Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Weekend Championship Preview , Game 46

Four more days and it will all be over. The final match of the season sees us take on Norwich City in a fixture which could be repeated as early as 8th August in League One. Norwich were poor when I saw them beat us 1-0 before Christmas at their place. It was not a major surprise, therefore, when we knocked them out of the F A Cup by a goal to nil following a 1-1 draw at the Valley. As they say, the table doesn't lie at this point of the season and the Canaries are staring down the barrel of a gun (no pun intended).

I can't see Charlton losing this game and I believe Barnsley will get the point they need at Plymouth in any event. With a better goal difference of three, the Tykes could even afford to lose and still stay up if Norwich don't beat us by more than two goals. If Charlton score first I think Norwich will fold. It promises to be an exciting afternoon as all of the final placings are settled.

Burnley v Bristol City
Burnley need the win to secure a play-off position that they fully deserve. City have slipped to tenth and the disappointment at Ashton Gate is growing; Dele Adebola is the first to want away. The Clarets to fill their boots.
Prediction; 3-0 

Charlton Athletic v Norwich City
A League One fixture in all but name. I think the occasion will lift Charlton to a winning performance. On Tuesday, Norwich played uncannily like the way we have played for most of the season - they had a go without really coming close to scoring and collapsed once Reading went ahead.
Prediction; 2-0

Crystal Palace v Sheffield United
Ding-dong game on the cards here. Neil Warnock will be desperate to beat his old side and prevent them from possibly gaining automatic promotion. United are on a roll though, and know they have to win if they are to have a chance of pipping Birmingham and Reading. My money's on them to win again.
Prediction; 1-2

Ipswich Town v Coventry City
Ipswich responded to Roy Keane's arrival with their result of the season last week when they won 3-0 at Cardiff City. The need to impress is obvious and I think they will do it again tomorrow at 17th placed Coventry.
Prediction; 3-0 

Nottingham Forest v Southampton
Forest will be surprised to find themselves safe before the last game. Southampton are in chaos and are down now anyway. With further financial pressures and a ten point handicap for next season, they look to have trumped our own nightmare. 
Prediction; 2-0

Plymouth Argyle v Barnsley
Barnsley have ground out four draws in their last five and know that another one here will be the best of the lot. I can't see this being a goal-fest.
Prediction; 0-0

Preston NE v QPR
Hard work for Rangers here and I don't think they'll be up for it. 
Prediction; 2-0

Reading v Birmingham City
There should be a great atmosphere at this match and a full-house as these two go for the last automatic Premier League place. Reading might just have woken up in time after a near-fatal slide. They looked focused in wiining at Norwich this week and know that victory here will ensure they finish above Birmingham. News from Selhurst Park may affect the tempo of this game and it should be a cracker. It struck me how experienced the Birmingham team were when they played at the Valley and I fear that might be enough to get them a point here, although that might not be enough if the Blades beat Palace.
Prediction; 1-1

Sheffield Wednesday v Cardiff City
Cardiff need a point to stave off Preston's late play-off challenge. They took a slap to the face from Ipswich last week so I can see them grinding this out.
Prediction; 0-0

Swansea City v Blackpool
A home win to finish for Swansea. They could be real contenders next season.
Predcition; 2-0

Watford v Derby County
This looked like a relegation six-pointer for much of the season but both are comfortably safe. Watford to win at a canter.
Prediction; 3-0

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Doncaster Rovers
Wolves to finish with a flourish as they prepare for the rigours of the Premier League. I'm not sure Chris Iwelumo or Sylvain Ebanks-Blake will find it so easy going next year but they will fancy goals if they play here.
Prediction; 3-0

 

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Norwich beam-back

Norwich City FC have reacted to the news that Sky will be covering the drama at the top of the Championship instead of the bottom on Sunday, by announcing plans to beam the game back to Carrow for up to 1500 supporters watching in their hospitality lounges. That should at least alleviate some of the pent-up demand from disgruntled Canaries who missed out on tickets for the Valley when Norwich messed-up their allocation and put them on general sale without catering for priority applicants. It might also mean that there will be less chance of any unpleasantness in home areas of the ground on Sunday if tempers flare as I suspect they might.

