolves supporters roared, the home ends emptied. This a moment too bleak and depressing for vicious anger.

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Self-pity and misery took over. “How shit must you be, we’re winning away?” the away supporters heckled. “You’re nothing special, we lose every week,” the Addicks responded.

The returning Cristian Ceballos stabbed comfortably wide, and Vaz Te had an ambitious shout for a penalty turned down, but all that really remained was an opportunity to show discontent come full-time. The only reason that home supporters remained inside the ground as the final whistle blew.

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Boos meeting it, and anger sent the way of the players who played for the club still 23rd in the Championship, and without a win in seven.

But the largest boo saved for Fraeye. Our main concerns sit above him, but the anger with this performance sent his way, and the interim head coach representing this regime.

This regime that has made 2015 bleak for those disillusioned, depressed and disgusted supporters of Charlton Athletic Football Club. Supporters, not emotionless customers.

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For if we were emotionless customers, we would not keep coming back. We would not accept the poor entertainment, dire service and insulting treatment that is currently being offered. And we don’t.

We don’t accept the Addicks failing to once test Ikeme in the Wolves goal. The visitors putting a very commendable away performance, with defensive resolve and utilising their pace on the counter, but this not a performance that warranted a stress free victory.

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For once Wolves took the lead, there was little to no fight from Charlton. Once again, heads dropping, the body language all wrong, and a capitulation following the conceding of a goal. There is no desire to dig in for the cause, and Fraeye is so underqualifed that he simply cannot make any sort of impact in such situations.

There are those that escape criticism. Solly, superb once again, visibly devastated come full-time and Jackson, amongst a composed and committed display, never stopped demanding more from his side.

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They are hurting as much as us. They certainly don’t accept these performances, and ending the year in the relegation zone. Their continued effort provides a small crumb of comfort in these troubled times.

But it feels relatively meaningless while this horrendous regime continues to fail us. In their running of the club, in their treatment of us, and in these dreadful displays.

This regime that continues to drive our Charlton away from us. Not a winning Charlton necessarily, but one we can have some sort of connection to. This isn’t it.

These emotionless customers, you hope, will be fighting for change in 2016. Fighting to keep their bond with their football club from breaking, regardless of what the regime wants.

It would also be quite nice if the players and management could start fighting a bit more, to keep this club in the second tier.

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Preview: Charlton Athletic V Wolverhampton Wanderers

The festive football feast is, normally, one of the most enjoyable periods of the season. Games coming thick and fast, with little time spare to communicate with relatives and consume leftover turkey in between trips to grounds.

But for supporters of Charlton Athletic, it seems more like a punishment than a treat to watch their side on two occasions over the space of three days.

Harry Lennon’s dramatic, and undeserved, stoppage-time equaliser at Ashton Gate on Boxing Day not enough to cover up the disgustingly poor performance that preceded it, and a repeat will simply not be tolerated when Wolverhampton Wanderers visit SE7 on Monday.

That particularly the case given the lack of enjoyment that is provided on an average trip to The Valley for home supporters in recent times. Empty seats, pathetic performances encouraging a poisonous atmosphere, and apathy and disillusion only increasing.

But maybe, just maybe, Lennon’s late leveller is enough to provide a degree of hope for beleaguered supporters of the club. Evidence that a degree of fight exists in this side, and confidence potentially increasing amongst a side that previously had none.

Regardless, all that can be done is hope there is significant improvement against Wolves. Enough to record the victory that is now required following the draw with Bristol City.

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LAST MEETING – WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 2-1 CHARLTON ATHLETIC

A late capitulation at Molineux in August saw Charlton suffer their first defeat of the season.

After a first half featuring few chances and lacking in quality, the Addicks made what appeared to be a crucial breakthrough at the start of the second. Igor Vetokele teeing up Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who fired an effort underneath former Charlton goalkeeper Carl Ikeme.

