Thursday, 22 October 2009

Next... Gillingham away

It's a proper local derby for me. If you use Kings Hill is 30.4 miles to The Valley and only 16.2 miles to The Priestfield Stadium.

Add to that the fact that a former colleague is a Gills fan and will be going and it becomes much more serious. In fact, as we are technically friends (from today until Saturday morning and again from Sunday) I have decided to go and sit in the home end. My Dad is, naturally, coming along, and our former boss (who has decided to become an Addick for the day) is also going to be there. We haven't decided to 'Take their End' but we will, no doubt, be among friends if the rumours about the number of Charlton fans going is to be believed.

We sold out our allocation in two days - not a bad achievement for close to two and a half thousand tickets. I could probably have got tickets as we have already been to two away games this season, but it was decided that we would watch the game among 'friends' from Kent. Both my Dad and I live in Kent, but for those of you that think Kentish fans are just plain wrong, My Dad was born in Eltham.

So I already have enough reasons to want to win this game, before we look at this season and the current league table, but there is another reason to want to win. The FA Cup game in 2004 was a terrible embarrassment and one that I still carry the mental scars from to this day. It was supposed to be a formality, and the way that the home fans carried on, coupled with Tommy Johnson's 'Shhh' finger (photo above), made me keen to beat them out of sight at the next available opportunity. Bring on Saturday!

As for the current league position and our form, I find myself swayed towards the cup half full following our win over Huddersfield and Leeds poor performance against Norwich. Like I predicted at the start of the season Norwich seem to have found their feet now and I still believe that they could win this league. Even though they are nine points behind us I consider them a real threat to our chances of an automatic promotion place. With Leeds looking increasingly lucky in recent weeks I can see us catching them if their form doesn't improve and their luck runs out. I know it is the norm for Champions to win games they had no reason to, particularly if the winning goals come late, but it is also common place for sides like that fall away. Fingers crossed?

Despite MK Dons and Colchester being right behind us that is on the back of our worst run of form this season, during which we've won two, drawn three and only lost one. That six games has included three of the top six and two from the top half of the table. It also includes Leeds, Colchester and Norwich away. not bad eh? MK Dons at The Valley in a couple of weeks will be tough, but the rest of our games between now and 19th December when we entertain Millwall all look winnable. This should be viewed as a chance to build up another cushion like the one that we have just used to stay in the top two when playing three tough away games.

It would seem that some of the Gillingham fans are worried about the visit of the Mighty Charlton Athletic. I'm not sure they need to be if I'm honest. Sure I expect us to win, and I also expect it to be a lot more clear cut than last Saturday's win over Huddersfield, but I doubt it is going to be a 5-0 thrashing, even though I'd quite like it to be.

As for the side, I was surprised that we started with a 4-4-2 against Huddersfield, but assuming Semedo is going to play I am happy with either formation. The fact that we have demonstrated that we have a second option will keep Paul Stimson guessing and he will struggle to mark Shelvey out of the game if he starts on the bench again. I would probably play him and revert to a 4-4-1-1 with Burton upfront. I would look to being on McLeod in the second half to stretch the Gill's defence and take pressure of us if we are winning, or to chase a goal if we are not. Either way I'd not mess with the defence - assuming Richardson is passed fit. LLoyd Sam has been less than 100% fit in recent weeks so I might be tempted to start with Wagstaff and leave Sam on the bench to act as an impact player later on in the proceedings.

I note that Dave is going for a 1-1 draw. I sadly fear that could happen if we are not on top of our game. Recent weeks have demonstrated that we are not going to be able to walk through games but I think we have learned that now and should be up for this one. The atmosphere should be a little like Orient where I believe the fans really drove the players on. I can see the same thing happening on Saturday.

I would just love it if we beat them. Just love it!

