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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tranmere Rovers Preview

Four games, four wins and top of the League, not bad for two weeks work although with equal goal difference between us and Leeds its just our one more goal scored, we have got 9 they have 8, that has got us there.
A few weeks back I highlighted Leeds as the biggest team in League One and with Simon Grayson starting his first full season at Elland Rd looks like they will be our biggest threat. In their 4 games they've beaten two of our teams, Wycombe and Walsall, as well as Exeter (10th) and Tranmere (21st). So at the moment there's nothing to choose between us. This weekend they face a difficult away game at Colchester but they came through a tough game against Watford in the League Cup on Tuesday, winning 2-1.
So who's next for the Addicks? Well, at the beginning of the season Parky would probably have earmarked the fifth game, away at Prenton Park against Tranmere Rovers, as our toughest test in August. That's due to Rovers' home form last season, where with 15 victories ( only Leeds won more at home) and only 3 defeats at Prenton Park they had one of the best home records in League One.
And that home form nearly took them into the Play-Offs. Tranmere finished 7th last season just 2 points away from 6th placed Scunthorpe and could have done better because they were just 2 minutes away from beating Scunthorpe 1-0 at Glanford Park on the last day of the season. An 88th minute equaliser got the point that the Iron needed to secure their 6th place and eventual promotion in the Play-Off final.
That draw, snacked from the jaws of victory, spelled the end for manager Ronnie Moore and the new man is none other than another ex-Addick John Barnes, fresh from his success with Jamaica, who finished his playing career at Charlton and played 12 times for us in our Premiership relegation season of 1998/99 although at the time it didn't make a lot of sense and Curbs only started him twice.
Anyway, as already mentioned, the season hasn't started too well for Barnes and Rovers currently languish down there in the relegation zone in 21st place with just 3 points out of 12 from a home 4-2 victory over the Gills and it has to be said, don't really look the force that they did last year. And their good home form seems to have deserted them, as last week they lost at home for the first time since October to MK Dons 1-0 and followed that by losing away at the weekend to Leeds 3-0.
No manager, or team, likes to lose three in a row but thats exactly what Tranmere did on Tuesday by losing out 1-0 at home to Bolton in the League Cup. Barnes took the game very seriously and fielded nine of his regular team but suffered as Bolton scored for the first time this season. And Tranmere's tough season continues with the visit of the league leaders.
Tranmere lost 2-0 at Yeovil on day one of the season and then beat the Gills 4-2 at home before surprisingly losing 1-0 to MK Dons, their first home defeat in 18 league games since they lost to Millwall in October. They have also disposed of League Two Grimsby 4-0 at home in the first round of the League cup.

Whats Their Secret?
Back in 1995 Alan Hansen famously declared that "You can't win with kids," but this is clearly not something that John Barnes believes in. His defence in particular is very young with the keeper a 21 year old loanee from West Brom, Luke Daniels, while fullbacks are the on-loan ( from Man City) 20 year old Shaleum Logan and 18 year old Aaron Cresswell and in central defence is the 18 year old Gavin Gunning. But Barnes does mix age with youth and adding experience to the defence is a Jamaican legend, the 36 year old Ian Goodison with no less than 113 international caps to his name. Should be interesting to see how he copes with fellow Jamaican Deon Burton with only 59 caps to his name, but 4 years younger.

Who Are Yeh?
There's very few players in League One that have played at Madrid's Bernabeu but number 10 Alan Mahon is one of them when he appeared there in 2000 as a member of Sporting Lisbon's Champions League team, they lost 4-0 and Mahon played the first half. Now 31 he's also experienced Premier football with both Blackburn and Wigan as well as playing for the Republic of Ireland twice and is another old hand in the team amongst all those youngsters.

Another player with Premiership experience is 25 year old number 11 John Welsh. Ex-Liverpool he's also played in Europe and has also captained the England U-20's but after injuries now finds himself at Tranmere, a club he joined in the summer.

Like ourselves, Tranmere have a settled side and have used only 16 players so far. Another of the regulars are right winger Chris Shuker and new signing ex-Luton and Wednesday midfielder 32 year old Paul McLaren.

