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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.

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