Back in December when Charlton failed to beat whipping boys Blackpool at The Valley we wondered if it could get much worse. Throwing away a lead so late in the game was bad enough, but Bikey's extra time miss just seemed to sum up the way the season was going. We didn't know at the time but this draw was to be the fourth game in a run of thirteen games without a win - a run which was to include much poorer performances, culminating in the Watford debacle.
For Blackpool, who famously started the season with just eight players, the Charlton game was one of a run of six games which included only one defeat which was the nearest they got all season to any sort of consistency. Manager Lee Clark was very congratulatory: "the effort and application from the players and never-say-die attitude was summed up by Steven's bravery for the equaliser". There was just a smidgen of hope that Clark was beginning to find something in his squad which might be enough to keep them in contention for twenty first place. The following Saturday they lost 6-1 at home to Bournemouth.
Lee Clark has an extraordinary downbeat way of expressing himself and it is hard to imagine him being an inspirational manager. If he has an infectious enthusiasm he keeps it well hidden. It is therefore surprising that Karl Oyston chose him last November to take over from Jose Riga when the Blackpool squad clearly needed a real lift and a boost to their self-belief and confidence. On the other hand, nothing should surprise us about Oyston, and Clark was available at the right time having been sacked by Huddersfield a few weeks earlier.
Blackpool have been in twenty fourth place all season and, even back in August, a more nailed-on certainty for relegation was hard to imagine. In the middle of February they showed a bit of spirit with a 1-1 draw at Blackburn followed by coming from behind for a 4-4 draw at home to Forest. But since then they seem to have well and truly thrown in the towel, losing their last five games with an aggregate of 1 goal scored and 13 conceded. Clark's demeanour has become ever more hangdog and he was quoted on Saturday as saying: " I wish the season was done. I wish it was over now and I could just start the rebuilding job straight away"
So is there any reason why this should not be an easy three points for Charlton ? One concern is that the squad think that their job is done for this year already - it certainly looked that way against Blackburn. There was a sloppiness which suggested that the fifteen points gained in less than a month had led to complacency. Maybe too many players thinking they could just sit back and give the ball to Tony Watt ? The match will certainly be an interesting test of Guy Luzon's managerial abilities both in terms of team selection and motivation. It will be surprising if Joe Gomez isn't in the starting line-up, possibly to give Chris Solly a rest. Now that we are safe from relegation why risk that knee by playing three times in a week ?
The Blackpool pitch is as bad as ours was last season so it is unlikely to be a feast of flowing football. If Charlton can score first it is likely that the home team's heads will drop. That is really how it should go. We do not wish to join the select club of Cardiff, Millwall, Birmingham and Brighton who are the only teams to be beaten by Blackpool this season - all by 1-0 at Bloomfield Road. My prediction is a terrible game which we nick 1-0.