Scunthorpe to visit depleted Addicks

As disappointing as the 0-0 draw with Millwall was, it means a seven-point return from Charlton Athletic’s three consecutive home games is still possible. But Scunthorpe United are among the most formidable opponents to visit SE7 this season and were already likely to present a tough test before recent injuries to Karl Robinson’s side.

It would be virtually impossible for Charlton’s recent head-to-head record with Scunthorpe to be any worse than it is against Millwall, but it isn’t much better. The Addicks have not beaten Saturday’s opponents in the league since the 1972-73 season. Admittedly, however, the two sides did not meet in any competition between 1973 and 2007. Scunthorpe took four points off Alan Pardew’s Charlton in 2007-08 and even held Chris Powell’s League 1-winning side twice four years later. The 0-0 draw at Glanford Park last September seemed a better result for Charlton, with Graham Alexander’s side top of the league at the time. And Russell Slade’s Addicks did win 3-1 in the FA Cup two months later, inspired by two goals from Ademola Lookman and a Johnnie Jackson strike.

Bolton Wanderers’ surprise loss to Swindon Town on Saturday has left Scunthorpe five points clear in second place. The Lincolnshire outfit can regain top spot if leaders Sheffield United drop points against Gillingham. While the Blades suffered a shock 4-1 defeat at Walsall, Josh Morris’ late winner earned Scunthorpe a 2-1 win at Northampton Town. Morris is the division’s joint top scorer along with Billy Sharp and has attracted interest from Championship Birmingham City.

Just as he thought most of his players were returning from spells on the sidelines, Robinson all of a sudden faces several selection problems at once. With Jorge Teixeira suspended, Ezri Konsa will surely be brought back from midfield to replace him. Fans were alarmed to hear the manager confirm that both Patrick Bauer and Harry Lennon are out injured, making a return for unpopular centre-back Roger Johnson likely. Adam Chicksen is expected to be at left-back with Lewis Page out, leaving Ricky Holmes or Jay DeSilva to replace him on the left wing.

Konsa’s return to defence may open the door for new signing Jake Forster-Caskey to partner Andrew Crofts in midfield. Nathan Byrne’s first-half performance should be enough to keep his place while Jordan Botaka is on African Cup of Nations duty. Joe Aribo struggled against the Lions, though, and may benefit from coming off the bench having played all but 12 minutes of his team’s last three games.

Josh Magennis is out injured, and Tony Watt showed that he is ill-suited to playing alone up front, so it will be interesting to see whether Robinson sticks to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. It may be an option if Lee Novak comes straight into the starting line-up after recovering from a knee problem. If the 28-year-old is only able to make the bench, it would probably make more sense to put two of Watt, Nicky Ajose, Josh Umerah, Brandon Hanlan and Karlan Ahearne-Grant up front.

Charlton remain seven points shy of the play-off places and now face four of the top six in a row. Robinson’s men are perhaps slightly unlucky to play so many promotion contenders consecutively while key players are in the treatment room. But they risk losing any hope of reaching the play-offs unless they pick up points in what is a critical period for the club.