If you ignore that time Middlesbrough knocked the Addicks out of the competition at the quarter-final stage, that other time when non-league Northwich Victoria inflicted embarrassment, and that Sunday at Bramall Lane that we simply don’t mention around these parts, the FA Cup is really rather brilliant.
Not only did it allow Chris Powell to swing on a Hillsborough crossbar, but it will provide a welcome distraction this weekend.
A distraction not from the fight against those that run this club, particularly given the pride felt after last weekend’s protests against Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Meire, but from the stresses of this disastrous league campaign.
Knowing that suffering defeat to Colchester United will result in anger and embarrassment, but not have a direct impact on our chances of avoiding relegation, certainly lowers the apprehension ahead of the trip to the Western Homes Community Stadium. The gap between the Addicks and safety will not increase on Saturday.
But that isn’t to say this is a pressure-free game for Karel Fraeye’s side, nor one that should be seen as a nuisance during in their fight to avoid the drop.
A cup run having the potential to provide an important lift, and something that supporters crave especially given the lack of pleasure the club have provided in recent months, while defeat to the lowly U’s would be disastrous for confidence.
The league table might not look any worse come Saturday evening, but faith in this Charlton side will only drop lower should they fail to record victory.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 4-0 COLCHESTER UNITED
Bob Peeters’ Charlton cruised into the second round of last season’s League Cup with a comprehensive victory over the U’s at The Valley.
The Addicks were handed the advantage midway through the first half, when Magnus Okuonghae was dismissed for blocking Franck Moussa’s goal bound effort with his hand. Yoni Buyens calmly converting the resulting penalty.
If it wasn’t already, Charlton’s place in the next round was effectively confirmed by a five minute blitz from Lawrie Wilson at the start of the second half. The crowd favourite first finishing through Colchester goalkeeper Chris Lewington, before drilling powerfully into the bottom corner.
And substitute Simon Church rounded off the victory a minute from full-time, pouncing after Lewington spilled Buyens’ strike.
After nine consecutive league defeats, a late George Porter equaliser against Oldham last weekend gave the U’s their first point since eight goals were shared with Walsall on October 24.
It was a run which took in the sacking of Tony Humes and appointment of Kevin Keen, an impressive level of defensive incompetence that saw 26 goals conceded, and a slide from the relative comfort of 15th to 23rd in League One.
And though ending that run provides a degree of relief, Colchester remain without a league win in 11. The point picked up at Boundary Park doing little to alleviate relegation fears, particularly with Callum Harriott’s impressive loan spell coming to an end and a five point gap existing between themselves and safety.
But the FA Cup has provided brief moments of relief so far this season. A 6-2 mauling of Wealdstone, after the non-leaguers had taken a 2-1 lead, in the first round followed by Callum Harriott’s stoppage-time winner against Altrincham, again coming after the opposition had gone in front, taking the U’s through to the third round.
And the wait continues. Not just for the appointment of a qualified and permanent head coach (11 weeks come Saturday), and Duchatelet and Meire to move on (two years), but also for a win.
Eight games and seven weeks passing since Johnnie Jackson’s 50th goal for the club gave the Addicks victory over Birmingham City. Heavy defeats, embarrassing capitulations, and completely undeserved draws following.
There were, undoubtedly, moments of promise during the second half of Saturday’s draw with Nottingham Forest. A spirited performance in the final 45, that might have resulted in the winless run coming to an end if Dorus de Vries had not spectacularly denied Harriott.
But the occasional point, and brief positive periods, are hardly enough when you sit 23rd in the table, confidence is low, and crisis consumes the club.
A cup victory against a relegation-threatened League One side probably doesn’t count for much, either, but extending the winless run will certainly count for a lot.
Colchester could be without George Elokobi after the robust defender suffered a hamstring injury during Saturday’s draw with Oldham.
And boss Keen also has to contend with doubts over the fitness of full-back Matthew Briggs, who was forced off an hour into the game at Boundary Park with a chest complaint.
But striker Macauley Bonne, absent through illness last weekend, is set to return.
The U’s team is also likely to include former Charlton pair Darren Ambrose and Marvin Sordell, which predictably means at least one of the less then appreciated duo will enrage Charlton supporters by scoring.
Diego Poyet and Roger Johnson could make their first appearances for Charlton since re-signing for the club on Monday.
Excitement exists over the return of academy graduate Poyet, who will spend the rest of the season on loan from West Ham, and he could come in for Jackson should the skipper fail to recover in time from the knock that forced him off on Saturday.
The reaction to RoJo returning, however, has been less positive. With Patrick Bauer and Alou Diarra still out, the prospect of error-prone Johnson playing alongside Naby Sarr is a frightful one.
Elsewhere, Rhys Williams could make his first start for the club after the Boro loanee made his debut from the bench last weekend, while Igor Vetokele’s appearance for the U21s in midweek suggests the striker could be involved with the first team for the first time since September.
But the Addicks will be without the suspended Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, following his dismissal during the draw with Forest, the cup-tied Callum Harriott, and the injured Ademola Lookman.
KEY BATTLE – TAKING IT SERIOUSLY
I’m concerned that the teamsheet will make for more unpleasant reading than it normally does prior to kick-off on Saturday.
That Nick Pope will replace Stephen Henderson, Zakarya Bergdich will be brought in from the cold, and a host of inexperienced will be given a place in the starting XI.
For I fear that Fraeye will view the FA Cup not as a welcome distraction, but a nuisance in Charlton’s battle to avoid relegation. A weakened side fielded, justified by the importance of protecting the key players in a small squad for the league campaign.
Colchester, regardless of their position in League One, will be motivated for this, wanting to cause an upset and gain a victory that could provide the lift they so desperately need. Playing a weak and uninterested Charlton side is incredibly dangerous.
Undoubtedly, maintaining Championship status is more important than winning a handful of cup games, but that isn’t to say the cup should be treated with disdain. At the very least, a negative result at the Western Homes Community Stadium is likely to have a huge impact on confidence, and as such impact upon this squad’s ability to improve their league form.
As much fun as Sordell converting an Ambrose delivery in stoppage-time to give Colchester victory would be, conspiring not to win this would be a sort of suicidal that I’m not even sure Charlton are capable of. Colchester United 1-3 Charlton Athletic