But Guy Luzon’s side failed to build on their advantage, and allowed Wolves back into the game in the scrappiest of fashions. Dave Edwards, unmarked in the middle, levelled after his initial strike rebounded off Alou Diarra and fell straight back to him. Charlton’s defending leaving a lot to be desired.

As it did when Adam Le Fondre stole all three points for the hosts with five minutes to play. Sheyi Ojo getting in behind Chris Solly with ease, and Le Fondre unchallenged as he converted the Liverpool loanee’s low cross.

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FORM

Wolves: WLLDWD

Having missed out on the play-offs last season on goal difference, it’s fair to say that Wolves’ second season back in the second tier has been a disappointment.

So much so that there have been calls, if not wholesale, for the sacking of Kenny Jackett. The boss expected to lead the Molineux club on a push for the top six once again, but his side currently sit nine points off sixth place Ipswich Town in 16th.

There have, in truth, been issues outside of Jackett’s control. The failure of the club hierarchy to adequately replace Bakary Sako and a serious injury to Nouha Dicko leaving just Benik Afobe standing from last season’s often unplayable forward trio.

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But so too have there been questions raised over his decision making, and the performances of his players. Defensive errors, plenty seen in the recent 4-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, a midfield lacking both resolve and creativity, and a consistent and potent supply for Afobe all harming Wolves.

Only one win recorded in eight games prior to Boxing Day. Defeat against Bristol City, and a goalless draw with MK Dons. Seven goals conceded in back-to-back games against Leeds and Wednesday. The situation grim.

But Wolves will go into Monday’s game at The Valley with a degree of confidence. James Henry’s early goal, and some stubborn defensive work, enough to give Jackett’s men victory over Reading on Saturday.

Not enough to address all the concerns of supporters, of course, but possibly providing self-belief to an underperforming side.

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Charlton: DLDDLL

Lennon’s volleyed equaliser celebrated with some gusto, and the stolen point gleefully taken over coming away from Ashton Gate empty handed, but the late goal against Bristol City has changed very little.

The anger with Charlton’s poor performance, which should have resulted in a four or five goal defeat, dying down not even a fraction. The outrage over Karel Fraeye’s continued leadership of the side as strong as ever. Support not suddenly growing for the flawed running of the club.

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For not only do the Addicks continue to occupy a relegation spot, two points from safety and without a win in six, but the manner of the display against a side also in and around the bottom three is extremely worrying. Defensive resolve lacking, midfield cohesion non-existent, and barely any attacking threat.

Had one of several City chances been taking, particularly Jonathan Kodjia’s header or Marlon Pack’s missed penalty, then Fraeye’s side would have suffered the punishment they deserved. Instead, they were somehow able to snatch a completely undeserved point.

Still not good enough. Vast improvement still needed.

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THE OPPOSITION

Jackett will be sweating over the fitness of midfielder Jack Price, who missed the Boxing Day victory over Reading through illness.

Should he not recover in time, then Wolves could potentially name an unchanged team for the trip to SE7. Kevin McDonald, Connor Coady, and Dave Edwards continuing in the centre.

The likelihood of that increased by a lack of options available in reserve. Emiliano Martinez, Kortney Hause and Nouha Dicko, who suffered his potentially season-ending injury against the Addicks, remain out, while new addition Michal Zyro cannot feature until January.

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THE ADDICKS

Charlton are likely to be without Alou Diarra after injury forced the Frenchman off during Saturday’s draw with Bristol City.

The midfielder filled in at centre-back with Patrick Bauer, unlikely to return on Monday, absent at Ashton Gate, and Naby Sarr is likely to partner Lennon at the heart of Charlton’s defence. A weak and inexperienced partnership.

The Addicks could also be without Jordan Cousins, with the academy graduate collapsing in the dressing room at half-time having played on Boxing Day despite being unwell all week. El Hadji-Ba, who made a decent contribution after coming off the bench at Ashton Gate, the man likely to replace Cousins in the middle.

Elsewhere, Gudmundsson is unlikely to make a return from the injury that has kept him out of the previous two games, and Igor Vetokele, Ahmed Kashi and Cristian Ceballos remain absent.

