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Josh Cullen: Championship break may aid Charlton Athletic’s survival hopes

Josh Cullen reckons that football going into deep freeze may have aided Charlton Athletic’s survival prospects.

The Addicks dropped into the Championship bottom three for the first time this season after a 1-0 home loss to Middlesbrough – the final action before the coronavirus pandemic saw all major sport cancelled.

And the South London club, whose ownership woes have hit the headlines during lockdown, resume action tomorrow with a massive six-pointer at Hull City, who are two points above them and occupy 21st place.

Charlton had lost three successive matches – failing to score in any of them – before football was suspended.

But there is no such thing as form when clubs have not played a competitive fixture since March 7.

“In a strange way the break may have helped us,” said Cullen, whose loan from West Ham United was recently extended until the end of next month.

“We have nine games now to hit the ground running. Form goes out the window. We’re looking forward to getting going, we’re in a good place mentally and confident in the group that we’ve got to keep us in the division.”

Charlton’s prospects have been dented by talismanic striker Lyle Taylor opting not to make himself available for the run in.

The former AFC Wimbledon marksman has rejected offers to extend his stay in SE7 and will leave on a free.

Taylor is not prepared to jeopardise a lucrative switch – which could be off if he were to suffer a serious injury.

On-loan midfielder David Davis and Chris Solly have also refused to return, further depleting options for manager Lee Bowyer.

So the fact that Cullen is staying on until the nerve-shredding end to the campaign is a major bonus.

The Republic of Ireland international is never far from the thick of things in the midfield – and he was a key performer last season as the Addicks won promotion via the League One play-offs.

“I knew that as long as the season did get finished, I’d be finishing it with Charlton,” said Cullen. “It’s been a long journey since my loan last season. We weren’t fancied for promotion by many and we did it.

“Now it’s my job to do the best I can to help us stay in the league. It was a straightforward decision. I feel like I owe it to the people at the club; the fans that backed me from day one and have been brilliant, the manager and the staff.

“Everyone around the club – the lads are all fighting for the same goal. I’m looking forward to getting started again and finish what we started together.”

This weekend’s fixture is set to have a huge say on the drop scrap – but will be played out at a nearly empty KCOM Stadium.

Fans are not allowed to attend matches due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“I don’t think anyone will know how it will feel behind closed doors until the games start,” said Cullen. “We’ve had a few practice matches but you can’t quite create the atmosphere of a competitive game.

“Like against Hull, considering the positions in the league and factors that go into that. It comes down to when you step over the line, 11 v 11 and we have to try and be the better team and get the result – whether that’s in front of a crowd or not.

“As a group we have to find the extra motivations that our fans give us, they’re brilliant.

“In the changing room before the game we have to be pumped up for this and raring to go. It’s a level playing field for everyone, nobody has done it before.

“We had a long time off and everyone had to motivate themselves to put the work in at home, go on runs and get our fitness up.

“Our fitness levels are looking good. The football side of things we’ve crammed in. The sessions have been brilliant, high quality.

“It’s full steam ahead to get as many points as we can.”

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