Fans need a boost at Fleetwood

It is hard to avoid that sinking feeling. Even a draw with Gillingham would have been very disappointing but to lose yet again as a result of individual mistakes and world class strikes was really hard to stomach.

The league table makes grim reading now that some of the games in hand have been played. We have dropped to ninth and are trying to cling to the coat tails of Accrington, Sunderland and Oxford. Meanwhile, Plymouth and Ipswich are in close pursuit. Although mathematically there is still much to play for it won't take many more poor performances for the season to drift away while we stumble  into mid-table obscurity (or worse). Which brings us to Fleetwood.

Our opponents on Saturday reached the play-offs last season but have struggled to make an impact recently. When they thrashed Plymouth 5-1 at the end of November they were in seventh place and just one point short of a play-off spot. It hasn't gone very well for them since.

December and January saw them play eleven games of which they won one, drew five and lost five. In those eleven games they scored just four goals. Joey Barton was sacked at the start of January after a dressing room "altercation" with Ched Evans. Evans then signed for Preston during the window and Simon Grayson was eventually appointed to replace Barton on January 31st. His team have failed to score in two of his three games in charge (0-0 v Bristol Rovers and 0-1 at Plymouth) but sandwiched between those games was a surprising 3-1 win over Doncaster. That result means that they will welcome Charlton from sixteenth position on Saturday.

Our last visit to Highbury Stadium was not a happy one. It was early February 2019 and Karlan Grant had just left for Premier League Huddersfield. Lyle Taylor was suspended so our attack was led by Reeco Hackett-Fairchild backed up by Ben Reeves and Johnny Williams. We lost 1-0 and Patrick Bauer was sent off with three minutes left. In the bigger picture it wasn't such a disaster as there was only one more defeat in the run-in which took us to Wembley and promotion.  Our only previous visits to Fleetwood saw a comfortable win in 2017 via a Tariqe Fosu hat trick and a 2-2 draw in 2016 thanks to a late Lee Novak equaliser.

Despite their low position Fleetwood's defensive record (25 conceded) is bettered only by Hull, Lincoln and Sunderland and their goal difference (+7) is superior to ours (+5). Meanwhile, our notorious defence has been relatively tight away from home with clean sheets in three of the last four games. This suggests a tight game with a 0-0 draw or a 1-0 win either way seeming likely. Charlton fans are growing increasingly frustrated at watching a group of talented individuals just not functioning effectively or consistently as a team. With home games against Burton and Blackpool to follow, failure to gather at least seven points will raise more questions about Lee Bowyer's ability to get the most out of his resources.

Aneke and Forster-Caskey will be missing but Conor Washington will be available and Bowyer has confirmed that Akim Famewo will be on the bench. He has also spoken encouragingly about Alex Gilbey this week. It will be interesting to see how he shuffles his pack and whether there will be a role for Matt Smith.

At a time when football is providing some rare and welcome lockdown distraction it is too depressing to consider the season drifting away. We are therefore pinning our hopes on a narrow win to keep the possibility of sixth place just about alive.

You can access your stream of the game here. Steve Brown will be providing forceful and entertaining comment alongside Alan Curbishley and Scott Minto.