After his eleven goals last season, this years top scorer - and captain - is their number nine Ian Thomas-Moore with 3 goals so far. The son of former manager Ronnie, he changed his name from his more well known Ian Moore (just to fool the defenders maybe, or maybe he's a fan of Paul Scofield) when he got married and at 32 has previously been the subject of two million pound transfers, a bit of a rarity at this level. Strangely, he was the only regular first-teamer to be left out of the squad for the League Cup against Bolton.

And waiting in the wings is new signing and ex-Bolton/Middlesbrough/England international 30 year old Michael Ricketts, who came on for the second half against Leeds to play for his eleventh club. And it would be no surprise if Barnes choose, in front of a home crowd, a willingness to take the game to the Addicks by starting both of his experienced strikers, Thomas-Moore and Ricketts, together for the first time. With all due respect to the Leeds duo of Beckford and Becchio these two form probably the most high profile attack in League One. So a 62 year old forward line against a central defence of 65 years - such be quite a tussle.

Honours in all League games are even with 6 wins apiece with a wapping 10 draws but we have only won once on our 11 League trips to Prenton Park and that was back on Easter Monday in April 1975. A goal by Killer in the 19th minute gave us a 1-0 victory and kept us on course for promotion by getting an eventual 3rd place, no Play-Offs then.
Who's Saying What
Despite it being their 3rd defeat in a row, Tranmere boss John Barnes remained upbeat after the Tuesdays 1-0 League Cup defeat at home to Bolton and believes his side will become more confident as a result of their showing. He said: "I was pleased with the performance and not just the performance but the attitude and commitment of the players. Tonight they really put a shift in against a strong Bolton side and we stood up to them."
The Team
After 4 games unchanged getting us 4 victories, and only 15 players used, it would be a surprise if Parky were to tamper with the line-up and that would have been a fair assumption before Scott Wagstaff came on for Lloyd Sam and delivered a peach of a goal in just 4 minutes. But then again Parky has already said that Scott's been pushed too early last season and with that in mind he'll be content to let him play the subs role for a bit longer.
But its maybe a bit worrying that there's only really one player pushing the starting eleven for a place, although Matt Spring has been a bit unlucky so far not to get a game. Parky has said that he wants more players in the building and looking at central defensive cover you can see why, although a 6-2 win by the reserves over Palarse on Tuesday may not help his argument, although the names of those two mystery trialists has still not been disclosed.
Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Llera, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Bailey; Burton.
Before the Dons came calling, the last time Tranmere lost at home was back in October but they made a bit of a habit of it back then by doing it three times in a row and after two consecutive home defeats now to MK Dons and Bolton the alarm bells will be ringing at Prenton Park and Parky will be keen to inflict a third loss. But even with the advantage as outlined by Ketts of a Cup free week, we surely can't carry on winning and I expect Tranmere to put in extra effort on their home ground to avoid an overall fourth defeat in a row so a draw looks the most likely result.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Walsall Preview

It was about a year ago now that someone lamented to me that he feared we would do a Leicester. Ever optimistic I couldn't understand his fear, but in the end he proved the better judge and we followed Leicester's example and plunged regardless into League One. But can we match Leicester's trick of climbing straight back at the first attempt, something that Man. City, Notts Forest, Wednesday and Leeds have all failed to do? Only time will tell but it took Leicester 4 games to hit the top spot last season and we could equal that on Saturday after our perfect 3 straight wins start in our 2-1 come-from-behind win over Orient, the first time we've done that since a 2-1 win over Plymouth on April 5th 2008 with two late Leeroy Lita goals.
All we have to do is dispose of Saturdays visitors Walsall who finished 13th last season with 7 away wins.
Manager for the Saddlers since 20th January this year is Chris Hutchings, best known as Paul Jewell's assistant whom he's helped out 3 times at Bradford City, Wigan and Derby County. Their first partnership was at Bradford City in the late 90's when Bradford were promoted to top flight football in 1999 for the first time in 77 years and together they managed a remarkable survival as Bradford finished their first season in the Premiership by amazingly beating Liverpool on the last day of the season.
Hutchings was then thrown into the deep end after Jewell suddenly left immediately afterwards in May 2000. Hutchings' CV, therefore, reads manager of Premiership Bradford but for only 3 months, for despite expensive signings, a bad start to the season saw them at 2nd to bottom in November and after just 1 win in 21 games Hutchings was sacked. Familar story.

