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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.

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