Last season Plymouth Argyle were bottom of League One in late October, having won only one of sixteen games - their 2-0 home win against Charlton in August. They began a revival in December but, as the new year kicked off, they were still only one place above the relegation zone. However, when they arrived at The Valley in March they were in the play-off places with 13 wins in their last 18 games and only one defeat in three months.
This season has not been quite so dramatic but has nevertheless followed a similar pattern. They were rock bottom at the end of December and five points adrift of safety. Suddenly, four consecutive January wins propelled them out of the relegation places to 17th place. Their form during February and March has continued to be good - they won 1-0 at Peterborough; got a 1-1 draw with Portsmouth; thrashed Rochdale 5-1 and, perhaps most notably, held Luton to a 0-0 draw at Home Park at the start of March. They welcome Charlton on Saturday in 14th place - five points above Walsall in 21st place having drawn their last two games 2-2 at home to Bristol Rovers and away to Blackpool. They are unbeaten in their last eight home games.
They have a lively attack (51 goals) led by Freddie Lapado. The Londoner, who earned a contract at Crystal Palace in 2016 on the back of 23 goals in 49 appearances for Margate, was released by Southend at the end of last season after ten games without a goal. He has scored 17 this season for The Pilgrims and is ably supported by Rueben Lameiras (12 goals).
Plymouth's defence, however (63 conceded) is fifth worst in League One. This makes it all the more remarkable that they are the only club to have stopped Luton scoring since New Years Day.
Lee Bowyer has still not given up on automatic promotion but the twelve point gap between Charlton and Peterborough means that he should be able to rotate his squad and rest players as necessary over the final seven games. He will not want to lose momentum but equally he will not want to lose key players to injury or fatigue. Lyle Taylor has a remarkably good injury record but Charlton fans will be holding their breath every time he hits the ground in the run-in.
Bowyer is "flattered" by reports linking him with the QPR managerial vacancy but is not getting carried away. "All I've done since the start of the week is focus on Saturday's game. That's my job. That's what I'm paid to do". Bowyer also reported that he had at last heard from the club about a new contract. He has received an e mail but: "If I'm honest I don't really understand it. It's a bit different to a normal contract I've ever seen before"
We wouldn't really expect it to be straightforward, would we?