But clearly Chris doesn't bear a grudge for the two of them then teamed up again at Wigan in the summer of 2001 and after winning promotion from Tier Three in 2003 they confounded the football world by winning promotion to the Premiership, and top flight football for the first time in their history, in 2005.

But it was deju vu time again as Jewell once again resigned after two successful years leaving Hutchings to again took charge in the summer of 2007. Alas the adage that lighting doesn't strike twice in the same place was proved wrong and almost 7 years to the day after being sacked by Bradford, Hutchings was sacked again after 6 successive defeats plunged Wigan into the relegation zone after just 12 games.

So after the heady days of the Premier, Hutchings now finds himself down in Tier Three and has figures of 9 wins 7 draws and 10 defeats from his 35 games in charge.


A tough old week for the Saddlers with their visit to London following a 2-1 home defeat against Leeds on Tuesday. Walsall are currently 10th in the table with 4 points. An opening day 1-0 win at Brighton by an own goal was followed by a 2-2 draw at home to Southend where the Saddlers equaliser came via the penalty spot in the last minute. And they also had an early League Cup exit to Accrington Stanley away which they took seriously using 7 of the same players that had beaten Brighton.

Whats Their Secret?
They may be midtable but, beware Parky, for the Saddlers have had a very good away record this year and have only lost 2 of their last 9 League fixtures away from home last season dating back to the beginning of February. And counting the win at Brighton on the opening day of this season that gives them 5 wins in those last 10 away League games.

The Saddlers, however, love shooting themselves in the foot after making good starts. Four games gone now and they have scored first in all of them but have only won once and lost twice. And to add to their generous nature, or perhaps the reason for it, they have had 2 sendings-off already. They were 1-0 in front in the League Cup at Accrington before captain Rhys Weston got himself a second yellow and they did it again last weekend when again leading 1-0 against Southend when Dwayne Mattis was sent off for a second bookable offence after an hour. A last minute penalty saved the day although that was after Lee Barnard levelled for Southend after home keeper Clayton Ince inexplicably threw the ball straight to him.

Who are Yeh?

Michael Ricketts, since transferred to John Barnes' Tranmere, and number 10 Troy Deeley were last seasons top scorers with 12 goal each. Deeley won Young player of the year last season and also got the goal of the season.

In goal will be 37 year old Trinidad and Tobago international goalkeeper Ince. At 6' 4" he's a commanding presence and set a club record of 22 clean sheets in 2006/07 and last season won the Player of the Year award. But after gifting the equaliser against Southend last weekend the fans debate continues regarding his Grobbelar-like abilities. Another giant, 6' 5" Rene Gilmartin waits in the wings.

In fact they are a team of giants with only Steve Jones and Troy Deeley less than a reported 6 feet. In midfield, assuming he's served his suspension against Leeds, will be the naughty number 8 Dwayne Mattis.

Of the 12 games played at the Valley, Walsall have won 4 of them, the last game being that embarrassing 1-2 3rd Round FA Cup defeat in January 2002 and it wasn't the first time that they have won at the Valley in the Cup, for 1987 also saw a cup exit at the Valley (oops, that was at Sainburys, of course) at the hands of the Saddlers. In League games at the Valley, its a bit more encouraging with 5 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats and the last time we meet them at the Valley in the League was our Championship winning season 10 years ago when we won 2-1 on the 6th of November 1999 with goals by Hunt and Stuart after Walsall had gone in front. That was our 10th win of a wonderful season.

And overall its 9 wins, 4 draws and 5 defeats.

