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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Table Toppers - But will it Last?

No time these days for match reviews and with other good blogs around its been a pleasure to read rather than write. And with the levels of euphoria around at the moment its just been a pleasure to be an Addicks fan wherever you live and to enjoy wallowing in it all. The mishap at Stevenage a couple of weeks ago is looking more and more like a bit of a blip and we must all be pleased at how the team has reacted to their first defeat. Three wins since then have kept our place at the top and has now given us equal most-goals in the Division with Huddersfield and the biggest goal difference to boot.


Now I'm not normally a pessimist but being a Charlton fan I do tend to look on the black side after all those years of suffering. Which means that lying quietly there at the back of my mind there's always an tedious itch endless searching for the banana skin that will prove fatal. So, after another long look at the Table and a feeling that a total of 37 points after 16 games was pretty good going I nevertheless wanted something to reassure me so I began to wonder what had happened in the past to teams at the top of Tier Three after 16 games.

Well, only one team in the last 10 years has managed more than 37 points in the first 16 games and that was Leeds in 2009/10 who had 39 points and, of course, got promoted in May in second place behind Norwich. And only one other team managed 37 - Brentford leading from Brighton in 2001/02 - so 37 is indeed good going but there's a long way to go yet so, of course, you all want to know what happened at the end of the season to all those number 1's that were leading the Table in those past 10 years.

Well, of those 10 leaders, only two failed to win promotion, Forest in 2006/07 with 34 points after 16 and Brentford with their good total of 37 in 2001/02. Of the rest 4 (Plymouth (30 after 16 games), Luton (35), Southend (33) and Brighton(34) ) finished as Champions, 2 (Leeds (39) and Forest (30)) finished in the second automatic spot and 2 (Cardiff (34) and Scunthorpe (33) ) went up via the Play-offs.

So the only ones that missed out on promotion were Brentford in 2001/02 finishing 3rd and missing the auto spot by just a single point whereas the worst failures were clearly Forest in 2006/07 who ended up 4th, 3 points behind 2nd place, although they were promoted the following year. Both teams lost in the play-offs.

So it all looks pretty good doesn't it but before you think that its all over bar the shouting, I should remind everyone that the Addicks have been in second place in the table for the last two years after 16 games played with totals of 32 and 28 points respectively only to fall away in both years.

Of course, it won't happen this time, will it, but I'm just going to check another couple of years to settle me down a tad.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Notts County Preview

We live pretty high up, 600 metres above sea level, and because of the mountains, sometimes in winter I wake up in the middle of a cloud and you don't know where you are. And right now thats how it seems with Charlton. Forgive me my apparent ignorance, I am after all 1000 miles away, but I was beginning to see some light at the end of our Tier Three tunnel and beginning to imagine that we would soon get to the end of a nightmarish period that we are clearly not used to.
Of course, others closer to home have been constantly trying to divert me from my fantasies and delusions and have tried everything to shake me out of my dreamy state by repeating over and over again that we were just very lucky to be in 5th place, and that one day lady luck would desert us.
I laughed, we always think we know better than the others, but now, of course, it seems that the majority were all correct in their pessimism. Its now been two dreary defeats after 4 wins in a row and we find ourselves out of the Play-off places again. Not that that should surprise us really, 'cause thats where we have spent 15 of the 29 games so far this season and we are now back where we were when Sir Chris took us over.

