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Friday, December 17, 2010

Hartlepool Preview

Whether or not you consider a 0-0 draw a defeat there's a second consecutive 'L' in our results column and it was also our first two non-scoring games in a row since the loss at Colchester and the draw at Leeds in October last year. And the last time we had two defeats in a row last November the sequence was lengthened by another defeat against Southampton in last years JPT. Parky can't allow that to happen this time, of course, because not only is there a vital three points on offer at Victoria Park but there's the potential takeover in the air and Parky needs to establish firmly that he is the man needed to get us promotion.
Before Brentford there was the terrible display against Walsall which left Parky sounding rather like Capello during the World Cup. Of course, its not the first time Walsall have won at the Valley, they've won 2 of the last four there including cup games, and 3 of the last 6 counting Sainburys. Put the blame on Manager of the Monthitis which strikes again although there were a few banana skins mentioned before the game. And, of course, we should be aware of top (well, nearly) v bottom games and there was never a better one than March 2000 when, after 12 successive wins, along came hard-up Swindon who beat us 0-1 thanks to a Dean Kiely own goal after 5 minutes, our first League defeat of the century.
And maybe the situation was like that at Dean Court last Saturday where Bournemouth produced a 140 page progamme to celebrate 100 years at the ground. Hartlepool took note of the possible distractions and made sure that it was going to be their day instead with a 1-0 victory.
And its worth noting that the Walsall game highlighted one of major failings, apart from being able to pass to ball to each other, that, forgetting our cup games, we are still one of a decreasing number of teams, 8 now in Tier Three, that have failed to win a League game after falling behind. Its happened seven times now and we have lost 5 of them including Walsall and we are the only promotion chasing team with this dismal record.

History
There's not much history between the Addicks and the Pools with a total of only three games played and due to our current lapse in fortunes and one of Hartlepools rare visits to Tier Three last year was the only season we have spent together. We won the game at Victoria Park 2-0 in August 2009 thanks to goals by Burton and Bailey in the first 30 minutes and we also won the return game at the Valley in January by 2-1. The only other game against them was a League Cup tie at the Valley in 2005 which we also won 3-1. So 3 games and 3 wins for the Addicks but will this perfect score continue on Saturday?

Hartlepool became founder members of the Third Division North in 1921 and they share with Rochdale the unwanted record of enjoying 89 years of League football without ever reaching the headly heights of Tier Two. But one thing they share with the Addicks is that our baptism in League football began in the 1921/22 season with both of us being in the regional Third Division, the Addicks in the South and the Pools in the North. But whereas we only stayed eight years before being promoted into the Second Division in 1929, the Pools had to wait 46 years to get that first promotion by finishing third in 1967-68. Sadly Tier Three football only lasted only one season and they were relegated back to Division 4 where they had been since the 4th Division was created in 1958.
However, this is the 4th straight season in Tier Three which is a bit of a record for the Pools although they only survived last season by the skin of their teeth finishing just above Gilllingham on goal difference with a last day goalless draw at Brentford while the Gills were losing 0-3 at Wycombe.

Form
Down in 12th place but they managed to struggle into the top half of the table for only the second time this season with a surprising 1-0 away win last weekend at the number one home team in Tier three, Bournemouth who were on a 5 game unbeaten run. As for their home form and its only the 19th best with only 3 wins and 2 draws from 8 games with a couple of serious hammerings from Wednesday 0-5 and Carlisle 0-4. BUT two of those wins have been against Brighton 3-1 a month ago ( Poyet's first defeat in 13) and the Posh 2-0 before that and they have improved with only one defeat in their last 5 home games.

The Opposition
The 60 year old Mike Wadsworth is currently caretaker manager of the Pools and a more varied managerial life than his can't be imagined. After working for the FA including a coaching role in the 1990 World Cup and FA's Excellence Programme he's moved into management and has managed or been assistant manager at a total of 15 teams including both the Congo and St. Kitts and Nevis national teams and at club level, Oldham, Carlisle, Colchester, Huddersfield, Southampton and Newcastle and many more. So a man with a wealth of experience. He joined the Pools in June as First team coach and has been caretaker manager since Chris Turner left in August.

Dangerman
Midfielder number 15 Anthony Sweeney is doing a Johnnie Jackson and getting the goals. He's got 4 League and 4 cup goals for a total of 8.

Whats Their Secret?
The Pools are a first half team and have only been behind at the interval on two occasions this year. Only the ultra conservative Oldham with 11 first half draws can better that record. The Addicks and Brighton have been on the losing side three times at the 45 minutes.
And they are another team apart from the Addicks whose favorite score is 1-0 - they've had 3 of them. But although only 3 teams have scored less than their 21 goals, they do have a better defence that the Addicks having conceded one less goal than the Addicks.

What Are They Saying?
Manager Wadsworth after last weeks win at Dean Court said: "We were looking forward to this for a while and we've been talking to the players about building momentum and spoiling their party and we managed to do that. It was a very good result for us. We are putting a run together away from home, that's three good displays away from home now. We have a good group of players here and they have some belief now."

The Team
After a 0-0 90 minute scoreline against the best in-form team in Tier 3 Brentford ( 6 wins in their last 8 League games) with a weakened team, perhaps Parky was secretly pleased with the result and losing the potiential headache of extra injury-provoking cup games.
With Jenkinson, Reid, McCormack and Abbott getting rare starts there may be a call to start with the first two against the Pools but I fancy that Parky will be reluctant to introduce Jenkinson into such a crucial game and with top scoring Sweeney playing out left. Francis no doubt took note of the treat from the 18 year old and will want to be on top of his game this weekend.
Christian Dailly at last returned on Tuesday after his ban and got a full 90 minutes in and will be keen to captain the side to another away win in similar fashion to his last away game at Peterborough where we won 5-1.
The only other possible change may somehow involve the return of Reid in place of the recently disappointing Wagstaff although its hard to see how Parky can fit our top scorer Jackson and Reid into the same team without pushing JJ back to full-back where his chances of a goal will be seriously reduced.

Elliot; Francis, Dailly, Doherty, Fry; Wagstaff, Semedo, Racon, Jackson; Anyinsah, Benson

Verdict
Despite the Pools recent home wins over Brighton and Peterborough, we do have a 100% perfect history against them, a desperate need to get back on track after slipping to fourth and Parky's desire to prove himself to our new owners all of which point to a 2-0 win for the Addicks. But then I won't put any money on it.
And then there's the weather. Friday night in Hartlepool is forecast to be minus 6 with temperatures on the Saturday not rising above -2 but with clear blue skies. Pack them gloves Parky.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Rochdale Preview

A dismal 2-2 home draw with Luton, where the desire if not the skill was with the Hatters, at least preserved, and lengthened, our current 9 match unbeaten run and means just 2 defeats (Brentford and Brighton) in the last 18 League and Cup games. But while we can all have good feeling about that, perhaps we should spare a thought for Luton where the number 18 conjures up a quite different feeling, it being the number of years since they were a Tier One club. And perhaps the three thousand Hatters fans had that in mind as they made the short trip to the Valley, perhaps to remind themselves what it was like in the good old days. And, of course, its up to them now to encourage their players to get them a game that'll really put their memories in gear with the prospect of an away game at White Hart Lane beckoning.

Quite what we'll be doing in 15 years time to push back the memories is anyones guess. And whether we'll have a team with enough passion and skill to get a result in the replay, so as to avoid a second sucessive defeat to a non-league team in the FA Cup we won't have long to ponder. But before moving on, can anyone remember how many of todays Tier Three were in the old Division One 18 years ago? Well, there's four, Wednesday, Southampton, Oldham and Notts County.

Meanwhile, League game 19 approaches and there's now just 5 games left to the half-way point. We had 47 points at the cut last year so we'll need to win all 5 to reach last years haul but a less strong second half of the season saw us ending on 84 at seasons end.

History

It used to be that having to play Barnsley was a step down for the Addicks but now its little old Rochdale that are Saturdays opposition. But while you may not be impressed by the fact that Rochdale play their games at the 90 year old 10,000 capacity Spotland Stadium, its rumoured that the away fans are graced with the newest stand being the Westrose Leisure Stand, in Willbutts Lane, whose facilities are said to be "second to none". Sadly then, we've only played up there 4 times - two cup ties in 1955 (won 3-1) and 1961 (0-1 defeat) and two League games when we were in Division Three in 1972 (2-0 win) and our last visit there, 34 years ago, in 1974 (1-1 draw).

