As the euphoria of Saturdays 4-1 win settles, I am reminded of something that Scunthorpe manager Nigel Adkins said back in August after our 1-1 draw, 'Its probably a good time to play them, they've got so many new players, it'll take a while to discover their best team'. Or words to that effect.
Well, after our 2 match unbeaten run we look, at the moment anyway, to have finally cracked the puzzle and have a side that can beat anyway, at least that's what Simon Grayson said at the weekend, 'credit to Charlton, they can take anyone apart on their day.'
But, at the moment anyway, there's no denying we are a Play-Off team, still seven points away from 1st placed West Brom and 5 behind Bristol City in second and 3 clear of 7th placed Ipswich and mainly because the problem with the Addicks so far has been a consistent lack of consistency. Our results taken monthly are a good illustration of that. On August results we were placed 12th, in September our results were 2nd best, October 21st, November 1st, December 13th, January 8th.
And now, if we are to get into the top 2 come May, the one thing we will need is consistency. Because with 12 wins, 7 draws and 8 defeats giving us 43 points so far, we are now exactly half-way to Pardews desired 86 points for the season. The trouble is we only have 19 games left, so we need 14 wins, 1 draw and only 4 defeats to enable us to get to the total. Fourteen wins from 19 games, looks pretty impossible to me.
As well as more consistency, another area that needs improving is our ability to fight back when things aren't going so well. From losing positions this season we have only managed to salvage 6 points. There's seventeen teams that have a better record than us after losing a goal and two of our possible Play-Off opponents stand out. Both have proved to be much tougher than us in that respect with 17 points won after going behind. One is Stoke and the other, you'll be pleased to hear, is Palarse. Pardew has always praised our superior technique, and Thatcher, Mills and Sodje were all brought to the club to improve our toughness and only one looks like surviving.
OK, you'll all say, the reason we rate so bad after falling behind is because we usually score first and that's partly right. Seventeen times out of 27 we go ahead in the game, but we often fail to hold on to the lead after going ahead. Bristol City, after scoring first 13 times, have only drawn twice in those games and dropped 4 points in the process. We have dropped 14 points - the 17th worst in the fizzies - from 4 draws and 2 defeats after scoring first. Is that a lack of toughness, looks like it.
But we can only look on the bright side, we've now scored 40 goals, 5th best in the fizzies behind West Brom, Watford, Ipswich and Stoke, two of which we meet in games over the next month. So its a tough period coming up with 6 games in that time including 4 against top 6 clubs, three of which are at home. February 9th, is of course, against Palarse and our record in these 6 games will be critical.
But, as Pardew has pointed out, we only have one away game left against a team in the top 6, with the crucial visit next weekend to Watford and its true that our form against top 6 teams has improved, although not from our own efforts but mainly because of the improvement in Palarse whom we beat when they were a bottom half team. However, one area that looks good on paper is that we've now rated 3rd in games against the top half, only behind the inevitable West Brom and Stoke, but again that appears to be mainly because of the rise in teams like Cardiff and Hull...
So all in all, on this rainy January Monday morning, and with the usual Charlton outlook on life, we still need improvements in consistency, toughness when falling behind and resilence to hold on to a lead. Not much to ask....
And once again we need perhaps to look back for some needed encouragement. One year ago, after 27 games, the top two in the fizzies were Birmingham on 53 pts and Derby on 50. Down there in 10th after their 27 games with only 40 points were Champions-to-be Sunderland. In their last 19 games they won 15, drew 3 and lost only once.
Thats the target, Pards, if we are to achieve an automatic spot. Perhaps we need to ask Keane how he did it, but nevertheless we have to be this years Sunderland.