Having only seen us play at Welling this pre-season before Saturday I didn't have much to go on, except that the result at Barnet was not very impressive.
Despite Watford being one of the weakest teams in the Championship right now I still thought that the difference between the two divisions should make them favourites to win the game. From that perspective I was correct. The difference between the two sides was, however nothing like I thought it might have been.
I have to confess to having little knowledge of Watford, and for all I know they might make three of four significant signings in the next week and make themselves much better than the showing on Saturday. However, there was little on show that impressed me from them as they stand.
The game seemed to be played with hints of an atmosphere of a friendly, but on the whole it looked like both sides were out to give a good account of themselves. This is, of course, not surprising as this was the last chance the players had to earn a place in the starting lineup for the first game of the season.
The game started slowly, but we seemed to be as good as them across the park, but were not looking very threatening in front of goal. As has been said elsewhere by New York Addick, Akpo Sodje is not going to be the answer playing up front on his own. Not unless the midfield can score goals. This potentially opens up the debate about 4-5-1 switching to 4-3-3, something that we didn't seem to be doing in the early part of the game.
However, eight minutes in and Doherty managed a shocking clearance in the box and despite a good save by Elliot, Danny Graham was on hand to score the only goal of the afternoon. This changed the whole game. Watford suddenly looked like the side that had struggled all last season and seemed to have no confidence. One of their last home games of the season was a defeat to Palace, and they looked like they were expecting no better a season this time around.
Maybe I'm being a little unfair, but they seemed to sit back and protect their one goal lead. This actually gave us the kind of workout that I believe we need to be up to the challenge of. William Hill have us installed as third favourites to win the division, and we are only at 3/1 for promotion. Thus I expect, certainly for the first half-dozen games, we will be facing opposition that will come out and sit back and soak up pressure while being happy to take a 0-0.
This is something we had to contend with last season, but with so many new faces it is likely to be a bit of a learning curve. Francis (who didn't play on Saturday), Abbott and McCormack all played in sides that were sent out not to lose most weeks last season, this will be a different scenario completely.
Following the goal we dominated most of the possession, and had most of the chances. I felt in the first half that despite his performance Wagstaff was being tempted inside as there was not enough up front with just Sodje. This comes back to the 4-5-1, 4-3-3 discussion. Kyel Reid, who was fantastic - especially in the second half, does not have the same tendency to cut inside, and I believe is at his best making a run down the touchline. Thus the side seemed unbalanced, despite us controlling the game as half time approached.
The second half was very different. Llera came on the Doherty, who I have to say failed to impress me at all based on that showing, and nine minutes in Abbott came on and we were a different proposition all together. There was probably not enough of Abbott and Sodje together to make any kind of judgement on them as a partnership, but I saw enough of Abbott to be impressed. He does look like Todorov, except that he can (and did) run. I suspect that he is not the master plan, and it is hoped that we will sign a real poacher, but I think Abbott will score goals for us. He is likely to be given more chances than he got for Oldham where he scored 13 goals last term, and I will be very surprised if he chips in with less than 15, assuming he stays fit for most of the season.
The game eventually petered out without us getting the goal that I thought we deserved, but at least we were creating chances, and as long as we can put a few of those away next Saturday I am confident that we will have a winning start to the season.
I see that the squad numbers have been released today, noticeable that we have not given the number 10 shirt to Sodje. I can only assume that is because we are going to sign another striker (which is no surprise) that will be expecting the number 10 shirt. Quite what the result of this will be is unknown at this time, but from what I've seen so far I'm confident that Parkinson will pull something else out of the bag.
Also of interest is that Youga is still number 3. I was a little worried that we would never see him in a Charlton shirt again, but this, despite potentially meaning nothing, suggests that he will eventually get fit again. Fingers crossed.
One last note, which I have no pleasure in, is that Solly looked very much out of his depth on Saturday. Quite what effect the late signing of Francis had on him I do not know, but the difference in his performance from Welling was massive. Maybe he is not yet ready for a prolonged run in the side at League One level? Maybe Welling are just not a real test (when compared with Watford) but I suspect that Francis (who wears the number 2 shirt next season) is going to keep Chris on the fringes for another year. Sadly, as much as it is satisfying having former youth players in the first team, they really do need to be good enough, and based on this one game, Solly doesn't look like he is yet. Mambo, however, looked very comfortable there. He is big and strong, but also looks comfortable on the ball. His allocation of the number 15 shirt suggests that he will be involved this season.
So, just one week to go. I have a funny feeling that this might not be the worst season ever. With Richard Murry at the helm and having made the financial changes that were necessary I don't feel worried for the future of the club if we don't win promotion like I did this time last year. Maybe that will release some of the pressure, it has certainly made me feel less anxious about this season and I'm really looking forward to it.
Up the Addicks!