After finishing 3rd in League Two last season, Rochdale managed promotion for the first time in 41 years having spent the last seemingly endless 36 years in Tier Four. And to add to that dismal record they also share with Hartlepool United the dubious distinction of having played the most seasons in the Football League without ever reaching the top two tiers, 82 years.

The Opposition
The man that Rochdale have to thank for that once in a lifetime promotion in manager, the 43 year old, Keith Hill. After a playing career at Blackburn, Plymouth and Rochdale, he took over as caretaker manager of Rochdale in December 2006 after the departure of the previous incumbent. Rochdale were then in 22nd position in Tier 4. He got things working and they finished the season in 8th position. His first full season they got as far as the Playoff final before losing to Stockport and the next year they lost in the Playoff Semis before finally getting automatic promotion last season by finishing 3rd behind Notts County and Bournemouth. So 3 and a half successful seasons for Mr Hill.

Dangerman

Number 8 is the 33 year old Rochdale legend and captain Gary Jones. He's been with the Dale for the last 8 years, plus three years before he played for Barnsley, and holds the record for Dale appearances with 390. He's also the current top goalscorer this season with 10.
Therry can have a few words in French with number 14 Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, thats as long as he gets off the bench. Akpro is an ex of Grimsby, where he was a part of the disappointing 25 game winless run that finished with Grimsby being relegated to the Conference last season.
Rochdale are also the only team in the UK to have two Kennedy's in the team. Left back Tom takes the penalties while number 7 Jason has played in the Prem in 2005 for Middlesborough while 18 years of age. No, not against us.

Form

The Dale made a very good start to their new life in Tier Three with 4 wins and only a single defeat in their first nine games reaching a heady fourth place in the table. But then the oxygen ran out and three consecutive defeats to the three yokels from the West, with only a single goal being scored, against Exeter, Yeovil and Bristol Rovers and they have now only won 1 game in the last 9.

So its been a steady slip down from 4th to the current 15th place and with a home record that is now only 17th best in Tier Three, although they have managed to score three times in three of their last five home games in beating Huddersfield 3-0, the Daggers 3-2 and drawing with Swindon 3-3.

But on overall form there's no-one to beat the Addicks with 17 points from the last 24 while Rochdale are 21st with only 6 points from their last 8 games. And we are the 2nd best away team, after Gus, but with 4 goals more than anyone else with 20 in 9 games.

What Are They Saying

Gus Poyet, after being booed off at half-time by the Withdean crowd during their 1-1 draw with non-league FC United, was very upset after the game, "I was very disappointed with the fans and I invite all those who booed us at half-time to stay at home, because I don't want that and I don't accept it. Proper supporters are the ones who support their team during every single minute. And it sounds like he already given up any chance during the replay by saying he'll field a reserve team.

Whats Their Secret

Whereas the Addicks have twice as many score-first games as Rochdale, 12 to 6, the Dale have a much better record of coming from behind. There remain only three teams in the top half of the table that have not yet won after going behind, the Addicks, Carlisle and Exeter whereas Rochdale have clawed back seven points after falling behind.

They are also the 12th highest scorers in Tier Three with only 5 goals less that the Addicks and are the only club in the bottom 13 that have a positive goal difference.

The Team

Two home draws after 5 straight wins won't please Parky but after only 9 goals scored in our first 9 home League and cup games we at least have 6 in the last three, even though non-league opposition are included. And its highlighted in our goalscoring charts which nobody could have guessed back in August. Johnnie Jackson, fresh from another appearance in the Football Leagues Team of the Week, leads the list with an impressive 8 - one more than his previous best season with Colchester - while Benson, chasing 22 from 50 games last season, now has 7 but only 2 at home, while Waggy has already gone one better than last seasons efforts and is on 6. Joe Anyinsah, still struggling with his fitness and with only one full 90 minutes to his name (524 minutes in total ) already has 4, while Therry Racon with 4 from his previous 3 seasons and 66 Addicks games has already equalled that in his 20 games this season.

As for the team, Christian Dailly serves his 3rd of 4 matchs out, and with the cup replay counting as his 4th will be back for the game against Walsall. Matt Fry returns after his one match suspension and Doherty should be back after his dead leg suffered against Bristol, while Martin returns after being cup-tied but may be too lightweight for an away game at Rochdale.

The real doubt perhaps rests on Jose Semedo's hamstring "complaint" and whether he has recovered enough to put McCormack back on the bench. Jose, meanwhile, is dying to play remembering that his last, and only, goal for the addicks was a few miles, well 32, away from Spotland at Tranmere in August 2009 and with Therry racking them up he's feeling just a tad jealous.

Elliot; Francis, Doherty, Fortune, Fry; Wagstaff, Semedo, Racon, Jackson; Anyinsah, Benson.

Verdict

The Form Book says a clear away win with the teams being 1st against 21st over the last 8 plus the always helpful fact that we haven't lost at Spotland for 49 years. And for the Addicks its vital we make the most of the next two away games at the Dale and Hartlepool, and the Walsall home game between, before a difficult sequence of games begins on December 26th with the arrival of Southampton.

Bearing in mind the weather theres's some doubt that the game will go ahead but if it does, 2-1 to the Addicks.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bristol Rovers Preview

So its deja vu time, as exactly a year after playing Yeovil at Huish Park in a 1-1 draw in which Sam Sodje was sent off for a professional foul in the 29th minute we again face Bristol Rovers at home 3 days later. The score last year on 24th November against Rovers was 4-2 to the Addicks and perhaps its a good time to give Parky some credit for what he has achieved because of the 18 players who took part against Rovers one year ago, there's only 6 (Dailly, Llera, Wagstaff, Semedo, Racon and Akpo Sodje) still at the club. And just 5 weeks after his head was supposedly on the block at Carlisle, we sit comfortably (at times) in 2nd spot just as we did this time last year and after 5 wins on the run. We have 2 less points this time round but exactly the same number of goals scored and its been achieved with the loss of 20 players during the summer.
As for the game last year, we took an early 2-0 lead through Mooney and Burton and after Rovers had scored twice to equalise, further goals from Bailey and Akpo won the game.

History
Rovers are the poor relations of Bristol and unlike their neighbours City have never played top flight football with their highest position ever being 6th in Tier Two twice in the 50's.

But there's good news for you if you believe in all that history crap because its extremely likely that the Rovers have ever beaten us in home games in your lifetime. In fact, you would have to be over 52 to have been born when it last happened and in your 60's to be conscious of the fact. Sad to say I was probably there when it last happened on 29th March 1958 in a 2-3 defeat.

All in all in home games at the Valley ( and elsewhere) its a very pleasant score of 16-4 to the Addicks with 6 draws and in only 1 of the last 9 games have the Pirates avoided defeat and that was in a 2-2 draw ten years ago in our last season at Sainburys.

Other Stuff

Bristol Rovers have a strange sponsorship deal. Faced with the prospect of having no shirt sponsor for the 2009-10 season, the club came up with the idea of a raffle to raise the funds required. Tickets were sold at £1,000 with all 96 available being sold meaning the club raised £96,000 for one season of shirt sponsorship. First prize in the draw went to local training and recruitment company N-Gaged whose logo appeared on the home kit. Second prize went to Bristol based solicitors Stevens, Hewlett & Perkins whose logo appears on the away kit.
The raffle proved so successful that the club replicated it for the 2010-11 season with Smart Computers becoming the new home kit sponsors and Stalbridge Linen the away sponsors.

Are They Dangerous or Not?
On the face of it, and before the Yeovil result, you would think that there's not a lot to worry about as the Pirates form at the moment is very similar to that of Yeovil.
Their last win was on October 16th, the day of our last defeat to Brighton, but whereas in the 5 League games since then, we have won 5 the Pirates have only had 3 draws to get excited about, along with 2 defeats. However, as you may have noted, we have a chance to compare ourselves with the only team above us, Brighton, as that last draw was at Withdean last Saturday, a 2-2 affair with Rovers getting an equaliser in the 93rd minute.

After that precious point on Saturday, the Pirates are currently in 16th place, 10 points behind the Addicks. But they are slipping down the table as they are 17th over the last 8 games, and 22nd on November results.

The Opposition
The Boss

Rovers boss is 42 year old Paul Trollope who has been there for 5 years, 2 in Tier Four and the last three in Tier Three.

