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Friday, February 19, 2010

Yeovil Preview

There's two ways of looking at Mondays defeat and the subseqent drop to fourth place. One is to feel sorry for ourselves and imagine that we need a bit of a reality check. We're Division Three, playing badly and desperately need promotion in May if we want to avoid selling everybody decent during the summer. We've slipped to fourth with 15 games left and the writing on the wall is beginning to become clear. And to remember that I said a few months ago that we haven't always managed to get out of this place at the first attempt.

The other option is probably the more difficult. And with the signing of another left-sided player on loan, Parky has made it clear that we are going to fight. Having a quiet conversation with Chris Solly perhaps on the need for patience and reminding him that, at 19, he is still third choice left-back. And we can only hope that Parky has spent the rest of the week practising marking at corners and set-pieces with every one of the team and has knocked a few heads together after identifying who's been at fault in the past few games.

So is the team resigned to its fate or are they going to fight like Parky? We're getting very close to playing must-win games and we'll soon find out the Addicks mettle and its up to Parky now to choose a team that'll do just that. Next up is a little team from Yeovil begging for a defeat and with only 3 wins in their last 15. Newcomers to League football after winning the Conference in 2003, Yeovil were then promoted to League One two years later after being Champions of League Two in 2005 but then even made the League One Play-offs in 2007.

Maybe you'll recognise the bloke above because its 34 year old ex-Welling Terry Skiverton who's been Yeovil player-manager since february last year and he took them to a respectable 17th last season.


Down to 14th after Wednesday's defeat to Colchester, the Glovers currently have the 20th best (or worst) away record in Tier Three with only 2 wins on the road; at Bristol in October (!) and last time out a healthy 4-1 tonking of lowly Wycombe. And only one win (Wycombe) and one draw (Hartlepool) to show from their last 5 away games.

The last time we played them they had 5 wins from their first 16 games, and now its only 3 wins (two against Wycombe and the other in the local derby at home to Exeter) in the last 15.

The Opposition

Maybe its because of Skiverton's London contacts but Yeovil seems to be Spurs' preferred loaning ground with three youngsters at Huish Park at the turn of the year before Obika surprisely upped and moved to the spanners. The other two are number 13, 18 year old Ryan Mason on 6 goals ( but not on the teamsheet on Wednesday) and they also have another 18 year old in defender Steven Caulker. They also have McCarthy, Jones, Davies and MacDonald on loan which meant a total of 5 loanees in the team against Colchester.


Top scorer is Jonathan Obika on 7 goals but the Spurs man has ended his loan spell at Yeovil and is now at the spanners so we'll probably see more of him in March.

The youngest player to score a hat-trick for his previous club Ipswich is number 14, 23 year old Dean Bowditch and he has 6 goals from 14 games since joining Yeovil at the start of the season.

Whats Their Secret?
Yeovil are better when playing teams on their own level and have only had 3 wins against top half opposition ( beating Brentford 2-0 (h) in September, Carlisle 3-1 (h) in October and Bristol 2-1 (a) in October) but have drawn at both MK and Millwall but they are one of only two teams to lose to the Gills in the last 14 games. The Addicks, meanwhile, have the fifth best record against teams in the bottom half with only one defeat (Orient).

And despite Leeds' defeat on Wednesday the Lilywhites joined the Addicks as joint leaders of the half-time league but as for the opposition there's sadly only two teams, Exeter and Wycombe ( oddly the only teams that Yeovil have beaten in their last 15 games ) have been losing more times than Yeovil at half-time. And don't dismiss the significance of a half-time lead - only 3 teams have managed to win twice after overcoming a deficit at the interval (Norwich, the spanners and MK) and Yeovil are one of 12 that have still not won after going in behind.


The fourth, and last, of the teams never to have played at the Valley in a League fixture are this weeks visitors. The other three - Wycombe, Hartlepool and Mk Dons - were all beaten.

Against Yeovil we've only had a total of three games played, 2 cup and 1 League with one win each and 1 draw, with both teams scoring 4 times. Both cup games have been at the Valley with us winning the first 3-2 in 2005 in the FA Cup but then losing 0-1 last season in the League Cup when the likely duo of Bouazza and Varney ( now at Blackpool and Sheff Wednesday) were Pardews strike force - no wonder we didn't score then.

