Mansfield Town will hope to take advantage of troubled times for threadbare Charlton Athletic in Sunday’s FA Cup first round tie at the One Call Stadium (12.45).
Boss Lee Bowyer laid down the gauntlet for his side before the season started, challenging them to earn a top two finish in League One.
From the outside, this did seem like pie in the sky thinking, though an unexpectedly impressive start has seen them make the play-off spots.
There’s an ongoing ownership crisis at Charlton. Belgian Roland Duchatelet has been the target of protests for years and has now been trying to sell the club for 18 months, but to no avail.
In the meantime, he’s not stumping up cash for new signings, which will sound familiar to older Stags fans.
In the meantime rookie boss Bowyer is cutting his managerial teeth on a diet of freebies and loanees and could only name five substitutes on the opening day at Sunderland.
He has bolstered his ranks with some impressive-looking loan signings since then, but they are still a small squad.
Results have tailed off recently, though they did pull off a fine 2-0 win at Walsall to move sixth yesterday, as they try to revert to the fast-paced attacking football they were playing earlier on and aim to repeat last season’s top-six finish.
Considering the circumstances, Bowyer has done pretty well.
He rescued a season that seemed to be flittering out last year, securing a play-off place with six wins in his 10 games after taking over from Karl Robinson following his departure to Oxford.
The Addicks were comfortably beaten by Shrewsbury over the two legs and Bowyer was forced to try and rebuild his squad on a shoestring in the summer.
He had to be pretty astute in the transfer window but brought in some decent additions – although he is still hamstrung by a small squad.
As a new manager, he’ll sometimes make errors tactically but he’s shown that he can react and learn from them so far.
Charlton fans are overall happy with how he’s been doing, but will know there’s always room for improvement.
Bowyer could certainly do without injuries to key players.
Jake Forster-Caskey is out for the season with an ACL injury.
Billy Clarke has been out since last December with the same injury but is due to return soon and may even feature at Field Mill.
Defender Patrick Bauer has a rupture in his knee and is still unavailable.
Left-back Lewis Page is still set for another six weeks out or so, and joint-top scorer Lyle Taylor is also ruled out due to a stomach muscle injury.
Taylor was snapped up in the summer after he decided against extending his contract at AFC Wimbledon.
The striker had hit the ground running at The Valley and has already bagged eight goals and a handful of assists.
His hold-up play to bring others into the equation is excellent and integral to the way Charlton play and he has built a devastating partnership up-top with Karlan Grant.
He is set for a short lay-off now with a stomach injury, but the Addicks can’t afford to do without him for long.
Taylor’s strike-partner Grant has come to life over the last 12 months.
He was thrown into the Charlton side as an inexperienced 17-year-old four years ago and looked out of his depth.
But a loan spell at Crawley towards the end of last season, in which he bagged nine goals, has given him a new lease of life and he’s carried that form on at The Valley.
As with Taylor, he already has eight goals this season and opposition sides are terrified of his blistering pace.
He has laid plenty of goals on a plate for his teammates this campaign as well. No side will look forward to facing him this season.
However, Bowyer is likely to make plenty of changes in order to minimise the risk of gaining more injuries to key players.
He fielded a side made almost completely of U23 players in the EFL Cup at Milton Keynes and he may elect to do the same again on Sunday at the One Call Stadium.