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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Walsall Preview

Four wins on the trot with nine goals scored giving us 12 points followed by three very different draws with the seven goals getting us just three points. Is it my imagionation or are we making hard work of it at the moment although with scores of 4-4, 2-2, and lastly 1-1 things do seem to be settling down a bit - and all Parky has to do is figure out a way to break this sequence.

Meanwhile, the pressure is building, at least in my household while Norwich - the winners of 11 of their last 14 games - have picked up 35 points in that run and their only loss being away to Leeds while Pardews' Saints have won 9 in their last 14 ( 29 points) but have now lost twice ( Leeds and Colchester) in their last 3 games. The Addicks, meanwhile have become the Divisions draws specialists with 7 draws in their last 14, only that one defeat at Carlisle, but then again only 6 wins giving 25 points. And if you need further proof that its not the Christmas pud giving you that sinking feeling, 4th placed Colchester have also won 9 in their last 14, two defeats (away to Millwall and Brentford) and 3 draws equals 30 points.

So while the publicity boys try to sell more season tickets on the back of our goalscoring feats ( only Norwich have scored more than we have), the Pools people are just as keen on our inability to get the three points and have noticed that only Millwall have drawn more games than we have.

So what of Walsall? Manager since January this year is one of the old boys in League One, 52 year old Chris Hutchings. You remember him, he was Paul Jewells' able assistant at Premiership sides Bradford, Wigan and Derby and each time Jewell left leaving Hutchings to be promoted to manager. Well, Chris has at last headed out on his own with Walsall and steered them to midtable safety last season with 61 points. And this year Walsall are once again a typical midtable side sitting in 10th spot - 7 points from both Play-offs and relegation they have won 8, drawn 7 and lost 7.


Its a game between two teams that haven't win in three games although the Saddlers have had two defeats in there against Pardew and Millwall whilst showing true fighting spirit with a 2-2 draw last time out at home to Orient after being 2 goals down at half-time.

Month on month they've done pretty well the last three months but December has not been good for them, only a single win, 3-1 away to Yeovil on the December 1st means its over 4 weeks now without a win. But their home record is not bad with only two defeats - 2-1 to Leeds back in August and then to Pardew at the beginning of December 3-1.


There are none this week that I can find.

The Opposition
A strange team with only one loanee in their ranks but the big news this week is that he's now been taken on full-time. Clayton McDonald's the name and he's 21 from Man. City. Hasn't played since October though so you may not see him this Saturday. And the only player they have that you may have heard of is the ex Palarse and the Spanners defender Jamie Vincent.
In fact the Saddlers could be a bit rusty as with two postponements the team hasn't played since the 19th while the Addicks have have two games since then.


Top scorer on 9 goals is Ulster international winger number 7 Steve Jones which is not a bad return from only 12 games although he seems out of favour at the moment not having played since the beginning of December. So the main strike force on Saturday will be number 10 Troy Deeley and the much travelled Jamacian number 27 Darren Byfield (now on his 13th club ) on 8 and 7 goals respectively.

Whats Their Secret?

Giving the opposition a goal start and then winning is Walsall's party trick. They've done it three times this season. But their form against the good teams is dire. Ten games against the top half and only a single win, a 2-1 win over Huddersfield back in September with an 87 minute Raynes goal after going behind. Their other party tricks apart from Huddersfield have been at Wycombe where they went 2-0 down and won 3-2 and they also beat Tranmere after going a goal down. And its a shame that their obvious fighting spirit doesn't pull in the crowds. Perhaps its the 10 short miles to Birmingham but after Hartlepool Walsall have the lowest average gate in League One with just 4300 per game.

Or maybe its the lack of shooting boots that keeps the fans away because while the Big Four (Leeds, Norwich, Saints and the Addicks) all have over 150 shots on target, poor old Walsall languish at the bottom of this table with only 83 shots between the posts.

What Are They Saying?

Miguel Llera, after the Brentford game had this to say about his holiday plans, "You are only sad when you don't play. I didn't come to England for a holiday, I came here to play. I must wait for my opportunities and I have to work hard to stay in this team."

Give Us Some Christmas Cheer Nels

OK, as Leeds power away into the distance and are now 8 points clear its worth remembering that while Pardew and Norwich both suffered defeats at Elland Rd there's only two other teams that remain unbeaten there apart from the Addicks, namely local rivals Huddersfield and Leeds' bogey team Carlisle.

And, if you're having increasing nightmares regarding the Play-offs in May, its worth pointing out that in games against the top half of the table one team stands out above all the rest. The Addicks. Twelve games played with 6 wins, 5 draws and only that single annoying defeat at Weston Homes Colchester, give us the more points than anybody else against our peers.


After a surprise point at Brentford where we've only won 3 games in 15 before the weekend we should be looking forward to visiting Walsall where of all the other League One teams we have our best away record picking up over 1.5 points per game. Its one of only three places down here where we've won more than we've lost ( the others are Gillingham and Southend) and the record currently stands at 4 wins, 2 draws and only 3 defeats over the 9 League games.

The last time Walsall beat us in the League was 37 years ago in October 1973 in an embarassing 4-0 defeat but of the 5 games played since then at the Banks Stadium ( and Fellows Park) we've won 3, drawn one and only lost a League Cup tie 2-0 in 1987 after winning the home leg 3-0.

And its only our second visit to the Bescot Banks Stadium, the first being a 4-2 win in March 2000 on our march to the Tier Two title.

The Team

Parkys been playing around a bit over the last couple of games with no wingers at home for Swindon and then 2 of them away at Brentford so predictions for the next game are a bit difficult.

As for defence, Rob Elliot will be in goal and Llera won't be on holiday or even sad. Right-back Richardson was said to be 50/50 for the Swindon game so after 10 games sidelined out of the last 12 can we expect our number 2 to make a comeback at Walsall? As for Kelly Youga, he's missed all 6 games played in December and on the 23rd Parky said he was about 10 days away from a game which just about rules him out until Hartlepool next weekend. And then there's Christian Dailly who has been ill and its anybody's guess whether he'll be fit this weekend.

And it seems only yesterday when the midfield was a Addicks headache but strangely its now the only area where we have plenty of choices. Sam and Bailey have only missed one game between them while Semedo will be somewhere which leaves 6 places open for the others. Two wingers, each on 4 goals, although Sam hasn't scored for 9, have kept the the youngster Luke Holden out of it and he's only played for half-an-hour at the St. Marys in the JPT. He's only on loan till the end of the year so what will Parky do with the 21 year old?

Then there's Thierry Racon. After starting in every League game up to MK Dons, he was subbed at half-time at Yeovil, being described at "out-of-sorts", and of the seven games since then has only started once against Southend and has been an unused sub on 5 occasions. Has Parky realised he's not made for a League One winter and there have been transfer rumours in the press.

And Matt Spring has come into midfield with Semedo in defence and has started the last two games, provided the accurate pass that Llera converted against Swindon and was many fans MOM.
And lastly we have the news that Deon is doubtful for Walsall having got a dead leg from somewhere. Dead leg, hernia and the hand of God? Leave it out Deon, you're playing and so too could be Chris Dickson after missing a couple but getting the penalty at Brentford.

Elliot; Omozusi, Semedo, Llera, Basey; Sam, Spring, Bailey, Wagstaff; Burton, Dickson.


We'll be fighting it out in the Play-off positions if we keep on dropping points the way we have been doing, so Parky, seeing the stats, will be emphasing the importance of three points this Saturday. January 12th is the rearranged date for the Walsall v Norwich game and if we don't get maximum points before then, with plenty of goals, it'll be down to 3rd place for the Addicks.

So we need goals this weekend but Walsall have only conceded two more goals that we have this season but at home have conceded 2 goals 4 times and let in 3 against Pardew 2 weeks ago. So its time for my favorite score again 2-0, to the Addicks.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Millwall Preview

Four wins in a row - could have been six if the ref hadn't disallowed Akpo's goal at Yeovil - has seen us close the gap to Leeds from the six points of two weeks ago down to only 2 points after the Lilywhites have had two draws in a row with Huddersfield and Brentford.
Both teams have difficult games next week with Leeds at home to Pardew while we entertain, if that's the word, the Spanners.
Oh, yes, Millwall. Anyway, in the next 4 games up till January 2nd, we have them and Swindon at home and Brentford and Walsall away which will take us on to 25 games. Both Brentford and Walsall have decent home records with 4 wins each and only a couple of home defeats while Swindon have won 4 games away from home. On paper then, of the four games only Millwall, with just a single away win, looks the easiest although, it being their cup final, we know it won't be. But, forgetting them, as we'll be able to do next year, a good run over those four games could see us sitting in top spot because over the same period Leeds, with their cup game at Salford on January 3rd, only have 3 League games; a sticky Pardew and a simple Hartlepool at home and then Stockport away....
And, of course, 6 points from our next two games will see us equalling Leicester's halfway total last season.

