Stoke, here we come

On November 4th Stoke City were beaten 0-2 at home by WBA and found themselves bottom of The Championship. Rory Delap was in temporary charge after the sacking of Nathan Jones. They team had won just twice in fifteen games and were six points from safety. They were fourteen points behind Charlton.

Former Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill took over with a 4-2 win at Barnsley followed by a 2-1 defeat of Wigan. A further seven wins mean that now, after thirty games, his team are out of the relegation zone in twenty first place and only two points behind Charlton despite last Friday's 0-4 thrashing at Derby.

There have been notable away wins (5-2 at Huddersfield and 1-0 at Leeds) but it is their unbeaten home record since O'Neill's appointment that has been particularly impressive. They followed up the Wigan win by beating Luton 3-0 and Sheffield Wednesday 3-2. There were 0-0 draws with Millwall and Reading and most recently a tidy 2-0 despatch of Swansea.

Given the players at his disposal O'Neill's success should be no surprise. A squad including Butland, Vokes, Clucas, Ince, Joe Allen and Tyrese Campbell (to name but a few) should not be fighting relegation and it seems that the new manager has managed to get them playing to their full potential. In addition James Chester has arrived on loan from Villa during the window along with Tottenham youngster Tashan Oakley-Booth.

Charlton have only beaten Stoke away once since the occasion in 1960 when Johnny Summers scored a hat trick in a 3-1 victory. Thirty eight years later it was Sasa Ilic's debut in February 1998 when goals from John Robinson and Anthony Barness secured a 2-1 win at The Brittannia Stadium on the way to promotion.

The squad will travel up there this weekend buoyed by the win over Barnsley and by the arrivals of Aiden McGeady, Matt Smith and David Davis. In fact, it will be fascinating to see what starting eleven Lee Bowyer picks given the (relative) riches at his disposal. His squad face three games in a week so some rotation is to be expected.

It would be great to end a run of eleven games without an away win but a draw with no new injuries would be a good outcome from this game.