BY YANN TEAR
Lee Bowyer insists he’s not bothered who Charlton get in next week’s play-offs – because it will be his team that will be feared.
The Addicks boss has been preparing his team for tomorrow’s final league clash at home to Rochdale with one eye on next week’s two-legged semi-final tie.
But whether the fates throw up an expected tie against Sunderland or Portsmouth, or – should Charlton finish third in the table – Doncaster or Peterborough, the message is the same.
“I have no preference about who we play or whether we play the home leg first in the play-offs,” he told the South London Press.
“There isn’t any team I want to avoid because I believe in the team we have. But there are teams above us who will not want to play us because we are good side. We’ve proved that.
“Who we play is out of our hands. There’s no point worrying about who we play. We know it will be two tough games, whoever it is.
“I don’t think it makes any difference if we play home or away first either. If you play at home first and win by two or three, the tie can be near enough over. You can go away and do the same.
“What we know is we haven’t lost by two goals all season and we are a good away team too, so it’s not just our home form that’s got us where we are.”
Bowyer will be crossing his fingers that however this weekend’s final scheduled League One fixture pans out, he avoids injuries.
He will be without Jonny Williams, as the midfielder recovers from twisted ankle picked up in last Saturday’s 2-0 win at Gillingham, but the hope is the Welshman will be fit enough to return for the play-offs.
At least the Addicks boss will have Lyle Taylor, Krystian Bielik and Patrick Bauer all back after knocks kept them out of the side last week.
“The main thing is that we get through injury-free,” said Bowyer ahead of tomorrow’s match. “The next few games will be a test and we need a full squad.
“Against Rochdale, I will put out a side to win the game. I changed a few at Gillingham but that was because we had a couple of injuries. We had to be careful there. But we’ve got a big squad and they all want to play.
“I just think we have the mentality that every game is important and winning is a good habit you want to keep. It’s no bigger or less important because of the play-offs. Maybe the result will have no effect on the final table but we want to keep winning.
“We are in a good place, playing well. We know the situation. The players can handle pressure well. They handled it very well against Luton recently and at Pompey, where we also won.
“We’ve had a lot of tough games and dealt with the pressure, so I have no worries about that. The players’ professionalism and attitude have been spot on.”
Bowyer has picked up the manager of the month award for April, but with such a big prize on the horizon, there will be not much time to give himself a pat on the back.
“The award is nice because it is a sign of how well we’ve been doing and it’s a reward for everyone,” he said. “But for me, there’s only one trophy or award I want and that’s promotion.”
Josh Cullen’s first goal for the club against the Gills raises the question about whether there is any chance of the West Ham loan player returning to the Valley next season. Bowyer believes only one scenario might make that possible.
“We like him. He’s done well for us and it’s been a good loan for him and for West Ham,” Bowyer said. “But for us to get him again next season we have probably got to go up to have a chance.
“As things stand, Josh is definitely going back [to West Ham] in the summer.
“It was good to see him score his first goal for us at Gillingham. He plays in front of the defence and doesn’t usually get far forward, but I encouraged him to get further forward and he was unlucky not to score another.”