The Players
One player not appearing on Tuesday will be the scorer of Rovers first goal against Brighton, defender Bryon Anthony, who received his 5th yellow of the season and will be suspended.

Who's Fortune Got to Worry About Then?

With the absence of Christian Dailly, its likely that Jon Fortune will step in even though Parky has signed Dutchman Marcel Seip on loan from Plymouth. He's been out of favour under Peter reid and hasn't put his boots on since the 0-4 home defeat to Swindon in the FA Cup on November 6th so may not be fit to play a full 90.

Definitely appearing at the Valley will be all three of the following. Top Pirates scorers are Will Hoskins 8, Jeff Hughes and Jo Kuffour with 6. Hoskins injured himself in the FA Cup first round clash with Darlington on the 6 November when he suffered a sprained ankle, but he returned on Saturday playing 12 minutes and he could start on Tuesday. They also have ex-Arse and the Bees 29 year old Ghanian Kuffour who was last seasons top goalscorer with 14. He's apparently got an impressive 28 in 96 games for the Pirates. Meanwhile, ex-Palarse and number 11 Hughes has an impressive 23 goals from 99 appearances for the Pirates.

What Are They Saying?

Brighton boss Gus Poyet after Saturdays draw with the Pirates, "We have not been ourselves for the last three or four games. We need to get back to the way that we play and make sure we are in control of the game. If we'd played them two months ago and we were 2-1 up with eight minutes to go I can promise you they wouldn't have touched the ball. We got punished and we got what we deserved."

Whats Their Secret?
Only tenth in the table in away form with 2 wins (at Dagenham and Huddersfield - the Terriers first home defeat of the season), 4 draws and 3 defeats BUT they like to attack away from home as Brighton can testify and only three teams (the Addicks, Wednesday and Swindon) have scored more away from home than their 13 goals. And they don't give up a lost cause either, for a very impressive 6 of those 13 have been scored in the last 5 minutes.

But down the other end, whilst the Addicks have had 5 clean sheets in their last 7 League and Cup games, the Pirates haven't kept a clean sheet for 9 games.

And you may have noticed that they don't like losing to top teams, with good results against Huddersfield and Brighton and they only have suffered 2 defeats in 7 games against teams in the top half of the table.
Another secret comes from the boots of Rovers' captain Stuart Campbell, a player that Lennie Lawrence made his first signing at Grimsby. Seems his corners are worth planning against and this is what happened in the dying seconds last weekend "Another superb corner was delivered in by Campbell and with the Brighton defence being put under additional pressure by Rovers goalkeeper Anderson, defender Bennett powered a header past his own keeper for the goal that gave Rovers a deserved point"

The Team

Two more yellows ( and a red) after three yellow cards in both of the previous two games, (although one of them was seems to have been on purpose), means we are returning to our old habits as we continue to lead the table on fouls. Doesn't matter you say, but sometimes these games are won by very slender margins and its worth pointing out that we've collected more yellows in total than any of Brighton, Bournemouth, Colchester, Carlisle, Huddersfield, Southampton, Peterborough, MK Dons and Sheffield Wednesday, all of the top 10 in fact.

After October's problems with bottom of the table teams, and Yeovils determination to get a result on Saturday you'll be pleased to see that we now face another six games against similar teams before we can return to a bit of tranquility on Boxing Day with the arrival of Southampton. The next six are Bristol, Luton (h), Rochdale(a), Walsall (h), Brentford (a) and Hartlepool (a).

However, looking at the three League games after Bristol, and with our impressive away form, they all look difficult but winable. Rochdale went 4th at the end of September but have been in a hopeless deline ever since with just 4 points from their last 7 games, but have only lost one of their last 6 home games, beating Huddersfield 3-0 in the process. Walsall currently prop up the Division and only have 2 points from last 5 away games, scoring just twice.
Meanwhile, Hartlepool have been hovering just above the drop zone from the last 10 games but after losing two of their first three home games have tightened up at Victoria Park with three wins over Walsall, Peterborough and Brighton, a draw with Bristol and only a disappointing 0-4 to Carlisle in the last 5 there. The 3-1 win over Brighton on November 13th was their first defeat in 12. And that defeat to Carlisle has had a similar effect on Hartlepool with 3 wins, 2 draws and only 2 single goal defeats in the 7 games since then.

Whilst Dailly's composure at the back will be sorely missed, there's no denying that the presence of Johnnie Jackson at left-midfield is proving a bonus for Parky. Pushed up since the injury to Reid against Brighton he's netted six times in the 8 games since then and in the 4 games he's scored he's always been first on the scoresheet.

A favorite of Parky, he's signed him twice (while at Colchester as well), he's already equalled his most successful scoring season at Colchester 3 years ago and he's now the Addicks leading scorer.

Elliott; Francis, Fortune, Doherty, Fry; Wagstaff, Semedo, Racon, Jackson; Martin, Benson

Verdict
The history over the last 50 years is rather against Bristol but our stuttering home form could even things out. And against our 5 match winning League run is their confidence-boosting 2-2 result against Brighton at the weekend and they now have leading scorer Hoskins returning from injury. Plus they don't like losing against the top teams and were determined not to lose last weekend at Brighton and they even threw the goalkeeper up for a corner in the closing seconds and won a point.

And if you are hanging on to a one goal lead in the 85th minute, hold on to your hats because the Pirates have scored in the last 5 minutes in 5 of their 9 away games.

But what the hell, we've turned a corner and scored three for the first time at home this season and with 1-point-from-6 Brighton facing the top team over the last 8. the Saints, a win could leave us one point off top spot. But, of course, this is the Addicks we are talking about and any six wins in a row need a lot of luck and we used up a lot on Saturday so it looks a draw, 2-2 for me.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Yeovil Town Preview

To believe or not to believe that is the question. For, although Parky and his players may not have been overly surprised by Saturdays 5-1 result, the fans certainly were. To be honest we just can't get used to all the discrepancies in our home and away form and perhaps its time to get a bit of counselling because with this Jekyll and Hyde stuff we just don't know whether we're coming or going. Thank you then to the Guardian who supplied us with a timely and storming report on Monday morning helping to quell our doubts and hinting, only hinting, at possible good times to come.
It harkened back to our last 5 goal away haul, eleven years ago at Grimsby in 1999, a promotion year, and went on to award the Addicks with several choice phases unknown around these parts for a few years. "Steely new mentality" was one that I really liked and the "zippy, slippy play" of our front two, Martin and Benson, seemed to roll off the tongue like sweet nectar at an oasis. "Acute promptings" was liberally applied to our midfield while the central defensive duo of Dailly and Doherty was labelled with the reliable tag of "67 years of experience".

So, with such superb eulogies, what are we worried about? Well, the details are hidden away further down in an attempt to conceal the truth but the crux of the problem is a distinct sense of confusion. Because, forgetting our away form where we manage an average of 2.22 goals per game, it has to be said that our players don't seem to like the Valley too much. In the nine home games so far played in League and Cup competitions only nine goals have been scored and 6 of the 9 have been 1-0 victories. We'll take the victories, of course, but can we have just a couple of goals to help us enjoy it a bit more please. Starting with Yeovil.

In optimistic fashion we have to present the plus side to raise the mood and we now have nine clean sheets in our total of 22 games and are now 4th in League goals scored in Tier Three and nobody can better our number of wins (5) against the top half of the table. And we're back where we were a year ago at second place in the table, ( although back then we did have 4 points more) and 4 wins in a row, and a 4 week surge from a lowly 14th up to automatic promotion, something that seemed a dream after that defeat on October 16th. Its not the first time that the Posh have let in 5 of course, Bournemouth enjoyed themselves too at their expense, but can we convert our Acute Promptings into Home Goals starting with Stingy Yeovil.

The Boss
Its tempting to wonder what managers talk about in the bar after games. Perhaps they avoid each other but its clearly an opportunity to find out a thing or two not least how other teams

are faring. So, just perhaps, would Parky have asked Peterborough boss Gary Johnson how his old Yeovil captain is making out down at Huish Park. Johnson was in charge at Yeovil and Terry Skiverton (left) the centre-half and captain when Yeovil won the Conference in 2003 and were promoted to the Football League for the first time. Perhaps Parky showed concern about Terry's future as Yeovil fortunes sink, hoping that Gary, not thinking clearly after the days events, would maybe spill a few beans, not knowing that Yeovil would be next up for the Addicks. Unlikely, of course, but you can't blame Parky for trying.

