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 On-loan Plymouth winger Craig Noone was a real menace and was probably only withdrawn late on due to the foot injury that nearly forced him to miss the game.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.