In addition to providing supporters of Charlton Athletic with another large dosage of despair, Tuesday’s defeat to Shrewsbury Town was incredibly revealing.
There seemingly a breakdown in the relationship between Karl Robinson and a large proportion of his squad, the desire of members of a side who offered a performance without resolve or character questioned, and the threat of relegation to League Two becoming a genuine concern.
But, in reality, the events of Tuesday night served to reaffirm more than reveal. A reminder that change at this football club is not possible while poison runs through its veins. While Roland Duchatelet and his regime continue in their destruction of the club, overseeing sustained failure and a loss of identity.
And so, while the Addicks must overcome their own troubled mentality and Northampton Town this weekend in order to quell fears of relegation, an event taking place away from Sixfields will have a much greater impact on the long-term position of this football.
For victory would merely paper over rather large cracks, to reappear again and again. Something more substantial required than the ending of this winless run, and pulling away from the bottom four, to stop this club from crumbling further. Genuine change, beyond the mentality of weak players and the decision making of a struggling manager, required.
More than 200 Charlton supporters travelling to Belgium to take their protests to an owner who has not attended a game in SE7 since October 2014. Placing further pressure on the failing owner to sell, and proving that disillusioned supporters of this club number much more than just a few bitter ex-employees. Demanding the change this club so desperately needs.
For without change, the disillusioned become the distant. The crumbling club disintegrates further into one without identity. Repeated failures become fatal.
A Charlton side that need to salvage some professional pride, and steer the Addicks away from the short-term threat of relegation. A group of Charlton supporters offering total commitment in their fight to steer the club away from the poisonous hands it currently sits in.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 1-1 NORTHAMPTON TOWN (13/08/2016)
Johnnie Jackson’s second-half strike, celebrated with all the emotion of a man who wants nothing but the best for this club and its supporters, earned Charlton their first point of the season when Northampton visited The Valley in August.
The point was also the first gained under Russell Slade, who was in desperate need of it after a difficult start to life as boss of the Addicks. A league defeat to Bury and a League Cup defeat at Cheltenham fresh in the minds of Charlton supporters as Alex Revell’s 16th minute header gave Northampton the lead.
A lead that rarely appeared under any sort of threat as the hosts offered a lifeless performance. Slade and his side booed off at half-time.
But there was a response from the Addicks following the break, and Jackson’s 57th-minute equaliser came after a period of sustained pressure on the Northampton goal. Nicky Ajose teeing up the skipper to finish coolly beyond Adam Smith, before offering a celebration that was anything but cool. A trademark knee slide in front of the Covered End, followed by determined fist pumps in the home supporters’ direction.
The Addicks motivated, and momentum with them, but Slade’s side couldn’t quite find the moment of quality required in the remainder of the game to end one of numerous attacking moves with a goal.
Nonetheless, Jackson’s goal offered a great deal of encouragement. A platform for Slade’s era, though ultimately one of frustration, seemingly set.
It reasonable to suggest that, in their first season in League One since 2008/09, maintaining their place in the division is Northampton’s objective for this campaign first and foremost.
And while the reigning League Two champions have maintained a degree of competitiveness throughout the season, their place in the third tier for the next season is far from being secure.
A suggestion that, following seven points from a possible nine in the middle of February, the Cobblers were moving towards a position of comfort under the management of Justin Edinburgh. The former Gillingham boss appointed in January after Rob Page, who had been given the role in the summer after Chris Wilder had left for Sheffield United, had been dismissed following a run of eight defeats in ten League One.
But two defeats in the previous week have put the Cobblers back on their toes. The gap between themselves and the bottom four six points after a creditable draw away at play-off chasing Southend United, but now stands at four points after Fleetwood struck three past their defence and Oldham’s stoppage-time winner at Sixfields in midweek.
With Edinburgh’s start to his reign as boss very much a mixed one, and questions to be asked about the quality of a side struggling to find consistency, there’s a real need for Northampton to grind out a few victories in the coming weeks to ease the concerns of Cobblers supporters.
Seven games without victory, just six points above the relegation zone, and a manager throwing his players under the bus. The situation for Charlton on the pitch as bleak as the one off it.
