Last Saturday, we were unlucky at Brighton. Did that ill fortune even itself out immediately out in the victory over Derby? Perhaps. Maybe a brace of draws would have about right – but City haven’t really done draws this season, and are a point better off than perhaps should be the case.
It all means we enter tomorrow’s game handily placed in second, knowing that not only will a win keep us second – but may take us six points clear of Leicester, for whom the fixture list has unhelpfully given a weekend off. Sure, it’d give Nigel Pearson’s men two games in hand, but it’s not a situation they’ll enjoy. Of course, there are others to worry about. Watford can overtake City, while Watford, Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace are hardly out of sight – but it’s Leicester we all still fear the most, and who require the greatest gap possible establishing while we can.
No pressure then, City. Except the pressure is growing, incrementally, inexorably, with every game that passes. And a good thing too. The promise of spring is almost with us, and with it seasons gently, prematurely expire for more and more clubs. Not us. Not yet. We’ll take the pressure, the expectation, the stress of wondering how it’s going to end.
Attempting to deal with the ratcheting pressure, City will have do again have to make do with Abdoulaye Faye, whose calf injury continues to rule him. Sone Aluko’s recovery from Achilles problem remains frustratingly slow, though Tuesday’s instant hero Gedo is in contention to start, despite his evident lack of match fitness. Alex Bruce missed the match in midweek with the leg injury sustained at Brighton, and may be fit – a late decision will be made.
It’s been a season of almost textbook consolidation for Charlton since their return to the second tier. They’re 15th, with the play-offs looking a remote prospect but with a healthy six points cushioning them from the bottom three. Four more wins will probably keep them safe, which would represent a decent season for Chris Powell’s men. We shouldn’t discount one of those wins arriving tomorrow – Charlton have a better record on the road than at the Valley, with 22 of their 40 points coming outside of south London.
Also auguring ill is City’s record against Charlton. The Tigers have won just 9 of the 33 meetings, none of the last six anywhere and none of the last eight at home, stretching back to 1971. They were the victors in a disgracefully squalid night in October 2007, perhaps the first time anyone in Hull has ever has had a view of any sort about Charlton. City were unfortunately not to win at the Valley in August, and while their chief tormentor that day is absent, we have to be confident.
The bookies fancy City. You won’t find longer than 5/6 on a tenth home win of the season for Steve Bruce’s charges. The Addicks are a comparatively distant 15/4 to further improve their impressive away record, while a draw – far better for them than us – is 11/4. Will Charlton play for a draw? They might – edging a point closer to 50+ points away to automatic promotion contenders would be well-received in both Charlton and Leicestershire, though it doesn’t really suit us. Keep calm City. But win.