Friday, 9 March 2012

Next... Notts County at home

Following on from our defeat on Tuesday there has been a few calls for changes to the starting eleven. I personally think this is a little premature. I think BWP had an off day by his standards, but I also think that with half the job of a striker being in the right place at the right time he clearly got some things right.

I think that the modern game is so fast and takes so much out of players that playing two games in a week will make a difference, and this could be why the midweek home games that we have failed to win in recent weeks have felt like a slower paced spectacle than some of the Saturday games.

I know we all have squads, and that all of the players want to play but I am a strong believer that you play the best eleven that you have in every game. I can understand how a team would rest certain players to protect them in advance of a big game, or if they are tired or injured, but that aside I think that playing the best eleven is the best way forward.

The best eleven, however, is not always apparent - ask Alan Pardew who still didn't know what his best eleven was when he was sacked. For us the debate seems to be the midfield pairing. I think that Hollands and Stephens are our two best midfielders, but I'm not as convinced that they are the best pairing.

The most dominating run we have had this season had Hollands and Hughes in the middle. Andy Hughes seems to have fallen a little out of favour (as players have come in, to be fair) and I don't know if this is a permanent thing or not. Both Hollands and Stephens are great at pushing forward, yet if they both play one of them needs to, at least some of the time, play the holding role.

In all honesty we shouldn't need a holding player too much in this division as we shouldn't be looking to 'contain' teams, we should be looking to take the game to the opposition. This means that it is possibly in our best interests to have a more attack minded player doing some defences duties, rather than having a holding player trying to break down the opposition. Semedo is a talented player, and was one of the best holding midfielders we have seen in a Charlton shirt out of the top flight, but I have now come to recognise that he was possibly more of a problem than a solution in recent seasons - particularly in this division.

So there is a question mark over who should play in the middle, and there might be a little doubt as to who should partner Yann upfront if BWP is suffering with issues related to his knee and playing two games a week for much of this year. That aside, though, I wouldn't want, nor expect, to see any changes.

On Tuesday Colchester scored a cracking goal and a crazy goal. We could have scored at least three with the chances we had, so I'm happy to give the same eleven the chance to get us back on track.

What is crucial, and I seem to have been writing this ever since I started this blog, is that we score first. If you are the favourites to win, conceding the first goal gives the opposition something to defend and makes it harder to break them down. On the other hand, ironically, if you are defending and hoping for a draw, conceding the first goal forces a complete change of game plan.

We are most threatening when we can attack with pace, and that, realistically, means that the opposition need to be pushing up. This is always more likely when they are trying to score. The advantage about tomorrow is that Notts County need the points more than we do. County are sixth and one and three points above Carlisle and Stevenage having played two and three games more respectively. This means that they need a much better finish to the season than those chasing them.

Interestingly Notts County are the form team in our division with four wins, one draw and one defeat in the last six games. We are forth with three wins, two draws and a defeat (the same as Colchester who beat us 2-0 on Tuesday).

Taking into account Notts County's need for points (and wins, realistically) I think they will not come to The Valley and put ten men behind the ball for the whole 90 minutes. They might start off cautiously, but I don't believe that they will come with no more ambition than holding out for a 0-0. It might be the best they will get, but they need points and are on a run, the kind of run that just might propel them into the play-offs and the lottery that can win promotion from 6th place in the division.

When we played Notts County in August we were first and second by virtue of having both won our first game 3-0. What none of us knew at that point was that we were going to win many more games against teams that had genuine aspirations of greatness this season - and we've beaten them all!

I am confident of a win tomorrow. I even think it might not be close. If we get the early goal we could find ourselves getting a few more as the form team of the division push forward in an attempt to keep their run going - unbeaten in five and six wins and a draw in eight.

Frankly I'd take a 1-0 right now. The teams just below us are not going to keep fumbling and at some point we will need to win to match them and keep the gap as big as it is. With County having conceded just one goal in five, and with our defence as tight as it is, it would well finish 1-0. Another reason to get the first goal.

Hopefully there will be a good atmosphere tomorrow - midweek games always feel a little flat as the crowd is smaller. What is most important is that the crowd keep patience and allow us to pass the ball around and wait for the, inevitable, chances to come. To be fair to our fans we have shown that for most of this season - I didn't hear any boos on Tuesday. We just need to give them our support for a few more weeks and then this will be a season that we will all talk about for years to come.

Up the Addicks!

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