And, after giving Exeter their first ever win at the Valley after 14 failed attempts we can move onto the other foot this time because at Notts County we face a similar picture - after 16 visits we've won only one with 7 draws and 8 defeats. The only victory took place in May 1977, a 1-0 win in the last game of the season with the goal coming from Flanagan. Overall its an embarrassing 11 wins each with 12 draws. And perhaps we should mention that although we may not think we should be superior, in fact Notts County and the Addicks just about share equal success in the history of the Football League. We've each won the FA Cup once with a 4-1 win and their best finish was a 3rd place compared with our 2nd in the 30's. We've enjoyed 26 years in the top flight and they 30, although most of theirs was a long time along, and while the Addicks are 33rd in the all-time top flight rankings, County are just behind in 34th.
The Opposition
Paul Ince took over on October 28th last year after the dismissal of Craig Short when the club was sinking towards the relegation places after 7 defeats in their first 13 games. Perhaps highlighting their early successes in the previous century, County had a very sensible and conservative total of 7 managers in their first 51 years, which is in stark contrast to recent years where Ince is now their 13th manager in the last 10 and can by all the reckoning be expected to be sacked during the summer. Lee Hughes and Craig Westcarr and leading scorers with 12 and 11. Hughes it was of course that scored the Valley goal that saw us relegated to Tier Three back in April 2009 with an injury time equaliser in the 2-2 draw with Blackpool.
County are currently 18th, twelve points behind the Addicks and only 4 above the drop zone. Overall their home record is the similar to the Addicks with 8 wins in 15 but with 6 defeats to our 4. Over the last 8 games both teams are pretty equal with the Addicks getting 13 points to County's 12 but whereas Huddersfield, Orient and Rochdale are unbeaten over the last 8, nobody has conceded less goals in that time than Notts County whose defence has only been beaten 5 times. In comparison, the Addicks have conceded 13!
And to emphasize the difficult task open to Powells boys, after a dismal October/November with their 4 defeats in a row, County have now had a run of only 2 defeats in their last 12 League games.

Whats Their Secret?

Not letting in goals and keeping clean sheets have become a passion for Mr Ince. County only kept their opponents out 3 times in their first 13 games before he joined but after an initial learning curve have now enjoyed 7 clean sheets in their last 12 games. In fact over that last 12, they have accumulated 22 points out of a possible 36 from 6 wins and 4 draws which is exactly the same record as leaders Brighton over the same period. Take note, Chris.
But while keeping the opposition out has been Plan A for Ince, down the other end you could say he's not been so productive. After climbing to 13th on January 3rd after 4 wins out of 5, there followed 5 games without a win and with only 2 goals scored. That was rectified in a midweek game at home to Colchester where a 2-0 win was the result. Last weekend, of course, saw a 0-5 away defeat at the hands of Man. City in the FA Cup.
The Team
Its at this point that a bit of encouragement is needed. For those bloggers who see 7th place as the best we can achieve, perhaps we can give supply them with some reasoning for their anxieties and at the same time encourage the rest. Because, rather surprisingly, and although we've only had 12 games against the top half of the table, we are the team to have got most out of those 12 at an average of 2 points per game. That's better than anybody else. Meanwhile, however, in proof of our inconsistencies we have failed to beat any of the bottom four at the Valley, losing 2 and drawing the other 2 and while only losing twice against the beat half of the League we have lost 6 times against the supposed crap, ie Exeter twice, Hartlepool, Brentford, Swindon and Walsall.
As for the team on Friday night it'll be interesting to see if Sir Chris makes any changes. A howler from Doherty and a lack of goals despite lots of chances created could prompt some movement off the bench by Joe Anyinsah perhaps.

With our record at Meadow Lane of one win in 16 and County's form to date, another defeat is to be expected. County have only conceded 2 goals during the first half in their last 12 games so don't expect us to score in the first 45 again and it all points to few goals being expected.
0-1 to County, then?

Friday, February 04, 2011

Yeovil Town Preview

Maybe it was a fortunate three points on Tuesday but for sure Chris isn't complaining. Two clean sheets, six points and a three game unbeaten run now...

But after the changes in ownership, management and players its still hard to see exactly where we are. Are we improving from a bad run in December or has Sir Chris just been lucky? And its not helped by looking at the table, because after a winter of frost and disruption, the League One table is looking a bit of a shambles. Five teams - the Addicks, Carlisle, Orient, Notts County and the Daggers - have all played 25 games while the likes of Plymouth have played 4 more. And its all meant that the Addicks now have twenty-one games left
until the end of season and, as of Saturday, only have 91 days left to play them all. That's an average of one game every 4.3 days and with only 14 Saturdays left that means they'll be a midweek game every other week between now and the 7th May. Saying goodbye to all those cup competitions doesn't seem to have helped us and we can only help that we stay clear of major injuries between now and the end of the season.
All of which means that though we have slipped to 8th we have games in hand over all the 7 teams above us, with three games in hand over Bournemouth and MK Dons and two over Huddersfield and Oldham.

