Few Charlton fans would deny that we were fairly beaten by Shrewsbury in May's play-off semi-final and that they deservedly took their place at Wembley. The Shrews also comprehensively outplayed us at The Valley in February and, although we won up there in April, it was a slightly hollow win against a non full-strength team.
Much has changed since then, however.
Their manager Paul Hurst left for Ipswich in the summer and took two of their top players with him. The Shrews replaced him with John Askey who had just overseen Macclesfield's return to the EFL from the National League. Macclesfield in turn appointed Mark Yates. By mid November all three had gone with Askey chopped after a home FA Cup draw with Salford. Danny Coyne and Eric Ramsey provided caretaker management until Sam Ricketts took over the reins at the beginning of December having only begun his managerial career six months earlier at Wrexham. In contrast, Charlton's managerial situation has been an oasis of peace and has even become a little more stable with Lee Bowyer shedding his caretaker title.
When John Askey departed Shrewsbury they were in eighteenth place and three points above the relegation places. They are now in sixteenth place but still only three points from danger, so improvement has been minimal. However, their home form has been impressive. Since losing 0-2 to Sunderland on October 20th they have put together an unbeaten home run of six games which includes wins over Barnsley, Rochdale, Plymouth and Coventry and draws with Peterborough and Fleetwood. Last weekend they held Stoke City to a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup.
The Charlton team which lost the play-off semi final was not a weak one - it contained Amos, Dasilva, Konsa, Bauer, Pearce, Aribo and Forster-Caskey. However, most Charlton fans would surely agree that Taylor and Grant are a much more potent strike force than Magennis and Ajose, and that back up of Ajose and Williams is superior to Kaikai and Mavididi. The emerging talent of Albie Morgan is exciting and the return to form, albeit at left back, of Chris Solly suggests that we should be much stronger this time.
Nevertheless, Charlton's last two away games have been disappointing both in terms of performance and result. They have gone behind on both occasions and, having regained parity, have failed to hold on to it. Bowyer will be looking for a better start and a bit more resilience. Although a draw with Sunderland last week was not a bad outcome it is certainly the case that a win at The Montgomery Wates Meadow on Saturday will be necessary to convince the fans that automatic promotion is a realistic possibility.