When we were first relegated to this god forsaken league (no disrespect intended to any clubs that are happy to be in it) I really thought we wouldn't be here long enough to bother reading up on the players we would be facing each week. Having said that I didn't bother going to too much trouble when we returned to the second division in 2007 either.
Anyway, last season I, again, thought I would wing it with my previews and not bother going to all that much trouble to familiarise myself with the teams we would be meeting each week. This year, however, I intend to make more of an effort. I've decided to take a leaf out of Chicago Addick's book and look into the opposition a little more. Clearly this is going to much easier once the table takes shape and the teams new squads settle in and the stars of the season become more identifiable. Anyway Notts County?
Their forum thread for tomorrow's game is rather short, but the feeling is that they should keep the same eleven, with maybe Hughes being given a rest if he is tired following their 3-3 draw AET at Forest on Tuesday. Hughes, who is 35, scored his 51st goal for County on Tuesday before missing a penalty that would have sent them through - they lost the shootout 4-3.
With six goals in their first two games (all be it one of those came in extra time) it is clear that they have some firepower this season. The three they conceded to Forest are hardly cause for concern for them, Forest made the playoffs last season, and with Andy Reid looking slim (no, really he does) they are probably going to be in the mix this season.
Thankfully teams normally struggle four days after extra time and penalties, and with Lee Hughes having scored two of their goals this season they might need to play a slightly different game if he is not going to play. At 35 it would be a lot to ask for him to play three games in eight days, and after his performance against us last season at The Valley I'm more than happy for them to rest him. Strangely the BBC season preview (which is admittedly short) suggests that County have a shortage of goals, hence their interest in Paul Benson. They have now had three bids turned down for Showunmi by Tranmere. Even the player is suggesting that he is happy to stay now. This does suggest that Allen thinks/knows his squad needs more fire power.
With that in mind, I'm tempted to suggest that a Hughes free line up should be there for the taking. We have shown that we can score goals with a three goal margin for the first time since Powell took charge. In fact a 4-0 win at Tranmere (August 2009) a 5-1 win against MK Dons (14/11/09) and the 5-1 win at Peterborough (13/11/10) we haven't managed a three goal margin since Chris Powell scored himself in a 4-1 win over Coventry in May 2008.
Clearly we will not win every game by three goals, nor will we score three goals most weeks, but we do seem to have much more fire power this season. I would like to think that Wright-Phillips, Hayes, Benson, Jackson, Stephens, Green and Wagstaff are all in with a shout of getting ten goals this season. That does mean that marking our threats out of the game is going to be a little more difficult this season. Lloyd Sam and Kyle Reid both suffered with double marking at times, but who would you double mark with Green on one flank, Jackson on the other and Stephens in the middle? I also think we will increase those options with a loan player or two in due course.
Interestingly, Norwich managed nine wins by three goals or more during 2009-10. I'd take that right now!
So even though under different circumstances I'd be inclined to take a draw away to a team that have won their last league game 3-0 away and matched a second division team in midweek, I'm confident enough of our abilities to suggest that we will win this game. If there is anywhere near as much fatigue in the County players as I think there might be I would look to push on in the latter stages of the game to see if we can get another goal or two.
As for the team I, personally, would prefer to see Green get a game. I know Wagstaff has done nothing wrong, but it is a long season, the games are coming think and fast right now and it makes sense to play your best side when ever you can. I expect both Wagstaff and Green to be playing 30 games plus this season (particularly if you include substitutions) and for that reason I'd like to blood him this weekend and bring Wagstaff on for the last twenty minutes or so when their legs are tiring and when his pace can really punish them.
Having said that I expect Powell will stick to the winning side, something he did last season with McCormack and Francis - if you can justify keeping them in the side on the back of a win Wagstaff should be a shoe in.
Other than that I'd not change anything else. Maybe we will see Alonso on the bench, as I'm not sure he is not going to be a star for us this season. Danny Hollands looked the real deal on Saturday, but on the basis that we are going to need cover, one of them will be first choice, and for me the jury is still out on that. It's no secret that we, at Charlton, love a crunching tackler, maybe even more than a flair winger.
So, I'm going to go for a 4-0 win. I know that sounds silly, but I had a feeling we would win 3-0 last Saturday but went for a 2-1 to be a little less arrogant, and to save me having egg on my face. To be fair even at 4-1 we will have the second of our nine three goal margin wins.
Clearly I'd take a 1-0 win all day long.
Up the Addicks!