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.