ADDICKS FEED WINNING HABIT
By Mark Willis
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Forward wind seven months and the Tractor Boys are rooted to the bottom of the table while the Addicks are undergoing a quiet resurrection following a faltering start to 2001-02. Opta put the two clubs under the microscope in a bid to uncover the foundations of their contrasting fortunes.
Charlton boss Alan Curbishley was brutally frank when he spoke after witnessing his side take their second capital scalp inside a week: "Now I have seen in this game the return of the characteristics I know make us what we are. There were players out there who were both hungry and angry."
A 1-0 midweek smash-and-grab raid at Stamford Bridge was complimented by a storming 3-1 victory over a previously thriving Tottenham on Saturday and The Valley outfit are now top of this season's London league table, having won three times and drawn twice against their rivals - notching 13 goals along the way.
An injury crisis early in the campaign hindered Charlton's progress and they mustered just ten points from as many games. However, back-to-back wins have helped elevate the team up to midtable and level on points with ailing champions Manchester United.
A measure of just how desperate Ipswich's plight is by comparison is offered by the fact that they have yet to reach double figures for points this season. Yesterday's home defeat against Newcastle was the seventh time that the Suffolk-based side have lost by a one-goal margin - more than any other team in the division - and they have only registered one league win to date.
The slick passing game that has become Ipswich's trademark is still in existence and only four other sides have distributed possession with greater aplomb. They have swung more crosses into the box than any other team, but with last season's top marksman Marcus Stewart ruled out through injury, there is no one adding the finishing touch.
Charlton have netted seven more goals than their former fellow Nationwide League competitors and significantly they have not been dependent on a solitary predator. Jonatan Johansson, Jason Euell and Kevin Lisbie have all notched four goals apiece, whereas Stewart's five strikes is unrivalled by his colleagues at Portman Road.
Current Magpies and former Town boss Bobby Robson added his own diagnosis, which supports the Opta evidence: "Their [Ipswich] football is good but not good enough. They won't stay up by defending. They have got to score goals and what they are lacking is a top marksman." Surprisingly the Tractor Boys have rattled in the second-highest total of shots behind Arsenal, yet only 40% have tested the 'keeper - five percentage points fewer than Charlton.
Not only more prolific in the attacking third, the Addicks have proved better equipped at the back than Ipswich. They have leaked just seven goals on their travels and have completed in excess of 100 clearances and 50 more blocks than Burley's men. A lack of composure has seen Town concede four penalties this term and only Middlesbrough can equal this number of crucial offences.
If Ipswich are to survive the drop then they could do worse than borrow a little spirit and determination from the Charlton camp, as it appears that Curbishley has found the ideal tonic for survival and stability. The club have lost just once in their last six outings and the loan signing of FC Porto's Jorge Costa is a further indication of the manager attempting to strengthen his squad at a crucial time.
Burley's problem is that he first has to reinstall belief in his current crop of players before looking to the future, or at least beyond what is going to be a long hard winter.