The Team
No injuries are reported so there seems no reason for Parky to make any changes to a winning team, unchanged now for all three League games and what a contrast with last season.

But are there any weaknesses? Our defence has experience, our 5 man midfield good techical ability and although we are playing with Burton alone up front our midfielders are scoring and we are 4th highest scorers in the League. But even if we were to play Norwich or Brighton tomorrow I can't see us getting 7 goals even with 3 strikers waiting on the bench. So our weakness is still a lack of goalscoring strikers and although we have some cover in midfield in Spring and youngster Stavrinou our central defence cover, if you ignore playing people out of position, consists of Yado Mambo.

But if you doubted Parky's ability to get them in the right frame of mind then Brisbane Rd should have put your mind at rest, particularly with his calming halftime talk. In fact, the only blip so far, for me anyway, has been the strange move to 4-4-2 against Wycombe by the intoduction of Gray and McLeod when leading 3-1, when with tiredness creeping in a new midfielder was needed to secure the points.

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Llera, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Bailey; Burton.

After three games against teams that have only won once between them in 9 starts, as spotted by johnny73, it clearly hasn't been the most difficult start to a season and we need another win over a mid-table side this weekend to give us headroom before the games really start getting difficult with Brentford (h), Southampton (h) and Norwich (a) on the horizon (OK, the last two shouldn't be too difficult), but then there's a very sticky October with difficult away games at front runners Colchester and Leeds and a local derby at Gillingham and before that a tricky home game with high scoring Huddersfield.

And as a pointer to the next two games, Leicester, in whose footsteps we carefully tread, only managed to take a single point from their corresponding fixtures last season against Walsall (h) and Tranmere (a).

So to reiterate, a win then on Saturday could see us go top as Colchester face a difficult trip to unbeaten MK Dons and providing Leeds don't overhaul our one goal advantage at home to Tranmere a win should see us at the top of the table. Verdict then....another 2-1 win with goals by Bailey and Racon.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Leyton Orient Preview

A terrific result at the Victoria Ground and one that gives us two League wins in a row for the first time since Dec 2007. And I have to say that 2-0 is my favorite scoreline, there's no going over the top, its workmanlike, controlled, and professi0nal (according to Parky ) and another step towards our goal. There were 6 of them back in 1985/86 that got us promotion when we finished 2nd to Norwich in the old Second Division. And with our transfer embargo and the unsettling takeover talks behind the scenes, perhaps its Lennie Lawrence that should be Parky's comparison instead of you know who.
Next up are Leyton Orient and after visiting the smallest ground in League One at Hartlepool, Brisbane Road, sorry Matchroom Stadium, is another of the five grounds with less than 10,000 capacity (along with Brighton, Exeter and Yeovil) and with nearly 3000 away tickets sold, we could be in the majority if Saturdays 4061 crowd is anything to go by.
So can we make it 3 League wins on the spin in the local derby? Manager at the O's is Geraint Williams who took over in February after the sacking of Martin Ling. After a short spell managing Colchester, his record at the O's is a credible 11 wins and 6 defeats in his 20 games in charge. And don't be a bit surprised if you see a little more banter than usual between the two opposing managers on Tuesday. For Williams it was that played assistant to Parky at the said Colchester during their amazing promotion to the Fizzies (Tier Two) in 2006 before Parkinson flew off on his disastrous six-month stint in charge of Hull City later that year.
The O's are currently 12th on 3 points and finished 14th last year with the lowest number of home wins in League One (6) and only Colchester and bottom club Hereford had more defeats at home than their 11. Not good at home then, as even the Addicks had 6 wins finishing bottom and had less defeats, 9.

So last seasons just below mid-table finish appears to have been down to their away form and so it proves with their 9 away victories. So perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised that the O's season has started with those two away wins at Bristol in the League and top of the table Colchester in the League Cup. A very good 2-1 away at Bristol Rovers on the opening day, (goals by Melligan and Smith), then another 2-1 away win at Colchester in the League Cup with goals by Patulea and Melligan.
But, once again it was their home form that let them down at the weekend losing 1-2 to Oldham after Oldham had lost their previous away game 0-1 to Carlisle.