So the Spanners. Not our favorite team over the years but as young Dave very well points out over at Drinking, things have changed a lot over the years. Manager at the Spanners is now 47 year old Kenny Jackett. Born in Watford he played for them a massive 335 times before retiring injured at the age of 28. He's been manager at Millwall since November 2007.
Millwall are currently 8th, two points off the Play-Offs, but with the 16th worse away record in League One and only 1 win to show for 10 away games. However, they keep it tight and only ultra-cautious Oldham and desperate-to-survive-at-this-level Brentford have seen less that the total of 22 goals scored in those 10 games so while they have only scored 9 away goals, against the Addicks 17, they have only conceded one more than we have away from home. Nevertheless, they have had four away defeats at Bristol and Gillingham both 2-0, Orient 1-0 and last time out on the road an embarrasing 3-0 drubbing at Hartlepool. A game at lowly Stockport was their only away win so far and they couldn't even win at Staines (FA Cup ) or at Barnet (JPT).
So after their superb three wins in a row in October over Stockport 4-0, Leeds 2-1 and Colchester 2-1 they have only had two wins in the last 6 games.

Darren Ward has been back at the Den recently on-loan from Wolves. He had 4 years at the den back in 2001/04, which included their other cup final (lost), and he played sixteen times for us last season but was an un-used sub against Walsall last weekend with centre-back and captain Paul Robinson now back from injury.

The Opposition

Ex-Orient striker Gary Alexander hasn't played since coming on and scoring the winner against Leeds in October and is currently wearing a protective boot while sadly both top striker Neil Harris and winger Chris Hackett are also out injured.
With Hackett and Harris missing the key could be overcoming the battling spanners midfield. They've both got high numbers but number 24 Laird and 26 Abdou need careful watching. Scotsman Marc Laird was Port Vale's new manager Lee Sinnott's first signing two years ago from Manchester City but it wasn't long before he moved to the den and number 26 is 25 year old Frenchman Jimmy Abdou ex of Plymouth ( he played against us in our 2-1 win there in April 2008 ) and both are known as midfield tigers that never stop working.


All-time top Millwall scorer with 115ish is thirty-two year old Neil Harris and he tops the lists this year with 11 but sadly we'll have to pass up the chance of seeing him as he's out injured and hasn't played since the 2-2 draw at Brentford a month ago so ex Stevenage Borough Steve Morison has been filling in and has surprised everyone with 4 goals in the last 4 games. Everytime he scores, apparently, the Spanners have won but seems he doesn't like travelling as every single one of his total of 6 goals have been scored at the Den.

Whats Their Secret?
Their favorite score in 1-1 and they have the 4th best defence in League One ( 21 goals) with only Leeds, the Addicks and Colchester conceding less. And they are one of only 6 teams that have not lost a game once they have gone in front ( along with Leeds, the Addicks, Oldham, Exeter and Swindon). And as you can see after their victories over Leeds, Colchester, Huddersfield and MK - all at home of course - they also have an excellent record against the top half of the table with only 2 defeats in 9 games.

What Are They Saying?

Jackett was full of praise for striker Morison after his two goals against Walsall last weekend, "He needed an adjustment period coming from non-league into League One but he's worked hard for his two goals. He has to use his physical attributes and when he does he's more than a handful for defenders. The two centre-halfs need to know they've been in a game and Morison did that today with his pace and power."
Meanwhile over at Brentford Leeds' Grayson has been complaining about the Bees pitch last weekend but Andy Scott was not exactly sympathetic "It was a physical game and I think that Simon is clutching at straws if he's trying to blame the pitch and refereeing decisions."

You all know the figures, sixty-two games altogether and they have won 30 of them. Twenty one draws and only a paltry eleven Charlton wins. So a pathetic average of 1 win in every 6 games And you can't explain it away because we don't like the Den because our record against them at the Valley is truly woeful. Leeds can point to a 10-7 winning record in 19 games at the Valley but nobody can come near a Valley record of 13-7 to the spanners with a huge 11 draws. If it's any consolation thats 35% of games at the Valley being drawn and their last win at the Valley was 1992.

Our last confrontation was during their relegation season 1995/96 when we did the double over them with two 2-0 wins, our first over them since 1935/36.

The Team

Its just another game, or so Parky says, but I can't see him changing a winning team even for a derby. There's no news of our treatment room and before a critical game you won't expect it so its an unchanged eleven. Richardson has now missed 7 out of the last 9 and make abortive comebacks in the other two while Kelly Youga has now missed the last three.

And there's still 4 players on 4 yellows ( Dailly, Youga, Sam, and the shirt-removing McLeod) but they all seem to be making an effort to avoid the critical 5th. Christian Dailly, with Bailey the only player to have topped 2000 minutes action this season, after receiving 4 in 7 games hasn't had a single one in last 3.

But is Shelvey champing at the bit? Its only a single start in the last 7 for JonJo and no sub appearances either while Akpo has now racked up over two hours in an Addicks shirt but has still to start a game. And while Llera is keenly watching Christian in the hope of that 5th card, Sam Sodje is not far behind either with three yellows to his name.

Elliot; Omozusi, Dailly, Sodje, Basey; Sam, Semedo, Bailey, Wagstaff; Mooney, Burton

They have a lot of injuries but have history on their side and their away form won't count for a lot in a steamy local derby. Predictions in derbies are always a lottery so maybe I'll cope out and consult the wisest. Of the 16 top predictors in cafcpicks (all those with double figures correct) seven forecast a win, eight a draw and only 1 ( step forward Bob Pooley) a defeat. But the top two ( Westie and Frankie ) saw a draw and the history says 35% drawn so thats my verdict, 2-2.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Stockport County Preview

You've all seen Alien, where the spacecraft Nostromo is invaded by a monster which is, of course, impossible to finish off or get rid of. In the last few minutes Sigourney manages to escape into her little escape craft and relaxes because she's thinks at last that she's safe. But no, there it is again hiding under the skirting boards. Desperately she climbs into a spacesuit and jabs the button to release the outer doors into space to suck it into the void but still it holds on to the frame of the door and the engine housing until at last its grip is broken and it flies off into space after she blasts it with the engines.
Its an old theme and we've all had similar nightmares and looking at the League table I can feel a creeping resemblance in our own position.
Down in this League, there's three teams that are bigger than we are with bigger average gates than ourselves - one is above us in the table and just within reach but two are behind us trying to catch us. The one from East Anglia is only 4 points away but the other, even after their 10 point handicap and that we had all written up for lost, are now only 9 points away from the Play-Offs. Could it be that that Pardew fella proves to be our nightmare scrapeing into the Play-Offs just as Leeds did in their first season in League One when they also had a 10 point ball tied to their legs.
So thats what imagination can do for you. Better to stick to the facts as usual. Looking at the weekend, Stockport, Hartlepool and Carlisle were the three teams that survived the big R last season by just a single point. But one of them, Stockport, have gone into administration a week earlier with debts piling up and a 10 point deduction left the Hatters just a single point clear of Northampton.
And things don't look any better this year with only 3 wins for the Hatters all season and with the second worse attack in League One, with only Oldham scoring less than their 16 goals in 19 matches.

And we face yet another manager in his first job, for next up is ex-Liverpool and Everton Gary Ablett, now 44. He's only been in the job since July following Jim Gannons departure after 4 years in the job and there's no prizes for guessing how long he'll be there.

Whilst four teams stand out from all the others over the last 8 games - Leeds and Norwich 19 pts, the Addicks and Pardew 17 - the Hatters are rock bottom and look a lost cause at the moment with 7 straight defeats ( Millwall, Brentford, Norwich, Walsall, Exeter, Colchester and lastly Wycombe ) - scoring just three times in the process - which has seen them crash from 14th to rock bottom. And while the Addicks have the best home record in the Division with 26 points won on home soil, Stockport now have the worse home record in League One with a single win ( 2-1 over Orient in the middle of Sept), 2 draws and 6 defeats.

And while Ablett may reckon that they play well against the bigger teams, the truth is that they don't and they share, with Tranmere, the record of being the only two teams in the Division not to have beaten anybody in the top half of the table whilst the Addicks take third place in games against the cream behind Leeds and Colchester.

The Opposition
Stockport have a very young team which can't be helping matters at the moment. In their last game at Wycombe the teams average age was 22 and a half. And instead of getting in more experienced players they appear to have added to the problem by bringing in three teenage loanees in Ribeiro (Bristol City) aged 19, Bridcutt (chelski) aged 20 and Bignall (Reading) aged 19.

Yes, there's one ex player that might just be seen around Edgeley Park and that's Jim Melrose whose three year stay back in 1985-88 bought us 19 precious goals. He appears to be the respectable front man in a consortium to put Stockport back on the rails after administration but even he can't be happy with the prospects of a club whose current average gate is 4,200, the 3rd lowest in League One with only Yeovil and Hartlepool being lower.

DangerMan? Carl Baker bagged his 12th goal of the season last weekend against Wycombe. A stunning strike he's renowned for scoring goals from the wing or playing in the hole and has already got 2 hat-tricks already this season in successive away games at Brighton and Crewe. And if you want to read what Baker means to the Stockport fans you only have to read this blog and its comments.

Whats Their Secret?
After a good September when they only had one defeat (to Leeds) and a credible draw with Southampton in 6 games and were up in 13th place, their early season form appears to have deserted them for after a 1-0 win over Tranmere away in October its been seven straight defeats. So their secret weapon? Its seems to be the state of their pitch because with the constant rain its now in a bit of a bad way, shared as it is with Sale Sharks rugby team, and the last three games have been called off.

What Are They Saying?
Gary Ablett after the defeat at Wycombe, "I thought we rode our luck at times and the only bit of quality we showed was the goal. Apart from that we were awful. As well as we play against the bigger teams we can't raise it against teams around us and ultimately that could prove to be our downfall. We'll keep going but you get nothing for being at the bottom."

