When the fixtures were published last June many of us imagined that our final game at Ipswich might be a promotion decider or at worst a crunch game between play-off challengers. Few would have predicted that it would turn out to be a game of little significance between two disappointing also-rans.
Both clubs made dreadful starts to the season. Despite (or perhaps because of) their summer transfer spending it was six games before Ipswich recorded a win. By mid September (after a 2-5 home defeat by Bolton) they were in the bottom four. Things did improve - they beat Doncaster 6-0 and won 4-0 at Portsmouth and 4-1 at Wycombe - and when they arrived at The Valley in early December they had climbed to eleventh place. It was one of the best matches of our poor season - with goals from Stockley and Gilbey securing a 2-0 win in front of a large crowd.
It was a couple of weeks later that Ipswich sacked Paul Cook and replaced him with previous Manchester United assistant manager Kieran McKenna. Four months later they are still in eleventh place and, although they were briefly as high as ninth, they have never really threatened the play-off contenders. They have drawn more games (16) than any other team apart from Wimbledon but, even if they had converted six of those into wins, they would still be shy of the top six.
Their leading goal scorer is MacAuley Bonne (on loan from QPR) with twelve, although he has not been making the starting eleven recently. Wes Burns has eleven and Conor Chaplin ten but Joe Pigott has had a very disappointing time at Portman Road with only two goals in twenty five appearances. Scott Fraser was deemed surplus to requirements in January.
Defeat on Saturday would risk Charlton being overtaken by Cambridge and Accrington (who both have winnable games) and finishing fourteenth. That would equal the position of the 1973/74 squad which recorded the club's lowest finish since 1926. It would also be one place lower than Chris Powell's 2010/11 squad. Looking on the bright side (and what else can you do?) - on both occasions we were promoted the following season.
There will be a good turn-out of Charlton fans travelling to support the team and bid good riddance to this dismal season. There are not many positives on the pitch to take away but here are a few which might help us stay optimistic through the summer:
- The consistent performances of George Dobson.
- The emergence of Cory Blackett-Taylor.
- DJ's pass for the Washington goal against Wimbledon.
- The impact Chuks has made coming on in recent games.
- The promise of Deji Elerewe.
- The wins at Rotherham and Sunderland.
- The home wins v Plymouth and Ipswich in front of good crowds.
- The success of our under 18s which bodes well for the future.
Next season kicks off at the end of July so we hope you enjoy what used to be called the cricket season and that you can come back refreshed for better performances in 22/23.