Form

Yeovil are 23nd in the table with only 4 wins and 15 points in 16 games and with only a single point in a 3-3 home draw with Swindon in the last 5 games. Away from Somerset this season its 2 wins (at Walsall and Rochdale) and a goalless draw at Oldham and only MK Dons and the Daggers have suffered more than their 5 away defeats.

And after taking 4 points away from neighbours Exeter last season the Glover fans are certainly not happy after two defeats already this season in the League and JPT and to rub salt in the wound they've also lost to another local rival, Bristol Rovers.

But its best not to underestimate anyone in any League particularly in a League where we are perceived to be one of the Big Boys which sometimes tends to up the stakes just a bit in our opponents favour as they seek to prove a point. And although this weekend we face a team down there in 23rd it should be pointed out that a 1-0 away win is becoming one of their little specialities and although they have lost both their most recent away League games at Brighton 0-2 and MK Dons 2-3 before that they beat Walsall and Rochdale 1-0 ( Rochdale's first defeat in 7) on their own ground and last weekend dispatched Rushden and Diamonds in the FA Cup by the very same score with all three goals coming late on in the game.

Who Are Yeh?

Unlike the Peterborough defence last week, Yeovil will arrive with a more experenced back line containing the following three good players. Twenty three year old Paul Huntington started his career at Newcastle and during the winter of 2006/07 started eleven times in the Premier all before his 20th birthday. During the summer next year he moved to Leeds and played a major role in their central defence during their first season in League One under Gary McAllister. But after serious hernia and groin injuries and the arrival of Simon Grayson, chances at Leeds Road disappeared and Huntingdon now finds himself at Huish Park on a 2 year contract. He's played 15 and scored once.

Another player with Premier League experience is Andy Welsh who played for Sunderland in 2005 during the Black Cats dismal campaign. Number 19 is ex-Brighton Adam Virgo and is another that has experienced life at the top spending three years at Celtic. He plays central defence but has already scored 4 times.
And they also have internationals in the obvious Welshman Owain Tudur Jones in midfield.

Dangerman

Top scorer last season with 10 in his first season with the Glovers even with three months out with injury, number 10 is the 24 year old ex-Ipswich Dean Bowditch. He's managed 6 already this season and Parky, has to be watched.

Ex-Addicks
Only one this week, goalie Ben Roberts who played just once for the Addicks back in May 2003 when he came on against Fulham in our last game of the season when we finished a glorious 12th in the Premiership. We lost 0-1 and Roberts didn't save the penalty, the concession of which had had Kiely sent off. And he's only played once this season and is now the same age as his manager.

What Are They Saying?

Lee Martin on his having to wait his turn, "The main thing is for me to go out there and enjoy myself and the three points were massive for the boys because they've put us in a good position and confidence is sky-high right now"

And Parky, reflecting on tomorrows game, "It is important our supporters do not turn up just expecting an easy win. They have a big part to play on the day in creating an atmosphere and I’m sure they will do that.”

Whats Their Secret?

Unlike our last opponents, Peterborough, who fare so well against top half teams, poor old Yeovil have not won a single game against the cream in 7 games.

They are listed 21st in goalscoring in Tier Three and only last weeks Peterborough have conceded more, both of which mean that their goal difference of minus 13 is the worst in the Division. But beware Parky, there are 6 teams with worst away records than Yeovil and they have only conceded one more goal away from home than we have.


Meanwhile, facing the Glovers will be a team showing distinct Jekyll and Hyde tendencies. Because the Addicks are the Divisions highest away scorers with 20 goals, seven more than anybody else in Tier Three and in fact the highest in the country. However, you all know whats coming next because, our home form, and although our points are split equally, 12 home, 12 away, is not nearly so convincing. In fact, a paltry seven League goals have been scored, the lowest in the Division along with the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Bristol Rovers. Four 1-0 wins and draws against Oldham 1-1 and the 2-2 against the Daggers and we still haven't scored more than once in 90 minutes in eight home games so far (including the Cup win over the Daggers) as it took 91 minutes to score twice against Dagenham in the League.


History

History or is it nostaglia? Just four games played, all in the last five years. We won the first 3-2 at the Valley, an FA Cup fourth round game in January 2005 when Yeovil were 4 Divisions lower than the Addicks, with goals from that controversial trio of Hughes, Jeffers and Bartlett in an otherwise forgettable season in which we finished an average (sic) 11th best in the country. Dumped out of the Premiership the year before and on the slipperly slope to Tier Three in August 2008 we lost the next game, again a Cup affair this time a 1st Round home League Cup tie, at the Valley by 0-1 with present boss Terry Skiverton in defence. Only 6,000 hardy souls attended and perhaps they hadn't been told what everyone already knew because they witnessed the first defeat in a dismal season that would see a further 24 defeats before the seasons end.

So after being 4 Leagues apart in our first game against them 4 years and 10 months ago we somehow achieved parity last season and met Yeovil in the League for the first time. The first encounter was a 1-1 draw and we won the return in February this year 2-0.

The Team
In a strange week that saw the Football League team of the week include three Orient players and two from the Daggers the Addicks performance was rewarded with another duo from the Addicks, this time two goal Johnnie Jackson and Therry Racon.

The Addicks League form of 5 wins and a draw and top scoring with 17 goals over the last 8 games make us 2nd best form team in Tier Three being equal to Southampton and only behind leaders Brighton. A settled team is taking shape and this week there's really only the question of who will partner Benson up front, 2 goal Lee Martin from last week or Joe Anyinsah.

Elliot; Jackson, Dailly, Doherty, Fry; Wagstaff, Semedo, Racon, Jackson; Martin, Benson.

Verdict
After 4 straight wins over teams currently lying in 4th, 8th, 9th and 13th positions how can we possibly fear a team slipping down to 23rd? Well, its quite possible that Yeovil will perform more like Barnet than Peterborough and will remind themselves that before the 4 wins we failed to beat such lowly teams as Tranmere, Dagenham and Brentford in a 2 week span back in September, suffering one defeat and scraping two draws.
Skiverton's first ever game at the Valley with Yeovil was a 1-0 cup win just over 2 years ago and he'll be trying to do the same on Saturday.
However, Yeovils favorite scoreline this season is also mine ie 2-0, or in Yeovils case 0-2, and what better result could there be than that.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Peterborough United Preview

Failure to score against the League's bottom club on Saturday didn't impress Mrs Nelson very much and its not so long along that she commented that we must be bad if we're playing Seaford. And a lacklustre performance against Barnet it apparently was, although one that Curbs would be proud of. Just three games after conceding nine goals in three games, we made it three clean sheets in three tricky games. Parky wheeled out the professional tag and pointed out its 4 intact wheels and after last seasons dismal performance at Northwich, welcomed the appearance of our name in the FA Cup 2nd Round hat.
And then there was Tuesday and a game against Southend in the silly Paint Pot job that after another goal from Therry Racon isn't looking so silly. Again we rode our luck at times but gained a fourth clean sheet and its now 6 hours 13 minutes since we conceded.
Meanwhile, in the League, the number three featured several times in the Swindon offering "Its all a question of 3's" and so perhaps it was no surprise to see the scoreline at 3-0. But it was left to young Wyn Grant to actually forecast a 3-2 win. But after hauling ourselves back into contention and a nice 5th place are we all optimistic this week for the trip to Peterborough?

The Boss

Whilst our last League opponents Swindon's Danny Wilson can be proud of taking Barnsley into top flight football for the first time, the Posh boss Gary Johnson is another manager with a famous credit to his name. After years of non-league giant-killing to its name, Yeovil Town at last reached the Football League in 2003 after winning the Conference with Johnson in charge.
But it hasn't been all plain sailing for Johnson because he didn't have much success at his first 2 clubs being sacked by both Cambridge and Kettering and a rather strange tenure as manager of Latvia for 2 years which didn't improve his CV although 4 wins in 14 games for such a small country would seem some sort of achievement. But he obviously learned something in Latvia if not the language and success at Yeovil soon followed. He arrived at Yeovil in 2002 and took the FA Trophy in his first year and then took giant killers Yeovil into the Football League for the first time in 2003.
After 5 years there he moved on to Bristol City and took them into the Tier Two Play-off final in 2008 and then lead City to their first win at the Valley in 40 years with a 2-0 win in October 2008, hammering another nail into the Charlton relegation coffin. He lasted another couple of years at Bristol but the spark of 2008 had died and in March 2010 "he left his post as manager of Bristol City FC by mutual consent." Three short weeks later he was snapped up by bottom of table Posh, 14 points away from safety with 5 games remaining, and relegation a certainty.
As for Peterborough's recent history, after 2 successful years under Darren Ferguson, who got the club back to back promotions from League 2 to the Championship, he was finally given the axe in November 2009 after just 2 wins in 16 League games. They are now on their third manager since then which at least is in keeping with the club, now on their ninth in the last 5 years since the days of Barry Fry.
Form
So how do they like Gary down at London Road? Well, very nicely thank you, for after a miserable total of 46 goals scored over the 46 games last seasons they've so far got 32 this year from 15 games.
So not surprisingly, the Posh are the highest scorers in Tier Three and especially at home where they have notched 21 goals in their 7 games and its earned them the fourth best home record in the Division with 5 wins - to the Addicks 4 - but with twice as many defeats, ie two, to Notts County and Brighton. So after four opening home wins against Bristol Rovers 3-0, Huddersfield 4-2, Oldham 5-2 and MK Dons 2-1, those two defeats have come in the last 3 home League games with an entertaining 5-4 win over Swindon sandwiched between them.