Darren Byfield had some ominous news after losing 3-1 to Southampton at the weekend, "wish we got three points, but they are the best side we have played this season and I expect them to go up." And they've played Leeds, Norwich and the Addicks already....

Our first trip to Edgeley Park for 9 years and we've only been there twice before. The first time in our Play-Off winning season 1997/98, and back then Stockport were the only team to win at the Valley all season (1-3) and they completed the double over us in February with a 3-0 win at Edgeley Park.

Two years later 1999/2000 in our Championship winning year it was our turn to do the double with a 4-0 win at the Valley and a 3-1 win in Stockport with Andy Hunt getting a hat-trick in both games, the first Addicks player to do that twice against the same team in one season.

The Team
Richardson was taken off as a precaution on Saturday but his injury appears not to have cleared up and he'll miss another game with Omozusi filling in again. Kelly Youga is also still out so the return of Semedo is likely to be the only change. For with 3 wins in a row and 13 goals in the last 5 games it would be most unlike Parky to make any further changes.

Elloit; Omozusi, Dailly, Sodje, Basey; Sam, Semedo, Bailey, Wagstaff; Burton, Mooney


It doesn't need an expert to see that a game between the bottom team with seven straight defeats and the second in the table with three wins in a row looks a clear away banker and this one's no different. The only leveler would appear to be the state of the pitch which has seen three postponements recently with even the Wasps refusing to play rugby on it in late November.

But with 2-0 being my favorite score and also Stockports, 0-2 that is - they've had 6 already, three times more than any other score - its odds-on Stockport 0 Addicks 2 as long as we can stop that Carl Baker from getting another hat-trick.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Southend United Preview

Well, my first correct forecast at the Withdean since Huddersfield which isn't saying much for the usefulness of the stats displayed here I suppose even, for example, putting a 0-0 draw down for MK Dons, if you can remember. Anyway, our first successive wins in 13 games since September at home to Brentford and with Colchester unable to do anything in their trip to Brentford, our lead over the 3rd placed team, now Norwich, is increased to 4 points.
Norwich, though, with 8 wins in their last 10, and 26 goals, are currently showing no mercy to anyone and are making it look far too easy. OK, they've had games against Orient, Tranmere and Stockport in there but it was they who put 4 past Brighton only last weekend. Makes our two points dropped at Carrow Rd all the more irritating. Although, it should be pointed out that, with our first away win in 6, we still have a better away record than the Canaries, they having lost at Brentford, Milton Keynes and Leeds.

So on to Saturday and current manager at next opponents Southend is 43 year old Steve Tilson and he's been in charge since 2003 and he's just celebrated 6 years at the club. But his career at Roots Hall goes back further than that because he was also a long serving player at Southend having played 239 games before retiring.

And he's had some significant success in management with the Shrimpers. In his first season 2003/4 he took them to their first ever cup final, the Football League Trophy, at the Millenium stadium where they lost to Blackpool 2-0.

The following season saw promotion from League Two, via another trip to the Millenium where they beat Lincoln City. And then the following year 2006 they completed successive promotions by winning League One and moving up into the so-called Championship. Tilson's success saw him linked with jobs at West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City, but he remained with Southend. In November 2006, Southend achieved a notable victory over eventual Premier League champions Manchester United in the League Cup, but, after only a year stay, were relegated from the Championship at the end of the 2006–07 season just as we joined it.

With Tuesdays loss to Norwich, the Shrimpers have dropped into the bottom half of the table and are now down in 13th spot. They have also lost their last 5 away games in all competitions including three league games at Carlisle, Yeovil and Tranmere and their form on the road is not good with only 2 wins (at Brighton and Stockport) and 5 defeats. Its eleven games since a draw and in true Jekyll and Hythe form their last 9 games before Tuesday have followed a bizarre sequence of a win followed by a defeat! They lost their last game at Tranmere before facing Norwich on Tuesday but unfortunately for us couldn't maintain that sequence and lost again at home to the Canaries 0-3.

And over the last 8 games the Shrimpers are now down in 18th spot in the Current Table with 5 defeats and 3 victories and only 3 teams in League One have scored fewer goals in those 8 games.

Yes, there's Osei Sankofa, now 24 and he's been at Roots Hall since his release by us in June 2008. But after playing 31 times last season, has only started 4 times this year and hasn't featured since the 3-1 defeat at home to Southampton back in early October.

The Opposition
Southend have a very settled side with no fewer than 7 players who have started every league game this season; goalie Mildenhall, right-back Francis, centre-back Barrett, midfielders McCormack and Moussa and striker Lee Barnard and another, Grant, on 17 starts. The Addicks have just 4 ever-presents, (Dailly, Sam, Bailey and Burton).

But they may be in for a shock when they see the multitudes at the Valley because the biggest crowd they've experienced so far this year was the 10,123 at Roots Hall to see the 0-0 draw with Leeds.


After Tuesdays meeting with Nicky Forster we now welcome Southend's number nine Lee Barnard. He's their leading scorer by a long way with 14 goals( the next up has just 2) and scores once every two games on average. Signed from Spurs in Jan 2008 he's already got 32 goals for the Shrimpers. There's also the impressive stat that they've only lost once when Barnard has scored.

Whats Their Secret?

The Addicks share top spot in points gained (17) against the top half of the table with Leeds and close behind are Millwall with only a single defeat against the good half. And unlike our last opponents Brighton who have only had one success against top half teams, Southend, before Tuesday anyway, had a record to be proud of. Only 1 defeat against the top half and that after playing top half sides Huddersfield, Walsall, Millwall, Leeds, Bristol Rovers and MK Dons all without losing. Unfortunately on Tuesday they meet in-form Norwich and were beaten 3-0 at Roots Hall.

Not really a secret more of a defect really. While the Addicks are now clear of the League One field at leading games at half time, 10 in all, Southend are down the other end only leading at the 45 minutes a paltry 3 times. Southend have been drawing 12 times at half-time, only Orient on 13 can better that, and have had eight half-time 0-0's.

And once again it shows how scared teams are of Leeds because they have only conceded twice before half-time with Norwich and Millwall being the culprits.

What Are They Saying
Tilson after Tuesday's defeat to Norwich clearly felt hard done by, "If I’m being honest I think even 2-0 would have flattered them because we were right in the game. Two goals in a 10 minute spell killed us and they had that extra bit of quality in the final third but we had chances and on another night we could have scored three goals ourselves. Lee Barnard has gone close, so has Jabo Ibehre and I'm not too sure why our goal was disallowed either. If it’s for handball then I have no idea how the referee has seen it from where he is.”

Norwich's Lambert on striker Holt, "He's been colossal since I've been here. He needs other lads around him but he is a great credit to the club."

You'll be pleased to learn that we have the highest winning ratio, 52% of all games played, over Southend of all the teams in League One. Of the 38 League games we've won no less than 20 with 9 draws and 9 defeats and at home we have a goals per game average of 2.3.. Staggering numbers and we'd like to tell you that its been 50 years since Southend won at the Valley but we can't because they did in fact win there in 1996.

The Team
Nicky Bailey is one player looking forward to the game which will be against his old team from 2007/08 when he played 45 times and was their Player of the Year before he left for the Valley.

In goal will be Rob Elliot with Dailly and Sodje in central defence but the full-back positions are in doubt. Omozusi did well at Brighton and will probably continue while the current state of injuries to Richardson and Youga are unknown, to me anyway.

But Semedo, after getting his 5th yellow of the season, will be missing and after another 4 yellows ( Elliot, Sodje (S), Semedo, Mooney ) collected at the Withdean on Tuesday we're now on a total of 38 for the season - level with Saturdays vistors Southend. But our indiscipline may come to hurt us over the season as we are now second behind MK Dons 50 on total yellows collected over the 19 games as against Leeds' total of only 21 and Norwich on 24. And its not just unlucky refereeing as we also have conceded the 2nd most fouls as well.

Matt Spring will fill in for Jose and Parky, after two straight wins and 12 goals in 4 games, will be wary of making further changes so the midfield trio of Sam, Bailey and Wagstaff could well continue.

Elliot; Omozusi, Dailly, Sodje, Basey; Sam, Spring, Bailey, Wagstaff; Burton, Mooney

The history says we usually do well against Southend with more wins against them than anybody else but the Shrimpers have a history as well; of doing very well against the top teams and it was only this year that they followed their Manure result of 3 years ago with an away draw at Stamford Bridge in last years FA Cup 3rd round. And after defeats to Tranmere and Norwich, they'll not want to lose three on the trot so we can expect a hard afternoons work.

