Can another Operation Brunton cure the winter blues?

Almost as soon as the fixture list was released, we wondered at what stage of the season we'd face Carlisle. Surely to have got them in April would have been an omen, but as it is, we're heading northwards on the last Saturday of November.

Maybe it's a bit early to be talking about promotion, especially after the month we've just had as the winter blues set in. But this coming weekend, plenty of Charlton fans will have that P word on their lips, because of memories more than expectations at this stage, and the symbolism of returning to Brunton Park up in Carlisle on the Anglo-Scottish borders.

Several of our more famous visits there have coincided with the end of a long drive. Towards promotion that is, with our hosts providing the location at which we finally crossed the borderline. This goes right back to Saturday 25th April 1981 when we defeated Carlisle 2-1 in a match that sealed our promotion out of the old Third Division.

That feat was then repeated on Saturday 3rd May 1986, in a visit once aptly labelled as 'Operation Brunton' on the Charlton Life forum. This time it brought about a return to the old First Division for the first time in 29 years.

Twenty six years later, we had a third instalment of the Carlisle factor. On Saturday 14th April 2012, Chris Powell's marauding Charlton side secured promotion to the Championship with a 1-0 win in another Operation Brunton. That result sparked a pitch invasion as a rousing chorus of 'Valley Floyd Road' filled the Cumbrian evening and the future looked as bright as the summer that was coming. We were back, with a team and a manager that could go further with the right support.

That right support didn't come and the rest is a story well-documented. And here we are again in the snakes and ladders world of recent times, with half an eye on promotion, sitting on the borders of the play-offs as we head to the Scottish borders.

Mathematically, of course, we never could have gone to Brunton Park in November to seal promotion. We could and should though have been going there with more points than the 22 that we're sitting on, in eleventh place in the table. We've been unlucky at times but the table doesn't lie and nor did the TV a couple of weeks ago in the first of our two cup games, crowdfunding for Cray Valley Paper Mills. In that first game, we saw the source of our current problems.

Beneath the headline acts, there's not enough strength in depth. Surely though we've got enough to get past our lowly hosts, sitting 11 places below us in 22nd place, with 8 points between us. After getting promoted from League Two last season, via the play-offs, they had a reasonable start to their first season back at this level after a nine-year absence, before fading in their last few games, where they've lost four out of five.

The highlight of their performances so far has been a 3-1 away win at high-flying Bolton, where midfielder Jordan Gibson scored a hat trick. That helped him win the accolade of League One's player of the month for October and this exciting attacker in the No 7 shirt is one that we should watch out for on Saturday.

Another to watch out for, if he gets game time, is ex-Addicks defender Sam Lavelle, probably best remembered for the penalty kick against Brighton that booked our trip to Manchester a year ago. He has ended up at Carlisle after a loan spell at Burton where a shoulder injury restricted his playing time, and now he’s looking to get his career back on track. Hopefully though the latest Brunton Park mission won't produce another tradition of ex-Addicks coming back to haunt us.

After finding our shooting boots in the second episode of the Cray Valley script, we should have more than enough on paper to take the points at Brunton Park and stay in touch with the play-off positions.

So to all Addicks heading to the game, in whatever direction, we hope you have a memorable day out.