The one draw was back in November, 1-1 in atrocious conditions at Huish Park with Sammy Sodje being red-carded on 28 minutes for pulling down Ryan Mason when free on goal. Mooney was sacrified straight away for Llera but Sammy's younger brother came on at half-time for Racon and changed the game with a 25 yard screamer just after half-time.

What Are They Saying?

Parky after Swindons goal two weeks ago, reflecting on Amankwaah's opening goal as the right-back turned home a deflected cross from the right-hand side, "The lads are an honest bunch but whoever is marking Amankwaah has got to do better in that particular situation. We will look at it again. We conceded from the second phase at a set-play against Walsall. We've got to be stronger as set-plays are so important, but over the season we've generally been good."

And after centre-half Elliott had scored with a volley to put Bristol ahead in the 14th minute, Parky had to admit "How someone can be left in six yards of space in your 18-yard box from a corner is beyond belief."

Terry Skiverton after the Colchester game had this to say, "the energy, the tempo and the levels of commitment I've got no complaints with. I'm proud of the players and I appreciate the amount of effort they are putting in. A bit more quality in that final third and maybe we can start punishing teams like we seem to get punished ourselves. I think the supporters can go away happy, obviously they'll be disappointed, but they'll know that the players have tried their hearts out for their club."

The Team
As even the official site now admits the opposition have now scored first in the last 5 games with sloppy marking at set-pieces the reason for several goals. So will Parky respond by changing the formation, for a home game, or change the personnel?

The new loanee signing, Johnny Jackson, although not offically confirmed, seems sure to start if the reported rumours are correct and given the timing of the move it can only mean that immediate cover for Basey is in Parky's mind.

As for the rest of the team there were precious few positives coming out of the Bristol game except that we kept going till the end of the game even with only 10 men after Mooney was injured. So will Parky presevere with the two Sam's, Sodje and Lloyd, Racon and Burton or will he insist on changes.

This is the team that I can see:
Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Llera, Jackson; Wagstaff, Bailey, Spring, Shelvey, Reid; Burton.

The key could be whether or not we can at long last stop a team scoring. The Addicks are without a clean sheet in 11 games now, since Southend, which was the very time that Deon last scored from open play, but we are against a team that have failed to score in three of their last 4 games.

The good thing is that we can expect to score as the Addicks have scored in 16 of their last 17 games and Yeovil have only have 3 clean sheets in their last 20, but then again have only failed to score themselves three times since we last played them.

They will come to defend so will it be a goalless draw perhaps? Or 1-0 to the Addicks. Personally I prefer the latter.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bristol Rovers Preview

Well, we all knew that Swindon have a soft centre late in games and so it proved again but we did leave it rather late with Captain Fantasic doing the business yet again. But it does make Richard Murrays remarks about promotion being a requirement not an aim, seem a bit mistimed. Its one thing to tell the manager in private but a public airing can only serve to make people nervous and prepare the bigger clubs for a likely bargain.
And so it proved, with Parky appearing a little on the desperate side in the attempt to counter Swindon's style, and making more changes in fielding a brand new 4-2-3-1 formation which of course had to be changed at half-time. But we didn't lose - although a missed open goal by Swindon did help along the way - and our fighting spirit came through again.
So being positive, the prime requirement in the sporting world, we may bemoan the lack of a goalscorer but with Bailey around we are still second highest scorers in this League ( 14 behind Norwich, 1 in front of Huddersfield) and with the third highest goal difference.
And despite all our nervous nail-bitting and looking our shoulder we're still in 3rd place although Millwall's form is starting to worry a few people. Only 4 weeks now separate us from the visit to the den and the third of our truly wish-we-could-play-someone-else-today-games (the games against the spanners and Colchester are for me the most awkward of them all, the pity being that both are in Play-off positions) and its currently 5 wins on the spin for the spanners.
So its on to those peps with the strange old-fashoned quartered shirts. Player-Manager at Rovers is 37 year old Paul Trollope, another man in his first job but at Rovers since 2005. Eleventh last season in their second year back in Tier Three they have, of course, our old Lennie as Director of football.

