The grim reality of the situation Charlton Athletic have placed themselves in means that Tuesday night’s game at The Valley against Scunthorpe United stands to be an incredibly bleak one.
A stadium less than a third full, an atmosphere that hovers between apathetic and poisonous, and another visual representation of the damage Roland Duchatelet’s regime has done to the club. Midweek visits to The Valley are becoming a chore, that result in overwhelming sadness and further confirmation that this club is dying.
A victory over the Iron would at least provide a distraction. An end to a recent run of performances and results that have been nothing short of embarrassing. A chance to ease the fears of relegation.
Maybe hope can be extracted from the form Scunthorpe find themselves in as they travel to SE7. No victory in seven for Iron, losing their place in the top two following Saturday’s defeat to Fleetwood Town. Graham Alexander’s men keeping the Addicks company in the bottom four of League One’s form table.
But such is the dire nature of Charlton’s recent efforts, extracting any degree of hope is an impossible task. A response was promised at Northampton Town on Saturday, and all those in attendance at Sixfields were treated to was another pathetic effort. Teams needing only to turn up, shown a degree of cohesion, and finish a chance or two to beat Karl Robinson’s pathetic outfit.
Change being fought for off the pitch, but there not enough fight on the pitch for change to occur.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 3-1 SCUNTHORPE UNITED (05/11/2016)
Two goals from the now departed Ademola Lookman helped the Addicks to progress to the second round of The FA Cup, knocking a relatively full-strength Scunthorpe out of the competition.
Lookman making the most of his unexpected early introduction to the contest, replacing Ricky Holmes with 27 minutes played. The winger withdrawn having sustained a foot injury that would ultimately keep him out until the start of January.
The teenager’s stunning strike giving Russell Slade’s side the lead 11 minutes before half-time. A delivery into the box cleared straight to Lookman, the Iron standing off him, and the winger finding the top corner of Luke Daniels’ goal with a fine curling effort.
And the Addicks, who had been placed under a reasonable amount of pressure by the visitors in the game’s opening stages, somewhat surprisingly found themselves two ahead before the break. Johnnie Jackson, striking a timid Scunthorpe clearance back in the direction from which it came, with a characteristically cool finish.
The game, however, not yet won. And Charlton really only had themselves to blame for allowing the Iron back into it, as an uncontested Tom Hopper was able to head beyond Declan Rudd following a short corner routine.
But with seven minutes to play, Lookman sealed his side’s progression to the second round. Fredrik Ulvestad’s pass perfectly timed and weighted, allowing the teenager to convert in calm fashion.
The cynic will suggest that Scunthorpe’s run of recent form is exposing that they have been punching above their weight for the majority of the campaign, and are now heading towards a position that better reflects their status.
Saturday’s defeat to Fleetwood at Glanford Park a seventh winless game, and seeing the Iron lose their place in the top two. A place that they have occupied for much of this season, and there a danger that automatic promotion is slipping away.
But that this run of form is exposing the real Scunthorpe is far from the truth. The Iron have been challenging for automatic promotion on merit, with Alexander’s side earning results through an organised structure and the goals of Josh Morris, Paddy Madden and Kevin van Veen. This run of form a blip, and not yet terminal.
A blip, but one that needs to be addressed immediately. The gap between themselves and second three points and, particularly with Bolton, Bradford and Millwall lurking behind, promotion chances become increasingly slim if that were to increase. Even a play-off place, despite there being seven points between themselves and seventh, becomes uncertain if there isn’t immediate improvement.
There was, however, promising signs seen during the weekend defeat to Fleetwood, with the general impression being that their efforts warranted much more. And not just because of the fury that followed Stephen Dawson being denied a perfectly legitimate equaliser after a horrendous offside call.
A degree of promise, but it’s results that are now desperately required.
Eight games without a win, four consecutive defeats, and the fear of relegation increasing. Each performance somehow worse than the last, despite effort, desire and quality already completely absent. Robinson and his group of Addicks have been nothing short of pathetic in recent weeks.