The Opposition

After 108 years in non-League football, Yeovil have only been in the Football League nine years and after two years spent in Tier Four this is now their sixth year in Tier Three with 5th place in 2006-07 their highest placing. Last season they finished 15th just 3 points away from the drop zone and this season didn't start too well either with only two wins in the first nine games which took the Glovers down into the relegation places. Worst was to follow with a disastrous run of 6 defeats in seven games in October and November, conceding 3 goals in 4 consecutive games including losing 2-3 at the Valley, all of which meant a second from bottom placing for six weeks and into the New Year.


Due to the weather, the Glovers only played one game in December, a 0-0 away draw at Colchester and they followed that up with another useful away point at Plymouth on New Years day. But those two games meant that they had failed to score for 42 days and were still in 23rd place. Something had to be done and during the January transfer window four new men joined the club - ex-Southampton midfielder Paul Wotton, 18 year old German midfielder on loan from QPR Max Ehmer, goalkeeper Richard Martin and ex-Exeter midfielder 37 year old Alex Russell.
And much to Terry Skiverton's relief, there was an immediate improvement. After the leaky defence of November, as witnessed at the Valley where they have been the only club to concede three, they continued the goalless draws with Colchester and Plymouth with a further three shut-outs against MK Dons (h), Brentford (h) and Swindon (a) and won all three games, 1-0, 2-0 and 1-0.
So after starting the year in 23rd spot with only 4 wins in 20 games and 5 points from safety, the Glovers, even after a disappointing 0-1 defeat to Rochdale at home on 22nd January, but with a 2-1 win over Brentford away last weekend and another 1-0 home win over Plymouth on Tuesday night, have now lifted themselves into 17th with 5 wins in their last 7 games

And perhaps more to the point, the Glovers now find themselves one of the Form Clubs of the moment with a record of 5 wins, 2 draws and only that one Rochdale defeat in their last 8 games. Seventeen points have been grabbed from those 8 games, 7 more than the Addicks have managed with only a couple of wins, and all with only 4 goals conceded, a complete turnover after leaky November with only 4 goals conceded.
So on to the good news. Only one team has suffered more home defeats than Yeovil's total of five this year and that's bottom of the table Walsall with eight and that helps to give the Glovers the 3rd worst home record. And the list of teams taking away all three points must give us hopes of continuing our good away record - Hartlepool, Exeter, Wednesday, Rochdale, and even Dagenham and Redbridge have all won at Huish Park this season.

Number 10 Dean Bowditch is the Glovers top goalscorer with 8 League goals and is just two behind his last seasons tally.

What's Their Secret?

The Glovers and the Addicks are both pretty useless when the opposition score first with Yeovil earning just 2 points from the 12 occasions when they have let in the first goal and the Addicks only a point better from the eight games where we have conceded first.
But we finish our games much the stronger because while the Addicks have scored no less than 10 times in the last 5 minutes plus added on time, the Glovers have done the opposite and conceded 8 times in the same 5 minutes.
Only our 6th game ever against the Glovers and so far we have won 3, drawn 1 and lost 1 of the previous five. Four games have been at the Valley with only the single draw, a 1-1 affair last season, being at Huish Park. That was the game that saw Sam Sodje get his 13th red card of his career and we had to play over a hour with 10 men. Luckily, his brother Akpo, saved our blushes with a cracking 56th minute equaliser.

