Wasteful finishing again limited Charlton Athletic to a draw on Tuesday night when Bradford City came to town. Lee Novak and Tony Watt’s missed chances show why the Addicks’ first-choice centre-half pairing of Jorge Teixeira and Patrick Bauer have scored nearly twice as many goals as them this season. But to be fair, both forwards performed well against the Bantams and have played their part in their team’s much-needed improvement over the last three games.
Good performances don’t win matches though, and Charlton’s record under Karl Robinson is still hugely disappointing. The former Milton Keynes Dons manager’s 19% win rate is the third worst of any Charlton manager, only marginally better than Karel Fraeye and Les Reed. It compares to 36% for Chris Powell, 33% for José Riga and Guy Luzon, 25% for Bob Peeters and 24% for Russell Slade. Four wins from 19 is relegation form and why the Addicks have gone from 2 points below the play-off places, where they were when Robinson took over, to the bottom half of the table.
“4-2-3-1 man” Robinson has finally relented and accepted the need to try different formations, but other tactical decisions have still puzzled supporters. Playing Ricky Holmes in the number 10 role, sticking Johnnie Jackson at left-back, bringing Andrew Crofts on to replace Josh Magennis against Scunthorpe with over half an hour left and Charlton firmly on top… you name it!
Robinson used his Thursday press conference to say that Jake Forster-Caskey and Ezri Konsa will be “closer to possibly starting” and Jordan Botaka will be “fitter” but made no mention of the likes of Chris Solly, Jason Pearce or Magennis. The trusty Adam Chicksen seems certain to feature somewhere, and most of those who started against Bradford can probably expect to keep their place. One likely to do so is Johnnie Jackson, whose famous free-kick against the Blades in 2011-12 helped secure promotion under Chris Powell. Some supporters have even tipped the skipper, who has been a factor in his team’s recent mini-revival, for Player of the Year, an award he has never won.
Meanwhile, Fredrik Ulvestad’s impressive recent form has made his long absence all the more bizarre, the Norwegian seemingly falling victim to what many believe is a poorly negotiated loan contract given to Jay Dasilva. Although the youngster has played a mere 84 minutes in three substitute appearances for the club, he has remained a part of every matchday squad since arriving, taking up one of the five spots reserved for loan players, leading some to the conclusion that Robinson is compelled to include him in his matchday 18 as part of the deal.
Eight points clear of second-placed Fleetwood Town, Sheffield United very much look like the favourites to win League 1 and will present a stern test. But it is against top six sides that Charlton have tended to play well, remaining unbeaten against the top five, which makes defeats against the likes of Bury, Oldham Athletic, Shrewsbury Town and Swindon Town so frustrating.
The Blades beat Swindon 4-2 on Tuesday and are unbeaten since January, when Fleetwood won 2-0 at Bramall Lane. Managed by Chris Wilder, who turned down a move to The Valley in the summer, it is hard to see the Sheffield club slipping up and missing promotion again, with third-placed Bolton Wanderers nine points adrift. Billy Sharp’s 26 league goals make him the top scorer across all four divisions. The 31-year-old is United’s only player to have featured in every league game. But the Blades’ commanding lead in the League 1 scoring charts is also down to midfielder John Fleck, who has 13 assists, among others.
Bauer’s last-minute equaliser earned Charlton a 1-1 draw when the sides met in SE7 in November, and in ordinary circumstances an away draw against the league leaders would be a good result, but if Port Vale win their games in hand, the Addicks will only be four points above the relegation zone. So it may be worth going for a win which would surely build some momentum. Then again, we thought that after the 2-1 win at the Macron Stadium only to go nine games without a victory.