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Friday, March 19, 2010

Gillingham Preview

Somebody remarked last week that Parky would be having a few sleepless nights deciding on his best team for the game at the den but I bet that's nothing to what he's feeling right now. But then again we could all see it coming and although a four goal hammering may not have been in everyone's forecast, a defeat was certainly expected in what has become for the Addicks a not unusual capitulation to the spanners. Much worst, perhaps, is the effect that the shock waves will have in the Addicks camp. Its a very sensitive time in the season and blackheathaddicted to name but one put his neck out and predicted that it would be a defining match in our season.

So its time for one or excuses to explain away what we hope will prove to be a expected blip in our fortunes. Because a defeat at the den is not that unusual neither were several of our other defeats and you could almost have predicted all 6 of them against Colchester, Carlisle, Bristol, Brighton, Orient and the spanners. Our first defeat of the season was at Colchester where we have our worst away record in this League and where we still haven't won in three visits and more recently Bristol is our third worse away venue with just 2 wins in 25 games. Defeat number two at Carlisle is harder to explain as its only our 9th worst place to visit in Tier Three but we only still have 2 wins there in 14 attempts. And as for away specialists Brighton, only 3 other teams in Tier Three have won more times at the Valley with their 8 wins in 23 games so that just leaves Orient really as our only unexpected defeat and in local derbies surprises are not unusual.

And moving on, as we must, the good news, perhaps, is that 7th place Huddersfield are still 8 points behind us and, after embarking on an 11 game unbeaten run, have lost the last three to Pardew ( a 5-0 stuffing), the Gills away and Norwich. Over the last 13 since the New Year they have won 5, drawn 5 and lost 3, a total of 20 points. In the same period the Addicks have 5 wins, 4 draws and 4 defeats for 19 points all of which sets up an intriguing game Saturday week at the oddly named Galpharm Stadium, due to a sponsorship deal after the builders McAlpine decided in 2004 it wasn't going to continue paying up.

So head-to-head and even on our scrappy current form they have only gained one point on us this year even with an 11-game unbeaten run so with only 10 games left any sort of result for us up there will surely seal our Play-off place. Of the 19 grounds in Tier Three where we've been before there's 11 that we have a worse history that at Huddersfield. In fact, the games against Southampton, Colchester and Leeds trouble me a lot more.

And there is the rub. Because, if we do discount Huddersfield, of the possible 4 other teams in the Play-offs (three from Leeds, Millwall, Colchester and Swindon ) there's only one that I would feel confident of beating in an home and away semi-final - Swindon. As we saw last season where Scunthorpe beat the spanners at Wembley 3-2 after finishing 6 points behind them, in a final anything can happen.

And while at the moment there's clearly at least two teams performing better than we are, Norwich and Millwall, while a third, Leeds, remain 5 points in front with 10 games left, perhaps we should consider that the only team from last seasons Tier Three that are enjoying the Fizzies are Leicester and that the other promotion teams, Scunthorpe and Peterborough, are currently occupying two of the relegation positions.

So, as Parky and the team seek to expel all thoughts of last weekend from our collective brains, its all a bit of an apparent godsend to be able to welcome a team to the Valley with the worst away record in Tier Three, without a single win all season and without a single goal in their last 4 away games. That's the theory anyway, in practise it's of course, another local derby.

Form What can you say about the Gills current form? Just 2 wins in the last 14 games (home to Bristol and Huddersfield) and only a goalless draw away last weekend at the home of the worst home team in Tier Three, Stockport, they are now only 5 points clear of the R-Zone. In fact they haven't scored away from home since the 26th January in a 1-1 draw at Hartlepool and the week before that even lost 1-0 at Accrington Stanley in the FA Cup.

Ex-Addicks?There's no less than 4 ex Charlton players now at Priestfield, Simon Royce, Barry Fuller, Chris Dickson and Rashid Yussuff, although its possible that we won't see any of them as Royce was on the bench last weekend and Chris Dickson, who only came on for 7 minutes, will be banned from playing against us. Fuller has missed the last three games with a hand injury and Yussuff hasn't been seen since January.

