There will be supporters of other clubs that try to calm your fears. Who suggest your concerns over Charlton Athletic’s League One status are merely irrational. Who laugh off the idea that the Addicks could be sucked into the bottom four before this season ends.
But they don’t know. They don’t know just how pathetic this Charlton side has become. Just how pathetic this club is.
They won’t understand the extent of the pain that was felt come full-time at The Valley on Tuesday night. A dire performance in defeat to MK Dons that only increased the fear of relegation. Players disgracing themselves, a manager quickly losing all support, and another reminder that Roland Duchatelet’s regime has instilled a culture of failure upon this club.
They won’t understand that the attitude and quality of those wearing red is becoming increasingly poor. That Karl Robinson is appearing powerless and clueless. That it’s difficult to see where the next Charlton win is coming from.
They won’t understand that under Duchatelet’s regime, no degree of failure comes as a surprise. Finishing in League One’s bottom four would merely be another symptom of the Duchatelet disease.
And to overcome this state of crisis, the Addicks must find a performance against one of the division’s in-form sides. Southend United coming to The Valley on Saturday having lost in midweek, but with four consecutive wins to their name prior to that.
A side with any competence will blow away this pathetic group of Charlton players. They need to step up. And desperately.
LAST MEETING – SOUTHEND UNITED 1-1 CHARLTON ATHLETIC (31/12/2016)
Andrew Crofts’ late equaliser earned Charlton the point that their second-half performance had warranted at Roots Hall on New Year’s Eve.
The midfielder volleying home from close range with a minute remaining after the Addicks had persistently pressured Southend for the majority of the second period.
It a goal, and a point, that seemed some way away at half-time, as the hosts went in at the break in comfortable control of the contest. Dire defending allowing Simon Cox to turn in the box and poke the Shrimpers ahead with 24 minutes playing, and the Addicks offering very little to encourage in response.
But the intensity from Robinson’s side after the break was unrelenting, and the quality much improved. Led largely by Joe Aribo taking complete control in the centre, the visitors formed attack after attack.
It seemed, however, that they were to be left frustrated. Ted Smith saving from Jorge Teixiera, Fredrik Ulvestad and Morgan Fox, before the impressive Aribo saw an effort cannon back off the crossbar. No questions over Charlton’s effort, but the finishing touch could not be found.
And amongst all this pressure, Southend were not without opportunities to kill the game off. Stephen McLaughlin cutting inside and curling against the far post, while the fingertips of Dillon Phillips were required to tip Will Atkinson’s first-time effort over the bar.
But as full-time approached, the Addicks finally found reward for their efforts. Fittingly, Aribo was involved as he broke into the box and delivered low across the face of goal, teeing up Crofts to volley emphatically beyond Smith.
Heartbreak for the Shrimpers on Tuesday night. A stoppage-time strike from Mark Beevers giving Bolton Wanderers a late victory, and inflicting a cruel defeat on Phil Brown’s side.
But this a defeat not coming before Southend had won four games on the bounce to move themselves into League One’s final play-off spot. A position they still occupy despite the midweek loss.
Immense pressure on Brown’s men, however, in their remaining five fixtures. They only sit above seventh-place Millwall on goal-difference, while just three points separate the Lions from third-place Fleetwood Town. Four places available for five sides who sit tightly together in the League One table.
Quite simply, the side who fails to perform in their remaining fixtures will be the one that misses out on a play-off place.
And if Southend are that side, they will only have themselves to blame. A glorious opportunity to finish in the top six on offer with four of the final five sides they face battling to avoid relegation. Bolton the final side they face this season who are in the division’s top ten.
Their chances increased by the fact that sides in the relegation scrap were beaten during that four-game winning run, with wins recorded over both Coventry City and Oldham Athletic, suggesting that complacency isn’t an issue for the Shrimpers.
And with both Brown’s and their own play-off history, Southend would surely back themselves to achieve promotion if they can do enough to secure a top-six spot.
It says something about the current state of this Charlton side that despite playing four of the division’s bottom five in their remaining five fixtures, there remains a genuine fear of relegation. The four-point cushion between themselves and the bottom four doesn’t seem a secure one.
