Charlton Athletic face two very important battles as Sheffield United come to The Valley on Saturday.
The first with the Blades themselves. An incredibly difficult opponent, who are unbeaten in 14 league games, and are certainly going to prove more testing opposition that the Bristol Rovers side that capitulated during Tuesday’s 5-1 victory.
There no intense expectations on the Addicks, to be led by Kevin Nugent for one final time before Karl Robinson takes charge, given the quality of the Blades, but victory would make a very clear point. That this Charlton side, in spite of the crisis the club are in, can challenge for promotion.
The second against the regime. CARD planning a substantial protest against Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Meire, whose destruction of the club still obvious despite a recent improvement of results. An empty Valley, supporters undermined, and the bizarre sacking of Slade that exposed Meire as a liar once again in addition to everything that has gone before.
The appointment of a new manager almost meaningless while opposition to the regime remains so high, and the enjoyment felt in positive results tainted. This planned protest another chance to force change.
A win for the side and a defeat for the regime would be an incredibly successful day in SE7.
LAST MEETING – SHEFFIELD UNITED 2-0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC (9/3/14)
We don’t talk about this.
Sheffield United: WWWWWD
One point from his first four league games in charge suggested that Chris Wilder was going to be the latest Sheffield United boss to fail to get the club out of League One, but a quite incredible run since has made many pencil in the Blades as certs for promotion.
Wilder’s side playing 14 league games since, winning 11 and drawing three of them, scoring 31 times and conceding 13. Four of the six points dropped coming at the homes of other sides in and around the top two (Scunthorpe United and Bradford City), and not a single point dropped at home. The Blades climbing to second in the division.
And while many victories have been secured in emphatic fashion, with three or more goals scored on five occasions during this remarkable run, the importance of stealing three points from tight games is not lost on the Blades.
Having dominated for the duration of the game, Ethan Ebanks-Landell grabbed a winner against Bury in midweek in stoppage-time. A victory as important, and as promising in terms of United gaining promotion, as the wins that are secured by Billy Share and co firing several goals past opponents.
The sacking of Slade has undoubtedly reinforced the crisis that the club are in, and the need to force Duchatelet out. A successful protesting effort on Saturday as important as any result, irrespective of what manager elect Karl Robinson might say.
For what is the point of success if so few supporters are there to witness it, or feel any connection to the club while it is happening. Reinstating a bond between supporters and club vital.
But Nugent’s efforts as caretaker boss are to be appreciated regardless.
The emphatic victory over Bristol Rovers on Tuesday one of the most complete performances in recent times, and showing that there is enough equality in this side to provide on-the-pitch distraction to the disconnection and apathy that has been created by the actions of the regime.
At the very least, Robinson will inherit a side that has recently gained confidence.
Influential winger Mark Duffy (calf) and versatile full-back Kieron Freeman (back) are doubts for the Blades’ trip to The Valley, with both having missed the win over Bury in midweek having sustained injuries during the victory over Shrewsbury last weekend.
Stefan Scougall and Jack O’Connell filled in on Tuesday night, and they could be required again should the injured trio not recover in time.
There may also be a start for former Addick Leon Clarke, who was introduced at half-time on Tuesday in order to assist in United’s attempts to break down a rather determined Bury backline.
Charlton are likely to remain without first-choice goalkeeper Declan Rudd, with the Norwich loanee recovering from a hip injury.
Dillon Phillips, who performed admirably in Tuesday’s win over Bristol Rovers, will maintain his place between the sticks should Rudd not be available. The young goalkeeper, on his Football League debut, making several important saves with the score at 1-0 to prevent the game from turning the way of the opposition.
With Chris Solly (knee), Ricky Holmes (foot), and Lee Novak (hamstring) also likely to be absent through injury, a third game in eight days will prove a tough challenge for Charlton’s relatively small squad, particularly given the draining work that has gone into the previous two.
At the very least, there no real way for Nugent to rotate his side.
KEY BATTLE – THE ONE AGAINST THE REGIME (AGAIN)
On the pitch, stopping Billy Sharp from scoring is going to take a bit of effort, but the importance of one game is minimal in comparison to the long-running battle against Duchatelet.
Whatever it is that CARD have up their sleeves, or hiding in their backseat, the support for it is obvious. The appointment of Robinson not changing the extent of the opposition to the regime.
And while some will point out that Duchatelet is stubborn, and that these protests have no impact whatsoever, they certainly strength our cause and weaken theirs. At the very least, the football world will be on our side again.
The importance of forcing this regime out remains as high as ever.
Tough one to call. Sheffield United unstoppable, but Charlton have found some form. Not sure that said form is enough to stop the Blades. Charlton Athletic 1-2 Sheffield United