The clincher for the Addicks may just be the presence of Nicky Bailey against his old team. Just don't expect him to celebrate his goal. 1-0 to the Addicks.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Brighton Preview

A week away when you've got problems always seems to work wonders and on returning from my 10 days spent on the east coast its back to civilisation and it seems the sea air, at least for me, has worked wonders and the idea that there was a death in the family seems to have been a little premature.
Ten goals and 7 points in three games after three straight defeats couldn't have come at a better time in the season. So, a look at the table. 36 points from 18 games. So five more - Brighton (a) (20th), Southend (h)(11th), Stockport (a) (23rd), Millwall (h) (10th), Swindon (h) (7th) - before we reach halfway on Boxing Day and if we win all 5 we'll equal Leicester's halfway total of 51 points last season.
But what of the chasing pack? Two teams stand out in 3rd and 4th places as the ones to beat. Norwich, in 4th, are now just 4 points behind and have only a single defeat ( at Leeds) in their last 14 games, scoring 34 times ( seven in the FA Cup against non-league opposition), while our nemesis Colchester, 3 points back in 3rd, have only 1 defeat ( at Millwall) in their last 15 games. We've played them both away so crunch time comes in a critical 5 day period next April when we face them both at the Valley, Colchester on Tuesday 13th and Norwich the following Saturday.
And both have had good winning runs this season. Both have won 3 in a row twice this season whilst the Addicks, after our 6 match winning start ended on 5th September, haven't managed even two wins on the trot. Its time to put that right, Parky and this week seems the right time to do it.

Its our first visit to the Withdean stadium tomorrow night where Brighton have been based since the summer of 1999. Previously a zoo and an athletics stadium it has been voted the fourth worst stadium in the UK back in 2004 by the Observer, (it was kept out of the top three by Priestfield, Kenilworth Road and Millmoor, Rotherham) and houses, if that's the correct word, 8850 fans.
The season started badly for Brighton with only 2 points from the first 5 games and they were bottom of the table for two weeks in August before recovering with wins over Wycombe and away to Carlisle. But after a run of only one win in 8 games which saw them slide into the relegation places again, manager Russell Slade, only in the job since March, was summarily sacked. So we have yet another game against a man in his first manager job, Uruguayan Gus Poyet, more recently assistant manager at Swindon, Leeds and Spurs.
The arrival of a new manager usually has some effect and Brighton are no different. Away to Pardews lot in a south coast derby was his first game and they dispatched the in-form Saints 3-1 after the home team had won 13 points out of the last 15. Unfortunately for Poyet his first home game the following week was against rampant Leeds and the fun couldn't last, the game ending in a 0-3 home defeat followed last Tuesday with another hammering 1-4 at Norwich. But beware Parky, they are still in the Cup with a late winner over Rushden & Diamonds on Saturday.
Brighton finished 16th last season, three points away from the R zone but nobody conceded more at home than their 40 goals. And this season looks like continuing in the same vein with only Stockport County, with 20, conceding more than their 17 goals let in. Their home record is 2 wins, 1 draw and 6 defeats.
OK, wins first. They've beaten Wycombe and the Gills at the Withdean, drawn with Hartlepool and lost to Walsall, Stockport, Southend, MK, Oldham and finally Leeds. So the Seagulls are currently in 20th with the second worse defence in League One with 35 goals conceded.

The Opposition

There's five grounds in League One with less than a 10000 capacity and we've already done Hartlepool, Orient and Yeovil, which just leaves just Brighton and Exeter.

The Dangerman
Back in October, club captain and number nine Nicky Forster was awarded the Football League One Player of the Month Award, for his impressive start to the season, netting 7 goals in the first 8 games. He's slowed up since then, he is 36 but only a couple of months older than Christian Dailly, with only another four in his next 11 games. There's also number 10, Liam Dickinson, on 6 goals who we have meet before. He it was who upset Parky in his third Addicks game in charge last December when he scored twice for Blackpool in a 2-0 win at Bloomfield Rd and he got himself ready for the Addicks with another two in the Cup at the weekend.

Whats Their Secret?
Whilst the Addicks have improved to have now to have the second best record against the top half of the table (with an average of 2 points a game from 4 wins, 2 draws and a single defeat), Brighton have the third worst with no wins and only 3 draws to show in their 8 games against the cream.
And they tend to relax towards the end of each half with their worst 5 minute spell being the last 5 minutes of each half, conceding 6 in both.
And while everyone likes to get the first goal, its a moral-raising fightback that we all love. Three teams in League One have gone on to win three times after going behind - Bristol, Walsall and Huddersfield while the Addicks lead the rest with 2 winning fightbacks - Brighton on the other hand haven't done it at all.

Over the years Colchester and Exeter are the only grounds in this league where we've got less than half a point a game - and not improved this season - and are even worse than our records at Millwall and Leeds. But you may be surprised to learn that our record at Brighton, after 23 years together, is not so bright either. We've managed less than a point a game there with only 5 wins and 6 draws in the 23 games. We first went there in 1921 and played them throughout the 20's and Brighton were obviously a force to be reckoned with back then because it took us 8 years before we managed a win, 3-2, in 1928. And it then took us another 32 years before we managed a second win in 1960.

In recent history, in the last 36 years say, we've been there 11 times, including two cup visits, and won 4 of them, lost 6 and drawn once and the last game was a 2-1 win for us back in February 1992.

Doing A Leicester?
After 18 games they had 38 points (from 11 wins and 2 defeats) and something to aim for is their total at the halfway mark on 23 games of 51 points (15 wins and still only 2 defeats). And a timely warning that second after 23 games last season were MK Dons on 49 points and they still missed out on promotion.

What Are They Saying?
Akpo Sodje, on staying with the Addicks after December, "If it happens I'll be very, very happy, but if it doesn't happen then I'll just keep on playing for Sheffield Wednesday. My contract is up at the end of the season, so I need to play more games wherever I'm going to be. We're just all happy - the whole team, the manager and everyone - that we've got a point and we had a few more chances as well. It just tells you that we're not just a passing side, we can grind out results as well, and we're very unlucky that we didn't win. Hopefully it continues in the next game and we get a result."
As for the opposition, Gus had this to say on taking over the reins at Brighton, "This is another challenge for me to take the club where everybody in Brighton wants to be and that's in the Championship. Being realistic I think 18 months is possible. If that is the goal of the club it's no problem."

Tell Me Some Good Stuff, Nels
OK, good stuff time. There's eight teams now that have scored first in their League One encounters more than ten times this season and only three of them remain unbeaten on scoring first - Leeds, of course, Swindon (?) and the Addicks (ten times scored first).
And on the other hand when the other lot score first, a fighting spirit is vital for a team looking to gain promotion and the Addicks stand in 2nd behind Leeds in the average points gained in the games where the opposition have scored first. Six times our opponents have scored first and of those six we have won 2, drawn 2 and lost two while Norwich, who have also gone behind six times, have lost three and drawn three with no wins coming after conceding first.
The Team
Parky celebrated his year in charge on the 22nd November and has now got 16 wins in 53 games. Its's his 42th birthday tomorrow and what a birthday treat he'll have with win number 17th.
So what of the team then? With 10 goals in the last three games after three successive defeats with one goal scored a remarkable turnaround appears to have occurred. Key to the success appears to be the change to 4-4-2 and twenty-five year old Dave Mooney is a key component. Bought by Steve Coppell from Cork City in August 2008 he has never settled at the Madejski and has only played in the League Cup for Reading. Two games in 2008-09 ( and no goals) were followed by loan spells at Stockport and Norwich and it was the same this season when he had another two League Cup games, both during August ( scoring twice in his 180 minutes) and was loaned out again. So naturally, with seven Charlton games under his belt, he's clearly keen to stay at the Valley.

Meanwhile, 28 year old Akpo Sodje, youngest of the 10 Sodje offspring, is another one keen to stay. He made his debut at Sheffield Wednesday in September 2007 and has played 30 games for them scoring nine times. This season he's played 9 times for the owls but all without scoring and has dropped down the strikers pecking order, behind Tudgay and Johnson and even falling behind Derby loanee Luke Varney who's scored three times.
Who's in goal tomorrow is the first riddle with Wolves goalie Ikeme now at the Blades. I can't see Randolph getting picked as he's only played one of the six games that Elliot has been out so the return of Ikeme suggests that Elliot is fit again. There's no news either about the injuries to Richardson ( who's only played an hour in the last six games) or Youga, who went off after 23 minutes against Bristol with a twisted knee but with the accumulation of yellows threatening four players ( Youga and Daily in defence) perhaps it would be best to hope that Frazer is ready and can be paired with Basey at full-back because loanee Omozusi doesn't seem to inspire anyone. Dailly needs just one yellow to miss a game which seems odd as he played the first 14 games without getting a single one and has stacked up 4 in the last 7. But he mustn't allow a possible suspension to worry him with two tricky forwards like Forster and Dickinson around.
Sam, Semedo (also on 4 cards) and Bailey are certain to start but the left wing remains a bit of a problem area. It'll be Shelvey or Racon but neither have looked good there in the last three games since Bailey has moved inside.
Up front Mooney and Burton with Akpo in reserve looks right.
Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Sodje, Basey; Sam, Semedo, Bailey, Shelvey; Mooney, Burton.

