Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A look back at.....Brentford

I enjoyed that. The atmosphere was electric at best and decent at worst, we retrieved a point that could prove very important, and there were some terrific renditions of the Nicky Bailey chant, the one that involves our ginger-haired maestro having his way with various men's real or fictitious wives.

The match was no oil painting but it was never going to be on the craggy Griffin Park turf. Grit and endeavour were the order of the day and in those respects Charlton delivered. Wagstaff was the only disappointment and perhaps Parky made a mistake in picking the lightweight winger as opposed to Shelvey or Mckenzie, the latter in particular who looked right on his game when he came on.

Returnee Dickson was his usual bubbly self and mighty unfortunate to leave the field instead of Akpo Sodje, who for the second game running died before the end. Sam was sprightly, Bailey and Spring worked hard and the Iberian centre-back partnership of Semedo and Llera stood firm.

Norwich and Colchester are closing rapidly but with some key men to return and a kind-looking fixture list between now and March, not forgetting that we have only lost two league encounters this term, the positivity is hardly sapping out of me. He says nervously.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A look ahead to.....Brentford

South-East London makes way for the west of the capital on Monday with the Addicks looking to get back on the winning trail. Goings on at Griffin Park will struggle to match the razzmatazz of the previous two Valley offerings but with a derby atmosphere and both teams expectant of success, an entertaining spectacle should ensue.

The Bees have won their last two matches, toppling MK Dons and Gillingham away from home, and know that another triumph could see them come into the play-off reckoning. Andy Scott's men have only tasted victory in four of their eleven home games, losing two and drawing five, but they have beaten Norwich - admittedly before the Canaries found top gear - and consistent Colchester, so certainly have the potential to cause us some damage.

Ex-Addick Charlie MacDonald saw red in an ill-tempered Boxing Day battle with the Gills and is prohibited from taking to the field, but we should have to deal with the highly-regarded skills of on-loan Tottenham - and former Palace - schemer John Bostock.

The Charlton line-up is a hard one to predict. Parky deployed a diamond formation in midfield against Swindon, though the idiocy of Sam Sodje and Deon Burton quickly scuppered that particular experiment. Lloyd Sam's probable return means that another rhombus-like composition is unlikely but I would advocate a middle-of-the-park five, with Sam, Semedo, Bailey, Shelvey and Wagstaff in it. Should Dailly's illness persist, however, I would slip Jose back into defence and keep faith with the solid-as-a-rock Matt Spring.

Akpo Sodje seemed a little undercooked on Saturday but should keep his place up front, whether as a lone striker, or aided by Leon McKenzie or Chris Dickson, who made effective substitute appearances versus the Robins. McKenzie showed a lot of experience, while the live-wire Dickson supplied ebullience aplenty when he entered the fray and would not give Brentord a moment's peace should he start, something Parky has hinted at. Maybe Dicko does have a Charlton future after all.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A look ahead to.....Swindon

Merry Christmas Addickted. Hope Santa brings you all you desire. I just want money. I really do need it. Times are tight you see. Not that it is ever mentioned on the news or anything.

We have a game on Boxing Day. How many of you are going to wake from your slumber to come? I understand if you don't. I doubt I'll have a lot of get up and go. I will attend mind you. I paid for my season ticket after all.

Swindon are the visitors. Sam's suspended. Mooney's injured. Frazer's 50/50. Kelly remains ailed. Akpo could start. Lloyd's replacement is anybody's guess. Izale will be off to Hearts soon. Racon is going nowhere. We'll see about that.

The Robins are decent. They are in the play-off places. Danny Wilson is a good manager. Ex-Addick Peter Shirtliff is his assistant. Billy Paynter scores goals. Charlie Austin has begun to. Jonathan Douglas has notable nous. Kevin Amankwaah has a stomach issue. A late fitness test awaits him.

We are at home. We should win. We should concede fewer goals than last week. We should keep a solid grip on second place. I should learn to write.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

No taming of Lions' roar

That was a nervy, exciting, raucous, nailbiting and ultimately frustrating afternoon but one that I won't forget in hurry. Drawing 4-4 at home against a side who played the majority of the contest with ten men was disappointing but having fought from two down, I am not going to overly quibble.

Due to the delay of trains at London Bridge, I was absent for the opening junctures of the first period. I did, however, hear the Millwall jubilation in response to Steve Morison's initial strike as I was in the Valley toilets, where I was greeted by a bizarre lumpy-green liquid on the toilet bowl but enough of that.

When I did make it to my seat, things got even worse. The corner that preceded our visitors' second should not have been but when you defend like that you deserve to be punished.

The Addicks battled back through two definite penalties, the only surprising element that the sent-off Jimmy Abdou was not joined in the dressing room by Andy Frampton whose lunge on David Mooney for the premier spot-kick did not even warrant a yellow, apparently.

A sumptuous strike from Bailey, below-par defending from us, incisive Millwall penetration, an own goal and five minutes of injury time - the match made for an animated spectacle and culminated with a fair result. Not the right one but a fair one.

I am not going to make a habit of this but huge credit must go to Kenny Jackett's men for the way their red card was used as a spur and not a deterrent and with players like Steve Morison, David Martin and a few other first teamers to come back, they could quite easily gatecrash the play-offs.

As for the Addicks, the lead over Norwich has been cut to four but with the Canaries hosting an invigorated Millwall on Boxing Day, a win over Swindon - which will be hard to accomplish, mind you - could extend that gap once more. If it's half as exciting as yesterday, it'll polish off Christmas quite nicely.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A look ahead to.....Stockport

I like to pride myself on my footballing knowledge but I must admit that I was not particularly au fait with Stockport's runners and riders. That was until I became their boss on Football Manager and I am now somewhat of a County connoisseur.

