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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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