Monday, 27 April 2009

All set for Sunday

Fascinating game at Carrow Road this evening. Despite lots of Norwich huff and puff, Reading struck the killer goal after 71 minutes and a second six minutes later to set-up nail-biting finishes for both sets of fans on Sunday. Norwich must now win at the Valley and hope that Barnsley get nowt at Plymouth. I just can't see it. 

Reading, meanwhile, find themselves three points behind second-placed Birmingham with a superior goal-difference and face them at the Mad Stad on Sunday. A win there might still not be enough for Reading if Sheffield United can win at Palace. With all the drama at both ends of the table it promises to be a memorable last day of the season. It's just such a pity that our own fate has been sealed. Fingers-crossed then for a big annoucement.

I tried to buy three season tickets today was turned back at the office. I am adding an U11 to the two I already have and they insist on seeing proof of age. I will have to return at a later date but am left puzzling over why they need it. He is 8 years old and won't pass for 11+ anytime next year. It's not as if he'd be allowed in without question if he was six foot tall with a beard. If anyone wanted to fiddle it I am sure they could get the ID - it's still the person coming through the turnstile that provides the check? Suggestions on a postcard.....

The wind of change

Rumours of a Boardroom takeover gathered pace this weekend with the on-line story in the South London Press that Peter Varney is heading a consortium of wealthy backers. There wasn't much to support the claim but Varney has apparently refused to deny the story when questioned by the SLP. This has been smouldering away in the background for a few weeks and comments from Richard Murray don't clarify the situation one way or the other - "it's no secret that the club is looking for financial investment." 

Phil Parkinson's chances of leading the Addicks next season also appear more remote based upon the continuing poor sequence of results and his own demeanour in post-match interviews of late where he is refusing point-blank to be drawn on the subject or even, dare I say it, speaking in the future tense.

Timing is probably the issue here in terms of the rumours. If (and it's still a big if) there is anything serious being planned, then anyone involved would be looking to maximise the impact of any announcement and the last day of this appalling season would be just the time. It's probably the prime time to inspire season ticket renewals and any significant change at the top would surely mean a new manager with whom to give responsibility for rebuilding the team. Timing, therefore, has maybe got as much to do with the growing mutterings of an annoucement at the weekend.

It might also account for the nudge-nudge, wink-wink message I got this morning telling me to back Jurgen Klinsmann as the next manager!  What I do know, is that expectations are growing of major changes and the status quo will look increasingly unattractive come August.

Sky Sports at 7.30pm - Norwich v Reading - a taster for Sunday.



Sunday, 26 April 2009

Royal Oak to be taken over by Charlton fans?

Rumour has it that "a consortium of Charlton fans" have made Clive Still an offer for the Royal Oak and that the final details are being worked through prior to a sale. I sincerely hope so. I won't name the leading individual just in case there is no truth in this rumour, but he is a local businessman, well known Charlton fan and a match-day Oak regular for as long as I can remember. 

Tomorrow night sees Norwich City entertain Reading in a game that could be critical to the final day. If Norwich get the win then I think they can stay up. If they lose or draw, then I think they are down because I am sure we will finish with a Valley win. I said the other day that I can see Norwich fans appearing in home areas next Sunday and there's even been a direct request on Charlton Life for tickets. After the massive disappointments of this season we could get the chance to laugh at someone else's misfortune. Oh for some real excitement at the Valley!



Derby County 1 v Charlton Athletic 0

Sounds like another competitive performance to go with another failure to record three points. Still only three wins in twenty-seven (27) games now under Phil Parkinson's leadership - a total of 20 points from a possible 81. I suspect it's not a record league worst but it can't be far off it. 