But I didn't just broaden my knowledge of the club on that incredibly-addictive computer game, I made a bloody good impact as well.

In three seasons at the helm, I guided the Hatters to two respectable mid-table finishes and in my final campaign before I resigned and took charge of Preston - a decision I would later live to regret - I shocked the world and took the modest men from Greater Manchester to the League One play-off final.

Alas, promotion was not to be and we were edged out by Leyton Orient, a result that will always sadden me. Nevertheless, I had left my mark and with Croydon Addick battling financial restrictions, an ageing squad and an impatient chairman at Deepdale - not that I'm bitter of course - Stockport began to flounder once again.

While the real-world Hatters are languishing at at the opposite end of the table to my promotion-chasing crew, the two teams do bare some similarities. Attacking midfielder Carl Baker was a lynch pin of mine and so has he been in Gary Ablett's men's torrid start to the season, notching half of County's 16 league goals.

On-loan Chelsea starlet Liam Bridcutt also became a fundamental component of the Stockport team under my management and has been equally intrinsic to Ablett. The 20-year-old midfielder has shaken off an injury he picked up at Wycombe last week and should battle the Addicks on Saturday.

Bar goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams and defenders Michael Raynes and Johnny Mullins - the latter suspended this weekend - I had my players and Ablett has his. Mine were significantly more effective. County head into this game having lost their last seven league matches and sit bottom of League One. Trouble indeed.

Their last three home games have been deferred due to bad drainage and copious amounts of rain but we are reliably informed that the contest will go ahead this Saturday.

Recent form says we should absolutely pulverise them but the Northwich Victoria fiasco shows that we cannot take anybody lightly. Portuguese returnee Jose Semedo should give us some necessary away-day pungency, while with the pitch bound to be far from tip top, Akpo Sodje's power could be more practical than the dexterity of David Mooney.

Whatever the finer details of the team, I do not expect an upset. It's not like they have management aficionado Croydon Addick pulling the strings.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Why so annoyed?

If that was a bad afternoon, long may they continue. I heard a few grumbles - we were lucky, we didn't play very well - who cares, we won and we did it in true promotion style.

The last two matches have been as important as the goal-littered battles with MK Dons and Bristol Rovers by showing that we have the mental capacity to grind out results - fundamental traits of a successful team.

That's not to say there weren't any concerns as it was obvious that we missed Semedo. The incoming Racon looked lost for large portions of the game and like I said beforehand, I would rather Spring had played.

Racon is better going forward - as his consistent giving away of free-kicks showed - and we appeared to lack a bit control in the middle of the park, something I felt the less-expansive Spring could have given us.

But that's just me being pernickety as for the most part it was fine. The Shrimpers played well and had a lot of possession but we only looked in significant danger once and Elliot's strong intervention quickly thwarted that.

The spectacle was not a particularly pretty one but if similar performances keep us on course for the Championship, I’m sure the moans and groans will swiftly evaporate.

Friday, December 04, 2009

A look ahead to.....Southend

Professional was how Parky described the win at Brighton and you have to feel that more of the same will be too much for Southend on Saturday. Our Essex-based visitors are no mugs but having been dispatched by lowly Tranmere and high-flying Norwich in their previous two encounters, the Shrimpers will not head to the Valley in a confident frame of mind.

Considering the financial horror stories that have emanated from Roots Hall this season, Seasiders chief Steve Tilson has done remarkably well to keep his men clear of trouble. Other than their talented manager, the Blues also have the goal-scoring ability of Lee Barnard to thank for their mid-table position, though unless he starts receiving some kind of back-up, the Shrimpers may still sink down the division.

French midfielder Jean-Francois Christophe will be suspended this weekend after collecting one yellow card too many, a situation the Addicks can sympathise with, having lost Jose Semedo for the same reason.

It is not clear who will replace the Portuguese, however. Parky could opt for the more attack-minded Jonjo Shelvey or Therry Racon, but I would expect a more like-for-like switch with Matt Spring coming into the side.

Unless Frazer or Kelly are fit, there should be no more alterations and unless Southend play out of their skin, I see nothing but a comprehensive home victory.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A look ahead to.....Brighton

Another piddly stadium here we come. This time it is the Withdean, and having frequented the ground quite often during my time at University, I can confirm that it is as horrible as its reputation suggests.

Therefore, you would imagine visiting teams would be overawed by its crapness and that the Seagulls would have a pretty good home record. You imagine wrong. Albion - now managed by Gus Poyet - are having a torrid time on their own patch this term, having lost six of their nine home league games.

Things were not easy there in the FA Cup on Saturday either, with only a late winner edging the south-coast outfit past Rushden & Diamonds in a five-goal thriller. Who has that much trouble against a non-league side?

It is not a new turn of events, though, as such derisory home results last season almost cost Albion their League One place and it looks as though they could be in even bigger jeopardy this time around.

Poyet - who would be thoroughly likable if not for the Dennis Wise connection - started his managerial career with a result I think all Addicks enjoyed - a 3-1 win over Alan Pardew's Southampton. That bright beginning was quickly obliterated, however, with heavy losses to Leeds and Norwich, and Albion could slip back into the drop zone if other results conspire against them in midweek.

I usually make long-winded references to our opponents' danger men in these previews but this time I'm going to keep it short. They are not very good at the back but can be a handful up front.

With Richardson and Youga struggling, our defence could be a mix of regulars - Dailly and the suspension-free Sodje - and squad men - Omozusi and Basey - but while probably not a top-notch rearguard, you would hope they could deal with a relegation-threatened team. The possible return of Elliot would give me more confidence, though. Either way I think we'll win, just not that handsomely.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A look ahead to.....the rest of the season

With no Addicks game this weekend - fully due to our own ineptitude of course - I thought I would take the time to investigate how prepared we are for the rest of the 2009-2010 campaign.