There two ways of looking at Robinson’s rant following Tuesday’s 4-3 defeat at Shrewsbury Town, that saw a Ricky Holmes hat-trick made meaningless by a pathetic defensive effort.
He’s undoubtedly got a point. A point that, though expressed in a very different tone, was backed up by trusted skipper Johnnie Jackson. The effort and desire of this group of Addicks hasn’t been good enough, and this run of games without a win has seen pathetic performance after pathetic performance.
The individual efforts of Holmes and goalkeeper Declan Rudd added a degree of respectability to the scoreline at the New Meadow that Charlton’s collective effort did not deserve. Shrewsbury constantly able to drive through a non-existent midfield and weak defence, exposing the faults throughout the side on more occasions than when helping themselves to four gifted goals.
But so too can you suggest he’s deflecting criticism away from himself, with their no structure to Robinson’s side and the boss clearly struggling to motivate his players. Is questioning the integrity of his players going to motivate them, or merely result in him losing the dressing room? The fact a response hasn’t been garnered from this group over the previous seven games makes you fear the latter.
Either way, with the threat of relegation becoming a very real one and the nature of recent performances meaning it’s difficult to see where the next victory is coming from, Robinson and his side need to start proving themselves.
Brendan Moloney and Luke Williams will be available for Northampton having both returned to training following knee injuries.
The pair were close to making their return in midweek, but were not risked for the visit of Oldham. However, boss Edinburgh has confirmed that defender Moloney and forward Williams will play a part in Saturday’s fixture should they both continue to train untroubled.
But the Cobblers will remain without Revell, with the goalscorer in the reverse fixture still a few weeks away from fitness having sustained a calf injury.
Revell’s absence meaning that there’s a chance former Addick Michael Smith will lead the line for Edinburgh’s men. The Pompey loanee, who made just two appearances for the Addicks in a three-season spell that included four loan moves away from SE7, starting Tuesday’s defeat to Oldham.
Charlton will be without Stephy Mavididi after it was confirmed that the Arsenal loanees will miss the remainder of the campaign with a hamstring injury that requires an operation.
A huge blow for the 18-year-old, having made an impressive start to his professional career, and a huge blow for the Addicks.
Another of Robinson’s January additions in the shape of Jake Forster-Caskey will also be unavailable, with the creative midfielder likely to be absent for four weeks with a calf injury.
Adam Chicksen (knee) and Jason Pearce (groin) are also set to miss the trip to Sixfields, but Patrick Bauer could return having missed the midweek defeat to Shrewsbury following a clash of heads during the game against Bury.
And with Chris Solly serving the final game of his three-match ban, options for Robinson to change his side after his scathing attack on his players are limited.
Johnnie Jackson surely won’t be deployed at left-back again, with Lewis Page and Jay Dasilva available, but his presence in the side is needed so an appearance in the centre of midfield wouldn’t be a surprise. Tony Watt, Karlan Ahearne-Grant and Fredrick Ulvestad among the other options for Charlton’s boss.
KEY BATTLE – AWAY FROM SIXFIELDS
I could make points about how Charlton will surely be punished if they emulate their defensive efforts of Tuesday night, or how Holmes’ former employers will need to prevent the winger from having shooting opportunities, but it’s all rather irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.
Unquestionably, a victory is required on Saturday. The month of March contains several testing fixtures, and this arguably the one that the Addicks are most likely to claim three points from. Some sort of comfortable barrier between themselves and the bottom four, in addition to the boosting of destroyed confidence, needs to be achieved.
But a more important victory stands to be achieved in Duchatelet’s home town. The continued suggestion that such protests might well prove to be the final straw for Charlton’s owner. If not the protests themselves, then the criticism and exposing in the media that will follow might well be.
Either way, the goal of these protests needs to be achieved. Forcing Duchatelet into selling the club that he has destroyed, and continues to oversee further destruction of. Insults, arrogance and a loss of identity combined with barely believable failure over the previous three years.
A collective hope among supporters of the Addicks that this is the weekend where a platform for change is set. Where the substantial efforts of Charlton’s marvellous supporters are finally rewarded. Where connection and belief can begin to return.
A difference hopefully made in Belgium. Robinson’s words, however, unlikely to have much of a positive impact on his side in Northampton. Northampton Town 2-1 Charlton Athletic