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.