Rob Hulse bundled the winner in on 70 minutes to make Derby secure this season. Phil Parkinson commented that "there's a great chance this time next season we will be celebrating promotion." This having already said that the close season and team re-building can't come quick enough. We all know the first move that needs to happen if we are to have even the slightest chance of bouncing back.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 45

Last away trip of the season for diehard Addicks. As is customary, visiting numbers will be swelled by those there for the last hurrah! A number of Charlton Lifers are making the trip although I wouldn't bet on there being more than 500 Addicks there in all. Derby have been on the slide in recent weeks after the hoo-ha about getting Nigel Clough as manager has died down. The Rams aren't out of the relegation woods yet either but they have 51 points and should be safe. 

Charlton's battlers will be up against it tomorrow with Andy Todd and Jay McEveley presumably fired-up for the fight with former colleagues, although there might only be one or two that Toddy remembers.  Southampton are down but Barnsley, Forest and Plymouth all have games which are tough but not beyond them at this stage of the season. Norwich have Reading at home on Monday but will need to win come what may when they arrive in their thousands next weekend for the final act. Norwich screwed up their ticket allocation and 800 priority fans were left without tickets for the Valley game. Charlton have decided not to allocate them any more because of the difficulty in segregating fans but I expect desperate Canary fans will find their way into the home areas which should make the day all the more entertaining as 
they get thrown out. In the meantime...

Barnsley v Wolverhampton Wanderers
If there is a good time to play Wolves , it's now, having been confirmed as virtual Champions the Tykes might find their will-to-win gets them something. Barnsley will know this is their best chance for a final win as they travel to Plymouth next week and I think they might just sneak a result here.
Prediction; 2-1

Birmingham City v Preston NE
Birmingham can secure automatic promotion here and deny Preston a play-off place in the process. 
Prediction; 2-0

Blackpool v Nottingham Forest
Lancashire Police could have a busy day as Forest try to party by the seaside on the last day. I suspect it might go horribly wrong for them on the park and they will be left to beat Southampton on the banks of the Trent next week.
Prediction; 2-0

Bristol City v Sheffield Wednesday
Mid-table dirge here (oh if only). I wouldn't fancy this if I lived in Bristol and it was free.
Prediction; 0-0

Cardiff City v Ipswich Town
Roy Keane to begin the miracle with a comprehensive defeat. Fifteen of Ipswich's players are out of contract this Summer and I'm guessing Keano won't fancy half of them. Any hopes Darren Ambrose had of joining Ipswich when he leaves the Valley in June will also have evaporated yesterday.
Prediction; 3-0

Coventry City v Watford
Coventry will probably finish off with a win in front of their home fans. Watford might be content to wait until they play Derby at Vicarage Road next week.
Prediction; 2-0

Derby County v Charlton Athletic
On current performances we should have enough for a result here but on current results then maybe a draw is the most we can hope for. I shall be trying to smile at the "Krazee Barn" or something all afternoon instead.
Prediction; 1-1

Doncaster Rovers v Crystal Palace
Palace have done well to hang on to 13th place in view of their poor second-half showing to the season. Doncaster have been winning one and losing the next in recent weeks and I think they are due a win.
Prediction; 1-0

QPR v Plymouth Argyle
Argyle will be desperate for something here but know they can afford to leave it until they play Barnsley at Home Park next week. Home win for Gareth Ainsworth.
Prediction; 2-1

Sheffield United v Swansea City
United are hot on Birmingham's tails and know they must win here to maintain the pressure. A defeat will condemn Swansea to missing out on the play-offs but they have had a fine first season back in the Championship.
Prediction; 2-0 

Southampton v Burnley
Not even St Mary herself could save Southampton now. Their attempts to use a legal loophole to avoid Administration have failed and they are now playing to avoid a ten point deduction next season which will virtually ensure they won't be "doing a Leicester." Burnley will be able to play their game and focus on securing play-off games.
Prediction; 0-2

Norwich v Reading
Reading are vulnerable at the moment, particularly away from home. This really is a must win game for the Canaries because I can't see them getting anything at the Valley on Sunday week. The trouble for Norwich is that the pressure's off the Royals and they will be able to play some easy football. Norwich might have to settle for a point.
Prediction; 1-1

 

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Saints linked inextricably with League One

I have been on an intensive three day training session this week (broken only by the Cardiff debacle) looking into company accounts; balance sheets, income statements, cash flows etc. On Tuesday we covered the linkage between businesses; Subsidiaries, Associates and Joint Ventures etc. Our tutor confirmed my view that a wholly-owned subsidiary is dependent upon it's parent company and that the two were "inextricably linked." These were his words and I was immediately reminded of the stunt that Southampton FC have been trying to pull to avoid a ten point deduction and almost certain relegation. A brief conversation followed and he confirmed my view.

