When Karl Robinson was asked at the City Addicks meeting last week who he identified as Charlton's promotion rivals he mentioned Wigan, Blackburn, Rotherham, Milton Keynes and Scunthorpe. Wigan and Blackburn because of their strong squads. Rotherham because they had Kieffer Moore. Milton Keynes because they had Chuks Aneke. But why Scunthorpe, Karl? "Because it's a horrible place to go".
The Iron are certainly showing promotion form at the moment. They have won their last five league games 2-1 v Peterborough, 3-2 at Oldham, 1-0 v Bristol Rovers, 3-0 at Northampton and, most impressively, 2-1 at Bradford on Tuesday evening. In between they drew 0-0 at Northampton in the FA Cup and beat them 1-0 in the replay so they have only conceded one goal in their last five games.
It will come as no surprise to Charlton fans to learn that the catalyst for this recent run of form is none other than the inspirational Simon Church. Scunthorpe were on a run of five games without a win when he signed last month on a short term contract until January. When he made his debut as a 77th minute substitute on October 21st his team were losing 0-1 at home to Peterborough but two minutes later Lee Novak equalised and, in the 83rd minute it was Church who was brought down in the box for Josh Morris to score the penalty and secure the win. Scunthorpe haven't looked back since, although it does rather spoil a good story to admit that Church's contribution to their fine run has been limited to a twenty five minute cameo at Oldham.
He has experienced the highs and lows of football in the last couple of years. He appeared in a European Championship semi-final in the summer of 2016 when he was a second half substitute for Wales against Portugal. A few months later he suffered a serious hip injury while playing for Roda in Holland - an injury he partly ascribes to regular training on astroturf pitches. He made only four appearances for the Dutch club and now it seems that injury has struck again.
Lee Novak was substituted before half time on Tuesday so it seems probable that he won't be available for Saturday. With Andrew Crofts starting on the bench these days it is quite likely that travelling Charlton fans won't have a chance to assess any of the triumvirate. Instead, they might like to take a look at Hackney-born midfielder Hakeeb Adelakun who, after failing to break through at West Ham and Palace, has been in outstanding creative form for Scunthorpe this season.
Charlton's win over Rochdale on Tuesday was laboured and fortunate, and few watching the game will have gained much optimism for Saturday's trip to Lincolnshire. The absence of Clarke, Fosu and now, we assume, Reeves starkly demonstrates the lack of depth in the squad. Patrick Bauer and Johnnie Jackson were the only players on the bench who could be referred to as experienced and, although Karlan Ahearne-Grant showed some pace and promise when he came on, he was still often muscled off the ball. Wouldn't we all just love him to snatch a late goal on Saturday for a 1-0 away win?
That would be great but I think a 0-0 draw would be a fine achievement for a weakened Charlton squad. Scunthorpe have only beaten us once in the last fifty years so it's not too much to hope for.