Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Meire’s credibility has long been unsalvageable, and there is a very real danger that their main shield to criticism will soon earn a similar kind of status.
For Russell Slade, the figure used by the regime to pretend the manner in which they run the club has changed, already finds himself under justified pressure. The boos that serenaded the bald-headed boss as he headed down the tunnel following Tuesday’s disgusting performance against Oldham Athletic neither rash nor unfair.
Slade, the experienced English manager that was supposed to make the Addicks competent again, has done nothing but the sort. That despite having individuals at his disposal with the talent to be a competitive force in League One, or at least win the occasional game.
His tactics difficult to understand, with unbalanced XIs fielded and the attacking quality within the side heavily stifled. A will for him to do well, given that he has stood up to the regime and has come across as a decent bloke, but faith in him decreasing with each underwhelming effort. Faith in the regime, as if there was any left, decreasing with it.
And while, unlike the regime, he can still regain creditability, it won’t be immediately restored. One victory will mean very little.
A win over Rochdale, a side brimming with confidence having won three games on the bounce, on Saturday would not convince supporters that a turnaround is due, but merely lay a very unstable foundation from which Slade would need to build from.
One defeat or disappointing performance, however, would mean a great deal. The pressure on Slade should victory not be achieved will undoubtedly rise to uncomfortable levels.
Nothing but a victory will do.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 1-1 ROCHDALE (21/02/2012)
A rare disappointing evening in a title-winning season saw Chris Powell’s table-toppers frustrated by Rochdale, who occupied a spot in League One’s bottom four, at The Valley in February 2012.
Having dominated the first half, with Bradley Wright-Phillips going close on two occasions, Charlton found themselves behind eight minutes after the break. Nicky Adams connecting with Gary Jones’ driven cross, and converting via a deflection.
And though Yann Kermorgant drew the Addicks level almost immediately, with a trademark stunning free-kick, the French forward was denied on several occasions by goalkeeper Peter Kurucz as the hosts searched for a winner their pressure probably deserved.
The point, however, moved Powell’s side seven points clear of second-placed Sheffield United, and moved them a point closer to securing a title that had long appeared to be theirs.
Going seven games without victory from the start of the season is a huge disappointment for any club, but especially one that had flirted with the play-offs in the previous two seasons.
So not only is recording three victories on the bounce against opposition who had either started the season well or are expected to challenge for promotion an incredible achievement for Rochdale, but it goes some way towards laying the foundations they need in place to be an unexpected competitive force once again.
At the very least, defeating Fleetwood Town, Millwall and Bolton Wanderers proves Keith Hill’s side have the quality to test the division’s best. Hill himself believing that his men “were excellent value for the victory” following their 1-0 win over Bolton on Tuesday.
A Steven Davies goal enough to give them that victory, but Jamie Allen came close to doubling their lead on several occasions. Much like the wins against Fleetwood and Millwall, this was no fluke.
Throw in a draw at Bramall Lane earlier on this season, and it would certainly be naïve for any League One side to underestimate them.
Certainly naïve for this underperforming Charlton side to underestimate them. Dale will be travelling to The Valley full of confidence, and believing they can record another victory.
It would have been football’s greatest injustice had Oldham Athletic not equalised with seven minutes to play at The Valley on Tuesday.
Not just because the Latics’ performance was a commendable one, but Charlton’s outrageously poor efforts warranted defeat. Conceding a late equaliser the absolute minimum punishment they deserved.
For this was a performance so bad, on a night so bleak, that many long-serving supporters are struggling to remember evenings spent at The Valley as depressing as this one. Slade’s tactics bizarre, defensive errors plentiful, and simple passes struggling to be made as Oldham bossed the midfield.
Even Slade, so often pretending there’s positives to take when the majority of supporters can’t see them, was critical of the display.
All that in addition to this cautious and negative mentality that Slade seems to have instilled upon his side. This performance not a one off, especially given the Addicks are now six without victory, but merely continuing from the efforts against Oxford United, AFC Wimbledon, and Fleetwood Town. The encouraging display at Scunthorpe proving misguided.
A dramatic improvement, both in performances and results, desperately required. A need for the Addicks to live up to their promise to respond positively.
Dale are likely to be without Ian Henderson after the long-serving forward was withdrawn midway through the first half of Tuesday’s victory over Bolton with suspected concussion.
The 31-year-old was replaced by goalscorer Davies, and logic suggests he’ll come into the side if Henderson is unable to feature.
Should Henderson miss out, he’ll join Peter Vincenti in being unavailable, with the midfielder still recovering from an ankle injury.
Elsewhere, winger Reuben Noble-Lazarus and midfielder Ollie Rathbone will be pushing to start having been unused substitutes in the previous two games after returning from injuries, but Hill is unlikely to heavily disrupt a winning formula.
Charlton will welcome back Jason Pearce after the centre back recovered from the concussion that kept him out of the draws with Oxford United and Oldham Athletic.
The former Wigan Athletic man, who’s shown leadership qualities at the back and seems to be a man that Slade trusts, will likely come back into the side for Patrick Bauer, who sustained a slight injury during Tuesday’s draw.
Harry Lennon, having served his suspension, another who will be available again, but will likely have to settle for a place on the bench. At least that means Roger Johnson won’t be involved.
Coming off the bench, hopefully, will be Ademola Lookman, with Charlton supporters begging for Slade to play a balanced side with two wingers. Andrew Crofts’ place in the side probably most at threat should the teenager wonderkid return to the starting XI.
KEY BATTLE – CURTAILING MOMENTUM AND EARNING SUPPORT WITH A POSITIVE START
Facing this inform Rochdale side when the Addicks desperately require victory and lack any sort of confidence is hardly ideal. Probably to the extent that a positive result for the visitors to SE7 on Saturday is the most likely outcome.
But even though Dale boss Hill believed his side deserved their victory over Bolton on Tuesday, he was honest enough to suggest “the game could have gone either way” and that his players had a “little bit of luck” that was warranted as a result of their efforts.
It does, however, suggest that, despite this run of form, Rochdale are far from infallible. There are ways in which this side can be got at, and it’s certainly possible to create chances, as Wanderers did but without much potency in front of goal.
The problem for the Addicks in exploiting those potential flaws, though, is that they lack potency and have been playing in a timid and cautious fashion. Even Charlton’s biggest threat, Ricky Holmes, appeared restricted during Tuesday night’s shambles.
And you worry that, without a positive start, Slade’s side are likely to find themselves struggling once again. Supporters will quickly lose patience, this confident Rochdale side will exploit Charlton’s sluggishness, and the chances of
That positive start so important, in fact, that the game might well be decided in the opening exchanges.
A bright opening, and the Addicks could peg Rochdale back, finding ways to create chances and stifle their opponent’s attempts to get forward. A poor one, that allows Dale a chance to settle and increases discontent among the home crowd, and it’s difficult to see how Charlton recover.
I wish I had some confidence. Charlton Athletic 1-1 Rochdale