Bolton & Championship Preview

badgeAfter an international break, the return to club football indicates the final stretch of league games to all clubs in the Football League Championship. With the Addicks struggling to pick up points at home, perhaps they may have preferred the run-in of their League season to have begun away from the Valley. By contrast, Bolton will be raring to get their run-in under way. The Wanderers are that team to push up the table in the second half of the season and have won five of their last six games.

By some accounts, for Chris Powell, it was far from just a week off. Our manager spent time abroad in the past two weeks extending the club’s scouting network, looking for value further afield than the traditional English leagues.

The first fruits of his labour may be seen in the recently signed Florent Rouamba and trialist forward Osman Sow, both picked up from top Moldovan sides. Not your usual Charlton signings but with both players possessing a good degree of pedigree, it may prove a star move. Unfortunately neither player can play tomorrow, ‘international clearance’ is still to be sorted for midfielder Rouamba and with Sow not yet signed, the striker is no closer to the CAFC squad.

With neither player able to make an impact on the Addicks’ squad this weekend, it may be left for the forgotten loanee, Mark Gower from Swansea, to stamp his authority on the heart of this Charlton Athletic squad. The tricky playmaker has bundles of experience and it would be a surprise if he wasn’t involved in at least some capacity this weekend.

Elsewhere in the first eleven, the defeat to Millwall may prompt some changes from Chris Powell, although with a two week break, there might be fewer changes than many expect. David Button may be replaced once more by Ben Hamer after the ‘keeper could’ve done better with both efforts against the Lions. Should Leon Cort be fit, you might expect the Guyana international to take the place of hard working Matt Taylor. Finally, expect Mark Gower or Dale Stephens to come into the centre of the park alongside Johnnie Jackson, with Bradley Pritchard deployed in the wide right role. Otherwise, the side will be unchanged.

The Trotters will be satisfied with nothing less than all three points and it’s a struggle to see past them getting exactly that. The first goal on the Valley pitch is absolutely vital and could shape the rest of the game.

With a number of games this Good Friday afternoon, the Addicks have an opportunity to wait on the results on others before seeing what they must do on Saturday afternoon. With six bottom half rivals in action, it really is an opportunity to capitalise. Managerless Blackburn host underperforming Blackpool at 3pm, the winners of which may finally be able to claim that they are safe for another season of Championship football. Birmingham travel to promotion chasing Palace and although six points from six have pushed the Blues into the top half, they might be hoping for another three points to confirm their Championship status. Watford will be hoping Birmingham can do them a favour as they aim to pull four points clear of Palace and into second place with a win over Sean Dyche’s Burnley.

The evening fixtures throw up Derby at home to Bristol City and Millwall playing Leicester at the King Power Stadium. Two games to keep an eye on and whilst both Derby and Millwall can reach 50 points with a win, Bristol City need points to ensure they don’t get cut adrift from the relegation pack with 7 games to go.

Onto Saturday and while Addicks fans will be focused on their match up with Bolton, there are six other fixtures around the country; starting with table toppers Cardiff at London Road to face unpredictable Peterborough. It’s never a dull game when the Posh are involved and the Welsh side will be aiming to join their Swansea counterparts in the Premier League next season. By contrast, Peterborough are scrambling for points at the other end of the table and will be looking to pick up as many points at home as possible.

The game to watch tomorrow afternoon will be Forest vs. Brighton at the City Ground. Both sides are chasing the fifth and sixth play off places and will be hoping the South London duo of Charlton and Millwall can do them a favour and beat off Bolton and Leicester respectively. It’s a massive opportunity for the winner to put themselves into pole position in the play-off shake-up and it’s a match not to be missed.

And the other end of the table, Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley are scrambling for all the points they can get their hands on and it’ll be a tense Yorkshire derby at Hillsborough. Wolves and Huddersfield will hope to take advantage of any dropped points in that derby as they host top-half sides in Middlesbrough and Hull respectively. Huddersfield vs. Hull if you remember brought about the crazy situation with bussing away fans all the way from Hull across to Huddersfield, regardless of where they are coming to the game from.

Finally Ipswich host Leeds United, who’s season is effectively over as they sit comfortable in 10th on 52 points. With not much to play for, you would expect Mick McCarthy’s side to capitalise on Leeds’ poor away form and take all three points, relieving some of their relegation fears.