The knockout competitions have come and gone and while extended runs would have hauled some much-needed spondulix into the kitty, there is now nothing to distract us from the promotion assault.

Tuesday's clash with Bristol Rovers was a perfect example of where we are as a team - too good for most in League One when we have our brains in gear, but still not great at standing up to the rigours of pressure.

Defensive Sodje's absence was a blow but considering Basey, Llera and Omozusi would not be in our first eleven, rearguard lapses should not come as too much of a surprise. Football is of course a squad game but if we can get a regular back five of Elliot, Richardson, Dailly, Sodje and Youga - while lacking a little pace - should be a pretty solid defensive unit. Another centre-half in January would be nice, though, just to give us some depth.

I have no real worries about the midfield, where we appear to have a good mix of grace and guts. The first-team five - Sam, Bailey, Semedo, Shelvey and Racon - are about as good as you get at this level, even though there is still a quandary as to where to best position them and which one will have to warm the bench alongside super-sub Wagstaff and the dependable Spring. For me, it's Racon on the left and Shelvey in the dugout. Sorry Jonjo, but them's the breaks.

And finally the strikers. At the start of the term we were heavily reliant on Burton, but with Mooney and attacking Sodje breaking the typical Charlton rule and proving to be shrewd loan acquisitions, we now have options. We'll have even more if McKenzie gets fit and McLeod gets good - an unlikely scenario I grant you.

The noises coming out of the Valley suggest Mooney and Akpo are likely to extend their stays in SE7 - the latter possibly even permanently - and if we can keep a talented array of strikers for the whole season, the arduous task of promotion will be made slightly easier.

It's alright analysing the Addicks but we must not ignore the teams chomping at the bit to overtake us. Colchester are pesky and don't seem likely to go away - a footballing equivalent of Jedward if you like - rejuvenated Norwich are our most likely challengers and despite their inconsistencies, we must not discount MK Dons and Huddersfield. Even efficient Swindon could have a say.

But - while trying not to render my last paragraph pointless - the most important thing is for Parky and the boys to focus on themselves. Forget the fun going on around us, win our home games, draw our away ones and hey presto, we will probably be a Championship team once again. Simples.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A look ahead to.....Yeovil

Supporters appeased, it is now time to get the away form back on track. It has been two-and-a-half months and seven games since the Addicks garnered an away victory - when they smashed four past Tranmere - and after the abject displays at Colchester, Southampton and especially Northwich Victoria, our travelling supporters deserve to be treated.

Yeovil, though, are on an upward curve. Terry Skiverton's men only mustered two wins from their opening dozen league fixtures but have been victorious in three of their previous four, with a 4-0 reverse at Elland Road the only blip.

The Glovers boast a motley crew and can call upon the experience of 36-year-old ex-Brighton defender Nathan Jones - who also acts as Skiverton's assistant - and veteran former Bristol City winger Scott Murray, as well as the youthful exuberance of their on-loan Tottenham trio - defender Steven Caulker, midfielder Ryan Mason and striker Jon Obika.

Town's hero last weekend, however, was ex-Ipswich striker Dean Bowditch. Tipped for great things during his early days at Portman Road, the 23-year-old failed to deliver in East Anglia and after a series of loan spells was released by Roy Keane this summer. A shoulder injury has disrupted Bowditch's Yeovil career thus far but after scoring the winner against the Shrimpers on Saturday, he could be a thorn in our side.

As for the Addicks, keep the same team I say, safe in the knowledge that Shelvey, McKenzie, Sodje number two and Wagstaff can give us some added impetus if necessary.

Last weekend was tremendous but accruing three points from a titchy stadium and an unfancied team will show the doubters that we do indeed have the stomach for the promotion fight.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A look ahead to.....MK Dons

It was only a tin-pot competition anyway. No, in all seriousness it was another frustrating night to be an an Addick as for the second time in a week we failed to do ourselves justice on TV.

Southampton were fully deserving of their victory and showed why they have picked up steam - a smattering of rearguard experience, talent in the centre of the park and a genuine goal threat.

So the Wembley dream is over for now and Parky must rally the troops in time for Saturday's clash with our nearest challengers. The cameras won't be on the Addicks with such vigour this time but the glare of the Valley faithful will be.

Bailey, Racon and the Nigeria-spurning Sodje should return to give us some oomph, while McKenzie - fresh from opening his Charlton account - will be eager for a starting role.

Paul Ince's men are in confident mood and what with us struggling and them soaring, the Dons will fully expect to beat us this weekend, which is why we will need some experience to see us through.

I would like to see the aforementioned McKenzie in partnership with fellow veteran Deon Burton but with both far from fully fit, I would not mind seeing Mooney given another opportuinty either. He looked like a lost sheep in the first 45 at St Mary's but gradually came into the game and provided a few neat moments.

Our visitors will not be at full strength as top scorer Jermaine Easter is on international duty with Wales, but Sam Baldock looks an able deputy having notched twice in the JP Trophy win against Northampton.

It will be tense at the weekend as even at this embryonic stage of the season, slipping out of the top two would be a psychological downer. However, I am, perhaps foolishly, going to go with the Addicks and predict that amid the familiar surroundings of the Valley, we will pick up a much-needed win.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Aftermath

Much will be made of Sunday's terrible performance and rightly so, but the most important thing now is Charlton's riposte. This season was never going to be a walk in the park, even if our early-season form suggested otherwise, and we are going to have our setbacks; our level of success will be determined by how we deal with them.

What needs to be on show against Southampton on Wednesday is commitment. I thought the back five showed that against Northwich - Randolph in particular. Yes, they were were given a torrid time by the up-for-it Vics but I cannot question their desire. The guys further up the field, though, must do better.

