Results elsewhere have generally been kind to us this week. While we were pocketing the three points at Rochdale on Saturday our rivals for sixth place were stumbling. Accrington failed to beat Northampton at home; Sunderland drew at MK, and hot-tip Oxford went down 2-3 at Doncaster.
Then, while our team had a rest on Tuesday, Accrington and Sunderland used up a game in hand by losing to Plymouth and Shrewsbury. Oxford's win at Bristol Rovers was the only cloud. Weather permitting, Accrington travel to Lincoln this weekend and to Doncaster next Tuesday. Sunderland host Doncaster on Saturday. Could Omar Bogle become a Charlton hero in the space of a few days? OK, perhaps not, but it is possible that the league table could look a bit more comfortable for us by this time next week. However, that does of course depend on whether we can manage to beat Gillingham at The Valley because we can probably be confident that Oxford will beat Wigan.
Gillingham was where it all started to go wrong for us back in November. After six consecutive league wins we arrived at The Priestfield three points off top spot with a game in hand and having kept clean sheets in seven of our first ten games. Conor Washington missed a penalty (perhaps unsettled by Bogle) and the Gills took the lead from a penalty after Akinde appeared to stumble over Chris Gunter with the ball going out of play. In the end it was a relief to exit with a point but the game signalled the start of the run which saw us drop out of the top six and to now have a defensive record ten goals worse than all the teams above us.
Gillingham were well beaten (0-3) last Saturday by league leaders Lincoln but their form prior to that was pretty good. In fact they did us a few favours during January by getting a 2-2 draw at Sunderland, beating Crewe 4-1 and winning 1-0 up at Accrington. A 2-2 draw at home to Rochdale and a home defeat by Burton summed up their unpredictability. They have plenty of goal threat. Jordan Graham (8), Vadaine Oliver (7) and Dominic Samuel (6) lead the way and recent signing Olly (son of Valley Pass studio guest Robert) Lee scored two of the goals against Crewe. And, on the side lines they will of course have Lee Bowyer's "fat geezer" friend Steve Evans constantly in the ears of the officials despite getting a yellow card last weekend for overheated protests.
They have only beaten us once at The Valley in a hundred years and seventeen attempts. That was on New Year's Day three years ago with goals from Josh Parker and Tom Eaves. However, they have managed a draw five times and anything less than three points for the home team would be very disappointing given how much stronger our squad is than when we played them in November. Bowyer has confirmed that Jake Forster-Caskey is a doubt but that Ben Purrington will keep his place at left back. He has also warned against complacency:
"They are a difficult side to play against. We have to compete against them, I've said that to the lads. They are a good side at the horrible side of the game. They put balls into your box - whether that is a free kick or a throw-in - they ask question after question of your defence. We will have to be at it from the start"
It is now five games since our last home win. We really do need to be at it from the start.
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