Direct opponents Norwich scored four against Brighton in their last League game and tomorrow it's Parky's birthday. A bigger challenge couldn't be found so after 10 goals in our last 3 and fresh after a weekend off while our opponents had a cup game should be enough. Brighton's record against the top half is also pretty bad with the third worst record in League One so its the Addicks to win 2-0.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

MK Dons Preview

Vladimir Nabakov (he of Lolita fame) once said that our existence is a brief crack of light surrounded by two eternities of darkness. Well, you're wrong Vladimir, 'cause the lights have gone out in the middle of my existence and I'm none too happy about it.
No, I haven't died yet but my football team definitely has. Three straight defeats, all to teams supposedly below us in the pecking order and with only a single goal scored and I'm wondering exactly how long this eternity of darkness is going to continue.
So, perhaps it would be worth while at this point to make it quite clear that the Addicks haven't always left Division Three at the first attempt. In modern post-war times we've been down here twice and everyone knows that its been 29 years since we last graced (!) these pastures in 1980/81 when we only stayed one year after claiming third spot. But back in the early '70's we needed three long years (a la Leeds) before finishing 3rd in our third season in 1975. And you'll have noticed that in those days third was good enough for an automatic spot; no Play-Off nonsense in those days.
OK, as its our policy to bring you a balanced amount of grief and optimism every week we have to say, as the really cold winds of winter approach, and in our completely sober condition, that we only appear to have a couple of difficult games remaining this year - against MK Dons this weekend and the Spanners on December 19th. The rest should be easy.....
And before we go on, you'll be pleased to learn that there's another team in exactly our position - 2nd in their League and just dumped out of the cup by inferior opposition. Its, of course, none other than big spenders Real Madrid where, unlike ourselves (?), its rumoured that another defeat will mean the end of the manager.
So what can we tell you about MK Dons that you don't know and care about. In a sentence, in 1967 the Government decided to found a new town (designed as a "New City") in north Buckinghamshire next to the village of Milton, and subsequently called the shopping centre Milton Keynes. And the fusion between a boring new shopping centre, sorry town, and a boring football team took place back in 2003 when Wimbledon started playing their games at the National Hockey Stadium in Milton Keynes and the following summer the name was changed to Milton Keynes Dons or Franchise F.C if you prefer. They started in Tier Three after relegation and administration but then dropped into Tier Four before Paul Ince came along and won promotion back to League One in 2008.

Ince then left, of course, but he's back again, returning during the summer, after his short stay 5 month at Blackburn.

As you all know they start the day level on points with us but mainly because they've scored 6 times less than us they have a goal difference 4 worse than ours. But they are the second best away team in the Division ( after Leeds) with 4 away wins already and their current form is good as well with only one defeat ( away to the Saints) in their last seven games since the beginning of October. Make that one defeat in eight as they beat Northampton 3-1 in the JPT this week.
But you have to say that their away wins have all been easy pickings at Brighton, Exeter, Tranmere and Norwich and only 6 teams have scored less goals away from home than the Dons with their paltry seven goals in their seven games.

The Opposition
In goal is frenchman Wily Gueret now 36 but ever present this season as he has been for the last two as well. Good at saving penalties apparently, but we don't care about that really 'cause we never get any.
Number three is captain and left-back, and only sole survivor from the old Wimbledon days, Dean Lewington. And we're all dying to have a look at number 16, Jason Puncheon, and see why Parky was so determined to bring him in during the summer. He's a local boy from Croydon, and top of Parkys wishlist but the takeover talks killed the transfer and he joined the Dons on loan for the season from Plymouth.
Star of defence is a true Dons man, Mathias Kouo-Doumbé (or MKD for short) who started his career with Nicky Anealka at Paris St. Germain but unfortunately its been all downhill since then and he moved down to Tier Three during the summer in another of Plymouth's clearouts. And then there's Luke Chadwick, ex Manure and Norwich at number 26.

And the Little and Large act up front are target man in 6' 3" number nine Aaron Wilbraham and his fellow striker, midget 5'9" Jermaine Easter.

The Dangerman
There's only one hotshot this week to worry about and that's number 8 Jermaine Easter. A Welsh international and a pacy little handful if you believe the Dons website he's got 10 goals so far this year, seven of them in the League.

What Are They Saying?
Dons Assistent Manager after their last League game, a 2-1 home win over Bristol, "The pleasing thing today was that it was a solid, strong performance, and that's the sort of performance that good teams need to put in. We had 76% of the possession in the first half, which is frightening." Take note of the Solid and Strong combination, Parky.

Whats Their Secret?

Look out for a boring first half as they have only conceded 2 goals in their 15 League games before the break. That's one goal every 337 minutes or one every 5 and a half hours so quite clearly all that first half possession mentioned above is almost completely wasted. And another conflicting stat is that they have won 8 games by a single goal, more than anybody in the Division, while the Addicks are the only club in League One that hasn't lost by a single goal yet this season - in the League anyway, although we've been practising that scoreline in all of our cup exits.
And owing to the current crisis, if you've looking for a stabilising goalless draw, a la Curbs, then take note that both teams are up there in 4th and 5th places in the Clean Sheet Table with the Addicks on 6 and MK on 7.

Well, there's no history here because we've never ever played this lot before and I see no point in dragging in our appalling record against who they used to be just because there's a Don at the end.

Doing a Leicester?

Fifteen games in and Leicester were pulling away with 31 points from 9 wins, 4 draws and only 2 defeats, at home to Millwall and a dismal 2-3 away to Brighton.

The Team

After a nightful of errors from Ikeme on Wednesday, its odds-on that Randolph will return in goal and Sodje will surely in alongside Dailly in place of Llera in central defence but will Parky choose to retain his playing Youga and Basey as the two full-backs as there's been no news of the injury suffered by Richardson.

Semedo had a bad game at St Marys and suffered one of the few games when he's been subbed and could start on the bench on Saturday with Spring being preferred.

Up front, and following his elbow at Northwich, there'll be no place for Izzy, much to everyone's relief and it could mean that Mooney is set to start a League game at last.

Randolph; Youga, Sodje, Dailly, Basey: Sam, Spring, Racon, Bailey; Burton, Mooney

A good away team against one that will be extremely nervous after three away defeats. A another defeat is surely staring us in the face. But my heart hopelessly sees a goalless draw....

Another thing bothering me at the moment as a recurring nightmare that won't go away and comes back at least once week. It really is a pain and is one of those that torment you regularly and it concerns something silly that can't possibly happen now but because I don't know why it didn't happen in the first place I can't get rid of the dream.

Let me explain. We used to live in Welling, years ago. And after we moved my old man used to tell me what a pig of a journey it was every winter riding his motorbike all the way across London to the Guiness factory at Park Royal. It was especially bad whenever it rained 'cause he was always falling off over those slippery tram rails.

Anyway, it occurred to me after he died why did he buy a house in Kent when he worked in West London? And that's the scary bit, because I don't know why and it's too late now to ask him. And my nightmare is that instead of going to the Valley for the first time on Sept 20th 1956 we would have gone instead to a ground somewhere in West London.

So every now and then I wake up in a cold sweat having dreamt that I was in a crowd of people all wearing blue and cheering a goal by some geezer called Didier and being in the middle of them I'm forced to cheer as well. What a nightmare - can you imagine having to stand up, smile and cheer your head off every time Drogba scores a goal. It's hell, I tell you.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Southampton Preview (JPT)

Ridiculous. Shame. Humiliation. And if you believe in Group Therapy, those were the words that appeared in this mornings papers over here after the once-mighty Real Madrid failed last night at the Berniebow to overturn a 4-0 deficit from the first leg of their Cup game against small Alcorcon from the regional Third Division. To protect the big clubs over here the cup ties are a two game affair - a policy we badly need in the UK - and the final result was 4-1 on aggregate.
As for ourselves, seems, like Madrid, we're saving ourselves the effort of all those boring cup runs, which are bound to end in failure anyway, and are devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to League success. Our worst defeat in 104 years was one headline. No, probably not but for sure the most embarrassing in our 88 year League history. Parky speaks of an appalling dressing-room after the game but I was thinking instead of the never-ending journey home of the 200 diehards who had the courage to see the game live.

Anyway, we used to strap on a Matty Holland at times like these so we've found a suitable mugshot to try to inject the required lost determination and desire. Well, it was either Pardew or a tin of paint, and I guessed you'd choose the paint.

We mentioned the last time we meet back in September that Pardew takes a perverted delight in putting it over his old teams. Both Reading and West Ham have failed to win in three away attempts with three home wins the end result. So are we to be number 4? Well, with the Saints 12 points behind a Play-off place at the moment, it's possible that this ex-glazier might just remember his building past and see this Painting Trophy as the best he can hopefully achieve this year. With all the other big clubs - thats us - putting points and promotion first, at least at this stage of the season, Pardew is planning a long cup run.

And clearly the fans are of a similar mind. A massive crowd of 9,300 turned up to see them have a close encounter with League Two basement men Torquay in the last round. After being 2 goals down at the break they stormed back with two second half goals from Papa Waigo and finally won 5-3 on penalties.

The Opposition
Clearly a night when the opposition only need to turn to win, it doesn't really matter who they are. So we'll give you their team in the last round and you can use the rest of the day guessing who's going to score the many goals we look like conceding.
Davis; Harding, Thomas, Perry, James; Gillett, Wotton, Hammond, Antonio; Lambert, Papa Waigo


After only one win in their first 10 games, the Saints have hit a rich run of form of late and before their 2-2 draw at Orient in their last League game had won four League games on the trot with convincing wins over the Gills 4-1, Southend 3-1, Oldham 3-1 and MK Dons 3-1. And with a home victory over Torquay on penalties in the Painting Round One and a 3-2 away win over Bristol Rovers in last Fridays FA cup game they are now 7 games unbeaten.....


Only one! No, they'll probably be a place, and a goal for the old fans favorite, ex-defender Chris Perry as well.

