Charlton Athletic should be under no illusion as to what they need to do for the remainder of the season as well as the summer following the disappointing defeat to Peterborough United.
Despite heading into the encounter unbeaten in ten league games and sitting inside the top six, the Addicks struggled against an impressive and clinical Posh side destined for automatic League One promotion.
The result means the margins for error are now a little tighter in their quest for a Play-Off place with the Addicks sitting two points away from the top six with just four games left.
But whether a Play-Off place is achieved as well as subsequent promotion, Peterborough have set the benchmark of what Charlton should aim for.
The off-field ownership turmoil over the past 18 months or so has effectively left Charlton’s squad severely depleted and in need of quality reinforcements.
Arguably the side may even have had a better shot at Championship survival last year were they not under a transfer embargo between January and September which prevented any possible recruitment drive.
Had they stayed up, incoming owner Thomas Sandgaard could have funded the much-needed strengthening that would have been required for another season in the Championship – with Lyle Taylor also potentially penning a new deal to remain at the club.
While Taylor has not necessarily gone on to be a revelation at Nottingham Forest, the forward’s match-winning ability and goals have not been sufficiently replaced at The Valley.
In contrast, Peterborough have an exciting quartet of attackers comprising the league’s top scorer in Jonson Clarke-Harris, exciting winger Siriki Dembele, dynamic number 10 Sammie Szmodics and Joe Ward.
Without Taylor, Charlton lack a distinct attacking focal point with the mobility and link-up ability in the mould of a Clarke-Harris.
Jayden Stockley will score goals from good crosses but even with his aerial ability, the forward struggled against Peterborough’s Mark Beevers and Frankie Kent and also proved ineffective in Charlton’s attempts to play a pressing game.
The Preston North End loanee has not yet proven himself at Championship level either and, given new manager Nigel Adkins’ desire to play a more possession-based style of football, does not seem to be a long-term solution to Charlton’s problems.
Meanwhile, Diallang Jaiyesimi has looked promising since his arrival from Swindon in the January transfer window but, with the winger unfortunate to be taken off injured, Charlton will need similar signings to liven up their inconsistent attack.
Other recent arrivals have shown potential, such as 25-year-old defender Ryan Inniss whose progress has been hindered by an injury-hit campaign.
It has led to Charlton struggling defensively at times in his absence with both Jason Pearce and Darren Pratley too often vulnerable against pace, quick interplay and balls in behind either of them.
Peterborough’s own pressing game also highlighted Pearce’s inability to play out from the back – another area in which Charlton desperately need to strengthen if they are to implement Adkins’ preferred style.
There was also a distinct lack of dynamism from Jake Forster-Caskey and Alex Gilbey in the middle of the back with neither able to support the isolated Stockley upfront quickly enough when in possession.
Although Saturday’s defeat was not decisive in sealing the Addicks’ overall fate, it did underline how they are very much a work in progress under a manager just over a month into the job.
However, with the ownership issues now fully settled, the club on a stable footing and a full summer for Nigel Adkins to assess and work with the squad, Charlton will come back a lot stronger – whether it be in League One or the Championship.