When we last went up to The Pirelli Stadium a year ago we were sitting comfortably in the play-off places and Burton were bottom of the league. We were on an unbeaten run of six wins and two draws and had conceded only once in seven games. By the 39th minute we were 0-2 down as a result of errors by Chris Gunter and Ben Amos. Despite goals from Paul Smyth and Omar Bogle we never recovered and eventually succumbed 2-4.
You could argue that this was the start of the wheels falling off Lee Bowyer's campaign. Yes, we won at Ipswich the following week but the next four months were typified by more and more calamitous defending (particularly at The Valley) and an apparent disintegration of team morale. By the time Bowyer departed we had dropped to eighth place. Meanwhile, Burton appointed Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and had a run of nine wins in eleven to finish the season in a respectable 16th place. This included coming from behind to win 2-1 at The Valley with Sean Clare in midfield on loan from Oxford.
It seemed as if this uplift was going to continue when The Brewers beat Shrewsbury, Ipswich and Sunderland in their first three games this season to top the table alongside Portsmouth in mid August. However, the following thirteen games have produced only three more wins, four draws and six defeats and they are now in mid table with 22 points from 16 games. They have lost their last two games (1-3 at home to Oxford and 0-2 at Wigan) and they are the only team to have been beaten by Crewe this season. Deji Oshilaja has been a regular in their defence in recent weeks. All in all Saturday's encounter is certainly a winnable game for Charlton.
We will not be at our strongest but, because Harry Arter has not been selected for the Irish squad, it has not been possible for us to get the match postponed. With Adam Matthews not quite ready it is probable that Sean Clare will play on the right in defence in the absence of Chris Gunter who is away with Wales. Up front the loss of Conor Washington might prove more costly as it almost certainly means Josh Davison starting with Mason Burstow on the bench. On the other hand there is a momentum which has been built up over recent weeks which would seem ideal to build on. Johnnie Jackson certainly thinks so:
“The boys have been fantastic in the games and also the training, there is a real bounce about them and I’m really pleased with where we are as a group. I can’t rest, that has to be us going forward and if we maintain that, then we will start looking up and closing the gap with the teams above us and climbing away from teams below us. “
Who would have thought a few weeks ago that we would now be daring to expect three points from this game ?