Charlton will be viewing the season’s restart as a second chance, because when the campaign stopped in the middle of March, they had slipped into the relegation zone for the first time.
Had the season not resumed, they would have been relegated back to League One at the first time of asking on the points per game basis.
But instead they have taken their opportunity and picked up seven points out of 12 since the resumption to give themselves a fighting chance of survival.
Their first game back was a 1-0 win at fellow strugglers Hull and they followed that up by beating QPR 1-0 and then drawing 0-0 at Cardiff, before suffering their first defeat by going down 1-0 at home to Millwall last Friday night.
Before losing to the Lions, it was only the third time this season they had gone three games without defeat.
They made a superb start to the campaign – carrying over the momentum of their thrilling play-off final defeat of Sunderland to sit second in the table at the end of August after an unbeaten six-game run.
However, things quickly went wrong and only two wins from the next 17 fixtures saw the players sitting down for Christmas dinner 18th in the table. At least their Boxing Day win over Bristol City was a third unbeaten game in a row, but another run of three wins in 13 games saw them slip into the bottom three just before football was called to a halt.
Their chances of avoiding the drop were not helped with top scorer Lyle Taylor and captain Chris Solly, whose contracts ran out at the end of June, and loan signing David Davis all saying they did not want to play when the season resumed.
And the club’s much-publicised off-the-pitch problems also continued to rumble on during the break.
Charlton are back in the Championship for the first time in four seasons after Lee Bowyer led them to promotion in his first full campaign in charge. They finished third in the League One table and edged past Doncaster on penalties in the play-off semi-finals before clinching promotion with a 94th minute goal against Sunderland at Wembley to clinch a 2-1 victory.
The Addicks had a seven-year spell in the Premier League at the start of the century, but since being relegated in 2007 have split their time between the Championship and League One.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Lee Bowyer is in his first managerial job, taking charge of his boyhood club initially on a caretaker basis in March 2018.
The former Charlton midfielder was confirmed in the post six months later and has been in charge ever since.
He had rejoined the club’s coaching staff and become Karl Robinson’s assistant manager in 2017, replacing the former MK Dons boss at the helm.
Bowyer, who won one England cap against Portugal in 2002, played for Charlton, Leeds, West Ham (two spells), Newcastle, Birmingham and Ipswich.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Brentford and Charlton have met five times in the Championship and the Addicks have had the better of things so far with three wins and a draw.
The first meeting in August 2014 was a big day for us as it was the Bees’ first home game in the second tier of English football for 22 years.
The Addicks threatened to spoil the party when summer signing Igor Vetokele headed them into a 64th minute lead but Bees new boy Tommy Smith rescued a point when he came off the bench to score with a deflected shot and earn us a 1-1 draw.
The return at The Valley on Valentine’s Day broke Brentford fans’ hearts as we slumped to a 3-0 defeat, only days after the news about manager Mark Warburton’s impending departure had broken in the press.
Goals from Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Vetokele and Frederic Bulot helped Charlton end a 13-game winless run.
Our next trip to south-east London only seven months later went rather better as far as we were concerned as it was our turn to romp to a 3-0 victory.
It was the tale of two managers as the win at The Valley was Lee Carsley’s third in a row for us – while the result spelled the end of Guy Luzon’s time in charge of the Addicks.
John Swift gave us the lead before the break and further goals from Alan Judge and substitute Lasse Vibe took us into the top half of the table.
Charlton made it three away wins in a row in the series of matches when they triumphed 2-1 at Griffin Park in March 2016.
Callum Harriott put the Addicks ahead after only 19 seconds, and although Yoann Barbet levelled midway through the first half, Harriott struck again in the 69th minute to give the visitors their first win in six matches and inflict our fifth defeat in six.
We dropped to 14th in the table, while Charlton moved off the bottom.
Our first meeting this season was one of those games where if we had played all night we wouldn’t have scored. Brentford dominated the entire match at the end of August but ended up losing 1-0 to a Conor Gallagher goal in the 41st minute – the Addicks’ only on-target effort.
The match stats showed that the Bees dominated possession 68% to 32% and had 21 shots to Charlton’s three, but just couldn’t score – not even in a remarkable injury-time incident when the hosts somehow cleared the ball off the line three times in as many seconds.
Q – Charlton’s form has been much improved since the restart – what do you put this down to and do you think they will stay up?
A – The Addicks have come back from lockdown much better organised at the back. They had kept just two clean sheets in the 25 outings before the season was suspended, but had three shut-outs in the opening three games after the restart and then were only breached late on against Millwall on Friday night.
It also helps the three-month gap meant the majority of Charlton’s unbelievably widespread injuries have cleared up. Lee Bowyer had to deal with up to 15 players out at a time for long periods of the campaign that left the remainder of the squad stretched beyond their means.