And as we tie with the spanners in the chase to be the highest fouling team in the division ( Ince's MK are clear leaders, no surprise there), little old Bristol are nice and clean and are in the relegation zone of the dirty-boys table with nearly a hundred less fouls committed than us and 18 less yellows - and the distinct bonus ( is there a FairPlay prize down here) as far as suspensions are concerned with no red cards at all.


Rovers are currently in 9th place, their lowest placing of the season and have dropped down quite a bit since their good start to the season when they won 7 of the first 10 games and were up there in 3rd. The kiss of death then arrived from the Football League with Trollope being awarded Manager of the Month for September and inevitably October turned into a disaster with 5 straight defeats including a 0-4 home loss to Leeds.

Since then however, its been their home form which has kept them from really heading towards the relegation zone. Their last 10 away games have seen 8 defeats ( including that 4-2 loss at the Valley) and only 2 draws but at home its been a lot better.

Since the 0-4 Leeds defeat at the end of October they have had 5 straight home wins terminating with a thumping 3-0 win over Swindon - although since that win its been another bleak period with only 1 win ( home to Hartlepool ) in their last 8 games and most recently two home defeats in a row firstly 2-3 against improving Wycombe, after leading 2-1 at half-time, and last week a 1-0 defeat to Walsall.
And the goals have dried up as well with 6 non-scoring games in that eight-match sequence.

The Opposition
A rather odd team where the number one, goalkeeper Steve Phillips is on loan at Crewe, while number 12 is worn by the supporters and are known as the Gasheads, in apparent recognition of the smell from the adjacent gas works. The goalkeeper, therefore is the giant 6' 5, 21 year old dane from Copenhagan, Mikkel Andersen wearing number 27 and on-loan from Reading.


After losing Ricky Lambert during the summer to Southampton, Rovers have struggled to find a replacement and current top scorers are left-winger number 11 ex-palarse Jeff Hughes, currently playing left-back, and midfielder Chris Lines with 8 each. Chris Lines is Rovers' own version of Nicky Bailey and has scored three of their last four goals but luck is against Rovers as he's currently out injured. And Hughes is currently on a run of 8 games without scoring and missed a penalty last week against Walsall.

So to fill in the gaps Trollope has secured loanee striker from Doncaster Paul Heffernan, famous for his head-butt on Charlie Mulgrew in the 88th minute of Play-off semi against Southend in 2008. He therefore missed the Dons moment of glory when they beat Leeds 1-0 in the final and made his Rovers debut last week against Walsall. And Trollope also wants to bring in another loan striker before tonight.

Whats Their Secret?

A bizarre team that have had more clean sheets than we have but then again only 6 teams in Tier 3 have conceded more goals. The only team in the top half of the table with a minus goal difference and although they have scored 3 on 4 occasions they have also conceded 5 twice ( Orient and Norwich) and 4 twice ( Leeds and the Addicks).

After reminding everyone that we usually do well at Swindon, which we did, its on to Bristol where our record really isn't very good. In fact, giving it to you straight, we have an even worse record at Bristol than we do at the den, old or new.
OK, we did the double over them in 1993/4 and won at the Valley in December making it three wins in the last three games but before that 2-0 away win in January 1993 we'd gone 15 games without a win at their place dating back 34 years to a 4-0 cup win there in 1959. And the only other time we've won there was a 5-2 Third Division South League win in 1933.
Oddly enough we've played both Bristol clubs 29 times in Bristol but whereas we've won 11 times against City its a sorry total of only 3 wins in that total of 29 away games at Rovers and its our first game at the Memorial Ground where Rovers have played since 1996.

The Team
After last weekends surprises its anyones guess what formation Parky will choose against Rovers although it must be said that his new 4-2-3-1 failed to impress anyone watching. He seemed pretty upbeat going into the game but perhaps he shot himself in the foot by trying to play to counter the opposition to avoid defeat. This week, I suspect, it'll be back to a more obvious selection with two forwards.
Scott Wagstaff, with his 5 goals, was flavor of the month and has now taken part in 12 out of the last 13 games, starting in seven of them although what his thoughts were when he was replaced at half-time at Swindon by Jose Semedo haven't been reported.
Another one perhaps grinding his teeth is Leon McKenzie, who, just when he must have thought he was due a start, has seen his prospects slip somewhat with the return of the much-liked Akpo and had to stay on the bench against Swindon after coming on in the previous eight.