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KEY BATTLE: LIMITING THE CHANCES GIVEN TO WOLVES’ FORWARDS

Though Wolves’ attacking play has not been as potent as it was last season, with the Sako-Afobe-Dicko triumvirate blitzing all who stood in their way, there remains goals in this side.

Only Fulham (36) have scored more than Wolves (29) outside of the Championship’s top nine, and Afobe’s nine league goals place him behind just six men in the division’s top scorer chart.

That provides a particular worry for the Addicks, given how poor they have been defensively in recent weeks. Capitulations against Brighton and Bolton, no resolve shown against Burnley, and Bristol City gifted chance after chance.

Charlton fortunate on Boxing Day that the Robins could not finish. Aaron Wilbraham, Kodjia and Pack all missing glorious chances, which were gifted to them by poor defending from the visitors.

Given the attacking threat that Wolves carry, with Afobe supplemented by Henry and the in-form Jordan Graham, a repeat of such tame defensive efforts will surely be punished. Vital that the Addicks find some resolve, and limit the opportunities Afobe and friends have to test Stephen Henderson.

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PREDICTION

Too many worrying signs seen at Ashton Gate to feel any degree of confidence, irrespective of the late equaliser. Charlton Athletic 0-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Lennon Leveller Fails to Cover Charlton Cracks

If Christmas Day is a time of giving and receiving in a peaceful setting, then snatching whatever you can amongst chaos is the mantra for Boxing Day.

For while shoppers were coming to the end of their hunt through the sales, unwilling to give up hope of finding a bargain when logic suggested it was a lost cause, Charlton were coming away from Ashton Gate with a point claimed so desperately that not even the Addicks themselves had any belief of finding the equaliser that their efforts did not deserve.

In fact, Karel Fraeye’s disorganised and error-prone side were more like a casual passer-by of a shopping centre, taking a quick peek inside just one shop and finding a hidden gem. The persistent and penetrative Bristol City searching with intent for the full duration, but unable to find the rewards they deserved.

In most cases, there would be minimal sympathy with the hosts. An argument existing that they could only blame themselves as they lay devastated while the Addicks celebrated Harry Lennon’s stoppage time leveller.

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For they should have taken one of the numerous chances created to add to the lead they took through Nathan Baker’s late first-half header. That Marlon Pack’s penalty miss, awarded after the lively Jonathan Kodjia was pulled back by Lennon, was not the best opportunity wasted speaks volumes of City’s struggles in front of goal.

But so too does it indicate the ineptitude of Charlton’s performance. Fraeye’s tactics and decision making laughable, eleven individuals wearing purple rather than a cohesive unit, and the lack of quality depressing for those that had travelled to the West Country.

As such, it would be naïve not to have the largest amount of sympathy possible for Steve Cotterill’s men. Their performance good enough to punish the Addicks by five or six. The Addicks so disgustingly poor that a defeat by that margin would have been suitable punishment.

Equally, there is not a feeling of delirious joy among Charlton supporters, and only a smidgen of relief. A release of emotion as the net rippled from Lennon’s volley, but disappointment the overriding feeling once the dust had settled.

A head coach simply not good enough, a performance that cannot be justified at all by the leveller, and a point that, regardless of the manner it was gained in, isn’t worth celebrating unless you believe Charlton’s current position is reflective of what our ambitions should be.

A gem seemingly snatched, but picked up in the wrong size with no replacement available. Charlton need to find something other than this, or this point will only be an academic figure for a side who finish in the bottom three.

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There were concerns that the Addicks would be in for something of a torrid afternoon from the moment Fraeye’s bizarre XI was revealed.

Though there was little the ‘interim’ head coach could do about the absence of the injured Patrick Bauer, with Alou Diarra dropping into the backline to replace him, it was hard to make sense of his unenforced decisions.

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Morgan Fox, without form or confidence, picked ahead of Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, and a fragile side that required structure in midfield containing none of it.

