Heather McKinlay looks forward to Saturday at 3pm.......
Suddenly the football boot is on the other foot. After basking in the unexpected glow of successive 3-0 victories, the Addicks slipped backed to earth and 16th place with defeat at league-leaders Derby on Tuesday night. Conversely, next opponents Huddersfield Town bounced back from a run of loss, draw, draw, to record their own 3-0 win over mid-table companions, Reading. The Terriers’ first three point haul since 7th February sees them once again leapfrog Charlton in the crowded heart of the Championship table, where three points are all that separate 12th from 17th.
Already three is featuring heavily in this preview, so it is fitting that this match will see the return, of course, of erstwhile number three, Chris Powell. Universally popular as a player in his three (there’s that number again) stints in a red shirt, we perhaps should have guessed that his managerial days were numbered when he passed his three year anniversary in charge.
So now Huddersfield is home for Chris Powell and his appropriate flat cap. While Powell is sure to receive a hero’s welcome when he emerges from the tunnel, with fans recalling his triumphant leaps of former times, it remains to be seen whether there is a controversial round of applause in minute three. Since arriving up north in mid September, the gaffer has led his troops away from the relegation zone and completed the unheard of – a double over Millwall! With the addition of Ishmael Miller, a deadline day signing from Blackpool, he now has three (of course) experienced strikers at his disposal. Miller got off the mark for the Terriers on Tuesday, while top-scorer Nahki Wells hit his twelfth of the season. Wells, however, took a heavy knock, so may be a doubt for Saturday. If he doesn’t make it, then expect stalwart James Vaughan to step in. Powell is not the only returning Addick, as Mark Hudson looks sure to feature at centre half for the Yorkshire club, while another ex Palace man, tricky winger Sean Scannell, is expected to be fit after missing the Reading match with a tight hamstring.
If Charlton’s fledgling strike partnership of Watt and Vetokele can use their creativity and speed to fashion chances, they will then be faced by goalie Alex Smithies, penalty-scoring hero of Huddersfield’s 2012 play-off victory. The 24 year old already has an impressive 260 first team appearances to his name. Lauded by Powell as one of the best keepers in the division, Smithies has just signed a new contract to keep him at his hometown team for another three years. The Addicks will be looking to rule out a clean-sheet celebration for Smithies and rediscover winning ways in front of a packed Valley.
Bolstered by three recent out-of-contract signings in Roger Johnson, Chris with no surname and Alou Diarra, plus the return to form and fitness of Henderson, all of a sudden Charlton look much more like a competitive Championship team. Luzon is slowly starting to win friends and influence people, most importantly Johnnie Jackson, though it seems unlikely that the skipper will be fit to play. Of Chris Powell’s former men, it might therefore only be Solly who makes the starting line-up: a reminder of how quickly things can change. Midfield remains a concern, with rumours that Jordan Cousins, very much missed at Derby, is doubtful. This could mean a first start for Diarra alongside Buyens, with the latter just one bad tackle away from suspension. With Diarra unlikely to last the full 90, let’s hope we can build a three goal cushion, so we can relax and enjoy a late substitute appearance by Lepoint!
The Addicks have only lost at home – you’ve guessed it – three times in the league this season, so surely that is not about to change? Three points, at least three goals in the match, and we’ll maybe climb back up three places.