Northampton – relegation battle starts here

Charlton travel to Sixfields Stadium this Saturday knowing that defeat could mean that they end the day in eighteenth place and just 3 points off the relegation zone. With Swindon hosting Chesterfield and Bury at home to Gillingham this is not an unlikely scenario.

How has it come to this? Charlton ended January with an eye on a play-off place having just seen off Bolton with only ten men on the pitch for most of the game. It has all gone horribly wrong since, with the seven February games resulting in three draws and four defeats. That is 3 points out of a possible 21.

All is clearly not well behind the scenes. After the 3-4 defeat at Shrewsbury on Tuesday evening Karl Robinson was caustic in his comments about the application and desire of some of the players. Without mentioning names he implied that seven of the outfield players in the match had not shown nearly enough discipline and desire - "we lost seven battles out of ten". He said that some of them did not deserve to wear a Charlton shirt and when asked what he could do about that he answered:

"Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing"

He also said that too many players had "dodged bullets" for too long and that they had to stand up and be counted. He was open that he was keen to clear out some "dead wood" and he showed no regret in using that phrase. If he has to select some of the players he described in that way for Saturday's game he may find that it wasn't a brilliant motivational technique.

The only silver lining is that Northampton are on as bad a run as Charlton at the moment. They have lost 7 of their last 11 games, scoring 17 and conceding 24. What might be more significant, however, is that they have won three crucial home games against relegation rivals in the last few weeks (Coventry 3-0; Chesterfield 3-1; Swindon 2-1). Yes, they were beaten at home 1-2 by Oldham on Tuesday but they would not appear to be quite as fragile as the current Charlton squad.

The last time that there was a public demonstration against Roland Duchatelet on Belgian soil Russell Slade lost his job. As hundreds of Charlton fans head for Sint Truiden this weekend we fear for Karl Robinson, whose results do not compare favourably with Slade's. But the owner could not be so foolhardy as to heap even more instability on the club at this stage, could he?