The 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 debate pales into insignificance if there is no effort and that is how it seemed at the weekend. Our midfield should have had far too much craft for our non-league hosts and with Bailey and Semedo in it, should have been more than able to stand up to the test physically.

McLeod should not be absolved from blame, for both his performance and his shocking swipe at an opponent, but playing up front alone can be a fruitless task and he had no-one behind him busting a gut to get him into the game. Even a far superior striker would have struggled with that level of service.

The sight of Alan Pardew is sure to get some of our men fired up but if we are to cause the reinvigorated Saints any problems, then Shelvey and co. will have to battle their players and not their manager - something they failed to do in the league match between the sides.

With the fixture airing on Sky Sports, it represents a swift opportunity to right some wrongs and show a wider audience that we are not that bad. Not that the Addicks should require any extra motivation.

Friday, November 06, 2009

A look ahead to.....Northwich

Blimey, Charlton Athletic on ITV! I cannot remember the last time we appeared on the home of Loose Women and Midsomer Murders but it has to be quite a while ago. Pretty disappointing when you consider supposed ardent Addick Michael Grade has been head honcho there for the last couple of years - anyway I digress.

The channel three audience will be able to witness Parky's boys go head-to-head with Northwich Victoria, a side who like the Addicks have suffered the ignominy of relegation in recent times. Unlike the Addicks (though who knows how close we were to entering it), the Trickies have slipped into administration, so will be intent on beating us for both prestige and to add money to the coffers.

Our Cheshire-based opponents will not be at full strength, however, with the free-scoring Mark Danks and club captain Simon Grand absent through suspension. It is unlikely the Addicks will field their finest eleven, though, and I expect a few of the regular first team may be given a breather.

With Deon's hernia issue, I would advocate giving McLeod and Tuna (who dovetailed pretty well in the JP Trophy against Barnet) a run out, in addition to Wagstaff, who has provided some impressive cameos so far this term and will be eager to show his skills against his former temporary employers.

Carl Ikeme has been prohibited from playing by the Wolves hierarchy, so Darren Randolph - whose future at the Valley looks pretty bleak - can put himself in the shop window and hopefully the Addicks can put themselves in round two with the minimum of fuss. Somehow, I doubt it will be that easy.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A look ahead to.....Carlisle

The Addicks face another team they should beat quite comfortably this weekend in the form of Carlisle United. Greg Abbott's men won for the first time in eight games last weekend with victory over Southend, a result that elevated them out of the bottom three and eased the pressure on their under-fire boss.

I dismissed the Cumbrians in my intro because if Parky's boys get their heads in gear their class should see them through, but it would be wrong to underestimate the Blue Army because they are the only side other than ourselves to take anything from Elland Road this term and they were the last team to win on Leeds' turf.

United also have a bevy of players who have achieved at least mild success at a higher level, including new signing Vincent Pericard, Irish veteran Graham Kavanagh, ex-West Brom striker Scott Dobie and former Champions League semi-finalist Ian Harte, a man who who had a trial with the Addicks last year.

As for us, injury worries have risen again. Rob Elliot is out for six weeks with a torn adductor muscle (thigh injury to you and I) and both Frazer Richardson and Chris Solly are doubtful for the weekend clash.

Wolves' Carl Ikeme has been drafted in to replace Elliot, though I would rather Darren Randolph was given a chance considering that at 22 he can no longer be considered a promising youngster; he needs to step up and prove his worth.

Nevertheless, I have it on good authority from Molineux sources that Ikeme is a solid 'keeper and will not let us down should he take to the field. Let's hope the expected loanee right-back to cover Frazer and Chris does not either.

Takeover talk is also circling (when is it not) with the latest as I hear it that the consortium fronted by Newcastle's perceived destroyers Dennis Wise and Tony Jimenez has pulled out, leaving a clear path for ex-Birminghman owners David Gold and David Sullivan, though West Ham and Palace are still on their radar.

Some may not be enamoured by the former porn-magazine entrepreneurs but they know how to run a football club, which - if a takeover is completed - is far more important than having pot loads of cash to fritter away.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A look ahead to.....Gillingham

The 'Kent Derby' as it has been dubbed will be played out this weekend with the Addicks hoping to conquer Gillingham and hang on to Leeds' coattails at the top of League One.

With the Chris Dickson transfer saga and Gills chairman Paul Scally's less than flattering remarks about Charlton over the years, the game should be a pretty spicy affair. Add in the fact Mark Stimson's side have a number of ex-Valley dwellers in their ranks (Simon Royce, Barry Fuller, Mark McCammon and - although he is unlikely to figure - Rashid Yussuf) and the spectacle should have a real edge to it.

While the Gills have been diabolical away from the Priestfield with just one point garnered thus far, only Colchester - and we know how effective they are - have registered victory at our hosts' abode.

If I were a betting man, I would put my money on the game ending one apiece, but the fit-again Semedo should make a big difference to us and whether it is 4-4-2 or 4-5-1, there is no reason why we cannot accumulate three points and take the Kent bragging rights, until March at least.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Addicks edge dogged Terriers

We are top of the league, say we are top of the league! OK, it doesn't mean anything right now and probable League One victors Leeds do have a couple of games in hand over us but I am getting a little giddy at seeing the Addicks scale the third-tier summit.

What makes it even sweeter is that for possibly the first time this season we have passed a tough test with flying colours. Yes, a point at Leeds was a terrific result but we were heavily dispatched by Colchester, and failed to hold on to a lead at Norwich; the critics could have doubted our credentials. Yet, while there were a few scares on Saturday and there is still room for improvement, we were able to usurp a talented Huddersfield team packed with goal threat.

The switch to 4-4-2 paid off and it was the right decision to drop Shelvey, even if the ill-informed media think he is our most important player. He has only performed well in patches this term and the balance of the side meant that if we were going to play two up top, he would be the one to miss out.