Who Are Yeh?
One name may be familar and that's number 9, Scott McLeish. Back in 1994/95 he made 6 sub appearances for the Addicks. Then aged 20, he's now the same age as our Christian D and has been around a bit with the likes of Barnet, Colchester, Northampton and Wycombe for which he scored around 40 goals for each of them. Not got on the scoresheet yet for Orient, so expect one from him tomorrow.
They also have ex-Chelski starlet Jimmy Smith (number 20), who has finally given up on the Russians and their constant loan deals ( he's been at QPR, Wednesday, Norwich and Orient on loan) and has signed a permanent deal with the more exotically-named Orient. And keep an eye out for centreback number 5, Tamika Mkandawire from Malawi, last seasons player of the year.
There's four new boys in during the summer -McGleish, Chorley, Smith and number 23, Romanian striker Adrian (?) Patulea signed from League Two Lincoln.

Only 18 years in the same League mostly Division Two with the totals at Brisbane Road showing 5 wins, 6 draws, and 7 defeats. Our last League game against them at Brisbane Road was in the old Second Division back in October '81 when a 1-1 draw, our equaliser coming 2 minutes from time by Paul Elliott MBE - his only League goal for the club. That in a season that Orient were relegated.

But of late our record at Brisbane Rd has not been good. Of the last 10 games there, League and Cup, going back to 1971 we've only won once and that in 1976, 33 years ago. In fact of those last 20 games played over the last 40 years, the O's have got the better of us and have won 7 to our 6 with 7 draws.

The Team

There's no talk of injuries except the state of Llera's head wound that opened up again at the end of Saturdays game. With no 3rd choice central defender, he's sure to be patched up again and we should see another unchanged team side.

Elliot; Richardson, Llera, Dailly, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Bailey; Burton

My head says a tough local derby draw but as 2-1 seems to be Orient's favorite scoreline, how about another one but this time to the away side - a victory, then 2-1.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hartlepool United Preview

A disappointing defeat at Hereford on Tuesday still leaves us chasing that simple joy, felt occasionally by football fans all over, that of successive wins, not now achieved by the Addicks since December 2007....70 games ago.

But after the first enjoyable hour last Saturday, things were looking up and anyone contemplating our next game and the forthcoming visit, our first ever, to little old Hartlepool wouldn't have been too worried. But then a strange substitution or two and the last 20 minutes was spent in finger biting agony and suddenly nothing looks so simple anymore.

The monkey-hangers, don't ask, finished last season a lowly 19th and after a last day drubbing 4-1 at Bristol Rovers were lucky to hang on to their League One status, finishing on 50 points, a mere point above relegated Northampton with a vastly inferior goal difference, who got nothing in a difficult away game at Leeds.

Ex-Wednesday, Sunderland and Manure goalkeeper Chris Turner ( now aged 50 - doesn't time fly) is currently in charge at the Pool having taken over as caretaker manager last December following the departure of Danny Wilson. This is his second spell in charge at Hartlepool and with 7 new summer signings he's determined to change things around here. Last time round in 1999-2003 he saved them from relegation after taking over at Easter, got them into successive Playoffs (losing in the semis both times) and then left for Sheffield Wednesday just as Pools were heading into Tier Three in the second automatic spot behind Walsall.

For those older members out there Hartlepool will be known for its seemingly eternal fight to stay in the Football League back in the 70's and 80's. Before automatic promotion from the Conference teams had to re-apply for re-election to the Football League in a vote taken by other members of Tier Four. After several years of being voted back in however by this old boys club, an agreement was reached in 1987 that the following year the voting system would end and automatic promotion would take place and somehow the Pool pulled themselves together since then and have survived the drop.

Because of their inevitable flirt with a Conference death sentence every year, Hartlepool share with Lincoln City the embarrassing record of the total number of applications for re-election, 14 in all. But another record that the Pool share with another club is in the total number of successive League games without a win, 18. A number that you may remember from last season because they share the record with... yes, you guessed it, us.


