We've over half way through the season now and its a mad downhill chase to the finish line hoping that one of the others misses a hurdle or two, or maybe goes into administration. Just 20 games left and its neck and neck at the top with only three points covering the top three. Delia's party-poopers got another revenge out of the way with a useful 1-0 over Brentford even with 10 men after Grant Holt's dismissal so with Leeds otherwise detained, a winning result this evening would see a crazy three-way tie on 57 points.
Leeds did well at White Hart Lane at Saturday with a 2-2 draw that keeps complicating their fixture list but its a shame they can't play Carlisle every week. Carlisle have already drawn 1-1 at Elland Rd this season before their 2-1 win in the Johnstones last Tuesday and of course they were the last League One team to win there, 2-0 back in January 2009.
But with two home games left in January, it's February that could be make or break time for the three leaders with 6 league games in 24 days for the Addicks. Leeds also have 6 League games planned plus their Johnstones semi with Carlisle and now another FA Cup game so looks as if one of those league games will suffer while the party-poopers from East Anglia have it easy with only five games. The end of February then could see Leeds relegated to third place but there's a couple of difficult games in there for the Addicks first.
In total we have a nice neat 10 home games and 10 away to go and as far as difficult away games are concerned we have six games out of the 10 against teams in the top half of the best-home-record table. We face visits to unbeaten-at-home Huddersfield (Mar 27), Swindon (Feb 6) and Millwall (Mar 13) both with only a single home defeat, Saints (Apr 10) and Exeter (Apr 24) with just 2 home defeats and Bristol Rovers (Feb 13) with 3. So a neat two a month but results in these games could decide our season.
And we'll have to do better than our history in these games as at the moment it doesn't make pleasant reading. You won't need telling that its been 17 defeats at the spanners (our biggest away loss anywhere in the current company), and 16 times at both Huddersfield (out of 35 games) and Southampton (out of 27). And we've only won once at Exeter in 11 visits and twice at Bristol Rovers in 25.
As for tonight, one of Parky's old work-mates is current O's manager 48 year old Geraint Williams. They were together at Colchester whom Williams have managed on a four-week caretaker basis during the 2002–03 season prior to Parkinson's appointment in February 2003 for Parky first job in management. In July 2006, after three years together, Parky left to manage Hull and Geraint took charge of the U's and spent two years there before being sacked. He joined Orient last February and they finished a healthly 14th last season.
It was 5 games without a win before Tuesday which saw Orient drop into the bottom 4 for the second time this season. They badly needed a win and they got it, 2-0 over Yeovil at home moving up to 18th on 27 points, exactly half the Addicks total.
But their away record is currently the 18th worst in the division with 2 wins ( a 2-1 win on the first day of the season at Bristol Rovers and a 1-0 at Wycombe in October), 3 draws and 7 defeats and they have managed only 2 points in their last 6 away games although those were the last two at Brighton and Walsall. But don't get fidgety Parky during the first half, for they have only conceded 1 goal (at the best home team Huddersfield) in the first 45 in their last 10 away games including games at the party-poopers, Leeds and Swindon!
Parky, watch out for that big geezer, number 5 Tamika Mkandawire from Malawi, he's already got 5 from centre-back including their goal against us in August and another last Tuesday against Yeovil.
Scott McGleish turns 36 next month and its now been 15 years since he left the Addicks but is Orients top scorer on 9 for the season.
Whats Their Secret?
If you believe that its only tough teams that keep battling when all seems lost, then step forward the spanners and MK Dons, the only two teams to win twice after arriving at half-time losing. I suppose you could argue that it depends on how many stupid goals you give away in the first 45 and both of them have gone in for their tea losing 8 times.
But its not like that over at the Orient. They have only conceded 9 goals during the first half of their 25 games while letting in 18 in the last 15 minutes. And it gets more confusing while you read that they score more goals in the first 5 minutes of games than any other period while conceding more in the last 5 minutes than any other. Not a staying team then and amply demonstrated last August when we came from behind and scored two second half goals to win 2-1, which is of course our favorite scoreline as well as being their's (1-2 that is).
On the other hand Leeds, despite their dismal record of late, have only been losing at half-time once while next best at half-time are, of course, Leyton Orient, who amazingly have only been losing at the 45 minutes twice.
Cheer Us Up Nels
While we were suffering during the poor first half on Tuesday we should remember that we are by far the best team of the season over the first 45 minutes. Fifteen times now we have been leading at half time and only Leeds and the party-poopers come close with 12. We've also scored more goals than anybody else in the first 45 with 27 while Leeds and Norwich have only enjoyed 20 and 22.
The party-poopers knocked 4 past a hapless Orient on their visit to carrow rd in September but don't expect such a generous performance from Leyton in a local derby. It took Orient 30 years to get a result at the Valley with their first win there in 1962 and after three wins in the 70's its now been another 30 since their last win, a 1-0 on 12th January 1980. There's only been one league encounter since then, a 5-2 canter in 1982, but they have made a habit of knocking us out of cups, in 1982 and 1990 while we've done the same to them in 2006 and 2009.
Two wins on the trot, something that we used to dream about, and the question is will Parky made any changes. There's no Sodje ( game 4 of his suspension, is Miguel getting nervous?) and Kelly's signing autographs in the shop so an unchanged squad looks likely. But there were some low scoring marks all over the teamsheet last Tuesday and the question of Super-Sub Scotty staking a claim to a starting berth. Parky explains it away by saying we were tired after a tough game at Wycombe and a lack of training due to the bad weather.
One problem with starting Scotty would be the lack of creation in midfield once JonJo leaves it although that didn't stop our number 16 from making his own mark last Tuesday. And Scotty's 5 goals come from only 841 minutes played while Dave Mooney has now got 3 from his 758 minutes.
And there's also the question of missing pace given Parky's liking for the Mooney/Burton duo and if Mooney hadn't scored last week then perhaps we'd see both JonJo and Scotty playing and Mooney sat on the bench. But he did and scoring after three minutes after coming on shows that Wagstaff wants to prove something and maybe Parky will want to keep that desire as a special weapon on the bench.
Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Llera, Basey; Sam, Semedo, Bailey, Shelvey; Burton, Mooney.
Another game where both teams enjoy the same scoreline reversed. We love the 2-1 and they suffer more 1-2's than anything else. So a 2-1 win then? The first half will be crucial as its the best first half team against the second best. We've scored the most and they have conceded the second least. But don't panic Parky if its still 0-0 at half-time, the second 45 is when they let the goals in.
So looks like a 2-1 win but then its a local derby and our experiences with the spanners showed that in derbies the rules go out the window. And there's also the question mark over our nerve to go equal top. So many teams blow chances when the summit is in sight. We haven't been at the top since our 2-1 win over Huddersfield in mid-October and goals from Sam Sodje and McLeod got us there and both are missing tonight, some would say thankfully so.
So I'll stick with a 2-1 but its a time for cold nerves on a cold evening and a driving start Parky to settle us down.