McLeod replaced him and even though he seems destined to a barrage of criticism for as long as he dons an Addicks shirt, the ex-MK Dons man is one hell of a tryer. His headed winner was fully deserved, for his endeavour if not his quality, as he was a pacy nuisance all afternoon. Izzy slipped all over the place in the first half but on one of the occasions when he did take a tumble, I thought a penalty should have been given. In the second though, he was far more stable and could have added to his goal late on. McLeod may not be the most graceful but chances always come his way, a lesser man's Andy Cole if you will.

As for the others, Sam was excellent again, while his replacement Scott Wagstaff gave a nice little cameo, as did new loanee David Mooney. His arrival means we now look more balanced in the striking department with the drop off, creative play of Tuna or Shelvey, the hold up expertise of Deon Burton, the running of Leon McKenzie (when fit) and McLeod and a more physical presence in Mooney.

I would also like to commend Kelly Youga who is fast becoming an undroppable member of the team. The likeable left-back has shed his flamboyant locks but also the red mist that seemed to descend on him in years previous and he is playing a significant part in both our defensive and attacking play. The 24-year-old has mellowed, something I never thought I would see.

In another positive, the silent lynchpin Jose Semedo made his reappearance and the fit-again schemer should help Therry Racon rediscover his best form. While still an important creative force, our number eight has looked a little off colour without his Portuguese pal and if the pair can rekindle their early-season partnership, few midfielders in this division will be able to topple them.

With just under a month until league football hits the Valley again - where a potentially delectable clash with MK Dons lies in wait - the Addicks can try their darnedest to get back to winning ways on the road, first at localish rivals Gillingham and then at Carlisle. Six points will make me even giddier.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A look ahead to…..Oldham

After the enjoyable sideshow of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, the Addicks return to more important matters this weekend to take on Oldham. The Latics should be a more difficult nut to crack than they would have been a few weeks ago having taken 10 points from their last four games.

They also have a pretty astute manager in Dave Penney, who guided Doncaster back into the football league in 2003, and after taking over in April, the 45-year-old is beginning to stamp his authority at Boundary Park. He is backed up on the playing side by veteran defender Sean Gregan and pesky striker Keigan Parker. The Scot – who was linked with a move to SE7 in pre-season – is not the most prolific of forwards but he is a nuisance and is starting to link-up well with beanpole partner Pawel Abbott.

Izale McLeod and Tamer Tuna were a pretty effective pair in the 4-1 thrashing of Barnet and while deadly Deon is likely to be our sole attacker on Saturday, I would not be adverse to McLeod and/or Tuna getting the nod. Burton has been terrific so far this term but he is no spring chicken and to maximise his productivity, little rests here and there could be vital.

While striking changes to our league eleven would be tactical, other alterations this weekend may be enforced. Frazer Richardson and Lloyd Sam are doubtful with rib and groin injuries respectively, but Chris Solly and Scott Wagstaff would be very reliable replacements, even though keeping a lid on Oldham’s nimble left-winger Chris Taylor will be a far from easy task.

Miguel Llera for Sam Sodje also looks likely but after a dodgy couple of performances followed by being dropped at Elland Road, the Spaniard will be intent on showing his best form and I expect a solid performance from him should he take to the field. I also expect our midfield to get their creative juices flowing after the hard labour at Colchester and Leeds and after a two game barren spell, to see us notch another victory.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Post-Leeds and Pre-Barnet Musings

I'll take that. After the calamity of Colchester, the trek to Leeds looked an even more daunting one. So to come away with a clean sheet and a point from the toughest test we are likely to face this season is pretty pleasing.

As I expected, Miguel Llera was replaced by Sam Sodje and, according to reports, the Nigerian international put in a faultless display. The defence has looked a bit shaky in recent weeks so being able to shut out Jermaine Beckford and his talented partner Luciano Becchio should give our rearguard a real boost.

The draw has allowed a couple of our closest challengers to move nearer to us; wins for Colchester and MK Dons mean they are just three and four points behind us respectively, though Chris Dickson could not inspire high-flying Bristol Rovers to another win as they were thumped 5-1 by a resurgent Norwich at Carrow Road.

Play-off hopefuls Oldham and Huddersfield are our next two fixtures, both at the Valley, so provided we take a plethora of points from those two games, our recent less-than-sparkling spell won't hit us too hard.

Before then, though, the Addicks will dip into the Johnstone's Paint Trophy for the first time in their history to take on London rivals Barnet. It will be interesting to see what kind of team Parky selects. As while it is paramount that nothing gets in the way of our promotion ambitions, we have a real chance of getting to Wembley and that should not be scoffed at. Your trophy cabinet, especially ours, is never too full.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Exeter Review, Colchester Preview

So, the weekend yielded another three points, we remain unbeaten and we have opened up a four-point gap between us and the chasing pack. Good times? Possibly.

I'll admit that while we were not great for large chunks of Saturday's encounter, esteemed pundits regularly remind us that winning when you're not at your best is the sign of an excellent team.

However, we were playing an adequate side and not one with the same promotion goal as us. If we had been battling a Leeds, a Huddersfield or even a Southend, we may not have been so lucky.

Miguel Llera looked flustered when put under pressure and it is quite evident he prefers to use his patched-up head, rather than his feet, when defensive interception is needed. Sam Sodje, who came on to a pretty decent reception, is probably the same, but he will think he can usurp the 30-year-old Spaniard for a starting place pretty soon.

The Addicks lacked a bit of dynamism in midfield, where Semedo was definitely missed. That is no slight on Matt Spring, who was very solid, despite the young kid behind me slating his every move. It is just that the Portuguese is more of a hustler, so let's hope his injury clears up soon.

