Cheltenham Town arrive at The Valley on Friday evening, just two points behind the hosts with a game in hand, despite being the equal lowest goal scorers in League One (15 goals in 18 games).
Their league position represents a vast improvement over the last few weeks during which they have amassed eight points (two wins and two draws) compared to Charlton's two points (two defeats and two draws).
Most of Town's 22 points have been won at home where, since losing their first three games, they have beaten Cambridge, Bolton, Shrewsbury, Morecambe and Wycombe. Away from home, however, they have struggled to make an impact with only one win (at Exeter) and only four goals in eight games. It seems likely that Friday's encounter will be a tight game as nearly half Cheltenham's fixtures this season have ended 0-0 or 1-0 and they have conceded only one goal in their last four outings. That goal was at Ipswich two weeks ago but they recovered to gain a very creditable 1-1 draw.
The only recent blot in Cheltenham's copybook was their home defeat (1-2) by seventh tier Alvechurch in the FA Cup. Manager Wade Elliott said after the game:
"Obviously this is a horrible day, but if you can strip it back I genuinely think we're doing a decent job. I can't stand here in front of you and say we're doing a stellar job or we're ripping up trees or we're massively exceeding expectations, but I think we're doing a steady job. It's not an easy thing to say when you've just been beaten by Alvechurch at home. I can understand how that might divide opinion".
The fact that his team went up to Portman Road a week later and got a point serves to back up his claim.
We have only faced Cheltenham in a competitive fixture three times previously and, regrettably, they have bossed them all. They beat us 1-0 in a League Cup tie in August 2016 and last season they were within a few seconds of doing the double over us. Their 2-1 win at The Valley in September 2021 was a particularly depressing afternoon under Nigel Adkins and, when we went down to Whaddon Road in January this year, it was only a very late effort from Chuks Aneke that secured us a point.
The Valley will be full of nostalgia on Friday night as former players are presented to the crowd as part of the Back to The Valley celebrations. As we applaud the likes of Yann, Sasa and Kish, we are bound to be mindful of how far the club has fallen in the last decade and how the prospect of playing Cheltenham Town in a league game would have seemed laughable only a few years ago.
But we have to accept the reality that says a scrappy 1-0 win might just be enough to lift us back into the top half of League One.