Up the Addicks!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Charlton 2 - 1 Huddersfield

In a game that we really needed a win to get our season back on track I went along with just one aspiration. All I wanted was a win. I would have taken a boring game with few chances and a 1-0 win. My confidence has been affected in recent weeks and as a consequence I suspect that the players must have had a few doubts about our invincibility too. A win, any win, would have gone a long way to help that and, of course, three points would be greatly received as our cushion over third place has been all but eroded.

What I didn't dare for was an exciting, entertaining game, but that is what we got. Needless to say I am a little biased as we won, but I would go as far as to say that this was the best game of football that I have seen this season. There were not a lot of goals and Huddersfield's style of play was very direct, but the fact that the result was never a foregone conclusion and that both sides tried to win made for a very enjoyable afternoon.

As for the game, as usual, I am not going to provide a report, but some observations. After scoring early (from a set piece) Huddersfield seemed to do all the attacking. Their long throws looked very threatening, all be it that they never actually came close to scoring from one, and this contributed to them putting us under a lot of pressure in the first half. It was interesting to note that we quickly changed from the 'safety first' approach of putting the ball out for a throw when the full backs were chased down. It looked like we struggled at first, but by the end both Youga and Richardson provided fewer and fewer opportunities for the mammoth throw-ins.

I was, frankly, surprised that we started with two upfront. I can accept that against Oldham we needed more bite, but I thought, before, and after, the game, that Huddersfield's aspirations this season were such that they would come to The Valley and play for a win. I thought that against such a side we would have been better to have kept more strength in midfield. Up to half time it did look like the change in formation was causing us to lose the midfield battle.

The introduction of Semedo made all the difference. Semedo is a strange player. I mean he doesn't do anything special per se, granted he always seems to be available to accept a pass in the middle of the park, he always seems to pass the ball on to a team mate, and he does tackle well. His passing is not especially attacking - he doesn't play those defence splitting passes like Racon does, but his presence makes the whole side function better. Clearly he has a better playing relationship with Racon, who seems much more likely to push forward with Semedo behind him, but there is something that I am clearly missing. I rate Semedo very, very highly. I personally believe that he will (even if not just yet) be good enough for the Premier League. I just can't put my finger on anything specific that he does that lifts the whole team in the way that he clearly does.

Apart from Semedo returning (played 9 won 7 drawn 2 lost 0) there were some other pluses yesterday. McLeod looked much better, and despite lacking a real killer instinct, he didn't do anything wrong. I have to say that from my seat in the East Stand it looked like we was claiming for free kicks when he wasn't fouled, and in those circumstances he probably needs to get up off the floor quicker to put pressure on the player on the ball, but that's such a small thing I feel a bit picky even mentioning it.

As for the 'taking off of the shirt after scoring' this is unforgivable. I was angry when he did it a couple of weeks ago, but it was his first league goal for over two years. If I'd been his manager I would have fined him two weeks notice for doing it again, and I'd be inclined to transfer list him if he did it a third time - and I'd tell him I was going to as well. I'm going to assume that there is no disrespect by literally throwing the shirt on the floor, but as he is now on four bookings he needs just one more for a suspension. Stupid, stupid, stupid. This is the type of behaviour that reaffirms the notion that footballers are as thick as shit, and I have no idea what possessed him to do it. He did take his goal well though.

With Shelvey (who I think has been very significant in some games this season) rested we have also demonstrated that if we can keep Semedo fit we do have a Plan 'B' worth it's name.

So, overall a good day out, a win against a side that I believe will be in the mix at the end of the season, and a good game too.

We now have back to back away games against teams that I don't expect to be anywhere near the playoffs before we face MK Dons at The Valley, with an FA Cup 1st Round and a JPT Quarter-Final in between. We have now played three of the other four teams that I predicted would occupy the top two places, and we are top of the league, but will be at least second when all the sides have played their games in hand.

Things are looking good.

Up the Addicks!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Charlton 0 - 0 Oldham

I thought I'd wait until this morning as I was just way to angry yesterday. Now that I look back I'm not sure quite what I was angry about.

