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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bristol Rovers Preview

So its deja vu time, as exactly a year after playing Yeovil at Huish Park in a 1-1 draw in which Sam Sodje was sent off for a professional foul in the 29th minute we again face Bristol Rovers at home 3 days later. The score last year on 24th November against Rovers was 4-2 to the Addicks and perhaps its a good time to give Parky some credit for what he has achieved because of the 18 players who took part against Rovers one year ago, there's only 6 (Dailly, Llera, Wagstaff, Semedo, Racon and Akpo Sodje) still at the club. And just 5 weeks after his head was supposedly on the block at Carlisle, we sit comfortably (at times) in 2nd spot just as we did this time last year and after 5 wins on the run. We have 2 less points this time round but exactly the same number of goals scored and its been achieved with the loss of 20 players during the summer.
As for the game last year, we took an early 2-0 lead through Mooney and Burton and after Rovers had scored twice to equalise, further goals from Bailey and Akpo won the game.

Rovers are the poor relations of Bristol and unlike their neighbours City have never played top flight football with their highest position ever being 6th in Tier Two twice in the 50's.

But there's good news for you if you believe in all that history crap because its extremely likely that the Rovers have ever beaten us in home games in your lifetime. In fact, you would have to be over 52 to have been born when it last happened and in your 60's to be conscious of the fact. Sad to say I was probably there when it last happened on 29th March 1958 in a 2-3 defeat.

All in all in home games at the Valley ( and elsewhere) its a very pleasant score of 16-4 to the Addicks with 6 draws and in only 1 of the last 9 games have the Pirates avoided defeat and that was in a 2-2 draw ten years ago in our last season at Sainburys.

Other Stuff

Bristol Rovers have a strange sponsorship deal. Faced with the prospect of having no shirt sponsor for the 2009-10 season, the club came up with the idea of a raffle to raise the funds required. Tickets were sold at £1,000 with all 96 available being sold meaning the club raised £96,000 for one season of shirt sponsorship. First prize in the draw went to local training and recruitment company N-Gaged whose logo appeared on the home kit. Second prize went to Bristol based solicitors Stevens, Hewlett & Perkins whose logo appears on the away kit.
The raffle proved so successful that the club replicated it for the 2010-11 season with Smart Computers becoming the new home kit sponsors and Stalbridge Linen the away sponsors.

Are They Dangerous or Not?
On the face of it, and before the Yeovil result, you would think that there's not a lot to worry about as the Pirates form at the moment is very similar to that of Yeovil.
Their last win was on October 16th, the day of our last defeat to Brighton, but whereas in the 5 League games since then, we have won 5 the Pirates have only had 3 draws to get excited about, along with 2 defeats. However, as you may have noted, we have a chance to compare ourselves with the only team above us, Brighton, as that last draw was at Withdean last Saturday, a 2-2 affair with Rovers getting an equaliser in the 93rd minute.

After that precious point on Saturday, the Pirates are currently in 16th place, 10 points behind the Addicks. But they are slipping down the table as they are 17th over the last 8 games, and 22nd on November results.

The Opposition
The Boss

Rovers boss is 42 year old Paul Trollope who has been there for 5 years, 2 in Tier Four and the last three in Tier Three.

The Players
One player not appearing on Tuesday will be the scorer of Rovers first goal against Brighton, defender Bryon Anthony, who received his 5th yellow of the season and will be suspended.

Who's Fortune Got to Worry About Then?

With the absence of Christian Dailly, its likely that Jon Fortune will step in even though Parky has signed Dutchman Marcel Seip on loan from Plymouth. He's been out of favour under Peter reid and hasn't put his boots on since the 0-4 home defeat to Swindon in the FA Cup on November 6th so may not be fit to play a full 90.

Definitely appearing at the Valley will be all three of the following. Top Pirates scorers are Will Hoskins 8, Jeff Hughes and Jo Kuffour with 6. Hoskins injured himself in the FA Cup first round clash with Darlington on the 6 November when he suffered a sprained ankle, but he returned on Saturday playing 12 minutes and he could start on Tuesday. They also have ex-Arse and the Bees 29 year old Ghanian Kuffour who was last seasons top goalscorer with 14. He's apparently got an impressive 28 in 96 games for the Pirates. Meanwhile, ex-Palarse and number 11 Hughes has an impressive 23 goals from 99 appearances for the Pirates.

What Are They Saying?

