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.