Oldham came with a game plan and as the game went on they became more and more obsessed with not conceding a goal. I can't really complain about that, after all we have done that in the past, and it is the responsibility of the 'better' team to break down their opponents. I suspect that after the start we've had, and the press coverage we've been afforded there are a lot of sides that will be happy with a 0-0 at The Valley.

If you have real aspirations of finishing top two you need to be looking to win at The Valley. However, if you are happy to accept a playoff place then a draw at The Valley (and Elland Road for that matter) must be considered a good result.

So why was I so angry? Well, I felt that this was a game that we needed to win; I felt that this was a game that, on the day, we should have won; and it is definitely two points dropped.

I know we have had a shortage of quality upfront, but for me, yesterday was the straw that broke the camel's back for Izale McLeod. Granted he scored a goal against Exeter, but it was a rebound when the goalkeeper pushed it into his feet and was on the floor, six yards out. He did score against Barnet, but it was a rubbish shot (I was right behind him) and without the lucky deflection would never have gone in. Yesterday, however, he missed two chances that would have made a massive difference to our season. They were terrible misses. An open goal with a simple header and he missed the target then a gift of a ball from Racon for a one on one with the 'keeper all over the place and he screwed it wide.

Here, I'll say it, no one else seems to want to. Izale McLeod is not a goal scorer. He has fantastic pace, although he often has no idea how to use it, but the truth is that he is just not good enough in front of goal to ever be considered a professional striker. I can't help wondering how many divisions we would have to fall through for him to be good enough. The true answer must be irrelevant. If he cannot hit the target with the 'keeper off his line from six yards I guess it doesn't matter who the opposition are. I suspect that he could play in his garden on his own and still miss sitters from six yards out.

That is why I'm so angry. I'm angry that we paid £1.15m for a player that isn't good enough for the third division. I'm angry that we're paying the donkey hundreds of thousands of pounds a year when we are in real financial trouble. Worst of all, however, Parkinson is praising him for now having a good attitude. For such a limited player on such massive wages I cannot see any justification for his attitude not always being fantastic. I'm no footballer at all, but you just cannot grasp how good my attitude would be if I was given a contract on several thousand pounds a week to work part-time (by comparison to normal working hours) playing football.

I begin to wonder what world these footballers think they live in.

Anyway rant over, and I have probably been a bit over the top, but as I thought Tuna was by far the better of the two on Tuesday night and McLeod has failed to hit the target from good positions in two games in our recent run that, had he scored, would have turned draws into wins I am ready to condemn him to the scrap heap as far as Charlton are concerned. Maybe we should put him out on loan to a Sunday under 9 side. I suspect he would still not know when and where to make his runs, and he would probably still miss open goals, but at least he would be out of sight for us Charlton fans.

McKenzie, on the other hand looked like he has a lot to offer. With our shortage upfront I think we are going to have to rely on him in the coming weeks.

On the whole we failed to perform and didn't lose. We are still without Semedo, and Sam and Richardson were clearly not fully fit. Sadly it is clear that we have been found out. A suggestion by a controversial commenter on the email list called for us to make a change for this very reason before we played Colchester. With three league games without a goal and now just one win in six it is becoming difficult to deny his foresight.

Without a win soon the debate about our start will open again. Did Parkinson build a side and system that got us off to a flying start, or were the players at his disposal going to win those games in spite of, rather then because of, his management.

I'm still keen to give Parkinson the benefit of doubt, but the start we've had has built up expectation that makes one win in six just not good enough. Next up Huddersfield, who thrashed Exeter 4-0 yesterday, and are still on the hunt for a top two finish. Assuming they don't come to grind out a 0-0 we will have to be prepared properly or we could lose our unbeaten home record, and probably second place in the division.

Just a quick mention for Oldham. They really did make it difficult for us yesterday and if they are a good example of what's to come we really are going to have to raise our game if we are going to win automatic promotion.

Over to you Parkinson?