Ademola Lookman, in for Bauer, returning from injury and lining up alongside three other forwards – Ricardo Vaz Te, Simon Makienok and Reza Goochannejhad. The 18-year-old and Vaz Te appeared to be occupying wide positions as the game got underway, but still a formation that appeared more bonkers than brave, irrespective of Ghoochannejhad’s strike forcing an early save out of City goalkeeper Frank Fielding.

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That, however, was a rare foray into the opposition’s box during the first half. Charlton too slow in possession, static without it, and regularly having predictable passes intercepted by the lively individuals wearing the red of the Robins.

By contrast, there was a sharpness about the way the hosts attacked. Their passing crisp and quick, often picking out their pacey widemen to carry the ball forward with intent. Elliott Bennett bombing down the right, and crossing for Kodjia to head over at the far post.

A certain amount of directness existing in City’s play, and a confidence that would have helped to heal the Addicks’ indecisiveness. Henderson’s excellent diving stop denying full-back Joe Bryan completing his drive forward with a goal.

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All Charlton could respond with was a testing delivery from the left, that Makienok opted not to attempt to attack. A sense of restlessness in the away end with just 15 minutes played.

Restlessness would grow in the home ends of Ashton Gate if their side didn’t show a touch more composure in front of goal. Henderson out of position after Bennett’s cross had beaten those in the middle and skipped through to the far post, but Bryan only able to loop the ball over the bar.

And, in truth, this wasn’t Henderson’s finest half hour or so in a Charlton shirt. Support lacking from his teammates, lacklustre in their efforts to halt City’s forward moves, but dropping a delivery onto Aaron Wilbraham’s feet was inexcusable. Thankfully, the former Palace striker hurriedly poked wide.

Some reassurance provided moments later, as Charlton’s number one pulled off a stunning reaction save to keep out Wilbraham’s header irrespective of the linesman’s flag being up, but quickly taken away. Diarra, long hobbling around like myself after a second serving of Christmas dinner, finally caving in. The stand-in centre-back replaced by the struggling Naby Sarr.

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Unsurprisingly, the Robins continued to exploit the Addicks. Particularly on their right, with Bennett and Luke Ayling combining again and again to embarrass Fox. The overall organisation and defensive composure becoming increasingly poor.

Though you could do little but admire Pack’s pinpoint cross-field ball that sent Kodjia through. The Frenchman’s finish, however, did not match the quality of the pass. His strike sliced and wayward.

It was then time for Kodjia to turn provider, dancing round Fox and driving into the box, before cutting back to the unmarked Wilbraham. But, with those in the home ends beginning to celebrate such was the manner of the opening, the experienced forward leant back as he made contact with the ball and somehow managed to blast over. Half-time could not soon enough for this muddled group of Addicks.

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So the announcement of six minutes of additional time, the result of Diarra’s injury struggles, was hardly ideal. Not for Charlton, and not for referee Oliver Langford, whose decisions were invoking a hostile response from the City supporters. The sort of performance that suggested he got a new whistle for Christmas.

But that anger soon turned to celebration, as the Robins won a corner deep into the additional six minutes. Henderson came to claim Luke Freeman’s delivery, but found himself stranded, allowing Nathan Baker to nod in at the far post.

The punishment that the Addicks deserved for such a dire first half display. No sense of injustice that the goal came so late, only anger and resentment at the performance their side had given.

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And those emotions were increased as the second half was about to get underway, combined with a bit of confusion, as those in the away end struggled to make sense of Fraeye’s decision to replace the unfit Cousins with Holmes-Dennis. Johnnie Jackson, though fighting valiantly, alone in the middle, and the side would surely capitulate as a result.

Charlton uncomfortable each time City gained possession, with the Ashton Gate crowd roaring with expectancy as their side pressed forward. The second goal seemingly coming, as Kodjia turned Ayling’s cross wide.