The obvious dangerman is twenty-two year old number 10, and the player that Parky never wanted, the Canadian international born in Jamaica, Simeon Jackson, currently top scorer with 17 goals.

Whats Their Secret?
Norwichs' fight-back against Huddersfield last Saturday has spoiled a top v bottom clash in the on-points-gained-after-going-behind table. The Addicks fighting abilities, so missing last weekend, have earned us 17 points from fightbacks with 3 wins and 8 draws after conceding first whereas the Gills have only managed a dismal two points after going behind. One was away to Exeter in December, while it shouldn't miss your notice that the other was back in October in our 1-1 draw at Priestfield.....

What Are They Saying?

Parky succinctly explained our mauling with, "There was not enough leadership and not enough men out there. All I asked was for players to do their own jobs. But there was a blame culture out there with players blaming each other."

While Christian Dailly added: "We can't afford to cry over spilt milk. We need to be mentally tough, that's one of the issues. But I think we'll be fine."

So its been confirmed by Parky that "Some people won't be playing on Saturday who played against Millwall because I feel there has to be some changes. There are people out of the team who deserve to play."

Meanwhile, Gills manager Stimson has not been happy with Chris Dickson down at Priestland and he hasn't started in the last two games and Stimson opted to use Dennis Oli as a substitute ahead of Dickson in Saturday's 0-0 draw at Stockport.
"When you saw Chris and what he brought to the table, Dennis brought a bit more. Twice he (Dickson) had the ball in the middle of the pitch and he gave it away and put their team on the attack. Dennis was on beforehand because he's been absolutely flying in training. It's been hard to leave him out because he's worked his socks off and looked a threat." Watch out for him Parky.

Gillingham are without a single win in 13 attempts at the Valley with 9 home wins and 4 draws and the last time they managed to avoid defeat at the Valley was back in January 1934, 76 years ago....

The Team
A return to a more usual formation with everyone in their normal position would be a start but Parky has come out strong and confirmed that there will be changes to the team this weekend. Heads dropped and mistakes were made and it seems that Parky's wise aversion to drastic measures will be thrown out the window in a desperate bid to liven things up.

Key to his changes will be the formation chosen so we'll probably see Sam back in the starting line-up on the right although there seems to some doubts as to Reid's fitness on the other flank which could point to a 4-5-1 in an attempt to build up confidence with midfield bodies. As for the defence one question mark appears to be what Parky will do about Christian's call to iron out our silly mistakes. Perhaps he'll ask for Nicky view's on things after his finger-wagging in one defenders face and its possible that we'll see the return of Sammy Sodje, who's only played 15 minutes in the last 5 games. While on the left, Chris Solly will step down with a few admirable words from Parky while he chalks up his fourth left-back of the season in the 24 year old loanee Gary Borrowdale from QPR.

On to the midfield then and after Semedo has his first full game in 8 and Parky citing his recent response to being omitted as the example to follow, its seems unlikely that he'll be one losing out while Racon was subbed at the den but could benefit from Reid's possible absence through injury.
Its also been another eight games since we've seen anything of Matt Spring who made a surprise appearance on the bench at the den and in fact has only played once since his perfect pass from midfield landed at Llera's feet in the last minute against Swindon back in December.
As for the forwards, there's poor old Leon McKenzie, missing from his place on the bench last weekend after 15 consecutive games, who can at least can take a well earned breather with a spell in the stands after his thigh injury got in training.
And then there's Jonjo who spent another game sat unused on the bench and its now been 6 games without a single minute played since his 90 minutes against Swindon Town.
The starting forward line at the den was Mooney and Akpo who between them failed to have a single shot on target the whole game. The four goals conceded and this stat are perhaps the best pointers to the changes Parky has in mind.

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Sodje(S), Borrowdale; Sam, Semedo, Bailey, Shelvey, Racon; Burton.

Only 2 of the 37 forecasters on cafcpicks saw an away win when they made their forecasts back in the summer but its likely that a few of the others may follow the example of Dave at drinkingduringthegame and have changed their mind after last weekend's performance.

But a clear home win, by my favorite score of 2-0, is needed badly. Whether we'll get it is another matter.

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