Meanwhile there's strange goings-on as far as Lloyd Sam is concerned. Last week he missed his first League game of the season - apart from his one game suspension - and that was after only appearing for 10 minutes the week before against Walsall. And then there's the private meeting he had this week with Murray and Parky to discuss his contract which expires in the summer and the latest news that he has shaken off the bug that apparently stopped him playing last week.

And then what of Therry? After starting for the first time in eight games against Walsall he must have been cursing his luck when he had to go off after 52 minutes against Swindon with a head injury and didn't return.

But Parky needs to get it right this week and will revert to a 4-4-2 and after last weeks surprises the team would seem to pick itself.

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Sam Sodje, Basey; Sam, Bailey, Semedo, Reid; Akpo Sodje and Burton.

Our record away at Rovers is terrible and clearly the 37 punters on CAFC Picks knew all about it as only 4 of them saw a win back in the summer and even some of those may have changed their minds by now. Rovers home form, until recently, is also quite good but they have loads of injury problems and two home defeats in a row and as Ketts has pointed out have gone 300 minutes without scoring. Meanwhile the Addicks are on 4 games without a win and 3 consecutive TV defeats in a row.
So Parky, with Richard's words still ringing in his ears, needs a win badly but if it comes it won't be easy on our current form but if Yeovil, Orient, Wycombe and Walsall can win there, there should be no excuses if we can't do the same. And perhaps we can even get a run going with Yeovil, Brighton, Southend and Stockport the next 4 teams.
So the Verdict has to be a win to the Addicks, 2-0

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Swindon Town Preview

I'm not very happy at moment and judging from his pictures, neither is Parky. Despite four changes in defence, midfield and attack, he still cannot change the predictable state of affairs. We concede the first goal and then have to raise our game to take the game to the opposition. Its now been nine games since a clean sheet (Southend, December 5th) and six times now in the last 8 we have conceded the first goal and 5 times ( all bar Orient) we have had to come back to get a draw.

And we're now the team with the most drawn games, 11, in Tier Three. Its unusual to see the highest drawing team so high up in the table, ( in the other three divisions they're 15th, 21st and 12th ) and Parky must be feeling frustrated at our inability to turn these draws into wins.

And he also needs to fix his half-time talk because we're still useless in games where we've been drawing at half-time. Ten games, one win and not something to plan at the weekend because the three best teams when they've been drawing at the interval are Leeds, Norwich and ....Swindon.

Manager at Swindon is Danny Wilson who joined in 2008 after spells at various clubs but is most famous for his first managerial job which was at Barnsley whom he lead into the top flight for the first, and sadly only time, in their history in 1997.

Clearly something strange happened around October 31st at Swindon because since then, after just 4 wins in 14, they've had 9 wins in 12 games and if it wasn't for the 94 minute equaliser at the Valley and Southend's 89th minute equaliser last weekend it would be 11 wins in 12. And those two late goals have really cost them, as, with three games in hand, they would be just 3 points behind us. As it is they are currently 8 points behind but with a far worst goal difference.

And the thing that changed everything was due to the 4-1 win by the reserves against Reading on October 30th with Billy Paynter and Charlie Austin getting two goals each. And as Wilson said after the game, "We are still trying to get the combinations and the personnel right but its given us food for thought for Saturday because we're not hitting the back of the net. "

Well, they certainly are now with 26 goals in the last 12 games with nine wins and only one defeat, away to Bristol Rovers, in that run.

Dangerman by a mile since that October date is top scorer and Liverpudlian 25 year old Billy Paynter, number 20 and now on 17 goals but just to provide us with additional problems he's got himself a new number two after that reserve game.
Whilst we have two underperforming non-league strikers in Dickson and Fleetwood, Swindon seem to have picked up a peach from Poole Town. His name's Charlie Austin he's 20 and he's got 10 goals in 14 games since he joined in October including the first for Swindon on Boxing Day.

