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Monday, May 17, 2010

Swindon Town - Part Two..

The most important game in our history? You'd have to ask Richard Murray because only he and a few others know for sure what another season in League One will mean to Charlton Athletic. All we know is that if this game is not won then finances next season would be seriously stretched and desperate measures would be needed to ensure we survive.
Swindon's Away Form
Swindon's away form has been average over the last 5 games without a win in the last three. A 2-3 defeat at the den in their last game, which, if replicated tonight, would be enough for them, was preceded by a 2-2 draw at lowly Wycombe. Before that there was an even more encouraging 0-3 defeat at Colchester. So 8 goals conceded in their last 3 games away from the County Ground with a goal let in every 33 minutes makes our prospects look a lot more healthy.
Before the Colchester game however, they had 4 successive away wins, all without conceding a single goal, at impressive places like Leeds, 3-0 (which was Leeds' fourth defeat in a row), and at Southampton, Hartlepool and Brighton all by 1-o.

So which Swindon do we expect tonight?

The Addicks Home Form
Looking at the Addicks last 6 home games over the last 2 and a half months, we've had 4 wins (Stockport 2-0, Carlisle 1-0, Colchester 1-0 and Leeds 1-0), a draw (2-2 the Gills) and only one, undeserved, defeat, 0-1, to Champions Norwich. So 7 goals scored and 3 conceded.

So overall it looks a bit mixed. The Robins have conceded 8 in their last 3 away whilst in our last three at home we have only scored twice but then we've only conceded one.

The Team
Deon's first goal, in open play, since December couldn't have come at a better time but the fact reminds that, unlike the opposition, we lack a cutting edge. And this is a game where, even if we can stop them scoring, we'll need to score twice to avoid the stress of extra time, something we've only done once in the last 10 games.
But this is not the time to analyze our strikers results but perhaps the time to remember our performance on Boxing Day when Swindon couldn't beat us when we had ten men for 20 minutes, after Sam Sodje was sent off and then nine men for a further 50 after Burton saw a second yellow for a stupid Maradona-type handball. We started that day without Richardson and Dailly in defence and also without the suspended Sam. Reserves Basey, Spring and Llera played the full 90 minutes and the last two combined to snatch the equaliser at the death. The Robins had both Austin and Paynter playing that day and I don't remember any terrifying moments except letting in the inevitable second goal. They were very complacent that day, not believing that nine men could come back and equalise. They were wrong.

So what's the team? After Fridays heroics it would seem unlikely that Sam Sodje will play, especially after Parky's comments about his defence but it's the selection of his strikers that will be more crucial. Mooney seems to have the nod over Forster at the moment but its surely a time to consider width and play both Sam and Reid from the off. Come on Parky, revert to our early season - successful - 4-5-1 with Deon on his own and Nicky Bailey, Semedo and Racon in the middle.

That will mean that if things don't go well we can't introduce Reid against a tiring defence but its the first goal that is most important here and we should remember that Swindon are one of only four teams in League One that have still not won after going behind.


It'll all be about controlling the nerves, ours as well as the players, so an early goal is a recommended answer although we may need to wait until the 20th to 30th minutes which this season is our most prolific spell of the 90. But the most important things to remember for tonight are Noise, Passion and Patience. Swindon have to know where they are and the fans, as well as the team, have to keep believing till the end - not something we've had a problem with so far. So lots of noise and its 2-0 to the Addicks.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Swindon Town Preview

A professional enough win, 2-0 away to Oldham, finished off our Tier Three season and left us in 4th place with 84 points. Norwich ended the season as they started it, with a home defeat, but they won't care and neither will Leeds, promoted at last after three years in the third. The spanners, meanwhile, are in the Play-offs for the second year running and will want to do better this time after their 2-3 loss to the Irons in the final last May, especially after being 2-1 up with only 20 minutes left.
So we're all set up for a Charlton - spanners final at Wembley, with just the inconvenience of Swindon Town to dispose of first of all.
Surprisingly similar to the situation when we were last in the Play-offs against Sunderland we've had two draws against Swindon this season and there's not a lot to separate us over the season and we are also the two teams in League One with the least defeats, 8. In the first leg, it's the team with the 8th best home record against the team with the third best away record (only Norwich and Leeds have better away records than the Addicks), although Swindon have only had two home defeats (Hartlepool and Bristol Rovers) while the Addicks have only have 3 defeats in their last 15 away games, with 6 wins and 6 draws.

