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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Plymouth Argyle Preview

An away win in a cup competition doesn't happen very often for the Addicks but full marks to Parky for fielding a full-strength side at the stadiummk and Waggy and Pav for getting the goals. And its our first come from behind win since the 2-1 victory at Roots Hall in February when Reid was again the star, scoring one and making the other. But you have to ask yourself, how will that result affect our game on Saturday? Have we turned a corner, or were MK missing a few regulars?
So with expectations again showing signs of sprouting forth how will the team perform after our ignominous defeat at bottom club Brentford. There's not a lot of time to dwell on the answer because unlike the cream of English football we don't have a break this weekend and its on to Home Park, Plymouth and what will be our third away game in 8 days. Manager there these days is Peter Reid, now 54, and ex-manager at Man City, Sunderland, Leeds, Coventry and Thailand. His list of honours as a manager number two, the Tier Two championship in 1996 and 1999 - the second one with a then-record breaking 105 points - with the Black Cats. Of course, he is most remembered as the opposing, and losing, manager at the greatest Wembley game ever where his side lost on penalties to the promoted ADDICKS.

Mr Reid was appointed manager of the Pilgrims in June this year when former manager Peter Mariner was demoted, after just six months in charge, to the Pilgrims coaching staff.
Plymouth's current claim to fame is a rather unwanted one, for after Hull earned promotion to the Premier League, the city of Plymouth is now the largest in England never to have hosted top-flight football. They're currently down there in 17th position in Tier Three with 12 points and not looking likely to reach the Premier any time soon.

So, after failing unsuccessfully to prevent Brentford from scoring their first goals in 5 games, almost akin to giving the Daggers two goals after they had also failed to score in any of their three previous away games, what better team to face now that Plymouth who have failed to score at home in their last three. Or to put it another way, the feeling of relief at Home Park must be massive at the pending arrival of so generous a team as Charlton who, as everyone knows, have not been good enough to beat three of the bottom of the table teams in the last 2 weeks. Perhaps we should consider the possibility of turning ourselves into a registered charity to gain the tax benefits or maybe rename ourselves Oxfam Athletic.

So how do Plymouth match up to our recent failures. Well, they're a lowly twenty-first best in home form in Tier Three which admittedly doesn't sound very threatening with just a single win, 3-2 over Sheffield Wednesday - the Owls third defeat in a row - in five home games. They did manage a 1-1 draw against Carlisle with an equaliser in the last minute in their first home game but most recently suffered two non-scoring defeats against high-climbers Peterborough and Brighton by 0-3 and 0-2 respectively.
But it all got even worse last weekend with the arrival of the less challenging 19th placed Hartlepool who, contrary to expectations, had rather a good away record, and had previously only conceded a single goal on their travels. And a single goal it was that decided it and of course it wasn't Argyle who scored it, it was Hartlepool in the 87th minute.

So following on neatly from last season when they were the Championships second lowest scoring team with only 2 wins out of last 13 home games last season which means only 3 wins out of 18 home games in 2010. Not surprisingly they're not happy bunnies down at Home Park.

As far as scoring at home is concerned, you'll be surprised to see that the two lowest scorers at home so far this season in Tier Three are the two pre-season favorites to be promoted - Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday - with just three goals each in 5 games with close behind, or should it be in front, are the boys from Devon with four. Of course, the second worse home scorers last week were Brentford; who aren't any more.
And if you want another pointer to the result, its another team (just like Brentford before the weekend) whose only previous home league win has been against Sheffield Wednesday.

The Opposition

A crazy mix of approximately 13 nationalities in their squad plus scouser Reid must make their training sessions a bit bizarre and there were eight different ones in the last defeat against Hartlepool.