So are the Posh tailing off a bit? Only 2 defeats in their first 8 games, they have now lost 4 in their last 7.

Who Are Yeh?
There could be a battle of the 20 year olds on the right flank as six goal Waggy comes face to face with "Nana" from Accra. Left-back and number 22 is Seth Nana Ofori-Twumasi, a bit of a mouthful, but was once on Chelski's books and after captaining their reserves but failing to learn Russian, upped and left joining the Posh last July. But as Waggy scatches his head planning how to get past all those syllables, manager Johnson could have the answer as he has moved Nana into midfield and got himself a new left-back in Bristol City loanee Lewin Nyatanga, not from Ghana but a 22 year old Welsh international from Burton on Trent.

But as Parky eagerly casts his eye over the Posh watery defence he'll notice that beside ex Shrewsbury hardman 25 year old Kelvin Langmead there's another 20 year old at the heart of the Posh defence. This is number 16 Ryan Bennett, Peterborough's most expensive player at a quoted 500k, and after captaining Grimsby at age 18 was another Ferguson buy. Said to be "comfortable on the ball", - and a note for Parky - he's also said to be good at set pieces and has scored twice already this year.

In fact, Parky may not be alone in thinking that its the age of Peterborough defenders that may be the key to their abysmal defensive record, for at right-back is another 22 year old Mark Little.

Dangermen - Two Ex-Teammates Clash
In games against the Divisions top goalscorers, we couldn't stop Wright-Phillips (Plymouth) or Madine (Carlisle) scoring against us but more recently the defence kept Charlie Austin quiet at the County Ground. But can they do the same against Peterborough's finest? He sounds Scottish, but twenty-six year old Craig Mackail-Smith hails from Watford. He's been at London Road since January 2007 when he was snatched from Dagenham and Redbridge by Darren Ferguson, where he had been playing alongside Paul Benson, just as the Daggers were gearing up to win the Conference.

With only 38 goals in his three years at Victoria Road he was in Bensons shadow but has blossomed since then with a reported 61 goals in 152 games for the Posh. He clearly likes life in Tier Three and and after 11 League goals last season, he already has 8 goals so far this season, although he hasn't scored in five.....

Down the other end will be our own Paul Benson currently on 6 goals for the season. Four years older than MacKail-Smith, and a late starter he was 26 before he made his Football debut in August 2007. Benson notched a reported 70 (although he claims 85-odd) in 174 appearances for the Daggers.


What Are They Saying?

Peterborough United boss Gary Johnson after their last League game against Walsall, a straightforward 3-1 away win, Walsall's third defeat in a row,"We tinkered with the shape a bit to have an extra midfielder in there and I thought the boys put in a really good shift. Walsall got the ball forward very quickly, they had a few big lads in there, our three defenders had to deal with it and I thought generally they dealt with it well. When they didn't, our goalkeeper was there."

Whats The Secret?
The Posh The rather bizarre statistic of being this Divisions highest scorers with 32, three more than anyone else, but they also field Tier Three's worse defence (although shared with Yeovil and the Daggers ) on 28 goals conceded.
They also have the best record of anyone in their games against the top half teams in the table with 5 wins ( Bristol Rovers, Huddersfield, MK Dons, Oldham and Carlisle) in 7 games.
And although the Addicks are the only club to score as many as they concede in the second half with 12 goals scored and conceded, the Posh score twice as many as they let in with 20 scored and 10 let in.
The Addicks
Of the 15 games, we've scored first 10 times but of the 5 others we have only gained a single point - at Plymouth - all the others have been lost.

History
A strange history totalling 12 games, six of which have been cup ties. Three cup games at London Road and we've lost the lot but this the League and things are a bit different.
In the total of 6 League games, home and away, we won 3, drawn one and lost one and you'll be pleased to learn that we are unbeaten at their ground with two 1-1 draws in 1975 and 1992 and a 1-0 win in November 1993 when that man Nelson scored his 9th of the season. That was our 2nd of 4 seasons with Curbs and Gritt in charge and we flirted with promotion with just 1 defeat in the first 14 but 5 defeats in a row in March (including the spanners and Palarse) finished a disappointing season. We all went to Old Trafford in March, FA Cup 6th Round - the first time we had got that far since 1947 - but lost 1-3 after Schmeichel had been sent off, and somehow that really started the rot, we also lost 3 times to Palarse and finished the season in midtable, with Gary Nelson on 15 goals, with Leaburn and Pardew on 10, while Peterborough finished bottom and were relegated.

Discipline

Not something we want to read perhaps but as well as being high goalscorers, the Posh and the Addicks are way ahead in putting it about as well. The Addicks continue to set the pace in fouls committed with 210 but close behind in second place are Peterborough with 191. The Posh are also after the red card gong with 3 send off, although they are way behind Plymouth currently with 6.

The Team
In the news at the moment is Scotty Wagstaff. Named in the Football League team of the week, along with Rob Elliott after the win over Sheffield Wednesday it follows the naming of Johnnie Jackson and Paul Benson in the previous weeks team for the win over Carlisle.

And there's more good news on Paul Benson. After scoring four goals in October, Charlton striker Paul Benson has been nominated for the League One player of the month award. The winning player will be announced on Thursday, November 11th.

Meanwhile the Addicks have been unchanged for 4 games, apart from Tuesdays Paint Can effort against Southend. Memories of last seasons 6 game storming start are perhaps still fresh in Parky's memory as we topped the table and went 8 games unchanged, a club record. Only four players remain from that run - Elliott, Dailly, Semedo and Racon - but has the team improved?

After 15 games last season we had 4 more points than now on 29 points; from 8 wins and only 2 defeats away at Colchester and Carlisle. Away from the Valley even after that great start it was still only 3wins, 3draws and those 2 defeats. The goals stood at 12 goals for 10 against.

But at the moment away from home its almost as good with an encouraging 3wins, 2draws and 3 defeats at Huddersfield, Exeter and Brentford, ie only a single point worse off than last season. And the goals for column has grown to 15, with 13 conceded.

Another unchanged team then with:

Elliot; Francis, Dailly, Doherty, Fry; Wagstaff, Semedo, Racon, Jackson; Benson, Anyinsah.

Verdict
As far as the League is concerned its a meeting of the goalscoring giants of Tier Three. In the 10 games played at London Road this season, 8 League, 3 League Cup, the fans have seen an amazing 48 goals, 28 by the Posh, 20 by the opposition. And in the red corner is the Addicks with 10 away games, 38 goals scored, 20 for us, 18 against. So its the highest home scorers against the highest away scorers.

And then there's the added conumdrum of the Addicks' fourth clean sheet in a row after Tuesday. We needed a bit of luck to keep that going but its doubtful it will continue at London Road against Peterborough and the only team to stop them scoring at home this season has been Brighton although that was in their last home game and they might have their doubts. And then there's the dual between Paul Benson and MacKail-Smith. The two ex teammates will want to prove to themselves that they is the best so expect them both to get on the scoresheet.

Meanwhile, we have never lost at London Road in the League although the number of games played have that lucky ring to it again, ie 3. Whether that means a 3-3 draw or a hat-trick for Paul Benson we can only guess.