Whats Their Secret?
Since losing in the 96th minute to Bristol Rovers at St. Marys at the end of Sept, Pardews' sorted out their generous attitude and they are now 7 games unbeaten. And instead of gifting points to the opposition ( they are still the most generous League One club losing 11 points through drawing 4 times when winning and losing once when winning ) they have turned it all around, beating MK after going behind and drawing with both Torquay and Orient after being 2 goals down.

What Are They Saying

I read the other day that Meryl Streep thinks that one of the secrets to a happy marriage is sometimes keeping your mouth shut. An appropriate sentiment because I'm not sure words are of any use in the situation we are now in. Its surely a kick-up-the-arse time.

Looking at our cup form against the Saints, we lost there in the League Cup in 1973 3-0, drew 1-1 in 1976 before beating them at the Valley, and lost 1-0 in 1989.

The Team

If you can remember Nicky Bailey and Scott Wagstaff were shortlisted for the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Ultimate Finish award after scoring against Barnet in the second round three weeks ago. The contest - specially introduced for the current campaign - rewards the scorer of the best goal in each round of the competition en route to the Wembley final next March. Well, the award went instead to Bournemouth striker Brett Pitman and that'll probably be the last chance we had of winning any silverware in this particular competition.

Ketts over at the Surgery gives a in-depth analysis of who's going to play taking into account the rules laying down the use of six of the best. And, of course, its not just us that are suffering at the moment. Barcelona, with only 2 wins in the last six, took the drastic measure of dropping Xavi, Iniesta and Messi from the game against Mallorca last weekend and won 4-2. So Parky take a leaf out of Guardiola's book and drop a couple of midfielders and a forward.

Pardew's record against his old employers would probably be enough on its own to secure the win, but coupled with our current form plus no wins in 3 cup visits to Southampton, the only conclusion one can arrive at is another defeat. Exit stage left for the Addicks.

I once read a story about a mother on the day after her eldest son died, discussing the new decoration of her bathroom. It was obviously her way coping with her loss. So in similar vein, but obviously several miles less important, I asked Mrs Nelson for her views on the impending crisis in Manchester.
"Of course I know why people support Man. U"


"You have to understand that they are Government supported, I mean financed. How do you think they manage with such huge debts, don't you know anything? They're a big part of the Government Drug Prevention Programme. Seems there are people who can't cope with normal life and need a reliable weekly fix to help them get through the drudgery of life. What, did you think they hand out knighthoods for winning a silly football match?

Of course, the big problem is that when they start losing its going to give Gordon a big headache - that's what gives Brown the worried look that he always has - because unless the state pumps even more money in to get the results, thousands, perhaps millions of people will probably turn to drink or even hard drugs to drown their problems. It would be a social catastrophe. So you see, its not a case of people supporting ManU but its the exact opposite - its ManU supporting the people. 'Cause, you tough Addicks lot, you don't need supporting, you can manage all by yourself - even in times like these."

OK, its all sorted. When you need an answer, to what is a non-footballing question, ask Mrs Nelson. Its a social catastrophe whenever the reds lose, whereas we simply take it on the chin. Not quite sure she's right there though.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Northwich Victoria Preview

Another off day it seems up there in the wilds of Cumbria last weekend but it has to be said that they're becoming a bit too frequent now for everyone's liking and even Parky is losing his cool with an enforced visit to the stands for the second half. He'd clearly read the paragraph last week that told him the only time we beat Carlisle is when we get promoted. So the jitters are setting in but don't worry Parky it didn't say we only get promoted when we beat Carlisle.
But while Parky attempts to get some fire back into our bellies and sort out a team for Saturday, there's that awful phase déjà vu that's starting to creep into my head. Because it can't have escaped everyones notice that it's all beginning to look like an alarming repeat of two years ago when we launched into an attack on Wolves' runaway leadership in the fizzies with 9 wins in the first 17 games and were up there in 2nd with 4 wins on the trot over Southampton, Bristol, Cardiff and Preston. But we all know what happened next as Pardews men inexplicably imploded and after only another 8 victories in the remaining 29 games finished a lowly 11th.
So its onto another difficult northern trek. At the Vics, they'll tell you that Northwich are a very old club. That records go back to 1874. That they were once a Second Division club from 1892 to 1894, and in 1884, they reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, but were knocked out by Blackburn Olympic, whoever they were. But a town of less than 20,000 couldn't support a League club so now they now find themselves down in Tier 6.
On 19 May this year the club went into administration for the second time in five years, following their relegation from the Conference National. They were threatened with a double relegation to the Northern Premier League as a result of this, but ultimately won an appeal to be placed into the Conference North for the 2009-10 season.

Manager for the Vics's is 42 year old Andy Preece who once upon a time played for Palarse after they had paid Stockport County 350K for him back in 1994. He only stayed a year, played 20 times scoring 4 goals, but clearly not finding the Croydon air to his liking (no surprise there), moved back north, this time to the bracing sea breezes of Blackpool. More recently he's been player manager at Bury and was there back in 1999 when we nicked Dean Kiely and was brought in as caretaker manager at the Vics last February and made full-time boss during the summer.


Some people will tell you it's the Blue Square North, others that its Conference North, but anyway they're a total of three Leagues below us in Tier 6 and are currently 15th out of 22 with 7 wins 4 draws and 3 defeats. A good enough record which should give them 25 points and sixth place but a 10 point deduction for administration problems leaves them just 2 points from the drop zone.

But its now 9 games unbeaten since they lost to Corby on Sept 5th and they only have 1 home defeat this season to bottom club Redditch. In the FA Cup they've beaten Bardon Hill of the East Midlands Counties Football League (Tier 10) 8-0 and then Chorley, of the NPL Division One North (Tier 8), 4-1. And then in the 4th Qualifying Round they beat FC United of Manchester of the Northern Premier (Tier 7) 3-0. Read about it here if you want.

Any Giant Killing Then?

Nothing recently but there's another hint that we've not all that special any more. Successful Cup runs are an important source of income for non-league sides especially those who have experienced recent administation. It's common for the non-league team to move a home tie to a bigger ground when they face big league opponents but there's been no mention of moving the tie this time. In reality they could never expect the 29,000 that saw them reach the Fourth Round in 1976, losing out 3-1 to Oldham in a home tie moved to Maine Rd.

Then in 2005-06, Northwich reached the 3rd round again but were drawn away this time, losing 3-0 to Sunderland.

What Are They Saying?

Andy Preece on hearing the draw details said, It’s going to be a great experience. We can pit our wits against League One opponents and I’m confident we can compete because I believe we have players who could play in League Football. We don’t really have to worry about the result because there won’t be any pressure on us so we can play with freedom and enjoy the occasion.”

And Paddy Powell has memories of games like this, "They are horrible games, no question about it, and most of the pitches are not up to the standard that the players are used to. I know it will be difficult, but you just have to treat it like a league game."

And Parky has been giving fulsome praise to Deon Burton for the way the striker has continued playing in recent weeks despite needing a hernia operation saying, "I don't think I've probably given Deon enough credit. He can hardly move in training on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after games, and it's not until later in the week that he starts to loosen up again. It's credit to his spirit and determination this year that he has carried on playing with it." But before he can come under the knife we have to test Mooney as a reliable replacement. Do it Parky.


Of course, we've never played Northwich before and its our first visit to the Victoria Stadium but we have had loads of games against non-leaguers before. In the mid twenties when we had to play the Qualifying rounds there were five in a row starting in 1924 when we beat Dulwich Hamlet 4-0 in the 5th Qualifying round and in 1925 we beat Windsor and Eton 4-2 in the first round. In 1926 we beat Woking 3-1 and in 1927 it was Merthyr Town 1-0 and again the following year, 1928, we beat Northfleet 5-1. In 1933 we beat Bath 3-1 and Burton Albion were beaten 7-0 in 1956, Tonbridge followed 5-0 in 1972, and Chelmsford 1-0 in 1974.

Then came the bust-up between Killer and Flanagan in January 1979 at home to Maidstone. Both were sent-off with the score at 1-1. Luckily there were only 4 minutes left and 3 days later Hales was sacked, although later re-instated. Neither played in the replay, which we won 2-1. Harlow were beaten 2-0 by Paddy Powell in 1980 and in 1989 we beat Kettering 2-1. And lastly in 2001 Dagenham and Redbridge were only 4 minutes away from becoming the first non-league team to beat a Premiership club when John Salako scored with a "wickly deflected shot" in the 86th minute to make it 1-1. And we needed extra time at their ground before Shawn Newton scored in the 91st minute of the replay.

So that's twelve cup ties that I can find and every one a winner. But the 5 and 7-0's seem to have vanished a long time ago and the games are now a lot closer with 2 of the last 3 going to replays.

The Team

Our current form is appalling - 14th over the last 8 games and with 16 League One teams outscoring us now over the eight and with only a goal a game average over those eight games it would be no surprise if we didn't see Dave Mooney given a start this weekend in an attempt to inject some spark.

So whats the Plan? With two cup ties in five days there's a chance to put our League form behind us and try something new. Pardews' Southampton are unbeaten in their last 6 games, League and Cup, but at least they are a known entity, Northwich are not. And there's the added complication that the Painting rules are tougher than FA Cup ones and we'll need to include 6 first teamers at St. Marys.

Has Parky given us any clues before as to what he will do? We've already had two cup games in different competitions and Richardson, Dailly, Llera, Sam, Racon, Shelvey were all rested for the League Cup game at Hereford as were Richardson, Sam and Burton against Barnet in the Painting thing. And Basey, Spring and Wagstaff played both games and Tuna played nearly an hour against Barnet.