A response promised against Northampton Town on Saturday, one that would show there had been a positive reaction to Robinson accusing 40% of his players that they didn’t care, but there was anything but. Charlton wilting yet again, allowing the opposition victory and offering little fight to avoid defeat.
It an embarrassing position to be in, just six points above the relegation zone and in such dire form that it’s difficult to see where the next victory comes from. Barely a positive to take in these previous eight fixtures; barely an ounce of fight shown.
This merely a symptom of Duchatelet’s disease. Persistent failure, the loss of identity, and the loss of heart. Robinson and his men are making the problems worse, but they are not the problem. The problem exists above them, and nothing will change until this regime is gone.
No pride to be had in this club. Something that at present can only be sourced from the efforts of supporters, with many putting in a marvellous shift to fight for the future of their club. The opposition at Northampton determined, the protests in Belgium even more so.
Ending this run of results would merely be papering over the rather large cracks that have existed for three years. Proper change is required.
Scunthorpe midfielder Sam Mantom remains a doubt for Tuesday’s visit to The Valley having missed the previous two games for the Iron with a groin niggle.
Mantom had only just returned to full fitness before picking up this fresh injury during the draw with Bristol Rovers last Saturday, but a return is expected sooner rather than later.
Elsewhere, Levi Sutton could be involved having missed out on the matchday squad on Saturday despite the indication being that he would return. The young midfielder breaking into the Scunthorpe side over the previous month, and sat out the defeat to AFC Wimbledon last Tuesday as a precautionary measure, but didn’t feature this weekend.
The return of the midfielder pair would give Alexander a fully fit squad to choose from, and as such plenty of options to rotate in order to rediscover the winning formula.
But following the encouraging performance against the Cody Army, wholesale changes to the starting XI are highly unlikely.
Having served a three-match ban following his dismissal during the defeat to Oxford United, Chris Solly is set for a return to the Charlton starting XI.
The long-serving full-back’s return is most welcome given that Nathan Byrne has struggled while filling in for Solly at right-back. A possibility that Byrne may remain in the side, but pushed into a more natural position on the right of midfield.
A change in the left full-back position also likely, with Lewis Page hobbling off at Sixfields following a torrid performance. Adam Chicksen only resuming training on Thursday, so Robinson might not have wanted to throw him into the starting XI so soon, but he seems the most obvious man to coming in at left-back.
Patrick Bauer, however, should be available after he was withdrawn at half-time against Northampton through sickness.
But the Addicks will continue to be without injured duo Jason Pearce (groin) and Jake Forster-Caskey (calf).
KEY BATTLE – SHOWING THEY CARE
“You’re not fit to wear the shirt” was blasted at the Charlton players come full-time at Sixfields on Saturday. A criticism that was fully deserved, and one brought about as a result of Robinson’s words last Tuesday.
The boss labelling 40% of his squad as not caring about the club. This a performance that suggested the percentage was closer to 100. There no attempt to prove Robinson wrong, to react to the previous seven games without victory, and to offer supporters a suggestion that they were giving their all.
Trust between supporters and club has been non-existent for some time. Trust is now non-existent between supporters and squad.
A slump for Scunthorpe too, but the attitude of their players quite different. It is merely just a slump in form, with the attitude of those wearing Scunthorpe colours perfectly reasonable. They’re fighting, desperate to get back to winning ways and revive their promotion push.
They’ll be fighting at The Valley on Tuesday night. It’s hard to believe the Addicks will. If they repeat the efforts that earned them defeat on Saturday, particularly those seen in the game’s final 30 minutes, then they will again be left disgraced.
It almost feels irrelevant. A need to avoid what would be a fatal drop to League Two, but pride has already been lost, and this side and its manager regaining the trust of supporters isn’t going to happen with one result. But it’s relevant to those Addicks who will still be in attendance on Tuesday, demanding some sort of reaction from their side.
Will they care enough? They need to show it.
Lovely opportunity for Scunthorpe to rediscover some form. Charlton Athletic 0-2 Scunthorpe United