Verdict, for me a 2-2 draw but do I see Gyn again forecasting another 3-2 win?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Swindon Town Preview

An unchanged team and a sparkling performance that kicked all the Parky-out talk into the rubbish bin as least for a couple of weeks. And I hate to say I told you so but although the forecast 3-2 scoreline was only correct as far as yellow cards are concerned it was a somehow predicted three points that carried us up 4 places into sixth place and back into the Play-offs positions for the first time since August, 12 games ago, and now just a single point off Huddersfield in 2nd.

But, as the actress said to the bishop, its still very tight, with three points covering eleven clubs from 2nd down to 12th. And this week its Rochdale and MK Dons that have dropped down four places whilst surging up the table and jumping 5 positions are both Oldham and those 5-wins-in-the-last-7 boys from the coast, Southampton.

Meanwhile its another midweek game and the start of a crazy programme of 7 games in 25 days. Tonights opposition manager at the County Ground is, of course, Danny Wilson. For a 50 year old he's managed quite a few clubs starting with Barnsley and Wednesday and both of them in the Premier. He it was that in 1997 got Barnsley promoted to top flight football for the first time in 110 years but, sadly, they lasted only one season and they missed out on safety by just 5 points with the perennial Palarse finishing bottom as always. After Barnsley he spent 2 years at Wednesday but when it all finished sadly, it was famously said of him: "Lovely fellow, but he couldn't do it."

Moving on to Swindon and in complete contrast to our last opponents Wednesday but strikingly similar to Carlisle and Barnsley, Swindon are another team that has spent just one season, 1993/94, in top flight football and it all finished exactly the same as Carlisle, for unfortunately Palarse were not around that year so they finished bottom with 30 points and 100 goals conceded and 13 points away from safety.

Form
15th best home record with 3 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats against seasiders Brighton and Plymouth. Quite the reverse to last opponents Wednesday, Swindon had a bad start to the season with no wins in their first 5 games which contrived to carry them down to 2nd from bottom. Wilson proceeded to give them a kick them up the kursi and they brilliantly revived with three straight wins over Southampton, Walsall and Huddersfield which, of course, is something the Addicks have not yet achieved this season. However, Swindons miracle cure has proved to be a bit of a flash in the pan because they are slipping once again with only 1 win, and 3 defeats, in the 6 games since then and have the worst defence in Tier Three over the last 8 games with 17 goals conceded, 16 of them coming in their last 6 games.

So while we finished last season practically level pegging with the Robins, at the moment, despite Parky having to rebuild his team, there's a bit of a stark contrast because while only a single point ( OK, plus goal difference) keep the Addicks from the automatic promotion spot, the Robins are but a single point off the relegation zone, down there in 16th place in the table, five points off the Addicks.

The Opposition

Joe Anyinsah will met up with an ex teammate in French U21 international, but Cameroon born, Vincent Pericard (left) because they played together last season at Carlisle and were both in the Cumbrians team that beat us 3-1 in October last year. And this Pericard is an interesting character; He's played for St. Etienne in the French Division One and Juventus in Serie A and also in the Chumps League for the Italians.

A wandering career has then taken him to Portsmouth and Stoke both in the Premier before finally sinking into Tier Three after spells at Sheffield United, Plymouth and the spanners. He wears number nine but after injury was only on the bench at the weekend.

And talking of the spanners, some bad news just in is that the Robins have secured centre half Andy Frampton from Millwall on a months loan. Spanners Player of the year in 2009 he was last seen at the Valley in the absorbing (sic) 4-4 draw last December. And the spanners ex started his first game for the Robins last weekend earning his first yellow card as expected.

There's been changes at the County Ground as well as at the Valley and there were only four players in last weekends draw at Yeovil that played at the Valley in May and as the official site will tell you there's some serious problems with the Swindon squad injury-wish especially in midfield and full-back Sheehan is still serving a three match suspension.

Dangerman
One man that will need stopping at the County Ground will be the former brickie, twenty one year old Charlie Austin, who is still knocking 'em in for the Robins and now has seven to his name this season. He scored the first goal at the County Ground in May but the man who scored the other two Swindon goals in the tie, 18 year old Danny Ward has been signed by Bolton and has now been sent to Coventry.

Ex-Addick

Charlton Legend Peter Shirtliff is assistent manager at Swindon for just over a year. He only played for us for three years and 124 appearances before heading back to Sheffield but his nine goals included those two precious ones that he scored in the last 7 minutes at St. Andrews on 29th May 1987 against Leeds that kept the Addicks in the top flight.

Whats Their Secret?

Although the Robins have the same minus one goal difference as the Addicks they have scored 4 more and are the 5th highest scorers in Tier Three scoring eleven in their last 4 games. And although lying down in 16th, they can raise themselves in the big games and 3 out of their 4 wins (Huddersfield, Southampton and Bristol Rovers) have come against teams in the top half.

Despite what you may think about the Addicks fraility in giving leads away, its the Robins who remain one of only five teams down here who have lost more than once after scoring first. The Addicks, in contrast, despite several close calls and ignoring League Cup results, remain one of 12 still unbeaten after scoring first.

And there's a bit of a contrast in the social behaviour of the two teams. Whilst the Addicks continue to lead the field in fouls committed, currently one shy of the 200 mark, our opponents from Wiltshire have less than half our yellows with only an amazing 12 in 14 games.

History
Swindon should be one of those rare teams that we really shouldn't have to worry about. After 89 years, overall its 26-13 to the Addicks. Home and away in the last 24 League games, since we last graced this Division in 1980/81 the Addicks have won 13, the Robins 5 and the remaining 6 have been draws. In the 12 games at their place in those 30 years the Addicks have won no less than 7 with only 2 defeats and 3 draws. However, one of those painful defeats was at the County Ground in our last visit back in May when we had high hopes of departing these troubled waters.

And talking about forecasts, I did rather shoot us in the foot last May by pointing out that "Swindon are one of only 4 teams ( in the august company of the likes of the Gills, Tranmere and Oldham) in this neck of the woods that have not won a game after going behind". Well, although I believe Mr Mourinho may disagree, I would say that even though they lost 1-2 at the Valley they definitely came from behind to secure a Wembley spot on that dismal night back 5 months ago.

The Team
Its all a question of 3's as the Addicks expect to line-up with an unchanged team for the third consecutive game with Lee Martin not in contention because of his 5 yellows. But Swindon fans will see a completely different team to the one that they beat 2-1 last May with only three players - Dailly, Semedo and Racon - remaining from the starting line-up that night when two Swindon goals in 8 minutes sealed a defeat even though Deon Burton pulled one back with his first goal for three months.

And continuing the number three theme - when was the last time we won three in a row? Last December in fact, when Bristol Rovers 4-2, Brighton 2-0 and Southend 1-0 were all beaten and we then made it 4 in a row by beating Stockport County 2-1. Can we made it three this time?

I was thinking a touch of revenge after last seasons disappointments might be in order but with only a total of 4 players involved last May (Wagstaff came on in the 79th minute while Elliott and Llera sat out the game on the bench) its maybe a little unlikely that that game will have any impact and Parky doesn't seem the kind of guy to hold a grudge.

Fact time - Our favorite scoreline, double that of any other, is the Arse's favorite, 1-0, but only Brighton have scored first more times than we have. Wagstaff is now leading scorer with 6 and dreaming of another strange celebration on scoring Charlton 5000th goal tonight, and currently leaving Benson trailing still on 5 whilst the Doc is the player with most minutes under his belt, to the surprise of many.


But the key player tonight could well be Therry Racon. Starting his 10th game in a row, after effectively changing places with Alan McCormack at half-time against Notts County, we've won 4 of those last 9 games and his performance next to Jose Semedo last Saturday won him MOM according to blackheathaddicted. Maybe driven on by seeing his ex-team moving away at the top of the table although one scribe attributes it to the added motivation of becoming a father but whatever the reason we need more of the same from T, tonight.

