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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Walsall Preview

Not a good week for the Addicks with just a single point from two "easy" home games. And not a good month either with lack-lustre performances, only 7 points on the board and 7th best in January in this sorry league we find ourselves in. Sneaking a look into the dressing room, it appears to be becoming apparent to the team that they're just not good enough to get an auto spot out of this Division. The Killer Blow as far as morale is concerned is Norwich's surge past us in the table with 8 straight wins that has now has left us trailing them by 8 points - although with a game in hand - while we are 5 behind Leeds and have played a game more.
Its just the sort of situation that going to frustrate a team with only 2 wins in the last seven and added to the disappointment of dropping out of the top two, after holding second place for 5 months, could explain the lethagic performances of late.
So we'll have to gee them up and stress the positives. Get the team to show some grit and determination, not least because coming up shortly we have Swindon, a team we can't afford to give any concessions or psychological advantages.
So looking back at the past month, seven points in January was at least 3 more than either Leeds or Colchester managed and the two teams we couldn't beat this week are not down there in the basement but 5th (Orient) and 9th (Tranmere) in a results table on January results. Not promotion material perhaps but an example of teams fighting for survival.

But you can't accuse us of not fighting. We haven't had a single straightforward game since Stockport on the 12th Dec. Since then we've had seven games that we've either drawn after going behind ( Millwall, Swindon, Brentford and Tranmere) or gone on the win after the other team had equalised ( Wycombe and Hartlepool) and in only one have we failed to score (Orient).

On Saturday we had 21 shots with 12 on target. The party-poopers from East Anglia only managed 7 shots ( 4 on target) against Hartlepool in their 2-1 win while Leeds only have 14 (7 on target). And the only team to come anywhere near us was Pardews lot with 18 shots, 13 on target. So we've showing fighting spirit and creating shooting positions.

So on to Walsall. And while we continue to vie with Norwich and Leeds with most shots on target our next opponents Walsall are down the other end of the listing with less shots than anybody else in the Division. Manager for the past year at the Saddlers is Paul Jewell's mate Chris Hutchings. They've been together 3 times at Bradford, Wigan and Derby with Hutchings being the beneficiary by taking over all three times when Jewell upped and left.


After 5 wins in 7 back in October/November which took them to the brink of the Play-offs positions in 7th place they have became a little dizzy about their prospects and its now been six games without a win and with 4 defeats in there as well and a slide down to 13th place. And while the Addicks have only got 13 points from their last 8 games, Walsall are even worst with only 8 points from the last 24.

And their recent home form is even worse with only 1 win ( 3-0 against Oldham two months ago) in the last 5 games at the Banks Stadium with 3 defeats to Pardew's lot, Brighton and the East Anglia party-poopers, whom they lead for 40 minutes before succumbing to two goals in the last 13 minutes.

Top scorers are number 10 Troy Deeney, still only 21, and the irishman number 7 Steve Jones both on 9. But Jones is out injured so its Deon's fellow Jamaican, Darren Byfield, ex of the spanners and the Gills, that starts alongside Troy these days and he has 7 goals.

Whats Their Secret?
As we said in December, Walsall's party trick is giving the opposition a goal start and then going on to win. They've done it three times this season - a 2-1 win over Huddersfield back in September with an 87 minute Raynes goal after going behind and at Wycombe where they went 2-0 down and won 3-2 and they also beat Tranmere after going a goal down. But typical for a mid-table team they can do the opposite as well and have also lost 3 times after winning....

But their form against the good teams is dire. Placed 22nd in a table showing results against the top 12 with only one win in 12 games.
Despite winning three out of the last 4 Cup games against the Addicks ( which includes the embarrassing 2-1 FA Cup defeat at the Valley in 2002 ) we should be looking forward to visiting Walsall where of all the other Tier 3 teams we have our best away record ( in League games anyway) picking up over 1.5 points per game. Its one of only three places down here where we've won more than we've lost ( the others are Gillingham and Southend) and the record currently stands at 4 wins, 2 draws and only 3 defeats over the 9 League games.
The last time Walsall beat us in the League was 37 years ago in October 1973 at Fellows Park in an embarrassing 4-0 defeat but of the 5 games played since then at Fellows Park and Banks Stadium we've won 3, drawn one and only lost a League Cup tie 2-0 in 1987 after winning the home leg 3-0.
And its only our second visit to the Bescot Banks Stadium, the first being a 4-2 win in March 2000 on our march to the Tier Two title.
The Team
There's no Carl Ikeme this time stopping Darren Randolph filling-in in place of the injured Rob Elliot and he'll make only his second start after playing at Northwich so don't be surprised if he's rusty. But there's no word on Kelly Youga so the defence will line-up as it finished on Saturday.
Midfield, however, will be the area getting most of Parky's attention this week with two difficult away trips coming up. Racon and Spring wait in the wings but with Therry only enjoying one game ( Southend) in the last eleven and no sub appearances either its not looking like a return for him and Matt Spring hasn't seen any action at all since his 90 minutes against Brentford in December.
However, new boy Kyel Reid looked good at the weekend and with "sore calves" was replaced by Leon McKenzie on 71 minutes but there's a good case for including both in the starting line-up. Parky's obvious enthusiasm for Dave Mooney reminds me of Pardews liking for Luke Varney last season. Mooney's has now had more than 900 minutes football for his three goals - which looks good by Varney standards with his 2 from 1500 minutes last season - but its not good enough to worry the top two clubs and its surely time to try a new combination of Burton and McKenzie together.
Although with the return of Akpo Sodje, and Parky's quote about his physical present being more than useful, it looks more than likely that he'll benefit from Mooney's dip in form.

Randolph; Richardson, Dailly, S. Sodje, Basey; Sam, Semedo, Bailey, Reid; A. Sodje, Burton.


With our history at Walsall and their record against all the top teams and the fact that only three teams down here ( Oldham, Hartlepool and Stockport) that have had more defeats in their last 8 than Walsall, its a morale-boosting 2-0 to the Addicks.

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