Boro – a Sunday afternoon stroll?

After Tuesday's lacklustre performance against MKD it is hard to see any reason for optimism as Charlton head into Sunday's game against second place Middlesbrough.

The elation of Brentford gave way very quickly to demoralisation in a thinly attended Valley. There seemed to be no appreciation from players or management that this was a must-win game.  The impact made by Ademola Lookman in his ten minute cameo served to emphasise what might have been achieved if he had been given more time, and Jose Riga's reluctance to trust him in a starting line-up remains a mystery.  The red card given to Sanogo in injury time was the last straw. A player who had already begun to acquire some cult status and who had an ability to rouse the crowd will now not be available until April 9th. The fact that two players have been sent off in five games for off the ball incidents seems to speak volumes about the level of frustration and discontent in the club at the moment and there also seemed to be an altercation between Fox and Teixeira late in the second half. And Duchâtelet wants to make Charlton a nice place to visit?

In mid January, Middlesbrough were top of the Championship - six points clear of Derby and ten ahead of Burnley - but they now find themselves trailing Burnley by four points. Their form in 2016 has been inconsistent. They have beaten Cardiff, Fulham and Wolves but have lost three games and drawn two. Two of their defeats were at Charlton's rivals Bristol City and Rotherham and they only managed a draw at MKD. Does this mean that they are vulnerable in the so-called easier games? Manager Aitor Karanka said of the Rotherham players after the defeat on Tuesday that "they were fighting for every ball as if they were fighting for their lives". Isn't it amazing what an experienced Championship manager like Neil Warnock can achieve in a few weeks?

There is little evidence of such a will to survive in the Charlton squad and failure to emulate their rivals in seeing off Boro will leave them stranded with Bolton at the bottom. Players of the calibre of Downing, Adomah, Stuani and Nugent should have few problems picking their way through our defence and midfield and, of course, Jordan Rhodes will expect his customary brace if he is picked. It is now ten games since Charlton's last home win and, if we can't beat MKD, there seems little chance of three points against Boro.  A plucky draw is no use.