What Are They Saying?
Bradley after his move to the Addicks, "I failed a medical at Reading because they just didn't want to take a risk but Charlton are my local club, although I supported Arsenal, and I couldn't turn Charlton down. I feel good and my knee feels good. I think I'm going to need a few more games but I should be all right. "
And the Glovers man Terry Shiverton had this to say after Yeovils' 5th win in 8 over Plymouth on Tuesday, "A lot of teams were saying before Christmas that we had a soft underbelly and that were a good footballing side that could be turned over, but now they're having to come to Huish Park and work really, really hard."

The Team

Chris Powell made his second Charlton signing on Monday bringing in Federico Bessone on-loan from Leeds. He's a left-back, Argentinian, 27 years old and has played in the same team, Barca Reserves, as Leo Messi. He also knows Miguel Llera from their year together at La Liga side (in 2007-08 anyway ) Gimnastic before moving on to Swansea. He would appear to be a bit famous for his errors but I somehow can't see Chrissie Powell making a mistake with a left-back - a striker maybe but not a left-back and his first game on Tuesday showed just why Sir Chris had brought him in.

As for the second newcomer, only time will tell whether our taking on Bradley Wright-Phillips was a mistake or not. And Reading, who decided it was a risk not worth taking, may be watching his progress.

So we've never lost at Huish Park and can point to a four month unbeaten away run in the League. On the other hand the Glovers are enjoying themselves at the moment with 5 wins in the last 8 to earn 2nd place behind Bournemouth in the Form guide over the last 8 games. A draw looks likely but Chris needs to bear in mind that although our home form has now improved to 9th best, we have slipped to 5th best away team although we have outscored everyone with our 26 away goals. Southampton have now won 6 away from home while the leaders Brighton are on 5. The Addicks have done well at Brighton, Colchester and Wednesday recently but are still stuck on 4 away victories, the last one being at Peterborough in the middle of November. We need to start winning again.
But three wins on the trot in your new job may be asking a bit much against a team in form, a 1-1 draw then unless we can take advantage of their tired legs in the last 5 minutes to snatch a winner.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rochdale Preview (a)

Saturday was a giant step in the right direction in the search for Fortress Valley and after no less than six 1-0 home wins in all competitions, Saturdays 2-0 win was unbelievably our biggest home win of the season and even then we had to wait until the 90th minute for the 2nd goal to go in.
But that 2-0 win over Plymouth couldn't have come at a better time as Chris Powell needs, desperately, to get rid of the sense of foreboding that appears to attack the players on home soil. It's becoming a bit of a millstone around our necks and although 6 wins out of 12 at the Valley isn't disastrous its worth pointing out that its a worse record than say Orient although on the plus side it is better than our next opponents Rochdale.
But perhaps we could argue that its because, whatever we may think, Charlton are still seen as a Big Club as far as League One is concerned. So lets compare it with the only teams above us on attendances, Southampton and Wednesday. Both have lost the same number of home games as we have, three, and both have around the around the same points per home game as we have, 1.78 for the Saints, 1.75 the Addicks and only 1.69 for the Owls. So perhaps it's the away teams we should be blaming and not our players as our opponents seem to be raising their game when they play in the bigger stadiums. Compare the rating of the best home teams, Bournemouth, Brighton, MK Dons and Peterborough, all with over 2 points per home fixture. Whereas the Addicks home gate now averages 15,400, MK Dons only average 8,000, table leaders Brighton only 7,000 and Bournemouth and Peterborough a distinctly average 6,500.
Anyway, this week its back on the road again where in the same period that we've lost to Brighton, Walsall and Swindon at home, we are unbeaten in seven games with our last defeat away from the Valley being on October 2nd at Brentford.
Not that it should worry us but surprisingly, Rochdale have a better away record than we do with 18 points against our 17 but then we have played against 6 of the top 10 home clubs already and have only lost to two of them.
But at home, Rochdale have only the 17th best home record in League One but then again are on a run of 6 games without defeat which equals their best run of the season which took them up to 4th place back in September. In fact, over the last 8 games their share top spot with unlikely company in the shape of Notts County, both teams having a record of 4 wins, 3 draws and just 1 defeat in the last two months. In Rochdale's case it was a 1-2 defeat at Peterborough back on December 10th that makes them unbeaten this year.