And, of course, foreigners come with attitude as demonstrated by Dutch defender Marcel Seip who on 5 April 2008, refused to be a substitute in a league fixture against the Addicks, after having made four successive starts. He was subsequently fined two weeks wages, and placed on the transfer list, by manager Paul Sturrock. Obviously not one to forgive and forget, it took Seip 3 months before on 4 July, Seip apologised to Sturrock and his team mates over the Charlton affair. As a result, the club removed him from the transfer list. He's number 30 and so far there's no news of him refusing to play at the weekend.

Only one this week, although another player who never kicked a ball in anger for us. His name, forever associated with the Dowie era, is Simon Walton. He was, in fact, Monica's first signing for 500k as an 18 year old from Leeds. He came on in the second half at the Valley in the 1-1 friendly against New Zealand but was soon sent out of loan to Ipswich. A year after he arrived he was sold to QPR for 200k. He spent last season on-loan at Crewe and then suffered a cruciate knee ligament when playing, on-loan, for Sheffield United in a pre-season friendly this summer so he's not one you see on saturday.

Current top scorer at Home Park is Bradley Wright-Phillips, younger brother of Shaun, with 4 goals.

Nostalgia Corner

At this point in the boring proceedings of a Tier Three preview, I thought you would appreciate a little bit of nostalgia brought on by Blackpool's startling 2-1 success at Anfield, aided and abetted by an ex-Addick. Good luck to the Tangerines but the enthusiastic celebrations by the same ex caused by Derby's second late, late equaliser in the 2-2 draw at the Valley back in December 2008 prevents me from offering any congratulations to Mr Varney. Instead, I thought it would be nice to remember that the Addicks are currently unbeaten on their last two visits to Anfield (2-2 and 0-0) and have only one defeat in our last four games there which include our memorable 1-0 win in April 2004. That win with just 6 games remaining of the season, left us just 2 points behind 4th place Liverpool with a game in hand - we finished 7th, of course but completed our first double over the reds for 50 years. And that Blackpool result shouldn't surprise anyone really because they have now won 4 of their last 7 visits to Anfield and only lost once.

Things have sobbered up recently in games against the Pilgrims with nobody scoring more than a couple of goals in the last 12 games. In previous years it was all a bit different culminating in the amazing 20 goals scored over two days in 1960 with both teams winning 6-4 on their own patch. It was Christmas after all.

In recent form, a total of eleven games both home and away over the last 30 years have been pretty even - we've won 4, they won 3 and there's been 4 draws. Of the total number of games at Home Park we've won 6 out of 32 with 19 defeats but the last two games there have been pretty dramatic. The season before last was a 2-2 in November 2008 where, after being behind for nearly an hour, we scored twice in 4 minutes through Youga and Gray with a penalty in the last 5 minutes before conceding an equaliser in added on injury time.

And previous to that in April the same year Leroy Lita was the hero when we won 2-1 with 10 men after losing Weaver, sent in the 3rd minute, going behind to a goal on the hour before on-loan Lita scored his last two goals for us in the second half.

What Are They Saying?

I have to say that I see the same attitude in the Pilgrims website as seen in Addicks blogs, a sense of expectant doom and lack of hope. We're not happy with our financial problems and lack of consistency and maybe its past history but perhaps we didn't give Parky enough credit for our record-breaking start last year after finishing bottom the previous season. In comparison, Plymouth seem to be suffering a serious case of relegation blues and manager Reid can't figure it out, especially after last weekends defeat to Hartlepool.

"Our best player against 'Pool was our 16 year right back Stephens", said Reid. "They had a nine hour journey yet it looked as if my team had had a nine hour journey. They were sharper and came with a defensive game plan."

If you really want to give yourself false hopes of a result (not recommended) the full interview is here.

Parky after Tuesdays win at MK, "I thought we got stronger as the game went on tonight and with someone like Scott Wagstaff, who is probably the best athlete I've worked with in my time in football, it's no surprise he's popped in at the back stick to get the winner.”

