Charlton hope to power past the Gas again

Bristol Rovers were on the wrong end of Charlton Athletic’s most memorable result of the season in November. But they remain ahead of the Addicks in League 1, making tomorrow’s fixture anything but an easy game in the middle of a period of difficult matches.

A small number of Charlton fans might have got excited to see some of the sums reported for Ademola Lookman’s likely transfer to Everton. But most sums were far larger than the likely transfer fee, and Roland Duchâtelet’s past failure to re-invest transfer takings means it is probably futile to expect any more than a tiny fraction to be spent on January transfers. Jay Dasilva may have a fruitful career, but the nature of his signing, a loan, was probably a sign of things to come. And it is certainly not enough to address our lack of depth out wide.

With Ricky Holmes injured and Jordan Botaka soon to set off for African Cup of Nations duty, Lookman’s expected departure leaves the Addicks horribly lacking in wingers, especially given that Karl Robinson’s beloved 4-2-3-1 formation only works with two attacking wide players. The Bristol game is likely to be Botaka’s last before leaving for Gabon, where he will represent DR Congo, and it would be strange not to see him replace the struggling Nicky Ajose tomorrow.

The 1-0 win at Milton Keynes Dons was much-needed, but it is imperative to build on the point at Southend United if the Addicks are to stay in touch with the top six. Joe Aribo was outstanding at Roots Hall and will surely keep his place. Patrick Bauer and, in particular, Jorge Teixeira put in improved performances against MK after the defensive shambles at the Den, and seem likely to remain Robinson’s first-choice pairing. Ezri Konsa improved after half-time but still seems a surprising choice at right-back. With Adam Chicksen impressing after being moved there, it will be interesting to see if Morgan Fox continues at left-back.

The Gas, as they are commonly known, hold a marginally better head-to-head record against Charlton overall but have only won one of the last seven meetings, a 2-1 victory at the Memorial Stadium courtesy of Steve Elliott and Paul Heffernan goals.

Matt Taylor, who scored a late consolation from the penalty spot in November, is again Rovers’ top scorer this season with 18. Not to be confused with the Northampton Town midfielder whose Premier League career spanned Portsmouth, Bolton Wanderers, West Ham United and Burnley, Taylor is one of the division’s best strikers. Other Rovers forwards include Jermaine Easter, the veteran whose former clubs include Crystal Palace, Millwall and Milton Keynes Dons. The 34-year-old also scored Wycombe Wanderers’ goal at the Valley in their infamous 1-0 win over then Premier League Charlton in December 2006.

Considering the Gas were outside the EFL as recently as 2014, Rovers are doing remarkably well to be in the top 10 of League 1. Manager Darrell Clarke was targeted by Leeds United in the summer, honourably turning down Massimo Cellino’s money to stay at a smaller club, but one which is unquestionably well-run in comparison. Indeed, owner Wael Al-Qadi could hardly be more different to the likes of Cellino and Duchâtelet. The 47-year-old joined in celebrations after Rovers confirmed their second successive promotion in May and was carried up Gloucester Road on fans’ shoulders. In October, he sat with Rovers’ away following for their 3-3 draw with Milton Keynes Dons, joining in with chants. It is difficult enough to imagine Duchâtelet at an away game, let alone sitting with supporters. Al-Qadi also had experience of working in football prior to buying the club and has stuck by his manager throughout his ownership of the West Country outfit.

Things went from bad to worse after the drubbing by Kevin Nugent’s Charlton, with defeat to relegation-threatened Chesterfield followed by FA Cup humiliation at home to National League side Barrow. But Rovers seem to have turned things around with three wins in their last four games, including a 4-1 drubbing of Russell Slade’s Coventry City. Rovers seem likely to give Charlton a good game but the home side desperately need a confidence boost ahead of the dreaded return fixture against Millwall.