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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.