There were sixteen places and seventeen points between the two teams when Plymouth Argyle arrived at The Valley as league leaders on November 13th. They were defending an unbeaten run of sixteen games and, to be fair, although they lost 0-2, they looked a good side with some frightening pace. But in Saturday's reverse fixture at Home Park the gap in places is down to five and the gap in points to eight. Charlton's resurgence in form plays a big part in this but so does Plymouth's collapse.
Three days after losing their unbeaten record at The Valley they faced Wycombe at Home Park. They lost 0-3. The following Saturday they entertained Wigan and conceded a 90th minute goal to lose 1-2. From no defeats in three months to three defeats in a week. Some Argyle fans were so upset that they indulged in "serious disorder" leading to twenty five stadium bans being issued. Club Chairman Simon Hallett said: "I don't want to hear that these people are "childish", "idiotic", or even "just being lads". They are violent, wicked and never welcome at Home Park."
Someone else who won't be at Home Park on Saturday is Ryan Lowe who was the team's manager when we beat them last month. He has headhunted by Preston North End and left Plymouth after the Wigan game to be replaced by his assistant Steven Schumacher.
Schumacher's first game in charge was a trip to Milton Keynes where his team at least stopped the run of defeats by claiming a 1-1 draw. Last Saturday he took them up to Sunderland where they found themselves two down after 13 minutes. To their credit they didn't crumble but nevertheless left with no points after a 1-2 defeat. The new boss remains upbeat, claiming: "I feel confident in our team that we're more than a match for any of the top teams in this division". Argyle are now in sixth place, clinging on to a play-off spot by a slender one goal difference over Sheffield Wednesday. It just goes to show (as if we needed telling) how quickly things can change.
Charlton's new manager - Johnnie Jackson - is also upbeat: "It’s been a good week of training. We worked on some tactical stuff and had a big day out on the grass today and did a lot of intensive stuff on Tuesday - that’s a typical week for us. But, obviously, we’ve been quite mindful of the schedule we're just coming out of, so we’ve had to balance the training that we do with recovery."
He added that Ryan Innis would be playing for the Under 23s next week and that Adam Matthews and Corey Blackett-Taylor are almost ready to return.
There are no indications at present that the fixture is under threat of postponement because of Covid. Jackson reported: "in general society it’s ramping up, especially in the London area it seems to be pretty rife. We’ve been quite lucky at the minute that we haven’t been too badly affected, but obviously it’s something that we are putting mitigations in place for now, just to try and do everything best practice to try and minimise the risk to people’s health and, obviously, try and minimise the chance of games getting called off.”
Another 6-0 would be handy for the goal difference but a narrow win and three points would be a fine early Christmas present for all Charlton men and women.
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