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Preview: Fulham V Charlton Athletic

No longer can salvaging the smouldered remains of possessions from the self-inflicted fire that continues to burn provide reassurance and hope.

For plucking positives from mixed performances and frustrating results is not a worthwhile exercise for Charlton Athletic when the threat of being engulfed by relegation becomes greater. Rescuing the unusable doesn’t stop the fire spreading.

Nor does attacking a fixture with the mentality that a draw would be a decent result. A win the only outcomes that can be celebrated come full-time at Craven Cottage on Saturday.

In circumstances where Charlton’s future in the Championship isn’t under such threat, you could certainly argue a point away at Fulham would not be a bad result. The Cottagers showing, albeit slightly tainted, signs of improvement under Slavisa Jokanovic, and the Addicks without a win at another London Club since November 2011.

But with seven points effectively between Jose Riga’s side and safety, and only 15 games remaining, victories against opponents who are not invincible must be demanded. Opponents like Fulham, who lie only four place above the Addicks, and have recorded only two more victories all season.

These wins are not to be expected, with it wrong to call any game winnable given that only one of Charlton’s last 15 have resulted in victory, but failing to win in not impossible circumstances can no longer be accepted or justified.

31

LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 2-2 FULHAM

A Johnnie Jackson-inspired Charlton fought back from two goals down to steal a point in stoppage-time at The Valley in October.

The hosts’ sloppy performance was suitably punished just beyond the half hour, as Ross McCormack’s free-kick was spilled by Nick Pope and pounced upon by Ryan Tunnicliffe.

And the game seem to be beyond the Addicks with an hour played, with McCormack finishing in typically potent fashion. An atmosphere of anger and frustration in the air in SE7.

But that changed once Guy Luzon introduced Jackson with ten minutes to play. The Skipper immediately providing hope, inspiring the Covered End with a thumping header and characteristic celebration.

And deep into stoppage-time, Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s cross picked out Jordan Cousins at the far post, who headed in to complete a remarkable comeback.

1

FORM

Fulham: LWDLDL

Just as positivity was building around Craven Cottage, Fulham saw it fit to capitulate in mightily impressive fashion.

For there has been improvement since Jokanovic replaced Kit Symons, with his 3-5-2 formation earning a commendable draw with Derby County and an impressive victory over rivals QPR. A group of players that is undoubtedly talent finally playing to something like their potential.

But Tuesday’s crushing 3-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers served as a reminder that faults remain within Jokanovic’s side. Faults that have seen the Cottagers win just two of their last 17 games.

It means they’re just six points above the relegation zone, and still looking nervously over their shoulders. Relegation extremely unlikely, given the previous improvement Jokanovic’s influence had brought about and the quality within Fulham’s underachieving side, but that it is even a consideration is a huge disappointment for the West London side.

22

Charlton: DLWDLL

A draw that could have easily been defeat but might have been turned into victory was ultimately a point that left the Addicks further from safety.

For while there can be an argument that goalless draw with Cardiff was a fortunate one, with the Bluebirds wasting a host of chances, and a frustrating one, with Charlton unable to capitalise on some late pressure, wins for MK Dons and Bristol City elsewhere means any sort of discussion is meaningless.

Effectively seven points from safety and with just one win in 15, a return to League One looks increasingly likely.

And though that victory was impressive, with Rotherham crushed at the New York Stadium, the intensity of that effort has yet to be repeated. The more games without a repeat, the greater the feeling that it was a one off performance becomes.

29

THE OPPOSITION

Former Addick Scott Parker is likely to return to Fulham’s starting XI having missed Tuesday’s defeat to Blackburn.

The Charlton academy graduate, instrumental in the Cottagers’ victory over QPR, is no longer able to cope with the demands of three games in eight days, but will be refreshed to frustrate his former supporters with a predictably impressive performance. Sakari Mattila the man set to miss out in the middle, with Jamie O’Hara and Tom Cairney expected to start alongside Parker.

There could also be a change at wing-back, after Luke Garbutt was hauled off 34 minutes into the defeat at Ewood Park. The Everton loanee, who gave away the penalty that Blackburn took the lead from, apologised to Fulham supporters for his performance, and may be replaced by Alexander Kacaniklic, who came on for Garbutt in midweek.

But Jokanovic will be without Lasse Christensen, who suffered a hamstring injury during the win over QPR, and Cauley Woodrow, who continues his recovery from a broken metatarsal.

3

THE ADDICKS

Charlton will be without Johnnie Jackson after the influential skipper was forced off during the draw with Cardiff through injury.

And there is also a doubt over whether his normal midfield partner will be available, with Jordan Cousins set to be assessed prior to the game. Diego Poyet and El Hadji-Ba waiting in reserve should last season’s player of the year not be fit.

Igor Vetokele’s fitness will also be assessed on Friday, but Yaya Sanogo will not be an option to fill in for the Angolan should he not have fully recovered from the knock that has kept him out of the previous two games. The Arsenal loanee troubled by a back complaint.

Elsewhere, recent signings Rod Fanni, Marco Motta and Yun Suk Young are pushing to be involved for the first time, while Alou Diarra, Patrick Bauer and Ahmed Kashi remain absent.

13

KEY BATTLE – STOPPING THEIR POTENT FORWARD AND MAKING OURS MORE OF A THREAT

It’s probably not the best idea to be so inviting to opposition forward lines when they are led by a potent goalscorer.

Alas, Charlton have been more than willing to gift their opponents openings throughout this campaign, and appear even more willing when up against a player who finds himself near the top of the top goalscorer charts. Andre Gray, Abel Hernandez and, of course, Jordan Rhodes have all had the loveliest of afternoons against the Addicks.

You can therefore imagine that McCormack is probably sitting somewhere in West London, licking his lips at the prospect of pouncing on the offerings that Charlton’s defence serve up. A defence still leaky despite recording its first clean sheet in 12 games against Cardiff – the Bluebirds had more than enough chances to score.

21

Jorge Teixeira and Harry Lennon at least making McCormack work to add to his 18 goals in all competitions this season is an absolute must, but so too must Charlton’s own forwards give their opposing centre-backs something to think about.

For while it is reasonable to fear Fulham’s forwards, or at least forward, a less than impressive defensive record should provide the Addicks with encouragement. Only Rotherham (55) and our wonderful selves (56) have conceded more goals than Fulham (53), and a midweek defeat littered with defensive errors suggest Jokanovic’s three-at-the-back formation isn’t as formidable as it was appearing.

And to capitalise on such weaknesses, Makienok requires a partner. His relentless work last weekend was not rewarded, with no one available to meet his flick-ons, and a similar performance will prove for more beneficial to Riga’s side if Vetokele or Lookman are there to feed off him.

Stop them scoring, and score some goals ourselves. All simple, innit?

17

PREDICTION

A performance, throughout the entire 90 minutes, that gives me back some confidence is needed. For right now, I have very little. Fulham 2-1 Charlton Athletic

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