The visiting supporters behind the goal the Robins were attacking only able to take brief moments of enjoyment from the hosts’ struggles to finish. Laughter filling the away end as Kodjia, latching onto Wilbraham’s blocked shot, somehow managed to head over when effectively underneath the bar.

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These misses not reflective of Kodjia’s overall play. His movement, strength and ability on the ball all excellent, but the Frenchman enjoyed no luck in front of goal whatsoever. The forward teed up again moments later, but unable to keep his strike down.

Wilbraham, too, seemed cursed. A corner somehow finding its way to him at the back post, but the forward only able to push the ball back across the face of goal. Agonising for City supporters, and for those Addicks who knew possessing faint hope was dangerous.

At least those in purple were making sure that faint hope didn’t get out of hand. Makienok, in a rare attack, firing straight at Fielding, and Sarr bizarrely giving the ball to Freeman on the edge of his own box, only for the winger to slice his strike wide.

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And it seemed that that hope was finally being killed off when Kodjia’s quick feet were too good for Lennon, and the young defender desperately tugged at his shirt inside the box. A naïve foul to give away, and the decision to award the spot kick could not be argued with.

But with Charlton supporters already resigning themselves to defeat, the sweet sound of the ball crashing against the crossbar was heard. Pack’s penalty rebounding back off of Henderson’s goal frame, and away.

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Sheer disbelief, and some genuine belief in the away end. A roar of encouragement, in the hope that the miss could deflate City, and push the Addicks on.

Such consequences did not appear likely straight away, though, as Fox took far too long on the ball and allowed Bennett to dispossess him. The lively winger firing narrowly over from the edge of the box.

However, it became apparent that, with 20 minutes to play, the Robins were beginning to sit deeper. Continuing to exploit a fragile Charlton side too risky, and it safer to hold off their toothless front line for the remainder of the game.

Such an attitude was questionable, particularly given the amount of time left in the game, and made more so with Fielding called upon to save well from a Lennon volley.

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But Charlton’s faults meant it appeared City would be successful with any tactic used. The Addicks without any sort of creativity or threat, merely pumping balls in the general direction of Makienok in the desperate hope he’d win it. Confidence and organisation nil.

A tactic that, surprisingly, almost worked as full-time approached. The giant Dane nodding down for Ghoochannejhad, only for a crucial block from goalscorer Baker to deny the Iranian. The mood that had been created by the manner of the performance meant such chances were being created in the hope of a consolation goal, but the Addicks still had hope of an equaliser as four minutes of additional time were signalled.

Not much hope, particularly not with Kodjia continuing to cause a nuisance when the Robins broke during four minutes of additional time, but some. No expectation, and defeat almost accepted, but a point not as far away as it felt.

It was just a 93rd minute Lennon volley away. Out of nothing, a blocked shot sat up perfectly for the defender, and he finished with all the class and composure that City could not muster.

As hard to explain where the celebrations came from as the goal. An away end that had been dejected, and understandably so, for so long suddenly finding some energy. For all the anger and frustration, few were turning down the chance to celebrate a stoppage-time equaliser.

That is, few of a Charlton persuasion. Those in red crestfallen on conceding the goal, and at the sound of the full-time whistle which blew shortly after. They deserved nothing less than a win, something that even the Addicks, once they had calmed down, couldn’t disagree with. A point undeservedly snatched from Ashton Gate.

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For there is no getting away from the just how embarrassing and insulting a performance this was. A dysfunctional unit, with absolutely no quality whatsoever, completely outplayed by a decent enough side, but one that were made to look like promotion chasers.

City are, of course, fellow relegation strugglers. Their inability to finish possibly a key reason why they are where they are, but an overall performance like the one they provided today would surely prove to ultimately be enough.

By contrast, the outlooks look bleak while the Addicks continue to perform to such a low standard. Only Chris Solly, diligent and persistent, and Jackson, unrelenting and often throwing his body on the line, come away from the West County with any sort of credit.

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The defence a complete shambles. Lennon and Sarr unable to cope with Wilbraham and Kodjia, while Fox’s efforts were abysmal. Rarely have I seen any Championship side defend so poorly.

