League One's top goal scorers entertain League One's meanest defence at Fratton Park on Saturday. Can Charlton continue the fine run which saw them rise in to the play-off positions after the 2-0 defeat of Oxford on Tuesday evening?
It is really disappointing that we will not be able to be down there behind the goal this weekend for what has been one of the most popular Charlton away days in recent years. It has been a great feeling to be part of a crowd usually approaching 20,000 in an old-fashioned football ground for a contest played 100 times over 98 years. All in all Pompey come out on top (40 wins to 35) but Charlton's recent record at Fratton Park is phenomenal. Our team has won the last four games there and six out of the last seven going back to 1996.
Surprisingly, given that they are top scorers in League One with sixteen goals, Portsmouth began season with two nil-nil draws against Shrewsbury and Rochdale and a 1-2 home defeat by Wigan. At the end of September they were in the bottom four. October, however, has seen a revival in the shape of five wins out of six which has propelled them into fifth place. They have won 4-2 at Burton, 2-1 at home to Milton Keynes, 2-0 at Gillingham and, most impressively, 3-1 at Sunderland. They followed this up by seeing off Northampton 4-0 at Fratton Park on Tuesday. The only blemish so far this month was a 0-1 home defeat by Doncaster.
Their goals have come from our old friend John Marquis who has scored all his five goals in the last three games. Marcus Harness has four - a hat trick at his former club Burton and the opening goal at The Stadium of Light. Kenny Jackett has added to his strike force this week by signing free agent and former Coventry player Jordy Hiwula.
Charlton's run of five clean sheets is their best since the 1998 play-off run-in when Sasa Ilic went unbeaten for nine games. Consistency was the key to that run with only five players featuring at the back - Rufus, Youds, Bowen, Mills and (for three games) Barness. Charlton will have to reorganise at the back this weekend because of the enforced absence of the impressive Ryan Inniss after his red card on Tuesday. Darren Pratley may be pressed into defensive service which would mean a double loss of experience in midfield as Ben Watson is also suspended. Bearing in mind that Sunderland had gone five games without conceding a goal before Portsmouth turned them over two weeks ago we can see what a difficult task our team faces. The home team's assistant manager Joe Gallen (brother of Steve) said after the Sunderland game:
“The break was swift for the first goal, with Marcus passing it into the net because he’s a great finisher in there. It feels the formation has given us more potency and we’re building confidence.”
But Charlton are also growing in confidence and, despite problems in defence, should be able to call on Marcus Maddison and Chuks Aneke to bolster their attacking options. This is probably the toughest fixture so far this season for The Addicks and a hard-fought 0-0 draw would not be a bad outcome.
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