Charlton Athletic assistant boss Johnnie Jackson: We want home advantage if it is play-offs for us

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Charlton Athletic will make finishing in the top four a priority if their hopes of an automatic spot in League One are ended.

That’s the verdict of Addicks assistant manager Johnnie Jackson as the SE7 outfit are in the middle of a recharging period – this weekend’s match against Wycombe postponed due to international call-ups.

Back-to-back wins over Portsmouth and Burton Albion was followed by a 0-0 draw at Bristol Rovers on Saturday.

“We’re in a good place,” said Jackson. “We have got a nice cushion from seventh – if you’d said with eight games to go that we would have been 11 clear then we’d have taken that.

“Obviously we’re looking up. At one stage we ruled out the top two, Lee [Bowyer, manager] did it after a defeat and said we had probably lost that chance. It honestly felt like that – but then we went on a little bit of a winning run.

“We were going into last weekend thinking ‘win and we could be six points behind second’. We know it is highly unlikely. Even if we win every game it might not get top two.  The team who finishes third is going to have quite a high total.

“Realistically we’re looking at the play-offs and we’re not there yet. But we’re in a great position to consolidate that.”

Jackson and Bowyer were in caretaker roles last season when Charlton lost in the play-off semi-final to Shrewsbury Town, who ended up third and were 16 points ahead of their opponents.

And Jackson believes the one real plus from finishing top four is having that second leg at home.

Only leaders Luton (14) have won more than Charlton and Barnsley (both 12) on their own patch.

Jackson said: “I’d say that is going to be an advantage – if you look at our home form compared with away form then why not want to play the second leg at home in front of our fans?

“That has got to be our aim. It doesn’t really matter who we play then.

“If you look at last year, everyone said Shrewsbury were going into the play-offs without momentum and we had momentum. But this momentum – what does it look like? You can’t spend it.

“Some people swear by it and some people say it is not a thing. We went into the play-offs in pretty good form, Shrewsbury weren’t in great form and turned us over.

“I fancy us against anyone over two legs. It is dangerous saying ‘I want to play them or I want to play them’. Every team has got their pros and cons. You have to worry about yourselves. Be confident about what we do and rely on that.”

Jackson feels part of the reason behind Charlton’s home form – their last loss there was against Coventry City in early October – is down to the fans.

“The support has been great and they’ve bought into the way we play,” said the former Addicks captain. “We’re patient with our build-up, it suits our style – and they have shown patience with that.

“Sometimes you get a bit of pressure to get it forward quickly, but that hasn’t been there at all.

“The Valley has been rocking for some of our games, like the old days. It’s had a great feel and the lads are comfortable.”

Ex-midfielder Jackson is well-placed to run the rule over Josh Cullen, who joined on loan from West Ham in the summer.

Cullen is away with the full Republic of Ireland squad for European Championship qualifiers.

“He has a brilliant attitude and trains like a demon every day,” said Jackson. “On the pitch he leaves it all out there, plus he has got bundles of quality too.

“He has come from a Premier League club but there is no ego.

“He brings a lot to our side and we missed him when he was out [with a dislocated shoulder]. We put him straight back in and he’s worked his way back to the level of performance he had before his injury.”

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