Charlton go into Tuesday night's clash with Oxford knowing that a win would reduce their play-off shortfall to five points unless Millwall beat Chesterfield or Southend win at Peterborough, in which case the gap will remain at eight. A win, which would see Charlton leapfrog their visitors into twelfth place, cannot be taken for granted however. Oxford are in fine form with four wins in their last six League One games - including an impressive 4-0 thumping of Rochdale at Spotland in mid January. They have also recorded four wins in their last five away games with their only away defeat since Christmas coming at AFC Wimbledon.
All this is of course on top of their fine FA Cup form which saw them beat Championship teams Rotherham (3-2) and Newcastle (3-0) before eventually succumbing to Middlesbrough on Saturday after coming from 2-0 down to level at 2-2. In Chris Maguire they have one of the most influential players in the division. Charlton fans may also be afforded the opportunity to see if Conor McAleny - currently on loan at the Kassam Stadium from Everton - has improved at all since his stay at The Valley.
This season is beginning to resemble the doldrums of the 2010/11 season when, after Chris Powell's initial four wins in four, the team mustered just two wins in their final nineteen games. Highlights of this run were the 1-3 loss to Exeter in the Football for a Fiver game, home defeats by Carlisle, Brentford and Huddersfield plus the infamous 1-2 loss at Dagenham & Redbridge. The difference is that six years ago there was still a strong bond between supporters and club which was reflected in attendances. Almost 24,000 saw the Exeter game. Nearly 13,000 turned up on a Tuesday night for the Carlisle debacle. Even the meaningless victory over Rochdale in the penultimate home game of the season was witnessed by over 13,000. It seems highly unlikely that Tuesday's crowd will be any more than 9,000 at most.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Powell was quietly planning the total rebuild of the squad with the full backing and expertise of the board and chief executive. Karl Robinson said last week that the planning for next season must start now. We do have to wonder whether the current set up possesses the knowledge and initiative to replicate Powell's achievement. Robinson's words on returning from Belgium early in the new year were hardly inspiring:
"The President has his theory on things so he gave his opinion on different situations"