For there appears greater fight, and maybe even greater quality, in the sides who sit below the Addicks. Robinson’s men showing very little in way of effort or application. Very little to suggest another three points will be picked up this season.
The Addicks with just one win in their previous 14 games following Tuesday’s defeat to MK Dons. And a pathetic defeat at that. The defence a shambles, the midfield unable to string passes together, and no threat being offered in attack.
It a similar situation to the performance against Peterborough, and many of the others in this run of one victory since the start of February. A somewhat fortunate win over Scunthorpe and a strong 45 minutes against Bradford the only genuine distractions in this horrendous period of performances and results. Robinson still unable to find genuine answers.
It quite simply not good enough.
Southend will be without Ryan Inniss after the defender dislocated his shoulder during Tuesday’s defeat to Bolton.
This is the second time that Inniss, on loan from Crystal Palace, has dislocated his shoulder this season, and it might well mean his campaign has come to a premature end.
John White replaced Inniss at Roots Hall in midweek, but there is hope that skipper Anton Ferdinand will be available after missing the last-minute loss against the Trotters, and he may be the man to come into the side. The former West Ham defender with a reasonable chance of recovering from his calf problem in time to face the Addicks.
Elsewhere, Brown will continue to have to make do without Ryan Leonard, who serves the second game of his three-match ban, but David Mooney may be available with the former Charlton forward returning for Southend’s reserves in recent weeks after being out since October with an ankle injury.
Having made five changes to his starting XI in midweek without reward, it likely that Robinson will again make several alternations to his side as he searches for a winning formula.
It becoming apparent that his diamond formation is not working, robbing a side that’s stale and one-dimensional enough at the best of times of any width and most of their attacking intent.
Nathan Byrne or Jordan Botaka coming into the side and the Addicks operating with two wingers would be most welcome. Jake Forster-Caskey hasn’t impressed since returning from injury, and I’d prefer it was he who lost his place in midfield to make way for one of the loanees rather than Aribo or Johnnie Jackson.
Problems for the Addicks also in attack, with none of their strikers in any sort of form. Tony Watt and Josh Magennis anonymous in midweek, Lee Novak a doubt with a groin problem and his return would hardly be welcomed anyway, while Karlan Ahearne-Grant and Brandon Hanlan aren’t ready for first-team football.
Even with an almost fully fit squad, with Novak joined by Ezri Konsa and a handful of long-term absentees in being either doubtful or unavailable through injury, Robinson’s options appear weak and limited.
KEY BATTLE – DEALING WITH NILE RANGER
A charge for fraud, with a trial to be faced at the end of the month, and a suspension at the start of the calendar year after admitting to taking Class-A drugs. Nile Ranger never appears willing to totally commit himself to the straight and narrow.
But it to the credit of both his manager and the man himself that one of English football’s most controversial characters appears to be flirting with the idea of finding his feet.
For Ranger, having not played a game of professional football since November 2014 after infamously going on strike at Blackpool, has performed impressively since Brown, to the surprise of many, offered the 25-year-old an opportunity to resume his career at Roots Hall.
So impressively, in fact, that Ranger has scored five times in his previous seven games for the Shrimpers. The forward has become one of this side’s key men under Brown’s stewardship, and will prove a key figure if they are to achieve promotion via the play-offs.
And the on-the-pitch attributes of the former Newcastle man mean he’s likely to play a key role for Southend at The Valley this weekend. A physical forward, who is strong in the air and can hold up the ball well. Time and time again this season, Charlton’s backline have wilted against forwards of such nature.
The concern over the threat Ranger might pose only growing when you consider that recent goalscoring form, and the recent efforts of the Addicks to defend against any sort of opposition attackers. Jason Pearce’s presence in the backline might make a difference, but it failed to do so on Tuesday night during the defeat to MK Dons.
A need for the Addicks to show some defensive competence, and compete with the sort of forward that has consistently troubled them this campaign.
I have no faith in this side whatsoever. Charlton Athletic 0-2 Southend United