When Charlton beat a strangely unambitious AFC Wimbledon 2-0 at The Valley in mid December the result left the visitors bottom of the table and six points from safety. They kick off the return game on Saturday still bottom and now five points from safety so it might seem that little has changed.
In fact, there is a new level of optimism at Kingsmeadow as wins at Walsall (0-1) and Rochdale (3-4) in the last two weeks have reduced the gap from an apparently unassailable ten points. The cup run - which ended with an honourable defeat to Millwall - seems to have proved an inspiration to players and supporters alike.
Despite this, anything less than a win for Charlton would be very disappointing and would darken the sense of gloom and anger surrounding The Valley since the departure of Karlan Grant. Wimbledon's home league record of late is hardly formidable. Since beating Plymouth 2-1 on Boxing Day they have gained one point from four home games and have lost 1-4 to Barnsley, 0-3 to Fleetwood and 0-2 to Burton. The recent wins at Walsall and Rochdale were very welcome but they were against two of the poorest current form sides in League One. Charlton can't continue to rely on the stumbling form of Portsmouth and Peterborough to maintain their play-off slot and need three points from this match before the trip to Doncaster next week.
Do we have a team that can deliver a win against a side who will surely be more aggressive and ambitious than they were at The Valley? Our defensive record of four goals conceded in eight games since the turn of the year is impressive, but eight goals (three of which were at Shrewsbury) in eight games is not promotion form. Josh Parker is no replacement for Karlan Grant whose pace is sorely missed and we wonder whether our hopes wouldn't be better pinned on Igor Vetokele to provide a spark. His short cameo at the end of the Blackpool game was promising but was of course no guarantee of an effective ninety minute performance. It is now three years since he scored a league goal for Charlton (30th January 2016 at Rotherham) and it really wouldn't be a bad time to get another one now.
This will be Charlton's fourth attempt to win at The Cherry Red Records Stadium. We doubt it will be pretty but we can see it happening provided:
Naby Sarr stays on the pitch longer than one minute
Lyle Taylor poses more of a threat than Joe Pigott
Igor plays and steps up to the plate.