What's Their Secret?
As you can judge by their home defeats to the Posh and Brighton they don't have a good record against the top teams in the table. However, it may not have passed your notice that they enjoy beating BIG teams, ie Southampton and Wednesday and also last seasons Play-off losers Swindon who were on a run of 3 straight wins when they lost to the Pilgrims 2-3.

As for the Addicks, we continue to confuse everyone. Do we start well or not? We've scored first in 7 out of the 10 league games but then again nearly half of our league goals - five of twelve - have come in the last 5 minutes plus added on injury time. We've been in front three times and let the opposition equalise (Oldham, Tranmere and the Daggers) whereas in the three games where we've conceded first (Huddersfield, Exeter and Brentford) we've got nothing out of the game. Unless, of course, you count Johnstone Paint games.

The Team

Man of the Match, apparently, (for the Addicks anyway) against Brentford was sub Pawel Abbott or was it Kyel Reid. Whatever, but I really can't see the point of putting a team in this section if Parky's not going to take any notice. Clearly impressed by Johnnie Jackson's goal against the Daggers and ignoring Reid's perfect cross for Benson first ever goal for the Addicks against MK he failed to see my recommendation to play Abbott and Benson together while the Anyinsah is injured.
OK, he did include goal machine Waggy, currently making our strikers look a bit sick, whilst they continue to remind us all of prolificity of Leaburn and Varney, who duly fired home his 4th of the season. As for Abbott and Reid, Parky had clearly forgetten about their contribution to our win over MK and they again started on the bench although at least this week the changes were made earlier - at half-time.

All in all we achieved the impossible against Brentford. A home team, scoreless in the last four, with not a single goal scored in the 2nd 45 minutes against a team that hasn't conceded a goal in the first 35 minutes in any of the eleven games played so far. Far from giving them just 10 minutes then in which to score a goal we gave them their first on 13 minutes and giftwrapped a second just 17 minutes later. Disaster, Parky. Our "solid" appearance of just 4 days previous had become jelly and all we could do at half-time was the same we did on Tuesday to get the result that we got then. Might I suggest Reid and Abbott to start this week.

As pointed out last week Francis was key to the team last Saturday so its regretable that he proved not to be good enough against ex-Addick Weston. What a shame it's probably the only position that we don't have a ready replacement now that Chris Solly is out injured.

And something else which can't be ignored is the lack of goals coming from the boots of our twin strike force, whether it be any combination of Abbott, Sodje, Martin, Benson or Anyinsah. In fact, we have the crazy situation where three defenders (Solly, Fry, and Llera) have scored the same number of league goals as the our strikers (Sodje, Anyinsah and Benson) with all of them only having scored once, while a winger Waggy has 4 League goals to his name and now 5 overall. What chance a 20 goal striker this season? Rather remote, I would say.

But what will Tuesdays win do to Parky's team selection? Reid is a clear starter as probably is Wagstaff and apart from Doherty's touch of flu which saw him replaced at half-time by Jon Fortune the only other question mark is who will be our strike force. On Tuesday, Pav Abbott played in place of Benson and scored his first goal since August and it was Benson who then replaced Martin on 78 minutes. Will we see Martin or Benson reduced to the bench?

The team-

Elliot; Francis, Doherty, Dailly, Jackson; Wagstaff, Semedo, Racon, Reid; Martin, Abbott.

Maybe you've read the interview with their Mr Reid mentioned earlier and perhaps its made you think that this could be an easy game. BUT, you could read it differently and perceive what a thoughtful manager Peter Reid is and see how Hartlepool came good after a 0-4 home pasting to Carlisle. These two clues, for me, point to a team and a manager that won't want to disappoint their own fans twice in 6 days. Like Hartlepool, expect a reaction from Plymouth. Oh, and maybe he still wants to put one over us after that Big Disappointment in 1998.
So, don't know about you but I'm so confident of the result this weekend that I'll be probably be searching for a bookmaker come Saturday morning. Pilgrims 2 Addicks 1

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