Elliott; Francis, Dailly, Doherty, Fry; Wagstaff, Semedo, Racon, Jackson; Benson, Anyinsah

Verdict

There's been nineteen goals scored in Swindon's last 3 games, (a 4-5 defeat to the Posh, 2-2 at home to Orient and a 3-3 draw at Yeovil) so we should perhaps expect a few goals and I'm going for another 2-2 draw.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sheffield Wednesday Preview

Well, are we happy? If you've been reading everyones views, seems not. A 4-3 win where nobody gave us a dogs chance doesn't seem to have had the desired effect on the fans and if we're not happy you have to wonder if Richard M is. And forgetting the games fluctuations, which had people tearing their hair out, its that goals against column that will do for Parky unless he sorts it out. Last season we had conceded 12 goals after 13 games, right now its 20, 15th worst in Tier Three.
And just when Parky wanted a few days to sort out our defensive failings, ie nine goals conceded in last three games, along come the highest scoring away team (equal to the Addicks of course) on a visit to the Valley that they must be relishing.
Manager at Wednesday is the Scot 52 year old Alan Irvine who knows all about Charlton as he was playing at Sainburys for the other lot when we were suffering those long years of exile in the eighties. He then went on to play from Blackburn where he retired in 1992. He became manager of Tier Two Preston in 2007, saved them from relegation and then lead them into the Play-offs the following season before being sacked the following December after only one win in 10 games. Memories are short in this business, aren't they Alan.
He then took over at Wednesday in January this year with the Owls in 22nd place in the Fizzies and two points clear of safety. But unlike at Preston he couldn't save them and they were relegated and he's now having his first taste of life in the Third Division.
With a massive 66 years in top flight football, 40 more than the addicks total, what the hell are a team like Wednesday doing down here. Its even harder to explain when you remember that they've won the League 4 times with back-to-back championships in the years 1903 and 1904 and again in 1929 and 1930. They're also FA Cup winners three times, all pre-war as well, and have a trophy room with 5 Division Two championships to complete the list.
It took them two years to get out of Tier three last time (2003-05), and they then managed to last 5 years in Tier Two before last seasons relegation where they had to beat Palarse to avoid the drop. They didn't. So Irvine's trying to cure past mismanagement and although he's enjoying high gates it seems that previously they've been spending too much as well because now they are currently experiencing severe money problems and received a winding up petition from HMRC last July and another two more since then, all of which have been staved off with bank loans and investments from "a consortium." Looks like they need promotion as much as we do.
Form
What you might call an inconsistent start with 3 wins and a draw in their first 4 games that took them to the top of the table, followed by 4 defeats in a row to Brentford, Carlisle, Plymouth and Southampton and a slump down to 16th. But the alarm bells went off and it was back to another 3 wins and a draw before last Saturdays 1-1 home draw against Bournemouth. After a poor first half another run of defeats looked like beginning again until Preston loanee Mellor saved their blushes with a late 82th equaliser.
So they're now in 4th place with 21 points, 2 more than the Addicks, and with, discouragingly, the second best away record in Tier Three after the leaders Brighton with 3 wins (Hartlepool, Notts County and Yeovil), 1 draw (at Colchester) and two defeats to those stinging Bees from Brentford and to Plymouth.

As for the Addicks - when was the last time that we conceded 7 times in two games? Well, rather ominously you have to go back to November 2008 to Pardews last two games in charge when we lost away 2-3 to Birmingham and then a week later the cruncher for Pards, a 2-5 home defeat to Sheffield United.

The Opposition

One player that has managed to escape our attention is the captain Darren Purse although perhaps not as he supported Millwall in his youth. Born in Stepney thirty-three years ago and apparently played in the same Sunday team as Lee Bowyer. He started his career at Orient and has spent most of his career at Brum but has now been at Wednesday for the last two years. Much like the Doc he's started to slow down and as Ketts has already pointed out, Darren may find the pacy Anyinsah a bit of a handful.

Ex-Addicks

As you all remember, Sheffield born Nicky Weaver played two years with us in 2007/09 playing 70 times but lost his place in December 2008 to youngster Rob Elliot and never got it back and finally returned to his roots this summer.

Dangerman

After two seasons with Deon Burton as top scorer, the last two years its been Marcus Tudgay with 14 and then 10 and he's close to becoming a Wednesday legend with 48 goals already to his name. This year number 33, Neil Mellor, on loan from Preston, is leading their charts with 5 but close behind is number 7 Marcus Tudgay, with 4 to his name.

Nostaglia Never Done Me Any Harm

If like me you've been knew to check the Prem teamsheets to see how our top class ex's are doing and have been heard to quietly utter the plaintive words of "he used to play for us" then you'll understand the reason behind this pathetic paragraph.

Across our screens last week were another couple of reminders of days gone by. Jonjo Shelvey played his first competitive game for the Reds last week in Naples, starting the game and playing the full 90.
And, going a bit further back, another player that appeared briefly for us in the summer of 2006, when we were all blissfully and innocently unaware of what was to befall us, was Christian BolaƱos. He's now at Copenhagen and appeared in last Wednesdays Chumps League game against Barcelona.
Back in August 2006, however, when the sun was always shining and with the redoubtable Iain Dowie at the helm ( or should it have been paddle), Charlton announced that they had clinched their third new signing in the space of 24 hours by snapping up Costa Rica international Christian Bolanos.
Having completed the £4m joint capture of Djimi Traore and Amady Faye the day before Addicks sealed a one-year loan deal the following afternoon with an exclusive option to buy the player before the loan expires. But there at the end of the report was the phase that nobody noticed - The signing is subject to a work permit being granted.
But, as we all remember, after appearing for Charlton in pre-season matches against Welling United and New Zealand, and creating a goal for Marcus Bent in the latter, it was announced that he had failed to get the required work permit. Oh dear, what a pity that the other two didn't need one.
History

Just like Carlisle its a shame this is not a cup game because we've had three cup games, all in the FA Cup, and we've won every time including a 4-2 win at Hillsborough in 2006.
But Wednesday have beaten us 4 times in the last 5 games League games played at the Valley including sending us down to Tier Two in May 1999 with a 0-1 defeat. In fact, they have done the double over us in 3 of the last 5 seasons spent together over the last 20 years. Overall, at the Valley, its 9-6 to the Addicks with 5 draws although in total its level pegging with 15 wins a piece with 10 draws.

What's Their Secret?

A mean defence, equal best with Brighton, with only 8 goals conceded. And with so much emphasis on defence, down the other end they have failed to score 4 times in 13 league games, twice as many as the Addicks, and have lost 3 of them. But, completely unlike the Addicks, they are the only club in Tier Three that have not conceded a goal after scoring first and Wednesday have done it 6 times and of course have won every one of them. Meanwhile the Addicks, although scoring first twice more times( ie 8), have now conceded 8 and that's if we forget another 4 at Shrewsbury in the League Cup.

So first things first. It would appear paramount then we stop them from scoring, and especially scoring first. A big, big problem this with our current defensive record. But don't be surprised if we've managed it to half-time because Wednesday have failed to score before half-time in their last 6 games.

What Are They Saying?

Parky before last weekends game at Carlisle "It's important to remember it's our fourth home defeat in 34 games which is a good record. The manner of the defeat creates a lot of unrest but the home record has been good." Lets hope it improves even more this weekend.

While Wednesday's Irvine had this to say after his teams 1-1 home draw with Bournemouth, "It was a game of two halves. Bournemouth controlled the first half and were much the better side while we were the better side in the second. Take note Parky, the first 45 currently seems to be a bit of a problem for Irvine's lot.

The Team

The Defence. We all know who its going to be - unless Parky surprises us and gives the hard-done by Fortune a game - and thats why we'll all be a bit apprehensive as we take our seats on Saturday. Only twice in the last twelve League games have we kept a clean sheet and it was a miracle in one of those that Notts County failed to score. What on earth is Parky going to say that will make any difference this weekend as we face the biggest away scorers in Tier Three?

One player on top form last weekend was Scotty Wagstaff but I even have a doubt about that for how important was the loss of left-back Sean McDaid to Carlisle? Ever-present McDaid is now out for the season with a knee problem and was replaced in the Carlisle lineup by Robson, a winger who just couldn't cope with Waggy. Carlisle then lost two other important ever-present players in the first half-hour of the game in defender James Chester and then midfielder Francois Zoko. Could all these disruptions explain the 3 goals we scored in the first 47 minutes?

Putting all that aside, there's no denying Paul Bensons hit form with 5 goals in his last 5 League games and alongside him Parky seems to have picked up a gem, if he can keep fit, of Joe Anyinsah. These two, barring injuries, will be up front but behind them there may be alterations as the boss seeks to convince Murray that he can solve the lead weight of 20 goals conceded thats threatening to derail our season.

But don't forget Parky, this lot have a tendency to start slowly and then build up steam with nearly half their goals coming in the last twenty minutes. So start with Semedo/Racon and try for a goal before getting McCormack on the field to tie things up.