Pleasant satisfaction then this afternoon, when he told us after a tea break, that Southampton have been handed a ten-point penalty by the Football League as a result of their parent company, to whom they are "inextricably linked," going into Administration. I heard Lord Mawhinney on the radio on the way home explaining that the Football League were confident that their "forensic" examination of the Saints' books had proven the case.

What annoys me at this point is that the Saints appear to have escaped with a 10 point deduction this year because it effectively relegates them. If they had been down today anyway, then the penalty would have applied to League One next season. The timing of this announcemnet, therefore, looks very fortunate to me because Southampton would most likley have been relegated on Saturday in any event. Still, shouldn't grumble too much I guess, they have had their comeuppance. 

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Charlton Athletic 2 v Cardiff City 2

I said after the miserable home defeat to Barnsley on 1st November that Alan Pardew's fate was sealed and that the Board would have to act to remove him. He was gone after the next home game. This evening, I believe the realisation that Phil Parkinson has to be changed out, will finally have dawned on any remaining doubters on the Board. 

The first shocking image that the Board won't have failed to notice was the terrible home crowd. The gate wasn't given again this evening but it really didn't look like there were more than 10,000 there at kick-off (on the basis that there are 15,000+ season ticket holders and a generous 2,000 Cardiff fans, the official gate can be little more than 18,000?). The Cardfiff end filled up a bit, but they were well short of what I had anticipated. Although by estimation of "500-600" Blackpool fans was well short of the 950 given in tonights programme). The home sections were so sparesly populated, it must have very hard for the MC to say "come on, make some noise for the boys." Frankly, I was embarrassed for him. Take a look for yoursleves....

video

The second undeniable fact is that our record under Phil Parkinson continues to worsen and, once again, we have failed to close a game out and record what would have only been Phil's fourth win in twenty-six (26) league games. Not only that, but having gone two-up in the second half for the second successive week, we have again contrived to turn it into a draw. This squad should be playing with no fear by now and we all expected the tail to wag at the end as the players finally showed their mettle and, I believe, some of their underlying qualities. The fact that they haven't, reflects directly on the management of the side. There are no other excuses left.

For the record, it was the same eleven that started against Blackpool (Elliot, Youga, Hudson, Ward, Butterfield, Bailey, Zheng Zhi, Racon, Sam, Shelvey and Burton). It was also a similar game. The first half was slow. Cardiff dominated possession but were restricted to two fine shots both of which were pushed to safety by excellent saves from Rob Elliot; the first a rasper from Chopra who seized upon a poor pass from Racon to Youga and swerved inside to open the angle and fire for the top corner only to see Elliot get a hand to it and touch it wide of the post; the second was  an equally fierce volley, from Ledley I think, from 25 yards which was screaming in until Elliot managed to get two hands on it to edge it over the bar. After the woeful performance given by the returning Hameur Bouazza a couple of weeks ago, it was equally pleasing to see Jay Bothroyd put in a stinker as well, particularly in the first half.

For their part, Charlton had a couple of half-chances before scoring before the break. Bailey had managed to thread a pass into Burton in the box but Tom Heaton just got there to thwart him. Bailey then went down in the box but he was going away from goal and was up far too quickly to protest for it to look too convincing. After that, it was left to the boy-man Jonjo Shelvey to further enhance his burgeoning reputation with another opportunist goal. This time it came courtesy of a good bit of Charlton pressure that saw Lloyd Sam deliver one of his better balls this evening to the far post which evaded all the jumpers but fell to the lunging Jonjo who stabbed it passed the helpless Heaton.

