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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oldham Athletic Preview

If your perfect day consists of watching the Addicks stick a few goals in and storm to the top of the League then perhaps you'll get your dream day come Saturday. Because its an unexpected top of the table clash this weekend with League leaders Oldham Athletic coming to the Valley but one that gives us the opportunity of going clear at the top if we can get the three points.
The Latics, of course, have never won at the Valley in 23 attempts but got themselves a new manager last June in the shape of that little pest Paul Dickov and come with a new-look team and what appears to be a more attacking strategy. He's 37 now, and although he's still got a squad number, he won't be playing.
So what of Oldham? A battling 1-0 home win over Preston in their last pre-season friendly has been followed by two League wins out of two against Tranmere away 2-1 and Notts County at home 3-0. So how do they compare with the Addicks? Both the Addicks and Oldham have stuck three past teams in the current bottom 4, Orient and Notts County, while our other game saw us beat Bournemouth, healthy 5-1 winners over Peterborough at the weekend, while Oldham beat Tranmere away on the opening day who then when on to manage a surprising goalless draw at last seasons highest home scorers Huddersfield, the first time since January that the Terriers have failed to score at home; well apart from their Play-off nightmare against the spanners.
The Latics also went out of the League Cup, away to Scunthorpe 1-2, after leading, so on paper there doesn't seem much to pick between the two teams.

The Opposition
Like us they scored three times last weekend and broke a record dating back even further than ours not having scored three times in a game since February 2009, 64 games ago. Furman, Tounkare and Lee were the scorers. Ex-Cardiff striker Warren Feeney is their new boy up front replacing our Pawel Abbot but he was missing last weekend having returned with a groin problem after playing for Northern Ireland. Whether he'll return against the Addicks is unknown but definitely available will the 20 year old Frenchman, Oumare Tounkara, on-loan from Sunderland, where ironically he can't get much game time due to our Darren. According to the Black Cats, "the tall, powerful striker was a regular at reserve-team level last season, featuring on 12 occasions" and he's already scored his first first goal for the Latics.
But there'll probably be only 3 players, key central defender Reuben Hazell, left-back Paul Black and young midfielder Dale Stephens, left from their starting eleven against us last May.
Time for a banana skin or no? Oldham are one of eight teams that we face this season that have never won at the Valley, Sainburys or anywhere else for that matter, with the League numbers standing at 14 wins and 8 draws and they've even lost in the only cup game at the Valley. But 4, including last season's 0-0, of the last six League games at the Valley have been draws.

Whats Been Heard on the Streets?
A little bit of realism from Paul Dickov after their 3-0 win over Notts County, "We are delighted but we have to remember we are only 2 league games into the season and its important we don't get carried away. Its a start thats all."

And our very own ex-Latic Pawel Abbott clearly loves being an Addick, "As soon as you hear Charlton want you, there isn't much that is going to stop you.”
The Team
So what have Mark Konchesky, Mark Fish, Darren Ambrose, Jimi Traore and Jose Semedo all got in common? Well, they've all been sent off over the last 9 years in the Addicks first game of the season. Arguably, you could put the blame on two of them as the reason for losing the opening game ( remember which ones?) but that was definitely not the case against Bournemouth when the second-half arrival of Racon, Lee Martin and Simon Francis and some resolute defending got us started with a 1-0 home win. Forgetting the irrelevance of our cup exploits in midweek another three points were earned at Brisbane Road with another backs-to-the-wall display after Dailly had been sent-off.
They've made films about penalties but for me the brandishing of a red card is far more crucial. We're had them now for 40 years and they can alter the game completely with the ten man team usually defending gallantly till the final whistle. We only had 3 reds all last season (Sod off twice and Burton once) but we've got a couple already this year although the teams response to going down to 10 men against Orient must compare with our 2-1 win at Plymouth back in April 2008 when Weaver was sent off after just 3 minutes gone only for loanee Lita to score a couple.
And after 6 goals in 4 days last week Parky seems to have cracked the "goals for" problem with 6 players already on the scoring charts. Perhaps its all starting to come together, and with just a couple of difficult games coming in the next eight ( Oldham and then Huddersfield away on August 28th) we could just have the starting platform that we dreamed about. And, as already pointed out elsewhere, its the first time in an unbelievable sequence of 27 games (dating back to December 19th) in which we have failed to score more than 2 goals. No wonder Parky seemed relieved to get rid of so many during the summer.
And the number 10 shirt has been handed to newcomer Lee Martin, on-loan for the season. Parky spoke of surprises for the Bournemouth game but, away from home and without the internet, it took me till Monday to figure out who he was. Only 23, he started life at the Dons before Man U snatched him away for a mill but after several loan deals he signed for Ipswich in 2009 for around 1.5M. Not a regular striker, though, with 2 in 12 games for Plymouth his best figures in a crazy career through 10 clubs. In 16 games for Ipswich last season it took him 8 games to find the net and that was it for the year so he'll be glad to come to a decent club at last and its an insight into Parky's plans to hear that he's been after him for 18 months. And if you want workers we have two strikers that both appear eager to run till they drop.
So Saturdays strike force is a no-brainer but how are we going to manage without last seasons two most influental players, Semedo and Dailly. Its an early chance to see how important these two really are to the team and with Oldham possibly having only 3 from their starting line-up from our 2-0 away win in May, its a sign of our own evolution in that the Addicks will be even more unrecognizable with only 2 left in Miguel Llera and Therry Racon.
But we don't care about that. For the first time in ages, given our missing duo, our team sheet picks itself:

Elliot; Francis, Doherty, Llera, Jackson; Wagstaff, McCormack, Racon, Reid; Martin, Abbott


Two unbeaten teams, in the League anyway, and with one unbeaten manager with only two League games under his belt. A team that failed to score against us last season over the two League games and a team that has never won at the Valley.... BUT a lot has changed since then and after 22 non-scoring League games last year but having the meanest defence in the bottom 15, Dickov has turned it all around and put the emphasis on attack and they share with Bournemouth the position of League One leading scorers with 5 goals.

Seems to me that, unlike last year, there'll be goals this weekend but who'll be getting them? Ever pessimistic as far as the Addicks are concerned, its a 2-2 for me.

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