Up the Addicks!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Next... Oldham at home

Due to taking the best part of a month off work following my operation at the start of September, I have been increasingly busy in the last couple of weeks. Clearly this is all good news as it helps to pay the mortgage, but it has made my blogging rather erratic. It also explains why I am writing a preview of today's game at 9am on the Saturday rather than on the Thursday or the Friday. Normally this would afford me the benefit of reading all the other blogs first, but this week I've not had time to do so.

Anyway, now I'm here I might as well fill in the gaps. I was pleased with the 0-0 at Leeds. I would have loved it had we won by two goals and gone top, but after the hammering at Colchester I was very fearful of the wheels literally falling off. I know this is a little disrespectful to Parkinson and the players, but after the last three years I can't help it.

My decision to go to Leeds (or not as it turned out) was almost confirmed when we lost at Colchester, but the club's decision to insist all tickets were picked up in person due to the postal strikes was the final nail in the coffin. For the record I have no problem with the club making this decision, but as I am still unable to drive I was just not able to get there to collect a ticket.

Barnet in the Johnson's Paint Trophy was both entertaining and professional. I suspect that the League's rules requiring at least 6 'first team players' to start had more to do with the lineup, but either way we put out a side that put on a good show and won comfortably - despite going behind. I don't care what the competition is; I don't care who the opposition is; I defy anyone not to enjoy seeing their team score four goals, and for this reason I just can't understand why so few fans turned out to watch the game. If you add Barnet's goal it works out at a mere £1 a goal. I know we are in a recession but you can't even buy a Sunday paper for a pound. Having said that in the past we have lost these kind of games so maybe I can understand the stay-aways.

So, on to today's game. Despite winning the first six games of the season, and being undefeated at home I can't help feeling that we are walking a tightrope. Maybe it's a result of last season (or the two seasons before it) or maybe it's as a result of our recent games being less comfortable than those six wins, but I go into today's game with a lot less confidence than I had six weeks ago.

Thanks to I am able to have all sorts of facts and figures at my fingertips when I write my blog each week. Normally I don't bother with too much of this as I am boring enough without throwing in stats. In recent weeks we have fallen down the form table (last 6 games) to 8th. we have lost to Colchester and drawn with Leeds and the two sides that were relegated with us last season. Oldham, however, are 6th in the form table with three wins and a draw out of six. This should make for a good game today.

Following our collapse at the start of 2008 I started to write about looking forward to each game as nothing more than a game of football. Bearing in mind how close the chasing pack are I cannot approach today's fixture in the same fashion. This is a game we really need to win. It's not exactly a 'must win' but it is important that we get back to winning ways in the league. With just one win in our last five league games there is good reason to question our staying power in this division. A win today would speak volumes, especially as Oldham are in decent form, and just two points off the playoffs.

Team news (something that I've never had that much to say about) suggests that we may see a couple of the Barnet heroes today as we have a few injuries to contend with. I'm happy with our squad. Clearly we have some players that are better then others, but on the whole I think all of our first team squad can hold their own in this division so a few changes here and there should not be seen as a disaster.

I've just seen that we have been drawn away to Southampton in the Johnson's Paint Trophy. This is the last fixture that I wanted, but it is what we have got. I must make my feelings clear here. I would just love a trip to Wembley early next year. It may not be the FA Cup, but it is a trophy that we can realistically win, and anything less than a Final appearance will mean failure in my book. I don't care how much money we make from it, nor do I care that the competition has a bit of a silly name, it is a chance for the fans (me in particular) to have a day out at Wembley. After the last three seasons I think the fans deserve that day out.

Today will be a first for me. My Dad is off in Tenerife again (retirement eh?) and due to my shoulder operation I am still unable to drive. I was going to get the Valley Express, but in the nick of time I was offered a lift from Daggs, who you will have read both on my blog (as well as others) with his comments and here. Let's hope that we will both have good things to write about come 5pm.

Up the Addicks!