Now the Addicks boss can rotate and rest his squad to keep them fresh. I think they’ll do just about enough to stay up although it’s going to be tight down there – Wigan’s potential points deduction could be significant for a lot of sides in the relegation battle.
Q – How disruptive was the refusal of Lyle Taylor, Chris Solly and David Davis to play again?
A – Chris Solly and David Davis weren’t featuring regularly so whilst it was disappointing to see a club stalwart such as Solly end his time at The Valley in such circumstances, it wasn’t the end of the world. Davis was a loanee who hadn’t done well for the club, so many people barely noticed he’d left.
Lyle Taylor’s absence is huge. He was Charlton’s most important player by a country mile and their feeble goal return of just two in the four games since the restart speaks for itself. Both of those strikes came from headers from set-pieces.
Remaining forwards Macauley Bonne and Tomer Hemed have looked bereft of confidence in front of goal since coming back and if there is to be a reason Charlton end up going down, it’s likely to be a lack of goals scored.
Q – How would you assess Charlton’s season overall – was the aim after promotion simply to consolidate for a year?
A – The enduring chaos behind the scenes at The Valley had almost gone under the radar for the rest of the footballing world following the play-off final win over Sunderland and promotion to the Championship. Still owned by wantaway Roland Duchatelet at the start of the campaign, Bowyer had by far the lowest budget to work with in the summer transfer window. He did superbly to build a competitive squad but despite the fine start, which had Charlton in second going into the first international break, the aim was always survival.
Injuries started to take hold and results tailed off sharply. A takeover at the start of January appeared like it would be the saving grace for Bowyer as funds were promised, but a transfer window with no serious additions sounded alarm bells. The subsequent collapse of the new ownership consortium has led to a new takeover and even further uncertainty – so the fact that the Addicks are still well in the race to stay up at all shows just how well Bowyer has done this year.
Q – What has it been like watching the matches in an empty stadium?
A – It’s certainly been different but once the games get under way you do almost feel a return to normality. It’s easy to get consumed in the action once play has started, although you do miss the buzz of a big crowd. Conducting post-match interviews over Zoom from the gantry rather than face-to-face pitchside poses a new challenge, especially with the terrible press Wi-fi at The Valley!
Q – What do you remember about Brentford’s visit to The Valley in August?
A – Charlton snuck a 1-0 win and they had to work extremely hard for it. Brentford moved the ball around very well and pushed hard for a leveller late on, only to be denied by some remarkable last-ditch defending from a home side who threw everything in front of the Bees forward line. Charlton’s goal had come against the run of play in the first half and Brentford dominated from then on, but the hosts managed to hold on.
Q – It will be your last visit to Griffin Park – do you have any particular memories of previous visits?
A – It’ll be a real shame to see Griffin Park go, a wonderful old ground and an away day I would look forward to in normal circumstances as you’re guaranteed a decent atmosphere and there’s plenty of places to go for a post-match pint afterwards.
Having said that, Charlton’s recent visits there haven’t been too fruitful – I was away for the 1-0 win in 2011/12 in League One so missed that one. Therefore, our last visit there in 2016, a 2-1 Addicks win, stands out as it was a rare away triumph in that relegation campaign and I also saw what must be the quickest Charlton goal I’d even been present for, as Callum Harriott opened the scoring within 20 seconds.
Q – How did you feed your football fix during the lockdown?
A – The chaos behind the scenes at The Valley was more than enough to keep me busy during the lockdown, trying to keep up-to-date with the remarkable public spat between majority shareholder Tahnoon Nimer and chairman Matt Southall and the subsequent takeover by current owner Paul Elliott.
I did watch a South Korean fixture that was streamed on BBC iPlayer whilst we were in the height of lockdown and settled down in front of a fair few of the German fixtures as well when they restarted. Other than that, it was streaming old Charlton season DVDs and reminiscing about the Premier League days – which feel a lifetime ago now.
Q – Finally, can you give me an expected Charlton line-up and formation please?
A – 4-4-2
Matthews Lockyer Pearce Oshilaja
Williams Cullen Pratley Morgan
BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS
Some of the Beesotted crew have given me their score predictions for Tuesday’s game.
2-0 Bees Charlton still aren’t sure that they won’t get dragged into the relegation zone and need to fight for every point they can get. However, Brentford are the team no-one wants to meet at the moment and we will make it four wins from four after the restart. Liberal Nick
3-1 Bees We finally let up on the clean sheet run but score three. Matt Allard
3-0 Bees But what’s the bloody point because we’re still going to be in the play-offs anyway. The Cat In The Hat
1-0 Bees Clean Sheet heroes march on. Watkins header. Lee Bowyer moans about getting VAR. David Anderson
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME
The match is being played behind closed doors and is available to watch on iFollow.
Bees season ticket holders can watch for free on iFollow if you have redeemed your code – other Bees fans can watch on iFollow for £10 per game – full details here.