That not helped by the complete lack of structure given to the side. The four in attack meant there was no support for the full-backs, and both Lookman and Vaz Te provided very little going forward anyway. Fraeye’s decision making and tactics amateurish – this job not for him.

As such, the point changes nothing.

The point not good enough to be celebrated beyond the actual celebration of the goal. We should not be in a relegation battle, and should not be accepting it. We should not be suggesting that these points might keep us up, as if that’s an acceptable situation to be in.

Nothing changes, and the same things will continue. Fraeye will continue to fail as head coach, and his side, lacking in almost every quality you could think of, will continue to struggle. It’s very hard to see where this something else will come from.

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In truth, there is hope of an increase in confidence. At the very least, maybe conceding a goal won’t completely destroy the Addicks from this moment forth.

But to suggest Lennon’s goal is season changing is delusional. It does not cover up the concerns, and the faults of this horrendous performance.

Either way, a performance as poor as this against Wolves on Monday, and we’ll get the heavy defeat we deserved today. The equaliser cannot be used as a justification to turn a blind eye to just how poor it was.

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Preview: Bristol City V Charlton Athletic

The constant capitulations impossible to bear. Having to endure defeats and dire displays becoming more tiresome with each week. The overall state of crisis at the club continuing to encourage disillusion and apathy.

But arguably the biggest source of frustration is the lack of acceptance of fault combined with the pathetic excuses being bleated out by the ignorant, the arrogant and the abysmal.

Such behaviour has come to be expected from Katrien Meire, unwilling to believe that the experiment herself and Roland Duchatelet are implementing is failing, but interim head coach Karel Fraeye’s words are becoming increasingly bizarre and insulting.

The games too challenging, as if this isn’t a division packed with very strong teams and our position in the table is in some way justifiable. A 44 minute spell where the Addicks didn’t concede seen positively, regardless of the four goals that followed. Any suggestion that Fraeye might be at fault immediately turned on his players.

But there can be no excuses for failure at Bristol City on Boxing Day. The Robins two points and three places above 22nd place Charlton, and this a game that the Addicks cannot afford to drop points in.

Perceived positives or testing circumstances are meaningless. The interim head coach, if not admitting his unsuitability for the job, can only be speaking about three points come full-time.

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LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 4-1 BRISTOL CITY

The Addicks rounded off a successful first season back in the Championship with a convincing victory over the already relegated Robins in May 2013.

As was so often the case, it was Yann Kermorgant who starred for Charlton. His emphatic volley from Mark Gower’s delivery giving the hosts the lead just after half-time, before the Frenchman headed home Chris Solly’s cross to double his side’s advantage four minutes later.

Bristol City momentarily got themselves back into the game, when a defensive mix up allowed Bobby Reid to reduce the deficit, but Charlton soon restored their two goal advantage. Kermorgant denied a hat-trick after his delicious chip hit the bar, but Jon Obika was able to nod in the loose ball.

And the win, and season, was rounded off by the skipper. Johnnie Jackson converting from Bradley Pritchard’s ball, only increasing the buoyant mood as Chris Powell addressed The Valley crowd at full-time. A moment so far from what is occurring now.

FORM

Bristol City: DLWLLD

Regardless of the emphatic nature in which the Robins achieved promotion from League One last season, racking up 99 points and losing just five times, relative struggle was predicted for the Ashton Gate club on their return to the Championship.

A failure to add substantially to their squad in the summer, with the addition of potent forward Jonathan Kodjia supplemented by loan signings, seemingly leaving prime candidates for the drop.

So for Steve Cotterill’s side to be sat outside the relegation zone at Christmas can be judged as something of a success. The goal this season surely to maintain their status in the Championship, regardless of the means by which it is achieved.

And, to their credit, they have shown the sort or fight and resilience required to avoid a return to League One on a number of occasions. Tight wins recorded over Wolves and Huddersfield in the previous two months, while Aaron Wilbraham’s late equaliser against QPR last weekend will provide a timely boost of confidence going into the festive period.