Brighton boss Gus Poyet after Saturdays draw with the Pirates, "We have not been ourselves for the last three or four games. We need to get back to the way that we play and make sure we are in control of the game. If we'd played them two months ago and we were 2-1 up with eight minutes to go I can promise you they wouldn't have touched the ball. We got punished and we got what we deserved."

Whats Their Secret?
Only tenth in the table in away form with 2 wins (at Dagenham and Huddersfield - the Terriers first home defeat of the season), 4 draws and 3 defeats BUT they like to attack away from home as Brighton can testify and only three teams (the Addicks, Wednesday and Swindon) have scored more away from home than their 13 goals. And they don't give up a lost cause either, for a very impressive 6 of those 13 have been scored in the last 5 minutes.

But down the other end, whilst the Addicks have had 5 clean sheets in their last 7 League and Cup games, the Pirates haven't kept a clean sheet for 9 games.

And you may have noticed that they don't like losing to top teams, with good results against Huddersfield and Brighton and they only have suffered 2 defeats in 7 games against teams in the top half of the table.
Another secret comes from the boots of Rovers' captain Stuart Campbell, a player that Lennie Lawrence made his first signing at Grimsby. Seems his corners are worth planning against and this is what happened in the dying seconds last weekend "Another superb corner was delivered in by Campbell and with the Brighton defence being put under additional pressure by Rovers goalkeeper Anderson, defender Bennett powered a header past his own keeper for the goal that gave Rovers a deserved point"

The Team

Two more yellows ( and a red) after three yellow cards in both of the previous two games, (although one of them was seems to have been on purpose), means we are returning to our old habits as we continue to lead the table on fouls. Doesn't matter you say, but sometimes these games are won by very slender margins and its worth pointing out that we've collected more yellows in total than any of Brighton, Bournemouth, Colchester, Carlisle, Huddersfield, Southampton, Peterborough, MK Dons and Sheffield Wednesday, all of the top 10 in fact.

After October's problems with bottom of the table teams, and Yeovils determination to get a result on Saturday you'll be pleased to see that we now face another six games against similar teams before we can return to a bit of tranquility on Boxing Day with the arrival of Southampton. The next six are Bristol, Luton (h), Rochdale(a), Walsall (h), Brentford (a) and Hartlepool (a).

However, looking at the three League games after Bristol, and with our impressive away form, they all look difficult but winable. Rochdale went 4th at the end of September but have been in a hopeless deline ever since with just 4 points from their last 7 games, but have only lost one of their last 6 home games, beating Huddersfield 3-0 in the process. Walsall currently prop up the Division and only have 2 points from last 5 away games, scoring just twice.
Meanwhile, Hartlepool have been hovering just above the drop zone from the last 10 games but after losing two of their first three home games have tightened up at Victoria Park with three wins over Walsall, Peterborough and Brighton, a draw with Bristol and only a disappointing 0-4 to Carlisle in the last 5 there. The 3-1 win over Brighton on November 13th was their first defeat in 12. And that defeat to Carlisle has had a similar effect on Hartlepool with 3 wins, 2 draws and only 2 single goal defeats in the 7 games since then.

Whilst Dailly's composure at the back will be sorely missed, there's no denying that the presence of Johnnie Jackson at left-midfield is proving a bonus for Parky. Pushed up since the injury to Reid against Brighton he's netted six times in the 8 games since then and in the 4 games he's scored he's always been first on the scoresheet.

A favorite of Parky, he's signed him twice (while at Colchester as well), he's already equalled his most successful scoring season at Colchester 3 years ago and he's now the Addicks leading scorer.

Elliott; Francis, Fortune, Doherty, Fry; Wagstaff, Semedo, Racon, Jackson; Martin, Benson

The history over the last 50 years is rather against Bristol but our stuttering home form could even things out. And against our 5 match winning League run is their confidence-boosting 2-2 result against Brighton at the weekend and they now have leading scorer Hoskins returning from injury. Plus they don't like losing against the top teams and were determined not to lose last weekend at Brighton and they even threw the goalkeeper up for a corner in the closing seconds and won a point.

And if you are hanging on to a one goal lead in the 85th minute, hold on to your hats because the Pirates have scored in the last 5 minutes in 5 of their 9 away games.

But what the hell, we've turned a corner and scored three for the first time at home this season and with 1-point-from-6 Brighton facing the top team over the last 8. the Saints, a win could leave us one point off top spot. But, of course, this is the Addicks we are talking about and any six wins in a row need a lot of luck and we used up a lot on Saturday so it looks a draw, 2-2 for me.

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