Form As Blackpool aptly showed on Tuesday night, form goes out the window in Play-off games, so a seasons round-up then. After a first day 0-5 hammering at the Gills, it took a while for Swindon to get started this season but that all changed after the 4-1 win by the reserves against Reading on October 30th with Billy Paynter and Charlie Austin getting two goals each. Manager Wilson saw the light and got himself a strike force that since that day between them have got a combined total of 43 goals. And with only 5 defeats in the 32 games since he paired Paynter and Austin, Swindon have had a storming second half of the season.
Recent form, however, has not been so bright. Only one win in the last 6 games and in 4 successive games they have conceded the first goal, not something they usually do.

The Addicks don't have much experience of Play-off games with only two successive seasons standing out, plus that irritating loss to palarse in the mid-nineties. Our first Play-off experience was, of course, in May 1987 when two Peter Shirtliff goals gave us the win over Leeds after two 1-0 home victories had taken the final to Birmingham. Well, you'll be pleased to learn that Mr Shirtliff is now the Robins assistant manager and will be telling them all how important it is to keep going till the very end.

So, as we said, Swindon boast a rather successful duo with the second best scorer in League One after Pardews' Lambert in the 25 year old scouser Billy Paynter (above), number 20 and now on 29 goals for the season and his young partner in crime twenty year old Charlie Austin picked up from Poole Town in October who's now on 19 goals and they both scored against us in the 2-2 draw on Boxing Day.

What's Their Secret?Two things stand out for Swindon, the first that Swindon lack a bit of staying power. While the Addicks have scored 9 in the vital 5 minutes of games, and only conceded 4 at the death, Swindon have scored 7 and let in double the Addicks with a massive 8 in the last five minutes of games including Bailey's goal in the 93th at the County Ground in February and Llera's equaliser in the 94th at the Valley on Boxing Day.
And as for a fighting spirit, the Addicks, who with 20 points gained after going behind, only have Southampton and Walsall above us in the table showing points clawed back after letting in stupid goals, while Swindon have only won 9 points after conceding first and 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.

We've got a good record down at the County Ground with 6 wins and 10 draws in the 24 League games and with 2 League cups wins there as well its level pegging with 8 wins each. And of the last 11 games there since the 80's we've won no less than seven and lost only once.

What Are They Saying?Christian Dailly had a few interesting words to say on Monday, "Swindon are a good side and they've done fantastically well this year. I remember the first half away from home last time where we had a tough time of it and they could have been two or three up."

The Team
Parky has been quick to point out the teams improved defending of late and the number of clean sheets has certainly risen. After only 2 clean sheets in the previous 18 games up to the end of March, we've now had 5 in the last 8 since then.

And its all happened at the right time for while the Addicks opponents have only scored 3 in our last 8 games, Millwall have conceded 12 in their last 8 while Swindon are not much better with 9 let in. Could it be the arrival of Gary Borrowdale that has tightened up our defences? His first game was on March 20th in the 2-2 draw with the Gills and in his 10 games played so far we've only conceded 6 goals. Perhaps the clue lies in the fact that after over 160 professional games with Palarse, Coventry, Brighton and the Addicks he has still failed to score.

Parky started the last game at the County Ground back in February with a 4-5-1 with two wingers and Racon, Bailey and JonJo on midfield and Akpo on his own up front. Recent games would suggest that that formation will surely change to a 4-4-2 but, with a goalless draw the preferred result away from home in two leg games, and with Parky remembering the problems we had in the first half in February's game we could be set for another 5 man midfield. Scotty Wagstaff was replaced at half-time back then by Semedo and Akpo remained the only forward throughout the entire game with Mooney and McKenzie rooted to the bench.

Bailey it was that got the late, late equaliser in February and its likely that Parky will see a similar result just the ticket to Wembley.

Randolph; Richardson, Dailly, S. Sodje, Borrowdale; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Bailey, Reid; Burton.

We have a very good record at the County Ground and our 1-1 draw there in February was after Swindon had won their last 6 home games, scoring 16 goals and were the first points they had dropped at home in nearly 4 months. But as Dailly said this week we can forget the League results because this will be a cup final.

Parky would like a 0-0 to take back to the Valley but with only 4 non-scoring games in the 32 fixtures since Swindon paired Paynter and Austin up front in October ( and two of those have been against their local rivals Bristol Rovers,who seem to know how to beat them with scores of 0-4 and 0-3 and the only team to do the double over the Robins this season) that's a tall order and we should expect the Robins to at least get a goal. Perhaps Parky should ask Lennie for a few pointers as to exactly how its done.

On the other hand, since our bad patch in October when we failed to score in successive games against Colchester, Leeds and Oldham we also have only failed to score 4 times in the 34 games since then ( also against locals Orient, Millwall and then at Southampton and against Norwich at home).

So what's the verdict. They'll be hard to stop in a thundering first leg when they will probably throw caution to the wind. Parky has to decide if he wants to weather that early storm or take advantage and get an away goal. All in all it'll be close and another 1-1 wil surely suit the Addicks very well.