That boost needed after a harrowing four goal defeat away at Derby County. As the 3-0 loss at relegation rivals Rotherham also shows, City are as likely to capitulate as they are to show resolve.

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Charlton: LDDLLW

It’s almost as if the back-to-back victories over Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham, where a degree of quality and resolve were on show, didn’t take place.

For the Addicks, now five without a win, have become increasingly gutless in recent weeks. The capitulation against Brighton, a failure to hold a two goal lead at home to Bolton, and last weekend’s second-half effort against Burnley all extremely disheartening.

The results grim, and the league table even more so, but it is the performances that are providing the biggest cause for concern. Organisation non-existent, effort and energy vanishing incredibly quickly, and the will to fight in testing circumstances minimal.

Relegation worries increasing with each humiliating capitulation.

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THE OPPOSITION

Cotterill could be without Kieran Agard for the second successive weekend, with the forward struggling to recover from a calf strain.

The injury, picked up in training prior to the draw with QPR, kept him out of the clash with the R’s, and Robins boss Cotterill is unlikely to risk the former Rotherham man if he is not fully fit with fixtures coming thick and fast over the festive period.

His absence will mean top scorer Kodjia and Wilbraham, who scored the equaliser last weekend, will start together in attack.

THE ADDICKS

Charlton’s chances of recording the victory they so desperately need have been dealt a blow with the news that several of their key men are spending time inside the Sparrows Lane treatment room.

Both Ricardo Vaz Te and Patrick Bauer were forced off during the defeat to Burnley, and are unlikely to be fit in time for Saturday’s trip to Ashton Gate.

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Vaz Te’s absence can be negated if both Ademola Lookman and Johann Berg Gudmundsson return from the knocks that kept them out of the loss at Turf Moor, which appears likely given that they only narrowly missed out last weekend. The pair taking up wide roles, with Reza Ghoochannejhad partnering Simon Makienok in attack.

But replacing Bauer could prove more difficult. Naby Sarr, struggling to adapt to English football, cannot be trusted to start at centre-back, so Alou Diarra may have to drop into the back line from his holding midfield role.

Elsewhere, Igor Vetokele and Cristian Ceballos have returned to outdoor training, but neither are likely to make a return until January.

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KEY BATTLE – ALSO WINNING THE OTHER 46 MINUTES

“For 44 minutes we were the best team,” said Fraeye following Saturday’s defeat to Burnley. A comment almost insulting to those supporters who had seen their side capitulate so emphatically thereafter.

Similar anger was felt after it was said that Roland Duchatelet congratulated Fraeye on his side’s first half performance against Brighton, before the two goal lead was given away. Only the capitulation against Bolton Wanderers, with another two-goal lead lost, honestly assessed by the interim boss.

Whether it be an attempt to increase in the confidence of his side, persuade Meire and friends that he’s actually somewhat competent, or plain delusion, Fraeye’s post-match comments in recent weeks have been incredibly frustrating.

To be fair, there is an element of truth in what Fraeye is saying. There have been positive moments in isolated periods of games. The Addicks weren’t quite on top against Burnley as the boss suggests, but they were competitive and creating chances.

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But the response to conceding, as it was against Brighton and Bolton, completely eclipsed any previous positive. The opposition able to dominate, with little resistance offered. The mentality of this Charlton side in moments of adversity embarrassingly weak.

As such, it is no use the Addicks enjoying the better of the opening 44 minutes at Ashton Gate. They must compete for the entire 90, or at the very least respond positively to falling behind.

Playing well for a period on Saturday, but ultimately failing to record a positive result, won’t be accepted.   

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PREDICTION

Given that both sides share a certain amount of ineptitude, this one is relatively tricky to call. Home advantage and Charlton’s injuries, not to mention the fact we’re particularly tragic, makes Bristol City jut about favourites. Bristol City 1-0 Charlton Athletic