Things livened up in the second half. Jay Bothroyd showed commendable sportmanship to blast the ball out so the prone Lloyd Sam could receive treatment. This after Youga and Bailey had played on only to lose the ball and it had been played up to Bothroyd before he put it out pointing back to Sam. Zheng Zhi should then have put the Reds two up. He controlled a delicious forward pass from Shelvey and move inside his opponet at the back of the box in one movement before sliding the ball passed Heaton and onto the post.

Chopra went off to allow McCormack to move upfront alongside Bothroyd and Spring was introduced for a tired looking Lloyd Sam. Cardiff then scored what looked to me like a good goal. A long punt was chased downfield by Bothroyd who collided with Hudson and the out-rushing Elliot. Elliot looked to have pushed the ball onto Bothroyd who found it at his feet and with the other two sprawling he managed to finish it off. Maybe it was the noise from the visitors or the spectacle of the latest two visting fans to try to enter the field of play in celebration, but most of those around me also failed to notice that the goal had been ruled out for some reason (a foul presumably).

With ten minutes left, Charlton got the break that should have won the match. A corner from Shelvey wasn't cleared and it bobbed around the box as heads went high and bicycle kicks were attempted before it dropped for that man Nicky Bailey to smash home low through the crowded six yard box.  Amidst the celebrations, Cardiff broke and the sub Burke advanced down the niddle of the field as the Charlton defence retreated at full speed for the box where, presumably, they intended to tackle hm. With the space opening up for him, Burke simply ran on, lined himself up and pumped a hard pass into the gap on Elliot's right-hand side. 

Two-one and panic set-in. The entire Charlton team dropped behind the ball and would not come out further than 25 yards. The East Stand were screaming and gesticulating for them to advance everytime we cleared the ball but they sat tight and conceded free-kick after free-kick.We were in danger of having a player sent off as Zheng Zhi, Bailey and Butterfield were all on yellows. You knew what was going to happen and it was Gabor Gyepes who finally got the shot in that levelled the match. Hard to point fingers at a collective collapse but Butterfield did not have a good game again and he looked particularly vulnerable when the panic set-in. The winner came from just in front of him and I suepct he might have done better to prevent the shot but I'll need to see it again to be sure.

I'll say it again, just in case there's anyone left who hasn't got the message; PARKINSON HAS TO GO.  

Monday, 20 April 2009

Midweek Championship Preview, Game 44

Tomorrow night we play our game in hand on some when we entertain Cardiff City at the Valley. The win could put the Bluebirds level third with Sheffield United but still four behind Birmingham City with only two to play. Neither will catch City but you can bet Cardiff will go for it tomorrow night...

Charlton Athletic v Cardiff City
Cardiff will be heavy favourites for all three points here but there may be a touch of resignation in their game. They have only lost five away all season but have only managed five wins as well. Eleven draws could well become twelve tomorrow, if Charlton maintain their dogged spirit of recent weeks.
Prediction; 1-1

Coventry City v Barnsley
Like us, Barnsley have been grinding out the draws of late and I can see another one here. No loss of face for the Sky Blues and Barnsley could increase their lead over Norwich to two points.
Prediction; 1-1

Derby County v Reading
The Royals have blown their automatic chnaces and are in the sort of form to nosedive in the play-offs. They could yet lose 6th place which would be calamitous. I think they will close it out in their last two matches but I can see Derby routing them here to guarantee their own Championship future.
Prediction; 2-0

I am pleased to see Burnley edging past Sheffiled United 1-0 tonight to strengthen their play-off claim. They deserve it based on the football played this season.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

1980-81 v 2009-10

I've not been able to stop thinking about our League One season next year and whether or not we have any realistic chance of bouncing back. My heart says "yes" but head tells me "no." Obviously, we don't know what positive changes we might make to the squad during the Summer but the negative ones are largely predictable. On the basis that cash will be tight, you have to assume we will start in August with a smaller squad of players and a weaker best eleven.