But here's some advice from Curbs. Back in 2001 against Dagenham and Redbridge and although Charlton had never lost to non-League opposition, Curbs was taking no chances. There were just two changes to the side who beat Arsenal 1-0 on New Year's Day (oh, happy days - but there I was in bloody Morocco ), John Robinson and Martin Pringle replacing Jonatan Johansson and the suspended Graham Stuart.

So if I was you Parky;
Randolph; Omozusi, Dailly, Sodje, Youga; Wagstaff, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Bailey; Mooney.


Predictions here are going to be pretty useless and as Paddy said these are horrible games - and without knowing the team a forecast is going to be pretty meaningless. But if Parky can get the players to face up to a game at Elland Rd after our last defeat at Colchester then he's capable of doing the same this weekend. 2-0 to the Addicks.


I just can't understand anybody supporting that Man. U. thing. I mean, it's a monster; waddling down the street advertising an US insurance firm whose directors take home millions of tax-payers money in bonuses after filing for bankruptcy; and this theatre of dreams bollocks and they've got more debt than Northern Rock, I mean where's their values, get out, get a life or whatever. OK, if you're born in Trafford, or live there or if your grandfather was Matt Busby then I suppose you'd had an excuse but the rest of them. I just can't fathom it out. Did their dad take all of 'em there when they was kids? I mean all the way there from where they lived with an 8 year old kid at those prices? I just can't see it. So why then?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Carlisle Preview

So was it a point gained or two lost? Parky seems to be happy with a point at Gillingham in what was a difficult away derby game with bad weather and a bumpy pitch to boot. But the stats on our recent goalscoring abilities continue to disappoint and now its 15 League One teams that have outscored us over the last eight games. And with only 2 wins and a massive 5 draws in those last eight our current form puts us down in 12th place, with a top six of Colchester, Southampton, Leeds, MK, Millwall and Norwich.

For Gods sake, Nels, give us some positives, you're souring me cafe. OK, if you need reassurance that things are simply going as planned, then it should be pointed out that, 5 of those 8 were against teams in the top nine and the others contained two draws with Pardews Saints plus a difficult away derby at Priestfield.

And to further set your mind at rest, after a mere 14 games out of 46, we've already played at 4 of the current six best home teams in the League ( Colchester, Leeds, Gillingham and Norwich) and now have a break of 4 months before we have to face another team in the current top nine home bankers with an unfortunate and horrendous four match sequence of visits to unbeaten at home Millwall and Huddersfield on March 13th and 27th, MK Dons on April 3rd and Southampton on April 10th.

In fact, Parky, I'm sorry to have to point out that that end of season away run coupled with successive closing season home games against Colchester, Norwich and Leeds all looks pretty tough to me so it seems even more vital that we press on and get some points now. And perhaps that was just Parky thinking behind his decision to go for an attacking 4-4-2 last weekend.

Anyway, we now face a gruelling away trip to 18th placed Carlisle, but with the comforting thought that despite last weekends win they are still 2nd to bottom over the last eight with only Wycombe behind them, with only 1 win during that run.

Full-time manager, at long last, for Carlisle is Greg Abbott, our third successive new boy, in charge since November last year at Brunton Park after two spells as caretaker manager. They eventually finished 20th last season in the last surviving place in the League One table but started the last day two points behind Northampton in 21st and needed a win over Millwall to have any chance of escaping relegation while their rivals, the Cobblers, faced a difficult away trip to Elland Rd.

The win was achieved 2-0 to move them to 50 points and leapfrog Northampton by a single point who meanwhile were losing 3-0 at Leeds.


And there seems more of the same this season because before Saturday Carlisle were on a disastrous run of 7 games without a win and were the worst home team in League One and Abbott's job was reportedly on the line. That changed with an inspired 2-1 win last weekend over Southend and they also climbed three places in the table and are now in 18th spot with 14 points and with a home record of 2 wins, 1 draw and 4 defeats. But there's still only one point that separates Carlisle from the drop zone and they are still in desperate straits.

Their only other home win was a 3-0 against hapless Tranmere back at the beginning of September that handed Tranmere their 5th straight defeat and all without scoring and it wasn't long before John Barnes paid the price. So what's the rest of their home record? Both Brentford 1-3 and Exeter 0-1 enjoyed early season wins at Brunton Park, as did Brighton 0-2 and Norwich 0-1 whilst Southampton could only draw 1-1 with a 96 minute equaliser from Jaidi.


The only living connection I can find with the Addicks is the 32 year old Irishman, Ian Harte. OK, he never actually played for us but he was "On Trial" during the autumn of 2008 but wasn't offered a job. Not surprising with Kelly making such a good job of left-back so Harte, who spent 3 eventful years at Spanish La Liga club Levante with whom he was relegated and promoted again before being sent packing by Abel Resino, the man making such a mess of managing Atletico Madrid at the moment, and joined Carlisle - must be something in the water. Meanwhile, by the time you read this, Resino will probably be out of a job, bringing a smile, perhaps to Harte's lips. Sorry, he's gone already, sacked last week.

The Opposition
There's 28 year old defender, number 6 Peter Murphy from Dublin who won one Irish cap for a first half performance against Bolivia in 2007. But since Staunton ended his brief 18 month spell as Irish manager he's not been asked again and is now sitting on Carlisle's bench. And another one with Irish caps, and also with Premiership games for Middlesbro' under his belt, is the experienced 35 year old Graham Kavanagh.

There's a couple of ex-Chelski teenagers that had to go elsewhere to get work experience and we've meet goalie number 40, Lenny Pidgeley, before when he came on as a late sub for Chelski against us in the last away game at Stamford Bridge in May 2005 when a late disputed penalty gave them a 1-0 win. The other one is the exotically named 19 year old Tom Taiwo, a midfielder.

Then there's the much travelled Vincent Péricard a striker from Cameroon who has played Champions League football (once) for Juventus and who started his career at St. Etienne in France. He's also played Premier football for Stoke and Portsmouth and was signed two weeks ago.

And one of the clashes of the day will see old mates (!) Kelly Youga up against winger Kevan Hurst. Two years ago they both played for Scunthorpe while Kelly was on his 6 month loan and we'll see how much Kelly has learnt from his northern experience.

Who's The Dangerman
Harte it is that takes all the penalties and, surprisingly
for a team that are the 21st top scorers in League One, he's got no less than 4 so far but out in front, at far as scoring is concerned, is the Scottish international with 6 caps, number nine Scott Dobie with 6 goals in total. Once a premiership player with West Brom - in one of the many seasons that they were relegated - he's returned to square one and Carlisle where he started as an apprentice in 1995.

But the Dangerman for me this week is newly arrived number 16 Vincent Pericard signed from Stoke two weeks ago. He's already scored on his home debut against Southend and alongside Dobie will pose a threat.

Whats Their Secret?
A very cautious team they've only scored 5 times during the first half in their 14 League games. And strangely only two of those goals were in their 6 home games and as a comparison the Addicks have netted 6 in the same period in our 7 away games.
In fact they are more successful on their travels away from Brunton Park with more goals scored and only 2 defeats in 7 games and with credible draws at both Leeds and Millwall.

We have a strange history at Carlisle with only two wins in a 2-6 record over the years (with 6 draws ) but with the only two wins coming in our promotion years of 1982 and 1986. And you won't need much reminding that on both occasions it was the 3 points won there that secured us the promotion. And it was on the 3rd May 1986 that we made our last visit to Brunton Park in what was one of our old bosses, the late Bob Stokoe, last home game in charge. This was nearly twenty years after he was sacked by us in September 1967 and he couldn't prevent his old charges from a 3-2 win after we had gone two goals down. Sadly as a consequence Carlisle were relegated.
Overall its 8-6 to the Addicks with 12 draws.
What are They Saying?
Striker Vincent Pericard on signing for the Cumbrians, "The manager knows I came here to work, score goals and get my career back on track," he told BBC Radio Cumbria. "I'm happy to make an impact, helping the team and the manager."

The Team
As we know Parky used an attack minded 4-4-2 last weekend at the Gills when we were all screaming for a return to 4-5-1. And he's rather shot himself in the foot because after our failure to score yet again ( thanks for the og Mr. Nutter) in the 1-1 draw he now has the difficult decision to make regarding the long trip to Carlisle.

Because in the game against Carlisle, which we surely have to win to stay in the top two, he feels that he has to use a 4-4-2 but clearly not one that didn't work last weekend.

There's a bit of a consensus that we shouldn't be knocking McLeod for missing the odd one or two but thats exactly how we behaved towards little Varney and it still sticks in my throat how he repaid the kindness by celebrating madly as the Derby last minute equaliser went in.
And a look around us in the table sees a veritable multitude of strikers who have got more than Deon. Leeds, Huddersfield and Southampton each have two strikers with more than 5. MK have Easter on 10 while Colchester have Lisbie on 8. Then there's Barnard, Jackson, Holt, Baker, Harris all on more than 5. OK, there's a lot of them that have scored from penalties but you get the point, we don't have a feared striker.

Parky will point to the fact that we have 10 players that have scored in the League, while all of Leeds, Colchester and MK only have 8 but the fact remains that its now 6 games since Deon scored and perhaps his hernia is troubling him more than we're told.

