Charlton AthleticSport

March was sink or swim for Charlton Athletic – and so far they are staying buoyant


There might be plenty of Charlton Athletic fans who have written off the League One play-offs this season. But, crucially, Lee Bowyer’s players are not in that group.

Optimism was thin on the ground after a depressing 3-0 home reverse to Blackpool at the end of February.

The start of March was sink or swim for the Addicks’ rapidly fading top-six prospects. The good news is that so far they have stayed buoyant.

Tuesday night was hardly a virtuoso performance against a Northampton side in drop danger. But Conor Washington’s brace made it seven points banked from a possible nine as Charlton climbed to eighth.

They find themselves in an iffy situation. If they can repeat the same return over the next three matches it would be interesting to see how the table shapes up – especially if the clubs with fixtures in hand don’t manage to make them count.

Any run-in, whether it is at the top or the bottom of the table, is about holding your nerve. You need your big players to come to the party.

And one thing you can’t dispute about this Charlton squad is that they have bundles of experience – Jason Pearce, Ben Watson, Chris Gunter and Darren Pratley have all played more than 500 senior matches. The quartet’s combined total stands at 2,138. That can also prove invaluable heading down the home straight.

Their form at The Valley has to be better. They were winless there since mid-December – a run of eight games – before seeing off Northampton.

With their next two also on their own patch, strugglers Shrewsbury and Bristol Rovers, they can further improve their record at home. It’s results there that have impeded their promotion prospects.

Charlton were the better side in midweek. They had an xG – expected goals – of 1.9 compared to their opponent’s 0.2.

But they also were the beneficiaries of the one big refereeing call of the night made by Paul Howard.

He decided that the collision between Jake Forster-Caskey and Jack Sowerby was a penalty – both men only having eyes for the ball as they came together.

“He just took Jake out. It was 100 per cent a penalty,” opined Bowyer.

Northampton’s caretaker boss Jon Brady had a contrasting view.

“If you watch it back in slow motion Jack is the one who jumps to head the ball and the guy hits Jack in the ribs. It’s a foul to us. The ref is 10 yards away and cannot wait to give it. When he looks back I think he’ll feel sick, as sick as I do about it.”

Alan Curbishley, hardly a neutral observer on Charlton’s in-house matchday streaming service, perhaps had the most telling take.

“That might be a bounce up if it happens in the middle of the park.”

Soft or not, Washington held his nerve superbly with a significant delay after the spot-kick was awarded.

Already subbed off before Ronnie Schwartz’s late miss from 12 yards at Oxford United, the Northern Ireland international made sure the ball was set properly before striking low into the bottom right corner.

Northampton keeper Jonathan Mitchell tipped over a Chuks Aneke header before Charlton did move into a two-goal lead.

Mitchell could only push out Andrew Shinnie’s strike and Washington ripped the ball home.

But Charlton and comfortable haven’t tended to go in the same sentence too many times this season. Alex Jones was able to climb above Matt Smith at the near post to convert Mark Marshall’s corner.

It was the Cobblers’ only effort on target all night and thankfully came in the third minute of added time.

The challenges will keep on coming for Charlton. Their run-in looks, on paper, about as hard as you can get. They still have to play Lincoln, Ipswich, Peterborough and Hull at home – with Accrington, Sunderland and Doncaster away.

But you can also view that as a prime opportunity to nobble your rivals.

Conor Washington. His double could still prove highly significant this season. Worked incredibly hard.

Washington lashing home his second of the night.

Pics by Keith Gillard

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2 thoughts on “March was sink or swim for Charlton Athletic – and so far they are staying buoyant

  • The play offs are merely a mathematically possible pipedream, Charlton’s season is over in every meaningful sense. Defensively the resources are way too thin, always one injury or suspension away from more square pegs in round holes, or worse, Deji Oshilaja taking the field. Northampton’s goal on Tuesday night was a classic example of the lack of diligence that pervades the squad. We Addicks shouldn’t forget the manner in which this squad was cobbled together. To have spent the whole season in the top half with never a whiff of relegation is remarkable testament to all involved. Aspirations of more than a solid top half finish are delusional, there’s just too much ground to make up and too many sides poised to overhaul us in the run-in.

  • I am very pleased how Charlton have responded to the criticism meted out to them after a particularly awful February. Had it not been for an incredible save by the Oxford keeper, Charlton would have had 3 wins on the bounce and an unexpected 9 points. However, 7 pts is not a bad return. I just hope that this is the turning point and the next 2 games at home are crucial. Win them both and next month will look really interesting when Charlton have to play the teams in the mix for the play offs. Confidence is an amazing thing and whilst Charlton are not performing brilliantly, it is the keeping of clean sheets that is the basis for winning games and getting 3 pts. All the teams above Charlton are becoming inconsistent, apart from
    Sunderland and Hull, who appear to both be on good runs at present. In my humble opinion, my money is on Sunderland to get automatic promotion. They have the momentum under Johnson and players like McCready and Wyke are on fire. Who joins them in automatic promotion is any team from 4, and possibly Hull. However, for Charlton the play offs are still our best chance and who knows what could happen then!!


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