A credible goalless draw at MK Dons last weekend, where Paul Ince was hoping to improve on last years 3rd place, was followed by an even more impressive 1-0 win at Coventry in the League Cup on Wednesday. So two games in and no goals conceded and they'll be dying to arrive at the Victoria Ground, capacity 7691, to get their first 3 points of the season. And you'll be pleased to learn, as you set out on the 262 mile journey to Hartlepool, that last season nobody conceded more goals at home in League One than the Pool with their 40 goals let in. But before you get dreaming of a goalfest with Burton, Gray, McLeod and maybe Dickson all on the scoresheet it has to be pointed out that oddly enough only one team, Leeds, scored more at home as well - Leeds 49, Pool 45. Expect another 5 or 6 goal thriller then.

Who are Yeh
Turner has made 7 new signings during the summer in Neil Austin, Scott Flinders, Peter Hartley, Leon McSweeney, Jon-Andre Fredriksen, Adam Boyd and Denis Behan and six of them walked straight into Pools team last weekend with Adam Boyd getting the goal at Coventry coming on from the bench. Boyd, aged 27, has returned to Pool after adventures at Luton and Orient and when a boy star at the Pool was once valued at one million. He'll start on the bench but keep an eye on him, Parky.

Central defence will be Liddell and and Collins, midfield Fredriksen and Sweeney and the strike force, new boys, McSweeney and Behan. In contrast to the injury worries at the Valley and the supposed logic of fielding the second string for League Cup ties, Turner choose to field at Coventry exactly the same starting eleven as the previous Saturday.

A quiz first of all. Which is the odd one out of this little lot - Wycombe, Luton, Yeovil, Hereford and Hartlepool - Yes, thats right, the Pool are the only one that we beaten in League Cup ties in the last 4 years. And with no League history to look at, the only encounter against the Hartlepool was that League Cup tie in September 2005 which ended, unlike our only Wycombe game, with a 3-1 win. And those were momentous times. After 4 straight league wins we had lost 0-2 the previous weekend at the Valley to Chelski, which if I recall correctly was a top of the table clash. And if you're feeling nostalgic, check it out here. And the following Saturday we continued with another win over WBA in our amazing 4th away win in a row.

Those were the days of Murphy and Smertin, Johansson, Bothroyd, Bartlett and Bent, stop it my eyes are coming over all funny. Goals from Johansson, Bent and Bothroyd won the day.

What Are They Saying

Not surprisingly after a surprise defeat, Parky was quoted yesterday as confirming, "We need new players. What market we shop in remains to be seen. There are players we need to move on and there are players we want to bring in to freshen things up. We're ready to do that when the time is right and we're able to do so."

Whilst up there at the Pool, Chris Turner is explaining his teams first successive clean sheets since October by saying "Its all down to organisational work on the training ground and it starts with the strikers because if they are lazy and don't work then it puts pressure on the midfield and then the back four and thats when chances open up for the opposition."

The Team

After a pre-season where we were lucky with injuries, we are now plagued with them. Richardson (hip), Llera (head), Dailly (rib), Shelvey (heel), Sam (knee) were all left out of Tuesdays defeat at Hereford.

The patched-up defence of Solly, Semedo, Youga and Basey kept out Hereford for the whole of normal time on Tuesday, and its surely the inability of the strikers to get a goal in the 2 hours played that is most worrying. Parky followed this up by saying that someone who get goals is a priority.

With the defensive trio of Richardson, Llera and Dailly passed fit then the only doubts appear to be Sam and Shelvey who weren't mentioned in the latest injury report. Sam had a good game last weekend and it was his substitution that appeared to change the game so I expect both him and JonJo to appear in a line-up similar to Wycombe.

Elliot; Richardson, Llera, Dailly, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Shelvey, Racon, Bailey; Burton.