Whats Their Secret?
Not a secret more of a liability really but, as was amply demonstrated by Southend just last weekend, Swindon lack a bit of staying power. At Roots Hall they lead 2-0 with 2 goals in the first 10 minutes but once again at the death they conceded 2 goals in the last 5 minutes. Shades of the Valley then. And in fact while conceding no more than 3 goals in only other 5 minute spell, they have let in 4 in the 80-85 minutes and a massive 8 in the last five minutes of games.

And they are one of only 5 teams ( in the august company of the likes of Hartlepool, the Gills, Tranmere and Oldham) in this neck of the woods that have not won a game after going behind. Unlike the Addicks, of course, who now have only Huddersfield and Wycombe above us in the table showing points clawed back after letting in stupid goals. And its now eleven draws for the Addicks, more than anybody else, and 7 of those have been after going behind.
Rather more worryingly, apart from Leeds and Norwich, the next best team in games against the top half of the table is...Swindon.

We haven't got a bad 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 10 games there since the 80's we've won no less than seven and lost only once...

The Team
Parky definitely threw all the predicted eleven's out of the window on Tuesday and surprised us all by bringing in Solly, Racon, Wagstaff and Akpo Sodje.
Chris Solly was handed his first start in the League while Racon, without a single minute in the last 8 games, was brought in to replace Semedo. Wagstaff, another surprise starter, started his first game since Millwall, while more predictably Mooney was relegated to the bench with Akpo's physical present given the nod over Leon McKenzie.

But, disappointingly for Parky, the changes failed to rattle Walsall, a team that had previously lost to Leeds, Norwich and Southampton at home although they had drawn 1-1 with Swindon but before Swindon hit their recent rich vein of form.

But, and we're not making excuses, the pitch was terrible, according to Deon, and the performance was better than of late so what can we expect against Swindon?

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, S. Sodje, Solly; Wagstaff, Bailey, Semedo, Reid; Burton, A. Sodje.


We have a very good record at the County Ground but with three games without a win I can't see one coming in this game. But then, despite all the hype, Swindon weren't very impressive on Boxing Day against 9 for nearly an hour so .....

The key will be keeping those two strikers quiet and as I can't forecast a defeat so it'll have to be a draw, 1-1.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Walsall Preview

Not a good week for the Addicks with just a single point from two "easy" home games. And not a good month either with lack-lustre performances, only 7 points on the board and 7th best in January in this sorry league we find ourselves in. Sneaking a look into the dressing room, it appears to be becoming apparent to the team that they're just not good enough to get an auto spot out of this Division. The Killer Blow as far as morale is concerned is Norwich's surge past us in the table with 8 straight wins that has now has left us trailing them by 8 points - although with a game in hand - while we are 5 behind Leeds and have played a game more.
Its just the sort of situation that going to frustrate a team with only 2 wins in the last seven and added to the disappointment of dropping out of the top two, after holding second place for 5 months, could explain the lethagic performances of late.
So we'll have to gee them up and stress the positives. Get the team to show some grit and determination, not least because coming up shortly we have Swindon, a team we can't afford to give any concessions or psychological advantages.
So looking back at the past month, seven points in January was at least 3 more than either Leeds or Colchester managed and the two teams we couldn't beat this week are not down there in the basement but 5th (Orient) and 9th (Tranmere) in a results table on January results. Not promotion material perhaps but an example of teams fighting for survival.

But you can't accuse us of not fighting. We haven't had a single straightforward game since Stockport on the 12th Dec. Since then we've had seven games that we've either drawn after going behind ( Millwall, Swindon, Brentford and Tranmere) or gone on the win after the other team had equalised ( Wycombe and Hartlepool) and in only one have we failed to score (Orient).

On Saturday we had 21 shots with 12 on target. The party-poopers from East Anglia only managed 7 shots ( 4 on target) against Hartlepool in their 2-1 win while Leeds only have 14 (7 on target). And the only team to come anywhere near us was Pardews lot with 18 shots, 13 on target. So we've showing fighting spirit and creating shooting positions.