I went to every match during the 1980-81 season, home and away, league and cup. I actually did that for four and half years, but this was the first season I did it and the one that probably stands out as the most memorable in my lifetime (closely followed by the subsequent promotion seasons and then the Premier years).

So, I have had a little wander back in time to assess the playing strengths of the 80-81 side and made a comparision against that I think is most likely to start for us in August. I know things have moved on in the last 30 years and that it's a dangerous game to start comparing players from different eras, but I am working on the basis that the third tier hasn't changed all that much, certainly nothing like the top flight, and that the sides we will play next year will be relative to those we faced in 1980-81. I am also giving the 2009-10 squad due consideration for playing in a lower league (although you could argue we've been doing that all season).

The first thing I need to say, is how pitifully small the first team photogrpah looked for 1980-81. There are only 14 players in it! A quick recce through the records also confirm that we only used19 players that season and five of those only managed single figure appearances. Therefore, I am going to compare the 14 players who did the business for us that year with the fourteen from todays squad whom I believe are most likely to figure come August. The 14 from 80-81 were Nicky Johns, Phil Warman, Les Berry, Peter Shaw, Terry Naylor, Lawrie Madden, Martin Robinson, Dick Tydeman, Phil Walker, Kevin Smith, Steve Gritt, Colin Powell, Derek Hales and Paul Walsh.

Against them I am looking at Rob Elliot, Kelly Youga, Mark Hudson, Jon Fortune, Yassin Moutaouakil, Jonjo Shelvey, Therry Racon, Lloyd Sam, Scott Wagstaff, Andy Gray, Deon Burton,  Tresor Kandol, Danny Butterfield and Chris Dickson.  I am assuming here that ZZ, Bailey and Ward will all be gone. You could add Shelvey to that list but for now I will assume no-one comes in with the big money and that we are prepared to hold onto him for a bigger fee downstream.

1980-81

Nicky Johns 8 - A great shot-stopper and all-round goalie who allowed the back four to play their own games. Kept 18 clean sheets in the league.
Phil Warman 7 - Played as a full-time, tough-tackling left back and was content with playing down the line to Martin Robinson. Could actually whip in a decent cross when he did get the opportunity. 
Les Berry 6 - Good in the air but could get caught for pace. Was helped enormously by Peter Shaw that season.
Peter Shaw 7 - Peter Shaw had endured an appalling start to his Charlton career and was the butt of jokes and songs from the Valley faithful before blossoming during this season. I can't remember any other player improving so much during their careers. He wouldn't have lasted in todays game.
Terry Naylor 7 - A tough, experienced pro who arrived from first division Spurs having seen his best years. He wasn't here to play third division football for too long.
Lawrie Madden 6 - A journeyman defender in my book but he did go on to better things with Sheffield Wednesday after he left us which really surprised me.
Dick Tydeman 7 - A tall, strutting midfielder who could pick a pass. Dick was probably a better footballer than he was ever given credit for.
Phil Walker 8 - Walker was happy to play in any attacking position equally at home upfront as in midfield. I have given him an extra mark as he weighed in with 8 goals.
Kevin Smith 7 - This was Smithy's break-through season and he made 24 vital midfield appearances.
Steve Gritt 8 - All effort and commitment. Gritt famously played in every position for the club and I have given him an extra mark here for his versatility in what was a tiny first team playing squad. He wasn't the best midfielder in the world but he was equally good wherever he played (even in goal).
Colin Powell 9 - A proper right winger. No left foot and invariably struggled away from home but he was largely responsible for making Charlton very hard to beat at the Valley during his career. He was a joy to watch and provided an endless stream of ammunition for Hales and Walsh.
Martin Robinson 8 - Not unlike his namesake Johnny, although he played on the left. Robbo was a little under-rated in my book. On his day he could go passed anyone and this was his season.
Derek Hales 9 - A mere 23 goals for Killer this season but many of them were vital winners. When Derek had a poor game he was just as likely to score as when he was playing a blinder.
Paul Walsh 9 - A contemporary of mine (my flatmate was in the same class as him at Woolwich Poly), Walshy broke into the side with Kevin Smith but was always destined for better things. He had bundles of skill, great close control, could shoot with either football and got up very well to make up for his lack of inches.