Parky saw the game on Wednesday and was impressed by a hard-working Pool and this looks like another game that will demonstrate exactly how difficult this league is going to be to get out of. I for one will be happy with a 1-1 draw.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Wycombe Wanderers Preview

In your dreams you probably hoped to get Leeds, Norwich or Southampton in our first game to ease us gently into life down in the pits but life's not like that is it. Almost predictably, given the past couple of years, the season starts with the arrival of Wycombe Wanderers, a team that, after winning the Conference in 1993 have, after a couple of promotions and a relegation, at last reached the same league as us. Something that would have been unbelivable a couple (or three ) years ago comes to pass and this will be the first time that we share a League season together.
So for the third successive season we start the season with a home game against a newly promoted club. The last two were Scunthorpe (1-1 draw) and Swansea (2-0 win), both champions the previous year so this time we have it a bit easy with a side that finished in 3rd place, the last auto-slot from League Two.
And it's the wily old 56 year old Peter Taylor in charge, now in his second full season and doing very well thank you. As mentioned, his first year ended with promotion from League Two, but not after a lot of heartache on the final day. After a good season spent among the top two and even being 7 points clear at Christmas, they just scraped it in the end finishing with a 2-1 home defeat on the final day to Notts County. Meanwhile chasing Bury, seeing an upset on the cards at Adams Park, only needed a 2-0 home win over midtable Accrington to grab the 3rd spot, but it finished Bury 1 Accrington 0.
However close it turned out to be, promotion is what Taylor has almost turned into an art form with the Chairboys being his latest project in his career where he has become renowed for gaining unlikely clubs promotion. After cutting his teeth during non-league spells at Dartford and Dover he took over Gillingham in 1999.
He only stayed one year but nevertheless took the Gills into Tier Two for the very first time via a Wembley PlayOff in 2000 and followed that by doing the same for his next club Brighton in 2002. Not wanting the grass to grow under his feet he then quickly moved on to Hull and did even better there by achieving successive promotions to get Hull back into the Championship in 2006. It fact, you'll be pleased to learn that just about the only blimp in Taylors career has been the 18 months in charge at Palarse, resulting in a sacking in October 2007.
Who Are Yeh!
Top scorer last season in a promotion year was Matt Harrold with a meagre 9 league goals, not a high-scoring team then. Taylor has done some re-inforcement with 6 new players being bought in. The only one you've likely to have heard off is Michael Duberry, ex-Chelski, and now installed as club captain. Of the other five, experienced midfielders Stuart Green (Blackpool) and Ian Westlake (Cheltenham) are the lastest. Chris Westwood (Peterborough), Joe Cobb (Leicester), Lewis Montrose (Wigan) are also new players.
But pre-season hasn't been too good for Taylor with four players likely to be missing on Saturday. New boy Westlake has hamstring trouble but the biggest loss will be that of Tommy Doherty with a suspected ankle ligament damage both injuries coming after Wycombe's 2-1 defeat by QPR last Tuesday. Doherty's problem will be most damaging as he was chosen League Two's second best player last season. Two others also not there will be Lewis Hunt and Lewwis Spence.
What You Ort to Know
With the same man in charge as last year you would expect the same philosophy really, so the question is, what were their strengths last year. Well, the bad news is that as an away team they had the meanest defence of everyone conceding only 17 goals in their 23 away games and losing only 5, equal with the best in the division, champions Brentford and 4th placed Bury. And with their emphasis on defence there's always going to be a large number of draws and in fact nobody drew more games than their total of 18.
So they'll come to defend and looks like they'll be few goals. They won their first three away games last year and it was the middle of October before they conceded a goal on their travels.
And there's some unbiased (?) views from ex-Striker Keith Scott, now manager of Windsor and Eton whom the Chairboys beat 4-0 in their first preseason friendly. "If you look at the way the keep the ball, they've got good movement, comfortable at sitting in and defending and they've got good pace and movement when going forward."
As for their results so far, after Windsor they beat Eastbourne 1-0, lost to Dover 2-1, lost to QPR 2-1 and finally lost to Bristol City 3-1.
The man getting all the goals in pre-season is number 16 Jon-Paul Pittman, the only foreigner in Taylors squad, hailing from sunny Oklahoma City. He only managed three goals all last year but has already equalled that in pre-season.