Whats Their Secret?
Both teams have only 6 clean sheets, but Rochdale have had exactly half of theirs in their last 4 games whereas the Addicks clean sheet against Plymouth was the first in the 8 games. Rochdale also have the 5th best defence in League One with only 30 goals conceded, five less than the Addicks.

One point in our favour though, is the results against the best teams in the Division for while the Addicks have the best points and goals pergame of anyone in Tier three, with a record of 5 wins, 4 draws and only 2 defeats against the top half of the table, Rochdale have the 14th best record. But, Chrissie a word of caution - the top teams don't score many goals against this lot and in fact only Brighton, Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday have conceded less that Rochdale have.


We've only played up there 4 times - two cup ties in 1955 (won 3-1) and 1961 (0-1 defeat) and two League games when we were in Division Three in 1972 (2-0 win) and our last visit there, 34 years ago, in 1974 (1-1 draw).

The Team
This will be Sir Chris' first away game as a manager after Saturdays 2-0 home win and a previous 3-1 win over Scunthorpe when caretaker manager of Leicester last October. After only one win in 9 games that had meant the end for Paulo Sousa, Leicester were, in fact, rock bottom of the Championship and Powell may see this weekend's visit to Rochdale as a bit of a relief after those two stressful games.
Meanwhile, the arrival of new recruit Bradley Wright-Phillips means that we now have three of the top 24 strikers in League One, more than anyone else, of course, with Bradley top scorer on 13, Johnnie Jackson on 12 and Paul Benson on 8. As well as Scotty W. one behind on 7. All Sir Chris has to do now is find a place for them all as well as including Nathan and Joe of course.

Its unlikely that Wright-Phillips will start this weekend due to lack of fitness after his knee problems and the disruption of his non-sale to Reading because of a failed medical. The Pilgrims reported in mid January that he had seen a consultant who advised him to do a bit of rehab for at least a month and in fact he hasn't played since his 90 minutes against Bristol Rovers on January 4th.
As far as the manager is concerned, we will at least see how he views our number 17 with the return from suspension of Paul Benson. He has so far favoured Joe Anyinsah as lone striker with a five man midfield and this could continue with Scotty enjoying another outing. In fact, we'll probably see the same eleven as against Plymouth.
Things have moved on quite a bit since December when this game was postponed. The Form Book back then said a clear away win with the teams being 1st (the Addicks) against 21st over the last 8 plus the always helpful fact that we haven't lost at Spotland for 49 years. Now of course its almost the reverse with the Addicks languishing in 14th spot over the last 8 while Rochdale are in equal top with Notts County.
So, it could be a difficult day for Sir Chris and he'll need to be patience with his team and remember that although the Addicks are the League One top scorers away from home with 26 goals, six more than anybody else, we face a team that have only conceded more than 2 goals in a game once, in a 3-3 draw with Swindon, whereas the Addicks have conceded more than 2 goals on five occasions plus another two in cup competitions.
Verdict then, a close 1-0 away win to the Addicks.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Plymouth Arygle Preview

Extra workload, two broken computers and all those new year celebrations have all served to cut down on things recently but there was no way that time cannot be found to herald the beginning of a new and special era at the Valley. There's been a vast outpouring of views over the last few days, some pessimistic and full of foreboding, but you won't see any of that here.
His lack of experience seems to influence many into forecasting problems ahead or is it a sentimental desire to keep our memories of Sir Chris as one of our biggest heroes from being tarnished? Of course it will all end in tears, this is a business that these days demands results and sooner or later he will be replaced in an attempt to improve things. Because its seldom that a manager retires from his club, only Ferguson probably stands out there, why, even Jimmy Seed was sacked in the end. But will Sir Chris fail after one year or after 10, we just don't know but where better place for him to get his first experience of management than at his spiritual home, the Valley. For me its a great opportunity for us that we can't possibly reject and clearly the new owners feel the same way. You only have to feel the buzz around this football club at the moment that shows what the appointment means to many.
And perhaps we owe it to one of our own to furnish the opportunity that he would sooner or later be looking for as we did with Curbs in 1995 when he took sole control of the Addicks as the age of 38. Did anyone give Curbs a hope in hell of getting us into the Premiership and keeping us there for 7 long years? Clearly, in these doldrums that we find ourselves, we need somebody special and from what I have read and seen over the years from the East Stand, Chris Powell could well be that man.
And as far as experience is concerned, perhaps its worth remembering that Seed, whose success all those years ago at Charlton means his name appears over the South Stand, only had two years in management at lowly Clapton Orient before joining the Addicks as manager in 1933. His first year at Orient they finished 16th and the second they had to be re-elected - not a great success rate there then but he was to lead us to unimagined success.

