Amazingly, it is now four years and nearly two hundred matches since Charlton played a league game that didn't matter. Ever since the last few games of the 2015/16 relegation season every match has been vital. And this Sunday is no exception.
How it has come to this is quite extraordinary. How can a team that dished up such dreadful performances in February still even be in with a shout? Four consecutive home defeats to Portsmouth, Gillingham, Burton and Blackpool with eleven goals conceded? Scrambled draws with Swindon and Rochdale?
On the other hand we could so easily be sitting pretty. Maybe not automatic promotion but comfortably in the play-offs and resting key players. Three missed penalties cost five points. Last gasp goals by Plymouth and Crewe threw away another four. Of course all teams suffer in this way but can you remember a season with so many avoidable individual errors?
Hull arrive on Sunday as worthy champions despite their humble compilation of only 89 points (cf Charlton Athletic 2012). They have won more games than anyone else (27); they have scored more goals than any other team (80) and conceded fewer (37). Since losing at home to Ipswich in late February they have been on a run of eleven wins and three draws with a goal difference of 28-9. In Mallik Wilks (21) and Josh Magennis (19) they have a strike force second only to Peterborough's. Maybe their decision to cash in on Grosicki and Bowen a year ago wasn't quite as bizarre as it seemed at the time ?
We all know what is required of our team. We need to win and hope that Portsmouth and Oxford draw at best.
Portsmouth host Accrington against whom they drew 3-3 less than a fortnight ago. In recent weeks Accrington have also drawn with Sunderland, Blackpool and us and won at Oxford.
Burton have only lost one game in the last nine - at home to Lincoln 0-1. They won at both Portsmouth and Doncaster in April.
This time last year Swansea were trailing Forest by three points and five goals as they went into their last games competing for sixth place in The Championship. Forest lost 1-4 at home to Stoke and Swansea won 4-1 at Reading. Forest conceded and Swansea scored in the 90th minute and it was those goals that meant Swansea leapfrogged Forest thanks to a one goal superiority in goal difference.
And of course we all remember what happened at Brentford last year.
Sadly, we will be without Jake Forster-Caskey who has again torn his ACL. Someone will need to step up and maybe the scene is set for Albie Morgan after his excellent performance on Tuesday. At the Zoom webinar with CAST members on Wednesday night Nigel Adkins acknowledged that we were third favourites to claim sixth spot. But he was typically positive: "We’ve got a shot. In whatever you do, you’ve got to keep believing.”
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