To be fair to the Grecians, they did give us a few problems. On-loan Plymouth winger Craig Noone was a real menace and was probably only withdrawn late on due to the foot injury that nearly forced him to miss the game. With his parent club, the Green Army, struggling so profusely, it is amazing that he is not part of their immediate plans.

Back to the Addicks, though, and bigger tests are coming thick and fast. Colchester are a decent third-tier club, their current fifth-placed position proving that. And while we should be aiming for a victory, the U's will make it severely difficult for us as they try to annoy the manager that led them out of this division three years ago.

There is still a lot of resentment for the way Parky left the Essex-based club to join Hull City, though United did get their revenge by beating his Tigers outfit 5-1 at Layer Road in November 2006, a result that ultimately cost the 41-year-old his job with the Humbersiders.

We will also be meeting a couple of old acquaintances on our first visit to the Weston Homes Community Stadium (bit of a mouthful). The enigma that is Kevin Lisbie will be looking to score against us to add to the three he netted when both clubs were in the Championship two seasons previous, while Kem Izzet, who started his career with the Addicks but never played a game, will also want to put in a performance. The talented midfielder is available for Aidy Boothroyd after serving a three-match ban for being sent off against Southampton at the start of the month.

The U's will not be easy to beat but if we want to go up automatically, we have to see this as a game to be won and not settle for a draw. If the attitude is positive, our higher calibre of player should ensure three points and set us up nicely for the mouth-watering clash with Leeds at the weekend.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A look ahead to.....Exeter

Paul Tisdale's Grecians visit the Valley this weekend, making the long trip from Devon; an actual journey upwards to complement their metaphorical one.

Exeter have enjoyed a magnificent couple of seasons, winning promotion to League Two via the playoffs in 2008 and following that up by finishing second in the third tier last term. They have started this campaign adequately, amassing nine points from eight games. Two victories have come in that time, at Carlisle in August and at home last week against hapless Tranmere.

On-loan Addick Stuart Fleetwod is banned from playing against us on Saturday, but Adam Stansfield - scorer of both against John Barnes' men - could be dangerous and 36-year-old ex-Ipswich and Sunderland striker Marcus Stewart is still a tricky customer.

Nevertheless, the game will represent a great chance for the Addicks to return to winning ways after being stunted in their previous two fixtures and as long as the disappointment of conceding a stoppage-time equaliser at Norwich last week is not dwelt upon, three points should come our way.

A cash injection has already come our way, after the Addicks board pummelled £7million into the club. A takeover has been pushed aside for now, though seemingly not for good, with outgoing plc chairman, Derek Chappell, hoping outside investors could come to the fore in the near future.

The move is designed to ensure we do not have to sell any key assets, but whether that is the case when bigger teams start sniffing around our players remains to be seen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Holt halts away perfection

The Addicks' 100 per cent record on the road has finally been sabotaged thanks to Grant Holt's dubious stoppage-time equaliser at Norwich. The burly striker appeared to foul Rob Elliot as he knocked Chris Martin's (no not him out of Coldplay) cross into the net, which just added to the frustration of letting a two-goal lead slip.

Being realisic, however, gaining a point from the tricky trip to Carrow Road could be a very valuable one come the business end of the season and there will be far easier treks for the Addicks to make over the course of the campaign.

Relinquishing winning positions is never nice though and hopefully our players will realise that for all their quality (some of which is too good for this division), momentary lapses could cost us very dearly.

On the bright side, deadly Deon continued his excellent form with another goal and, according to Parky, an excellent all-round display, while Jonjo Shelvey also netted, and looks as though he is starting to fire after a few tired performances at the start of the term.

Oh yes and congratulatiuons to Chris Dickson, who went to Bristol Rovers and did exactly what most Addicks fans expected him to do.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A look ahead to.....Norwich

For the second week running a fellow relegated team are our opponents, a team whose relegation was confirmed at the Valley last season. Deon Burton scored a hat-trick in that game as Norwich felt how we had been feeling for virtually the whole campaign.

The Canaries' side has been given a real overhaul since then, while the Addicks have only added a few to last year's squad. It would seem our way of doing things is working better.

Paul Lambert's men were pretty unlucky in their 2-1 defeat to MK Dons on Monday, conceding a peach of a free-kick from Jason Puncheon - a summer target for Charlton - and a controversial penalty. They are sure to be fired up for Saturday but with a lot of injuries, they could be there for the taking.

In other news, Chris Dickson has finally gone on loan but to Bristol Rovers and not Gillingham as expected. Parky said the reason being that the Pirates have the finances to offer us some much-needed money should they want him permanently. Guess the takeover's not close then.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pardew frustrates Addicks again

Sod’s law isn’t it, the revival curtailed by a major player in our downfall. Disappointing as it is, it could have been a lot worse. The first half was a non-event as far as Charlton were concerned, with only a few artistic touches from Burton and the offensive intent of Richardson moments to remember. In fact, scuffles not skills were the main element of the first 45. Southampton were good value for their lead, which the talented Adam Lallana gave them just before the break, and would have been further in front had Rob Elliot not stood firm.

The second half was a marked improvement. Physicality still exuded from the game, melees were seen on a regular basis but the Addicks began to get the ball down and impose themselves. Shelvey took the bull by the horns, setting up the equaliser with a terrific cross for Burton. Racon began too ooze his undoubted class and Youga, who - bar a few defensive swipes in the first-half - was excellent, hit the outside of the post after a scheming surge down the left, while a penalty probably should have been given for a foul on Sam.

Three points would have been sweet, considering who the opposing manger was, but a draw was about fair. Pardew’s men may prop up the division now but they should not be there in May. The Saints have too much experience and talent to struggle for long.

