The Opposition View - Charlton
1. What were your expectations before the season started?
Given that Chris Powell was forced to let players such as Ricardo Fuller go, and wasn't given any funds to add to the squad, a mid-table finish was the hope. The late surge last season which took us to a ninth placed finish represented a fantastic achievement given the strength of our squad. With an uncertain contract situation, times have been tougher this season, but the isn't cause for alarm just yet. Whilst we've struggled, we are still capable of winning games and moving away from the relegation zone.
2. Now we are 17 games into the Championship season, do you think you are going to become embroiled in a relegation battle?
We are drifting towards one, yes. Whilst the Reading game is a big one, the next fixture is arguably more important - away to Yeovil. A win there would ease the fears, but a lack of goals is a continued cause for concern. The current team is competitive but inconsistent, often lacking that extra bit of quality when it matters. Our ability to surprise teams away from home, and the odd win at home, means that we've managed to stay above the drop zone. A potential takeover offers hope of some quality additions, but without it, surviving the season will probably be a welcome relief.
3. I am a big fan of Chris Powell and what he has done at Charlton. Were you worried some clubs were going to come poaching over the summer?
The only job Powell was specifically linked to over the summer was the Wolves vacancy. Despite the size of the club, that they were in a lower division meant it was always unlikely, especially when you factor in the affinity Powell has with Charlton as a club. One lingering worry, though, has been that he would walk out given the difficult financial circumstances the club have been in. Ultimately the board are in charge of whether a player is affordable or not, and Powell has been constrained in the transfer market as a result. That he continues to inspire the self-belief and confidence in his playing squad really does show what a good manager he is.
4. Who is your stand out player at the moment?
The Charlton squad is one without 'big names' as such, so the standout player tends to change every few games. The strongest recent performer has been Dale Stephens in central midfield. The introduction of Jordan Cousins alongside him has allowed him to play a more advanced role, involving more incisive distribution and switching of the play. That said, in Saturday's game against Ipswich, their pressing game meant he had little time on the ball, and his attacking threat was nullified. The other threat is Cameron Stewart, who has started recently on the right wing, and is dangerous when cutting inside to shoot. Him and Stephens have both scored fantastic volleys this season as well, so they pose a real threat from outside the box when in advanced positions.
5. Our academy graduate Simon Church appears to finally found a home at Charlton, summarise his first few months at the Valley.
Church's first few months have been him struggle to get the rewards his efforts deserve. A tireless worker, he was employed as a lone striker on occasion when Kermorgant was out injured, forced to chase down every searching forward ball. Provided with more chances, he will score goals, but the nature of recent matches mean that only in the Doncaster game has he been provided with a few great chances. He could've had a hat-trick, but the one goal he scored was important for his confidence. His finest performance came at Birmingham in a 1-0 win, as he ran himself into the ground and was a constant threat. He doesn't appear to be the most reliable finisher, but provided chances he will score, and his work rate is important in defending from the front.
6. If you could take any Reading player at the moment, who would it be and why?
Difficult question, as there are a few Reading players that would be able to improve the side in various areas. Danny Guthrie is a very good midfielder at this level, and Pogrebnyak is a similarly good striker. I'd probably take Adam le Fondre, though, as we are very short in attacking variety. Joe Pigott is only a recent academy graduate, and not really ready for the Championship, whilst Marvin Sordell has struggled to make any significant impact when introduced from the bench. A few goals from le Fondre would be quite handy...
7. What starting XI and shape do you expect to see on Tuesday from Powell?
I would expect the same team that lost to Ipswich, mainly because there are few alternatives, and they played well in beating Doncaster the previous Tuesday. Former Reading man Ben Hamer is injured, so his back-up Ben Alnwick will start again. A back-line of Wilson, Morrison, Dervite and Wiggins is strong, though I wouldn't be surprised to see one of this season's best performers in Richard Wood return in place of Dervite. Cameron Stewart offers a threat on the right, whilst Stephens and Cousins are supported by a narrow left-midfield position occupied by captain Johnnie Jackson. Kermorgant and Church will be hoping to combine with more success than they achieved against Ipswich on Saturday.
8. What is your prediction for the game?
Charlton are historically a hard team to predict, but this season has proven even trickier. Away games are better suited to the style Chris Powell employs, which involves counter-attacking against a more forward-thinking home side. That said, Reading have a lot of quality in the side, and anything more than a point would be a fantastic surprise. Powell somehow keeps getting this side to bounce back after difficult results, so I will optimistically plump for a 1-1 draw.