So on to Walsall. And while we continue to vie with Norwich and Leeds with most shots on target our next opponents Walsall are down the other end of the listing with less shots than anybody else in the Division. Manager for the past year at the Saddlers is Paul Jewell's mate Chris Hutchings. They've been together 3 times at Bradford, Wigan and Derby with Hutchings being the beneficiary by taking over all three times when Jewell upped and left.


After 5 wins in 7 back in October/November which took them to the brink of the Play-offs positions in 7th place they have became a little dizzy about their prospects and its now been six games without a win and with 4 defeats in there as well and a slide down to 13th place. And while the Addicks have only got 13 points from their last 8 games, Walsall are even worst with only 8 points from the last 24.

And their recent home form is even worse with only 1 win ( 3-0 against Oldham two months ago) in the last 5 games at the Banks Stadium with 3 defeats to Pardew's lot, Brighton and the East Anglia party-poopers, whom they lead for 40 minutes before succumbing to two goals in the last 13 minutes.

Top scorers are number 10 Troy Deeney, still only 21, and the irishman number 7 Steve Jones both on 9. But Jones is out injured so its Deon's fellow Jamaican, Darren Byfield, ex of the spanners and the Gills, that starts alongside Troy these days and he has 7 goals.

Whats Their Secret?
As we said in December, Walsall's party trick is giving the opposition a goal start and then going on to win. They've done it three times this season - a 2-1 win over Huddersfield back in September with an 87 minute Raynes goal after going behind and at Wycombe where they went 2-0 down and won 3-2 and they also beat Tranmere after going a goal down. But typical for a mid-table team they can do the opposite as well and have also lost 3 times after winning....

But their form against the good teams is dire. Placed 22nd in a table showing results against the top 12 with only one win in 12 games.
Despite winning three out of the last 4 Cup games against the Addicks ( which includes the embarrassing 2-1 FA Cup defeat at the Valley in 2002 ) we should be looking forward to visiting Walsall where of all the other Tier 3 teams we have our best away record ( in League games anyway) picking up over 1.5 points per game. Its one of only three places down here where we've won more than we've lost ( the others are Gillingham and Southend) and the record currently stands at 4 wins, 2 draws and only 3 defeats over the 9 League games.
The last time Walsall beat us in the League was 37 years ago in October 1973 at Fellows Park in an embarrassing 4-0 defeat but of the 5 games played since then at Fellows Park and Banks Stadium we've won 3, drawn one and only lost a League Cup tie 2-0 in 1987 after winning the home leg 3-0.
And its only our second visit to the Bescot Banks Stadium, the first being a 4-2 win in March 2000 on our march to the Tier Two title.
The Team
There's no Carl Ikeme this time stopping Darren Randolph filling-in in place of the injured Rob Elliot and he'll make only his second start after playing at Northwich so don't be surprised if he's rusty. But there's no word on Kelly Youga so the defence will line-up as it finished on Saturday.
Midfield, however, will be the area getting most of Parky's attention this week with two difficult away trips coming up. Racon and Spring wait in the wings but with Therry only enjoying one game ( Southend) in the last eleven and no sub appearances either its not looking like a return for him and Matt Spring hasn't seen any action at all since his 90 minutes against Brentford in December.
However, new boy Kyel Reid looked good at the weekend and with "sore calves" was replaced by Leon McKenzie on 71 minutes but there's a good case for including both in the starting line-up. Parky's obvious enthusiasm for Dave Mooney reminds me of Pardews liking for Luke Varney last season. Mooney's has now had more than 900 minutes football for his three goals - which looks good by Varney standards with his 2 from 1500 minutes last season - but its not good enough to worry the top two clubs and its surely time to try a new combination of Burton and McKenzie together.
Although with the return of Akpo Sodje, and Parky's quote about his physical present being more than useful, it looks more than likely that he'll benefit from Mooney's dip in form.

Randolph; Richardson, Dailly, S. Sodje, Basey; Sam, Semedo, Bailey, Reid; A. Sodje, Burton.


With our history at Walsall and their record against all the top teams and the fact that only three teams down here ( Oldham, Hartlepool and Stockport) that have had more defeats in their last 8 than Walsall, its a morale-boosting 2-0 to the Addicks.