Play up who?

It looks like we could be welcoming the champions-elect to The Valley this Saturday.

Yes, Portsmouth could of course be caught by Derby or Bolton but, having topped the table since September and having come through a wobble over the New Year, it doesn't seem likely that their form will suddenly collapse now.

They did stutter in late December / early January when away defeats at Bristol Rovers and Cheltenham were followed by a 0-3 loss at home to Leyton Orient. Add in the draws with Fleetwood and Exeter and their seven point lead at the top was cut to one. However, they bolstered their squad by signing Callum Lang from Wigan and Myles Peart-Harris on loan from Brentford and they have won six of their last seven games, including three on the trot away from home at Fleetwood, Port Vale and Carlisle. Their lead is up to six points again and they will be expecting to win at The Valley.

A lot of credit must be given to John Mousinho who took over from Danny Cowley in January 2023 with the club in fifteenth place. Portsmouth is his first head coach role but under his leadership the team have a win percentage of 53% and have lost only ten of the 64 games for which he has been in charge.

Charlton's recent record at Fratton Park is extraordinary but results at The Valley have not been quite so good with Pompey winning in 2017 (1-0) and 2021 (3-1). Last season, however, goals from Innis, Blackett-Taylor and O'Connell saw us home comfortably in a ‘clean sheet’ game in which Marlon Pack was sent off.

Port Vale's defeat at Reading on Tuesday means that Charlton prepare for Saturday's game still above the relegation slots. However, although a draw with Portsmouth would not be a bad result, it is essential that we pick up three points soon. Our run of fifteen games without a win is the longest in the league and wins for Cheltenham and Burton last weekend mean that our position became even more precarious. Our defence will need to find a way to deal with Colby Bishop who has sixteen goals this season and that task will be made all the harder by the fact that Lloyd Jones and George Dobson are one yellow card away from a two match suspension. Nathan Jones's selection decisions will be very interesting. In his pre-match press conference Jones (now South East London's longest serving manager) said:

"They're a really good, well-coached side that has got good players. We're really looking forward to the challenge in front of our fans. We want to be as aggressive and front-footed as we possibly can and then see if we can keep improving. John Mousinho's come in and done really well. It's going to be a really tough League One game - we know that - but it's also going to be very tough for Portsmouth."

There should be a great atmosphere at The Valley on Saturday and, although the odds are against us, we will approach the game with optimism. Jones will have his team playing on the front foot and they will need all the support they can get.