Barnsley and Charlton began the season joint favourites for relegation but things have improved slightly for both clubs. Barnsley are now second favourites (at 1/2) behind Luton (1/6). Charlton (11/8) are tipped by the bookies just to survive over Wigan (8/11). Perversely, Barnsley are favourites to win Saturday's game at The Valley - being priced 11/8 against Charlton's 7/4.
Those odds (and also this preview) were produced before the closing of the January transfer window. Things could change dramatically in the next twenty four hours and the signing of Aiden McGeady should shift the odds a little further in Charlton's favour.
The Tykes famously began the season by beating Fulham at Oakwell but, by the time they won again (3-1 v Hull) at the end of November, they were five points adrift at the bottom of the table and eight points off safety. The arrival of Austrian manager Gerhard Struber has improved matters somewhat. Three more wins (at home to QPR and Huddersfield and away to Millwall) plus impressive draws with WBA and Swansea mean that they are now joint bottom and six points off 21st place. Former Portsmouth striker Conor Chaplin is enjoying his first Championship season and has scored eleven goals and made five assists so far. Cauley Woodrow (who scored a fine goal against us in August) is one behind with ten. Alex Mowatt has three goals and seven assists. The problem for Barnsley this season has been at the back where their goals conceded record (54) is better only than Luton's (63). This week they signed Michael Sollbauer from Wolfsberger AC (Struber's former club) to strengthen their defence
Barnsley have a good recent record at The Valley. Two goals from Karlan Grant saw them off last season but they had won the previous three encounters. It was a particularly depressing night in April 2014 when their 2-1 win from bottom place seemed to provide evidence that Jose Riga's Charlton didn't have what it takes to avoid the drop with five games to go. In the event, however, his team won three of the last five and survived by seven points while Barnsley lost their final four and went down.
Recent draws against WBA and Fulham have shown that a Charlton team including Phillips, Lockyer, Pratley, Cullen, Williams, Oztumer, McGeady and Taylor is too good to be relegated, particularly if Alfie Doughty continues to show promise, Green gains confidence, Hemed gets fitter and Aneke, Field, and Bonne are able to return to the squad. Some strengthening in depth is needed (probably via loans) as insurance against further injuries but we are confident that the home team in front of a large crowd will be good enough to win on Saturday and extend the lead over Barnsley to nine points.