Are you optimistic about this game? Do you perceive a silver lining? Are you a sucker for a bit of hope in these gloomy times ? The gaining of a point in a crazy 4-4 home draw with a club in the relegation places would normally provoke dire pessimism but maybe there were some small signs on Tuesday night that Charlton fans might be able to look ahead to Saturday's game at The Memorial Stadium with just a smidgen of optimism.
Bristol Rovers were in eighteenth place two months ago when they dismissed manager Ben Garner after a 1-4 home defeat by Fleetwood. They replaced him with experienced former Exeter and Milton Keynes chief Paul Tisdale but they welcome Charlton on Saturday still in eighteenth place and, in fact, only one point from a relegation slot. However, they do have two games in hand on most of their rivals having lost recent fixtures against Portsmouth and Charlton to Covid-19.
Tisdale's reign didn't start well. It took three games before they scored a goal and this included a 0-2 home defeat by Gillingham. However, it seems that he is beginning to turn things round as they have won three of their last four league games. In early December they went up to Wimbledon and won 4-2 and they have followed up with an impressive 3-0 home win over Plymouth and, last time out, a 2-1 home win over Blackpool. Sandwiched between was a 0-2 defeat at Milton Keynes and last weekend they gave Sheffield United a decent game in the FA Cup but eventually went out 2-3.
Leading scorer for the Pirates is none other than Brandon Hanlon who was released by Charlton at the end of the 2017/18 season and who subsequently signed for Gillingham. He was a regular in their team for two seasons but was hardly prolific - scoring just 13 goals in 74 appearances. For Rovers, however, he has made a bright start with 7 goals in 18. The pessimists among us might recall Joe Pigott's performance against us for Wimbledon last month.
Although Charlton are now top scorers in League One, our goals conceded (28) is the worst in the top half of the table and we will once again be playing with a makeshift defence on Saturday. On the other hand, our comeback against Rochdale on Tuesday night did go some way to allaying concerns that team spirit had eroded in recent weeks. Lee Bowyer's post-match comments were also more measured and the acknowledgement of his error in selecting Paul Smyth as a wing back was welcome.
But can we really approach this Saturday's game with any optimism? The introduction of Ronnie Schwartz and Liam Millar has undoubtedly given everyone a lift and there was something of Derek Hales in the way that Schwartz took his equaliser on Tuesday. With a goal every 88 minutes Chuks Aneke is the most prolific scorer in League One and with Shinnie and Famewo possibly back in time for Peterborough next Tuesday we might be beginning to return to full strength. At the very least we hope the team can remain in or around the play-off places over the next couple of months and three points at The Memorial Stadium would be a very good start.
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