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No rest for the play-off pushers

Posted: Fri 26 Apr 2013
Author: Matt Wright
Chris Powell consoles the injured Andy Hughes

Chris Powell consoles the injured Andy Hughes

Image by: Press Association

Chris Powell and his players are seeking to continue their fine away form against Middlesbrough on Saturday

Matt Wright reports

Having secured Championship football again for Charlton next season, Chris Powell might have been forgiven for taking it easy ahead of the club’s final two games.

Of course, the opposite is true as the in-form Addicks try to maintain their recent upwards surge in a bid to grab a place in the play-offs.

But even ignoring the outside possibility of finishing in the top six, there is plenty more to occupy Powell in the closing stages of 2012/13 – including plans for next season.

“I always find time to relax - it may not be much time, but I do,” said Powell, who has led Charlton into ninth place, five points adrift of sixth with just six points to play for.

“Of course I watched the two Champions League semi-finals like everyone else this week, and I’ve always tried to get away a little bit from football - but not too much, because it's my job and it's what I enjoy. 

“I've been preparing for the Middlesbrough game, of course, and it's always busy [at the end of the season]. People think the whistle blows and that’s it, but you've already got one eye on pre-season.

“I've more or less planned that, with the games and training programme, and hopefully we will get a trip abroad if we can, so that is 99 per cent done, but of course then you have got to look at the playing side.

“How can we get better? How can we can improve things at the training ground? So there is not too much rest. We have got two games left and the focus is currently on Middlesbrough and then Bristol City.” 

While Charlton currently top the form guide over the past six games, having gained 14 points out of the 18 available and last suffered a defeat more than a month ago, it’s been a different story for Boro.

Tony Mowbray’s men have just one win and one draw from their last nine games, and after pressing for the automatic promotion places at the start of the campaign by winning nine of their first 14 matches, they have slipped out of the play-off reckoning.

Nevertheless, Powell is expecting a tough afternoon at the Riverside Stadium as Boro aim to finish their home campaign on a high.

“At Championship level, it doesn't matter who you play,” said Chris. “People can talk about the miserable run that Middlesbrough have been on, but it’s a tough game. 

“They have some match-winners, some good individuals who in a moment can turn a game, score and create goals, so we're preparing the right way because I'm sure that Tony will be looking at this game, his last home game, to go out on a high. 

“I’m sure that they'll be on the front foot and I'm sure they'll be looking to put us under pressure, but we're in a good place and I think he knows that.”

Charlton’s last trips on the road saw the Addicks record a club record 6-0 away win, against Barnsley on April 13th, and then earn a point at Cardiff City three days later as the runaway league champions celebrated promotion to the Premier League.

Indeed, Charlton have not lost away from home since mid-February and are undefeated in their past six away fixtures.

Powell added: “They will know that we have been winning games and performing, and while it’s long way to go for us and our fans, I feel that it is a game that we can carry on getting things from. Obviously we're looking to get three points to try to enhance that slimmest of chances of making it into the top six.

“Boro have gone on a bad run, but that happens, as we have seen and experienced. I think most teams have experienced that in the league this year, but we managed to have a good run of form at the right time.

“No matter what you do in the previous six or seven months, it’s when you get to March and April that you get the points that you need to stay up, get in the top six or go up. It’s a key time, and it’s a shame for Middlesbrough.”

Powell’s squad has come to the fore over the past few months, but the Addicks may be without Johnnie Jackson and Andy Hughes at the Riverside after the duo were both forced off in last weekend’s win against Leeds United.

Speaking on Thursday, Powell said: “We’re not sure at the moment because hamstrings are one of those injuries that you can’t monitor too much. You just have to let them heal. 

“It’s not something you come back from quite quickly. There’s a bit of fatigue there and whether Saturday is too early, we don't know. I'm sure that I'll know a bit more on Friday and I'm trying to give them as long as I can because they have been integral to how we've done recently.

“They’ve both played their part in different ways – Johnnie with his goals and Andy with his discipline and his encouragement and endeavour. He's been a really vital part of the run we've been on. 

“So hopefully they will come back in, but if not, I'm sure that they will be back in contention for the last game.”