Thanks to Leeds' 0-0 draw at Southend, we still sit top of the pile and the fact we fought from a goal down to garner something is another bonus. The tasks get more gruelling with Norwich up next and Leeds, Huddersfield and MK Dons in the not too distant future. Negotiate those match-ups, and talk of promotion really can begin in earnest.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A look ahead to.....Southampton

A former manager heads back to his old stomping ground this weekend eager to inflict more damage on the club he destroyed. Maybe that synopsis of Alan Pardew is a tad cutthroat; he was not the only reason we sunk into League One, and maybe that synopsis of Charlton is a tad hyperbolic; we are far from ruined and it may turn out that demotion to the third tier is the start of an Addicks resurgence. But you get my gist.

Seeing Pardew in the opposing dugout will remind us of the wretched times experienced with him at the helm where ideas of a return to the promised land of the Premier League were replaced with the realisation that locking horns with Swindon and Walsall was likely to be in our future. Add in a dose of dire performances, an abundance of seemingly uninterested loanees and an excuse list as long as your arm, nothing would feel as good as to silence our silver-topped wrecker this weekend.

Yet, he would like nothing more than to usurp the side he left last November as a way of insisting he was merely a bystander in Charlton's demise. Unfortunately for him, he does not look well-equipped to do so. While our boys have taken to their new surroundings in a spectacularly untarnished manner, Pardew and his charges have floundered and are yet to record a win.

That is not to say this game will be easy. A three-point haul may have eluded the Saints thus far but they have only lost twice and are hardly the division's whipping boys. And while a lot of the south-coasters squad are barely out of school uniform, they do have some wily old-hands, particularly in their rearguard.

Kelvin Davis is more than capable between the sticks, Wayne Thomas and ex-Addicks Chris Perry and Graeme Murty - if fit - bring notable know how at the back and have been joined this week by Radhi Jaidi, rumoured to be in Parky's thoughts earlier this summer. Burton may find his toughest challenge of the season this weekend.

They have threats going forward as well. Ricky Lambert is not a million-pound player but he scores goals at this level, as should Marek Saganowski, while new loan-signing Papa Waigo should add much-need thrust to Pardew's arsenal. They could cause us problems is what I'm saying, particularly if Bailey and Racon fail to shake off knocks.

The atmosphere will be intense and the game itself should be an absorbing battle but the Pardew hating and bating needs to be a sideshow and not the main event. If the Addicks focus on football a win should follow but if they let their minds wander and think about a revenge mission, then the man we have such disdain for could continue his habit of ruining our mood. A truly dreadful thought.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Post-Brentford Musings

While away trips this season have been relatively easy fair, tests at the Valley have got progressively harder, yet, each time the Addicks have found a way to prevail. We beat a newly promoted side in Wycombe, an established outfit in Walsall and while Brentford are fresh members of this division, their momentum and will to attack made them the toughest challenge of the campaign so far.

Lloyd Sam capped an excellent week personally by playing an intrinsic role in the first goal, coolly slotting home the second and being a constant menace throughout. Deon Burton also led the line excellently, the defence stood firm when under pressure, Rob Elliott made a tremendous save to deny journeyman striker Carl Cort and Izale McLeod looked sprightly when called into action.

On yesterday's evidence, the Bees lofty league position is no fluke and they should be able to keep pace with the play-off chasers. Sam Saunders - a summer signing from Dagenham & Redbridge - looked a real livewire, ex-Addick Myles Weston had his moments and Andy Scott still has the luxury of welcoming a few first-team defenders back from injury. The signs for our London counterparts look good.

Signs are even brighter in SE7. The table makes superb reading, the squad is stronger after some late summer dealing and the downbeat memories of last season are being replaced with positivity. A reminder of our recent troubles returns next week, however, in the form of the not-so-super Alan Pardew, who brings his struggling Saints to the Valley. A perfect time to record an annihilating home victory me thinks.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A look ahead to.....Brentford

A London derby awaits the Addicks this weekend as they put their 100% record on the line against Brentford. Like Charlton, the reigning fourth tier champions are yet to sample defeat in the league this season and should present a far stiffer challenge than timid Tranmere.

It has not been a great week for the Bees, though. They were edged out by Norwich in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy on Tuesday (a tournament we will be drawn into just before kick-off this weekend), while rumours swirled that their skilled young boss, Andy Scott, may head north to fill the vacant managerial post at Barnsley.

However, that seat now looks as if it will go to Rotherham gaffer Mark Robins, leaving Scott to plot Charlton's downfall. He has the credentials to do that having lifted Brentford out of League Two and into a solid sixth place in League One thus far.

Defensive issues blight the Bees, though, with captain Alan Bennett and left-back Ryan Dickson struggling, while up top, ex-Addick Charlie MacDonald is still nursing a shoulder injury. With that in mind, I expect 18 points on the board come Saturday afternoon.

Leon McKenzie and Sam Sodje could work their way onto the bench, probably at the expense of Grant Basey and Izale McLeod, but Luke Holden may have to bide his time, given Scott Wagstaff's goal-scoring cameo against Walsall. Whether any of them figure, it is great to have options because if promotion really is the target, it will be the squad, and not the talented first eleven, that achieves it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tranmere and Transfers

The run goes on, bringing with it the best start to a Charlton season in history. I could not travel to Birkenhead myself but I have it on good authority that we were scintillating and in addition to the four goals that were accrued, a further two could have come had "stonewall" penalty appeals been given.

My informer also insisted that Sam was superb, Burton was brilliant but bar a few bits and pieces, Jonjo - like last week - was jaded. He even went as far as to suggest a couple of weeks out of the first eleven may benefit the precocious play-maker. I wouldn't entirely disagree.

Things are going well then. A hatful hit the net, another clean sheet was accumulated and Semedo (you know, he comes from Portugal, he.... doesn't like Millwall very much) notched his first Addicks goal. But will things remain this rosy come Tuesday.