No league games so the only previous encounter was their 1-0 win at the Valley in the 5th round of the League Cup during our last winter in the Premier back on a cold Tuesday night in December 2006. It was Les Reed's 6th game in charge (record to date, 1W 1D 3L) and he would leave the club the following Sunday. The chance to reach the semis of the League cup for the first time in our history failed to raise the team and their goal came in the 35th minute and we never recovered.
So, Parky, we know it was before you joined us but revenge is in order for that dreadful night.
A look at the team that day less than 3 years ago makes for some stark reading. Carson; Sanfoka, Fortune, Diawara, Traore; Rommedahl, Faye, Hughes, Thomas; with the two Bents up front. The subs were Myhre, El Karkouri, Holland, Sam and Hasselbaink.
To prove that things change fast even down at Wycombe's level as well, there's only two players, one from each side, who remain from that day 2 and a half years ago. Our own Lloyd Sam and number 10 from the Chairboys, Matt Bloomfield.
The Team
A lineup containing no less than 10 internationals failed to win last time against this lot so what chance have we on Saturday? That, of course, was in the rarified atmosphere of a one-off cup game. With serious league points up for grabs, this time they'll be no messing. Or so we believe.
And we are definitely due an improvement. Looking at our recent performances over the last 18 months, we won 9 games all last season - 8 league and 1 in the cup in a total of 42 games. Add to that a further 6 wins in 27 since the December 8 2007 3-1 win over Ipswich at the Valley which, of course, was the last time we won 2 games in a row. So that's the grand total of 15 wins in our last 69 games!
We can only hope that such appalling form is behind us now and to start with we have 3 new men in a new look defence with plenty of experience. In central defence we have the 35 year old Christian Dailly with 460 appearances for the likes of Dundee, Derby, West Ham, Blackburn and last season at Rangers and with 67 caps, the 6th most capped Scottish player. Alongside him will be our very first Spanish player in 29 year old Miguel Ángel Llera, who after 8 years spent with teams on the Spanish Med coast in the 2nd and 3rd Divisions decided bizarrely to move a year ago to Milton Keynes. Strange move for someone from the heady atmosphere of Seville, but he's come to his senses and after 34 games with MK Dons he's moved to the Valley. Buena suerte, Miguel.
And there's also a new right back in 26 year old ex-Leeds Frazer Richardson. Richardson has had a varied time in his 150 games at Elland Rd, several on the right of midfield. He can score goals and has the honour of scoring the first ever goal in the 'fizzies' in 2004 after the new sponsorship deal. Last year he was club captain and was the only player remaining at Elland Rd that had been with the club during their Premiership relegation in 2004 and would appear to be a good capture by Parky.
The midfield, to our great surprise, currently looks remarkably similar to last season with probably Sam, Semedo, Shelvey, Bailey and Racon on view. The continuing, apparently, takeover talks are reported to be holding up several deals not least regarding last seasons top scorer, Nicky Bailey. Shelvey, too, is still here and has very sensibly refused a Chelsea offer of megabucks, feeling its not the right move for his career ( he really wants West Ham) - shame Scotty didn't think the same.
So perhaps our only disappointment at the moment will be our forward line where Burton, or just maybe, Andy Gray will lead the line. Grays' transfer to Barnsley, agreed 3 weeks ago is still on hold and he played the first 55 minutes at Bournemouth before Burton came on in Parkys last chance at playing his first eleven. This was Grays first pre-season appearance, after his hip injury in January, and at least seems to signify that Parky is keen to keep him. But is he fully fit to play on Saturday? Probably not, after only one pre-season game.
And finally up there in the stand, at least for the first half, will be new assistant manager Tim Breacker. Previously Holloway's assistant at Leicester, he's done some scouting for us last year but does he know that Parky's contract runs out this very summer?
The team then will probably be:
Elliot; Richardson, Llera, Dailly, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Bailey; Burton.
Subs; Randolph, Mambo, Basey, Spring, Wagstaff, Dickson, McLeod.