On another theme, its almost a year ago since we suffered the embarrassment of three defeats in a row and surprisingly for all the talk of Parky's imminent departure we haven't suffered two defeats in a row since then. OK, the League is the most important thing and two of those defeats were cup defeats, and all away as well at Carlisle, Northwich (FA Cup) and Southampton (Painting job) and we put it all right with a 5-1 home hammering over MK Dons. What a funny game is football.

Elliot; Francis, Daily, Doherty, Fry; Wagstaff, Semedo, Racon, Jackson; Benson, Anyinsah.

Verdict

A game between the Tier Three's two highest away scorers each scoring 12 times but with a fragile home defence with 9 goals conceded in the last three games. An Addicks team thats scored just 6 times at home against a team with the most clean sheets in Tier Three (7) and that hasn't conceded a single goal after scoring first. You would think that maybe a 0-0 draw would be worth a bet as Parky seeks to bring some calm to our troubled brows but no, I won't if I were you - this is Charlton we're talking about.

Forecast- I just don't know why, but 3-2 to the Addicks.

One final thought. After 13 games last season, the spanners were lying 9th with 18 points from 4 wins, 6 draws and 3 defeats, one point worse than the Addicks right now.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Carlisle Preview

Its at times like this that you turn to philosophy for an answer. Stendhal, (no, that's not him on the left) our french romantic, realised that the pain of a defeat, especially a 0-4 hammering, stays for days and who said "If you need a thousandth proof that we are not fashioned by a benign being, it is that pleasure produces only about half as much impression upon our being as pain does".
OK, he said it a few years ago now and it needs reading a couple of times before the meaning sinks in but it does explain my beliefs exactly, ie that the pleasure of a win is only followed by a desire for another one next week whereas it seems almost impossive to shrug off the memory of our weekends 0-4 demise. I just didn't know until now that they played football in his day. And here's a picture of the glum Arthur Schopenhauer to let you know that its not going to get any better.
Of course, its at this point that we usually stroll out with all the excuses. Like "its been coming", "Reid got injured", "we were never four goals worse than them"; but that would just be a load of cobblers because its really not true and we are down in 14th because we deserve to be and the sooner we get used to this Division Three stuff the better. Because not only are we 14th in points but also 19th in current standings over the last 8 games, 12th in goals scored, 14th in goals against, and 22nd in October results. All of which makes our next game a bit crucial.
Parky's already demanding a response from the players, and what better place to begin than Carlisle this weekend. So another pic for you, this time its good old GA, manager of the Cumbrians. Its Greg Abbott, 46 year old ex Bradford City defender and he's been there since November 2008, and he's no relation to our own Pawel.

The Cumbrians are not a team with any great history behind it but they have done more than Plymouth for example by enjoying - well that's a bit debatable as they finished bottom - a season in top flight football back in 1974/75 and we all know what happens to teams that finish bottom. Since then they've had a topsy-turby 21st century with eventual relegation to the Conference in 2004 but like their stay in Tier One they didn't stay long and they had an immediate return the year after by winning the Play-offs. They then won Tier Four the next season and have now spent 5 years in Tier Three making the Play-off semis in 2007/8 but losing to Leeds. They finished 14th last season.
Form
Unbeaten in their first seven league games, a run which took them up to 2nd a week ago but they slipped up last weekend with a 1-2 defeat at Exeter and now have exactly the same home record as the Addicks with 3 wins, 2 draws and a single defeat against the Posh 0-1. But they have conceded the least home goals in Tier Three (along with Wednesday) with only 2 goals let in in nine hours of football.
Eight places above us in the table but only three points away and have only scored one more goal than we have and have only scored seven times at home in the 5 games with 4 of them coming in one game when they thumped MK Dons 4-1. The other two victories were against Brentford on opening day 2-0 and in their latest home game 1-0 against Notts County.
Only one team has more clean sheets than the Cumbrians six while the Addicks have exactly half that with 3 but, although it may seem a bit obvious, it seems that the only way to get something out of the Saturdays game is to stop them from scoring because they have had two 0-0 home draws with Swindon and Brighton.

The Opposition
One constant about the top two teams is that they have quite a lot of ever-presents. The Cumbrians have a small squad and currently have no less than 8 ever-presents so there should be no excuses this week about unexpected triangles because barring any injuries its hugely possible that we'll see goalkeeper Adam Collin, defenders Simek, McDaid and Chester, midfielders Berrett, Taiwo and Zoko and striker Madine.
And to help out the regulars in midfield Abbott has bought in on loan 19 year old Oliver Norwood from Manure and he's played 5 games now.

Dangerman
We couldn't stop McGleish, Harley or Wright-Philips - all top 20 goalscorers in Tier Three - so how will we do against the enormous 6' 5", 20 year old number 19 Gary Madine. He's currently the Divisions second top scorer with 6 goals behind Craig Mackail-Smith of the Posh.
Whats Their Secret?
Second in the table in clean sheets with 6 and second in the table of goals conceded with just 8 goals let in - the Addicks have now conceded seventeen..
But if you think that defence is their forte, well maybe but they also have had with more shots on target than the Addicks and over 50 less fouls (the Addicks still top of the league here, 8 clear of Notts County), 7 less yellows and half the number of players sent off so they are clearly more efficient and disciplined that the Addicks. Shame then that they don't attract the numbers to appreciate this style of play because while the two big S's battle it out for top spot, the Addicks sit comfortably in 3rd place on average attendances with nearly 15500, while the Cumbrians lie in midtable with less than 6000 a game..

History
First thing to regret is that it isn't a cup game, 'cause we had four against the Cumbrians and won them all, three at the Valley and one up there. As for the League we lost our first ever game at Brunton Park 1-3 on New Years Day 1966 and almost exactly a year ago lost the last one by the same score. In between we've won just two of the other 13 league games, the first in 1981, 2-1 and then in 1986, 3-2. But that last one won't be forgotten quickly as it was the one that got us promoted to the top flight, still called Division One in those days, after 29 years away.
So overall up there its a meagre 2 wins in 15 league games but we have forced a draw six times over the years and there's only 7 defeats in the 15 games.
What Are They Saying?
Parky appeared in no doubt where the fault lay last weekend, "two goals from set plays and another where we gave the ball away at the edge of our box. We can't concede sloppy goals like that and expect to get anything from the game."

The Team
We should have a strike force up for it this weekend as not only is Pawel on a high after seeing his goal at MK Dons in the last 10 for the Paint competition goal of the round but Joe Anyinsah will also be going back to play against his mentor and ex-manager Greg Abbott. Our 26 year old number 23 had his best ever spell at Brunton Park scoring 13 goals there last season and how he performs, for he's sure to see some action, could be key to our hopes.
After getting a player in the Football League team of the week after the Plymouth game - Paul Benson - it was no surprise that none made it into this weeks team - and as Parky casts an eye over his players this week he must be seriously wondering what or who can be expected to put things right. That's assuming that he thinks there are things to put right because some of his comments aren't clear on that. But if the job of a football manager entails seeing whatever positives there are and getting to work then Parky only has to listen to Gus who tried to help him out by saying that it may have looked easy but it wasn't.
As Parky scratches his head, its possible that our only League ever-present, Gary Doherty, may be "rested" and find his place taken by Matt Fry. Unless, of course, Parky remembers Curbs' answer to a problem by putting-up shop and fielding a defensive formation, perhaps of Fry at left-back and Jackson in midfield or will we see a return of McCormack.

So in taking Gus's line all we can do is do our bit and raise the spirits by pointing out that a couple of weeks ago Hartlepool, after a recent 0-4 home defeat at the hands of Carlisle, had a long trip to Plymouth four days later and won 1-0. And its not unusual to see Brighton win at the Valley, even the spanners with only 2 wins in their last 10 visits can't get anywhere near Brightons record of 5 in their last 10.

Elliot; Francis, Dailly, Doherty, Fry; Martin, Semedo, McCormack, Jackson; Benson, Abbott.

Verdict

After last weekends pounding, Curbs would have engineered a goalless draw or three. Can Parky do the same? With Reid missing, and facing a settled side, a crowded midfield prepared to do battle seems in order but where are Holland and Kish (not to mention Parker) to do it for us. Will Parky drop Racon and recall McCormack?

A rather surprising eight out of 38 punters on CAFCPicks saw a win back in the summer and they do include the leading man Major Ken with nine forecasts right so far. A 0-0 draw is all we can hope for but I doubt we can achieve it. A 0-2 defeat for the Addicks and more doom and gloom on the northern horizon.