It was starting to look a nice easy fixture for our new man as Plymouth slipped 3 places last weekend down to 17th after the dismal 0-2 showing at home against Oldham, who clearly had a point to improve after their embarrassing 0-6 home defeat to the Saints the previous week. The other Athletic now have exactly the same record as the Addicks, 9 wins, 8 draws and 6 defeats and sit right behind us in 8th.
That Oldham defeat added to Peter Reids problems, and meant that they were having their worse run of the season with three straight defeats to Bournemouth (a) 0-3, Huddersfield (a) 2-3 and Oldham (h) 0-2. But like Oldham, a bad result or a dismal run can somehow force an improvement and that duly came on Tuesday when the Pilgrims enjoyed their 4th away win of the season in beating MK Dons 3-1. This was only Plymouths 2nd away win since September and came as a surprise to everyone and was also achieved without top scorer Wright-Phillips who is the subject of serious transfer talk from several clubs including us apparently.

So with the Pilgrims only two points behind us although having played three games more, a win at the Valley could propel Reid's men above us and into the fringes of the Play-off positions even though they have suffered nearly twice as many defeats, which now number 11.

As for the Addicks form, it doesn't make happy reading with Arygle having a point more than us over the last 8 games, with 11 to 10 respectively, but not very respectable coming from 24 available. Chris needs to make an improvement and quickly before the leaders vanish over the horizon.

After the crazy years of 59/60 and 60/61 when an astonishing 37 goals was scored in just four games, things have calmed down a lot and only once in the last 20 games between us has anyone scored more than twice and that was the Addicks in a 3-1 home win in 1976.

In recent history over the last 20 years, there's been nine games home and away with the honours pretty even with 3 win, 3 draws and 3 defeats. But of the 4 games played at the Valley the Pilgrims have won twice with the Addicks only winning once, in the last game here, on Valentines day 2009 with a 2-0 win, our second home win in a row after beating Palarse to end our 18 winless run three weeks earlier.

What Stats Can We Give the New Gaffer?

The Addicks are 6th in goals scored but as far as the defence is concerned have only 5 clean sheets (exactly half the number of Brighton and Southampton) but we do tend to score first doing it 15 times out of 23 games. As a consequence we have only been losing three times at the break, less than anybody else, although we currently share the record with such strange bed fellows as Oldham and Hartlepool.

Unfortunately we then tend to relax a bit thinking the jobs done and give the game away. Five times now we have drawn after scoring first and there's only 3 teams more generous that us in that respect - Colchester, Bristol and Exeter. And despite all those late goals - a total of nine in the last 5 minutes - we have only come out top in the second period a meagre 5 times with only two teams, Bristol Rovers and Yeovil, having worse records in the second 45.


Only 8,337 fans were there when the Addicks returned to the Valley on December 5th, 1992 and it was a close fought 1-0 victory over Portsmouth, from a 7th minute Colin Walsh drive, that send us all happy. Saturday seems to me a very similar experience and the gate threatens to be a big one. But that day back in '92 everyone was full of nerves, desperate to get off to a winning start back at our home and somehow this time round I don't think we'll see any desperation just a determination to win. So this time its a 2-0 home win, that nothing is going to prevent.