So will Parky wait till Northwich to try Mooney with a starting berth or will he try it this weekend because Deon could do with a break. And while we're about it, I'd really shake it up by playing Wagstaff from the off because all this doubling up on Sam is cramping his style and an unusual lineup will cause Carlisle a last minute inconvenient re-think and we can then bring a fresh Sam on in the second half.

So its a 4-4-2 with;

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Sodje, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Bailey; McLeod, Mooney.

A long trip to a ground where, apart from our promotion years, we haven't done well and against a team, and a manager, fighting for their lives. This won't be an easy game and that guy Péricard has me worried and it all looks like another score draw. But we've fallen 4 points behind Leeds now and, although Colchester have an even more uncomfortable game at MK Dons, Parky will know that our record of late badly needs improving.
A 2-1 away win then would fire up our promotion hopes but will we do it? 'Cause we will - Mooney and McLeod to score and Izzy to be yellow carded, and banned, again.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gillingham Preview

Our eighth win of the season then, a number that equals our total for the whole of last season and put us back on top of the table, if only for a couple of days. But there's still only a two point gap back to that accursed Wimbledon reborn, MK Dons, still in third, and with that team we can't beat, Colchester, - now 8 games unbeaten and who have scored more and conceded less than we have - a further point behind.
And it could be that we'll need to see off both of them before the seasons end because steaming up fast are the Canaries, despite Mondays blip, now only 1 defeat in the last seven.

Its krbs v krbs this weekend in our first local derby against the Gills for 5 years although it'll be our first visit to the restyled KRBS Priestfield stadium. Its 14 years since the controversial Paul Scally bought the club in 1995 for the ridiculous sum of one pound and the Gills have enjoyed some success since then with a remodeled ground to boot. As for the management, they change pretty regularly down at Priestfield but manager at the moment is Mark Stimson who joined in November 2007 and like last weeks Lee Clarke, he's in charge of his first League club.
A local boy from Plaistow he succeeded in getting the Gills relegated from League One in his first season but somehow survived Scally's wrath ( ignoring the numerous caretakers, he's Scally's seventh full-time man in charge in 14 years) but got them back again at the first attempt ( its promotion or your head) via the Play-Off final. But it was a close run thing and just as sweat was becoming visible on Stimson's brow, a late minute headed goal from Simeon Jackson, from a Josh Wright corner, gave them a 1-0 victory over Shrewsbury.

Gillingham are currently slipping down the table and are in 16th with 14 points and if it wasn't for their home form they'd be in a bit of trouble with only one point away from home. So its at Priestfield where they are happiest and where they are ranked 5th best in League One home form with 4 wins, a draw and only a single defeat. And with fourteen goals scored at home means that only Norwich and Huddersfield have outscored them on their own patch. And whereas they have easily the worst away defence in League One conceding 18, three more than anybody else, at home its completely the opposite with only 4 conceded in 6 games.
So you wanna know who they beat. First was a celebration of their promotion from League Two with a 5-0 demolishing of Swindon on opening day which was followed by a sobering 1-0 defeat, their only League one at home so far, to away specialists Hartlepool. An easy 3-0 win over Exeter, a comfortable 2-0 over Millwall, an unlucky 1-1 with Norwich where the Canaries equalised in the 97th minute (what again!) and lastly a tough 3-2 win over Wycombe after the Wanderers had equalised twice.
So things are slowly getting tougher for the Gills and you can throw in there a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Norwich in the JPT just two weeks ago.
Goalie is, of course, our old boy, and he is now 38, Simon Royce. Playing most of his career at Southend before he came to the Valley, he spent his first one year stint with us in 1998/99 as understudy to Sasa Ilic. Eight of his nine appearances came in that season, his first being that memorable 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle, after we had been two goals down and heading for a depressing ninth straight defeat. Mark Bright and then a Martin Pringle poke in the last minute saved the day. He then played seven straight games which included our first victory over Liverpool for 40 years, the 1-0 at the Valley with a Keith Jones winner 20 minutes from time with Liverpool down to 10 men after Callagher had been ordered off for catching Pringle with his arm. He then returned in 2003/04 as reserve to Dean Kiely but only made one further appearance.
There's also the Gills club captain Barry Fuller who lead our reserves for a couple of years but failed to make the first team back in 2004/06 and they also have the "elegant" midfielder Rashid Yussuff, another recent recruit during the summer.

The Opposition
An eleven of completely non-household names, except for Fuller and Royce, of course, and there's nobody that springs to mind for analysis.
And to prove what I mean, Stimson's been out and about in the loan market mainly because leaky goals leads to desperate measures and he's found two new loan signings - Matt Fry, a 19 year old from West Ham in central defence ( now that's what I call desperate), and Scott Vernon, a striker from Colchester, both making their debuts last weekend at MK Dons although Vernon didn't last long, limping off with an ankle injury on 43 minutes and he's now been sent back to Colchester.

The Dangerman
Getting to double figures should be a strikers first aim of the season and there's already five of them in League One with more than 10 goals, including cup games. And while Deon is only halfway there on 5, over at Gillingham their number 10 is appropriately, already on 10 goals. He's the Jamaican, Simeon Jackson, who in this strange world, plays international football for Canada and has scored 7 League and 3 cup goals so far this season and follows his 21 last season. He may or may not have been on Parkys wish list during the summer but our own Chris Dickson definitely was on Stimsons. Dickson was the Gills top scorer for the season during his loan spell in 2007/08 and Stimson dreamed of having him alongside his Simeon but to no avail it seems.

Whats Their Secret?
After the bruising clash last weekend with Huddersfield it'll be a pleasant change to play Gillingham. The Terriers, you remember, are renowned for their fighting abilities and never say die spirit and there's still only three teams - Huddersfield, Bristol and Walsall - that have come from behind to win twice this season. Meanwhile the best thing to do against the Gills is to score first because they are one of only two teams in League One, along with Tranmere, that have won exactly nothing after going behind, even at home. Which is, of course, good news for the Addicks, as we have scored first 6 times in all.

Our only visit to the Priestfield in the last 28 years was an FA Cup 3rd Round tie in 2004 that saw the Gills score their biggest win over us, 3-2. Apart from that game all the others at Priestfield have been Third Division matches with most of them coming in the 1920's with us winning 4 of them against their 3 with 5 draws. We've won the last 3 League games at Priestfield and you have to go all the way back to 1929 to find the last time they beat us at their place.
Overall its a massive 12-3 to the Addicks but, perhaps due to the derby influence, there's been a huge number of drawn games, 9 in all.

Doing a Leicester?
After thirteen games Leicester had a record of 7 wins, 4 draws and 2 defeats (to Millwall and Brighton); and were therefore three points behind us on 25 points.

What Are They Saying
An ominous, though fruitless, talk from Paul Lambert over at Carrow Rd before visiting Leeds, "We'll go there to try and win. We're playing really, really well at the moment and if we go there and play like we have been, then we'll be right in the game. We'll defend strongly but when we have it we'll go and play our game. We'll have a terrific following up there so I'm not going to go up there and look for a draw, I'm going to go there to try and win." Perhaps you should have gone for the draw, Paul.

The Team
The three points gained last weekend, using 4-4-2, will have pleased Parky although it was his defence winning all the plaudits and that may well cause him to return to his crowded midfield and his previous 4-5-1 for an away game that will be hotly contested.
And with Richardson, Dailly and Youga ever present is not hard to see that its our back four that are currently earning the points. Only 5 players have appeared at the back in our 13 League games and during that time only one of them, Llera, has been substituted.
Semedo is sure to be there in front of an unchanged defence while our reliable duo of Racon and Bailey are unlikely to have any doubts over their selection. While Racon has been subbed twice, late on at Leeds and against Exeter, skipper Bailey is the only midfielder/striker that has not been subbed in League games.
Wagstaff continues to threaten Sam but a starting berth will have to wait a while which leaves the only question mark this week over Shelvey, Burton and McLeod. The issue is one of formation. Does Parky continue with a shaky but attack orientated 4-4-2 or revert to his season long 4-5-1?

And while Parky clearly has no time for Pardews idea of strikers he also knows that there are no less than 13 League One teams that have outscored us over the last eight games and that's why, despite getting Mooney on loan, he's still running his eye over strikers. Another one, along with a midfielder, were included in a secret behind-closed-doors reserve friendly against a Glenn Hoddle team on Monday night. And it was one of the trialists - name unknown - who scored the first goal; "a visiting defender could only flick the ball into the path of one of the players on trial for Charlton, who raced clear to slot home." Sign him up, Parky.

So what's the team then? Will Parky listen to my advice that if we score first we'll win and use an attacking lineup with McLeod and Burton or will he see instead a grim, tight local derby where the rules are out the window and that could go either way.

For me its down to man management and he'll feel he owes something to Matt Spring for his first half performanace against Huddersfield and his acceptance at being subbed by Semedo while at the back of his mind will be the need to remind McLeod that removing your shirt and waving it to the crowd is liable to mean more time spent sitting down. Both these things will tempt Parky to include Spring in a 5 man midfield which would allow Bailey more time to attack.

So its;

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Sodje, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Spring, Bailey; Burton


It'll be a grim local derby with nothing in it. There's been draws a plenty between us and it could be down to a single goal but with our League record down there and with our away support driving us on, I'll go with a 2-0 away win.