TOTAL = 106 points

2009-10

Rob Elliot 7 - Been ok this year and I expect an improvement next season.
Kelly Youga 7 - Is back to his best and, again, I think he will look better next season
Mark Hudson 7 - Just short of an 8, although he was missing something earlier in the season (I hope it wasn't motivation or that could hurt us next year).
Jon Fortune 6 - Needs to be up for it next year and he will need to stay injury free.
Yassin Moutaouakil 7 - Surely his chance to make the right-back slot his own, especially if Phil Parkinson is moved on.
Jonjo Shelvey 8 - If we can hang onto him next year he should be pivotal and could get close to a 9 before he's prized away.
Therry Racon 8 - Therry should be one of the strongest midfielders in League One.
Lloyd Sam 7 - Lloyd should be a real threat in League one and needs to learn how to finish because we will need goals from midfield as we look light upfront.
Scott Wagstaff 5 - I think he may come into contention as Zheng Zhi and Bailey leave (possibly Shelvey too).
Andy Gray 7 - I get the impression he'd like to put Charlton behind him and move on after his personal nightmare. However, if we don't get any realistic offers (bearing in mind what we paid for him), and he might have to start with a clean slate. There must be League One goals in him.
Deon Burton 5 - He'll score more than this year, but so should just about everyone. Gets 10/10 for effort but he isn't quick enough or big enough to be a genuine goal threat.
Tresor Kandol 6 - Hasn't shown much so far, although Phil Parkinson seems to see something I can't. Hasn't exactly cracked it at this level previously.
Danny Butterfield 6 - Not sure he'll be around either but if we make him permanent he may feature if Parkinson is still in charge.
Chris Dickson 6 - I really hope Dicko gets his chance and starts knocking them in. However,  he has looked very naive when he has played and I can appreciate the managerial view that he doesn't do what he's told; he runs all over the place when he comes on and is guilty of being selfish.

TOTAL = 92 points

So, there you have it. I guess I have to wonder where this squad would have got us in 1980-81. I've got to think mid-table and the chances are that we might start with a weaker playing squad than this. Ooh er....

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Charlton Athletic 2 v Blackpool 2

A day of pleasant surprises ended in familiar disappointment at the Valley this afternoon as Charlton threw away a rare home win and were finally relegated.

It started so brightly. The downpour that was predicted on Thursday had passed during the night and we woke to wall-to-wall sunshine. The pitch looked immaculate for this point in the season and Blackpool's following was a healthy and noisy 500-600. They also had an enormous flag which covered an entire block of seats in the Jimmy Seed stand. A few pre-match pints with fellow bloggers and we were set for a decent match.

The only real change for the Addicks was the appearance of Deon Burton, in presumably, for an injured Tresor Kandol. Charlton bossed the first-half from midfield and created a succession of goal-scoring chances; Darren Ward flashed a header across the face of Blackpool's goal from a corner; Therry Racon was foiled by a last-ditch tackle having waltzed through the Blackpool back-line; Deon Burton spun and fired over the bar from 18 yards; Jonjo Shelvey blasted wide three times having played himself into position with one-two's from his midfield colleagues. All we were missing was a goal which might have opened the floodgates. Blackpool kept their shape and tried to attack whenever they did win any midfield ball but their chances in the first forty-five were limited to two headers which didn't trouble Rob Elliott.

Within four minutes of the re-start Charlton were two-up and should have gone on to kill the game. The first was another delightful passing movement on the right flank involving Zheng Zhi and Lloyd Sam whose flighted cross was perfectly weighted to beat the last Blackpool centre-half and Deon Burton's spring and hang was just enough for him to nod the ball wide of the Paul Rachubka. Before the Valley had fully settled down, Jonjo Shelvey was found in space on the right-hand side of the box and as he ran in on goal he picked the angle to beat Rachubka again. 