With the takeover god knows where, fears that a few key components might be sold are still there and no concrete names have been mentioned in terms of arrivals. Parky is supposedly keen on a defender, a left-winger and another striker but time is running out. However, the man is now in the Charlton record books and I have faith he will pull something out of the hat.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A look ahead to.....Tranmere

The next stop on Charlton's League One sojourn sees them head to Merseyside to take on former Addick John Barnes and his struggling Tranmere side. Rovers are in the lower section of the table having lost three of their opening four league matches and should present a good opportunity for another three points.

Barnes' men have failed to score in that trio of defeats and were comprehensively beaten 3-0 by Leeds last weekend, though they are unlikely to be the last team to suffer that fate.

The Whites have won twice this term though, 4-2 over Gillingham on day two of the season and 4-0 against Grimsby in the Carling Cup, so let's hope it's the non-scoring, not the free-scoring Tranmere we face on Saturday.

In addition, only Leeds had a better League One home record than Rovers last year and they did push Bolton in the cup midweek, so the encounter will not be as easy as it looks on paper. That said, if we control the midfield battle - as we ought to do against the majority of this division - the 100% winning record should remain intact.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Winning Habit

Well, well, well, the Charlton Athletic promotion assault couldn't have started any better could it. Four wins from four and the first half against Wycombe aside, exceptional performances haven't been forthcoming.

The latest triumph against Walsall on Saturday was deserved, though it was achieved more through determination than quality, emphasised by the hat-wearing Miguel Llera's scrambled goal. Parky's boys will have to improve technically, especially when they lock horns with the better sides such as Leeds, Millwall, Southend, Huddersfield and what is bound to be an improving Norwich but the penchant for winning is always a good one to have.

Burton has looked excellent in the initial weeks but the talented midfield we possess needs to enforce itself more. Racon and Shelvey looked pretty subdued at the weekend but should prosper as the campaign develops. At least that is the plan.

Elsewhere, Andy Gray has sealed his permanent switch to Barnsley, ending a frustrating year-and-a-half at the Valley. However, if the rumours of his wife's illness are true, the laboured performances he gave can be understood. I wish him well in what looks likely to be a relegation-threatened season in Yorkshire.

That leaves a 'target-man' to find. Tresor Kandol has been linked with a return and he would be a suitable back-up to deadly Deon. Should the deal happen though, the current Leeds man may not be able to mingle with Chris Dickson who appears set to join Gillingham. No doubt he'll find the net regularly under Mark Stimson. Oh what might have been.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Goodbye Cup, Hello Small

So as has become convention, the Addicks have exited the Carling Cup to lower league opposition. Disappointing it may be but there are bigger fish to fry - promotion, the play-offs at least, is the ultimate goal.

What Tuesday's defeat to Hereford showed, though, is while the Addicks premier players should curse a spell over many teams at our new level, the back-up needs to be bolstered, especially the fragile rearguard. According to BBC London, Youga and Semedo were given a torrid time in central-defence and the duo are probably not the answer should Dailly or Llera pick up injuries. Even if the veteran pair remain fully fit, an injection of pace at centre-half is a must.

Yet, the transfer talk has quietened with only the implausible Simeon Jackson/Chris Dickson switch doing the rounds. Dickson - on international duty during the Cup departure - is an untapped talent and I would much prefer Jackson and he in SE7, not just the Canadian forward.

Wade Small made his debut against the Bulls and by all accounts did very little. However, he is a winger, can't be on much wonger and seems like an acceptable acquisition.

Our League One campaign resumes against Hartlepool on Saturday, followed by a London derby at Orient on Tuesday. We are better than both but the Addicks road is never smooth. Parky should be looking at six points, four would be an adequate return.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Transfer Musings

While cricket has begun to take a stranglehold on the sporting summer, football is still very much in the mind - especially, it seems, within the Addicks' hierarchy.

Matt Holland, Jon Fortune, Darren Randolph and - most surprisingly - Zheng Zhi have been offered contract extensions and while I would not expect the talented Chinaman to stay, there is at least an element of hope.

In contrast, Therry Racon has been linked with Plymouth. His loss would be a bitter blow as he has the potential to rule the roost in League One.

Definitely swanning out of the exit door are Nicky Weaver, Svetoslav Todorov, Darren Ambrose - to Palace I believe - Rashid Yussuf, Harry Arter and Aswad Thomas with Josh Wright also looking likely to depart. There is talent in that list - the frustrating Ambrose in particular - but none of those names have prospered while in Charlton red and tears will not be shed.

In terms of fresh faces, the Wade Small story has subsided and Peter Clarke will soon be an Addick - or at Huddersfield - depending on which media outlet you believe. Parky has also confirmed his interest in MK Dons' out-of-contract centre-back Miguel Angel Llera. The wheels look to have been set in motion.

I just hope the same can be said about the projected takeover and, ultimately, a League One promotion campaign.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rebuilding Phase Takes Small Steps

A guaranteed summer of change has begun with rumours that the Addicks have offered a contract to Wade Small, the winger released by Sheffield Wednesday.

The 25-year-old began his career at Wimbledon and stuck with them as they made the transformation to MK Dons, winning the Player of the Year award in 2005. He joined the Owls a year later but fell out of favour last season and had a loan stint at Blackpool.

With Ambrose almost certainly out the door, Sam being linked with a move away and Bailey - if we keep him - far more effective centrally, Parkinson is likely to be looking at wide-men so Small would fit the bill. He may not be a high-profile capture but the Croydon-born trickster could probably do a decent job in the third tier. If Small does sign, though, let's just hope he is only a League One player for a very brief time.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Charlton - A Balanced View

I have been away but now I am back. While doom and gloom may come out of my mouth when discussing the Addicks plight, the following article is a more reasoned account.


Check it out.