BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Lee Bowyer says his Charlton Athletic side cannot afford to carry any passengers if they don’t want to be on the end of a Championship reality check.
The Addicks were walloped 4-0 at Huddersfield Town on Saturday to drop deeper into the relegation drop fight. Former Charlton striker Karlan Grant helped himself to two goals at the John Smith’s Stadium.
The Addicks badly missed the suspended Tom Lockyer and Naby Sarr (calf).
“For us to compete and win games we have to have most of our squad fit and we have to be at it,” said Bowyer. “We have to be at our best.
“If we ain’t and we’re slightly off it then we get found out because unfortunately a lot of their players are established Championship players – if not Premier League ones.
“This division is a mini-Premier League now.
“Huddersfield are bringing on [Juninho] Bacuna and [Steve] Mounie – they were both in the Premier League last season. And they strengthened in January. They brought in four or five players – they recognised the situation they were in.
“All the teams around us strengthened their squads.
“We ain’t got any right to go and win any game.
“We’re trying and sometimes we fall a little bit short.
“We went to Sheffield [Wednesday] and put on a good, solid performance – taking into account who we were playing against. They brought on [Steven] Fletcher – a Premier League striker.
“We have the lowest budget by a country mile and we’re meant to go there and win? Football is not like that, unfortunately.
“We’ve gone to places and won but it is not always going to happen. That’s the reality – the sooner everyone realises that the better.”
Lockyer is still suspended for this weekend’s home fixture against Middlesbrough – the Wales international serving a two-game ban after collecting 10 bookings.
But Charlton could well be boosted by the return of Darren Pratley. The experienced midfield campaigner has been missing due to back spasms.
“I think over the weekend he has been outside and done some stuff,” said Bowyer. “Hopefully he’ll be okay for selection.
“I’m not sure with Naby, it’s just his calf. Tom has got one more game to go. But we have to get on with it, whether people are fit or not. To have the pair of them out at the same time is difficult.
“It shows that defenders are just as important as your strikers. They all play a vital part.”
Bowyer had initially set a target of 47 points for survival but admits that has crept up due to the recent revivals of Barnsley and Luton, who have taken 10 points from their last six fixtures.
Boro dropped into the bottom three at the weekend and a 2-2 draw with Forest last night prevented them climbing back out.
“I think you’ll need about 50 – not more than that,” said the Charlton chief. “The teams that are winning have all got to start playing each other – so both can’t win.
“People can say our run-in looks easier on paper but all the teams are fighting for something. There are no bad teams in this division.
“If I’m looking positively then we’re above Barnsley and Luton – two clubs that finished above us last season and both of them have spent money.
“We’re still above the relegation zone and it is in our hands. I believe we can stay there, for sure.
“The most important thing is that we all stick together. I’m going to say that to the players before we train [on Monday morning] – we have to fight. This is it now, we have to fight and get back on track.”
Boro chairman Steve Gibson has backed boss Jonathan Woodgate, a former team-mate of Bowyer’s at Leeds United.
“Jonathan has my full support – Jonathan is not the problem,” said Gibson. “Where we are right now as a club is not the fault of Jonathan Woodgate.”
INSET PICTURES BY SEAN GOSLING
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