It was party time at the Valley and the fans in the Covered End gave a stirring rendition of "Charl-ton til I die" and an amusing "stand-up if you're in the shit" which was well received around the ground. Unfortunately, Charlton stepped off the gas at this point. Bailey was playing much wider left and went out of the game. Therry Racon kept up the pace but was beginning to lose more possession with Zheng Zhi. I thought it was time for a change of personnel but it didn't come. Blackpool did make changes as they began to chase the game and they got their toe back in the match on 67 minutes when DJ Campbell was felled by an out-stretched Zheng Zhi leg which was careless as Campbell was twisting and turning and looking for it.  Campbell got up to beat Elliott easily and we were in for a nervy finish.  Hudson and Youga were booked as Charlton tried to slow the game and Tamer Tuna came on for a surprise debut in place of Burton. Shelvey was doing all the running and he nearly pulled-off an audacious 50 yard lob of Rachubka that would have made the headlines had it not cleared the bar.

With three minutes of extra time being played, Blackpool made a late break and the ball was played back to bad-boy sub Lee Hughes who curled a beautiful shot into the top right corner to cue over-the-top celebrations behind the goal as half-a-dozen blonde-wigged Seasiders made a dash for the pitch which looked pre-arranged. Another disappointing end to a decent home performance. We simply haven't been able to learn from our mistakes this year and something more basic needs to change.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 43

Four games left then and Blackpool at home tomorrow before Cardiff City visit on Tuesday. The Blackpool game really is a nothing match and it will likely be watched by the lowest, least interested crowd of the season. Let's hope the players give us a game to keep us entertained or I can see people drifting away long before the end. Elsewhere, here's my view of how the others will go, which, if form is anything to go by, a third will prove right, another third close and the rest completely wrong. Maybe a message in that for me?

Charlton Athletic v Blackpool

Try as hard as I can and I can't see this game being any good. All of the players will have an eye of their Summer holidays and it's predicted to be played on another wet and miserable day in front of a half-empty, apathetic Valley crowd.
Prediction; 0-0

Crystal Palace v Derby County
Just how poor our actual crowd tomorrow is, should be benchmarked against the paltry numbers turning up at Selhurst Park in recent weeks. Their 12,000 gates against Coventry and Birmingham in recent weeks might come under pressure here in another end-of-season mid-table affair. The Eagles haven't won in six and have only managed three wins in their last 18 games. I really am concerned that they might be following in our footsteps.
Prediction; 1-1

Nottingham Forest v Coventry City
Forest's big opportunity to move out of the bottom three. They will need to win in an East Midlands derby but they should have all the motivation and firepower needed to overcome the Sky Blues.
Prediction; 2-0

Plymouth Argyle v Doncaster Rovers
Plymouth know that a win here should secure their Championship status and I expect them to do just that against a Doncaster side that have been blowing hot and cold in the last few weeks.
Prediction; 2-0

Preston NE v Cardiff City
Cardiff's play-off appearance looks safe but PNE are still clinging to the hopes of catching Burnley or even, fast-falling Reading. I can see the Lilywhites winning here but failing in their bid for extra matches this year.
Prediction; 2-1

Reading v Barnsley
Surely Reading will dig out the win they need here? Barnsley have fallen back into the mire and will be scrapping for the points themselves - they might need to rely on winning at Oakwell.
Prediction; 2-0

Sheffield Wednesday v Southampton
Sheffield Wednesday could bang another nail into the Saints' coffin tomorrow. Southampton threw themselves a lifeline by edging past Palace on Monday but they need something here if they are to have any chance of controlling their destiny. I suspect Wednesday might be too strong for them.
Prediction; 2-1

Swansea City v Bristol City
Bristol City look to have missed the play-off boat. Swansea must win here to keep alive their chances of making it.
Prediction; 2-1

Watford v Birmingham City
Watford are safe and Birmingham will go into this game knowing they are probably two wins away from automatic promotion. They stood up well at the Valley last week and I can see them getting the result here.
Prediction; 1-2

Wolverhampton Wanderers v QPR
Home banker for me. Gareth Ainsworth and his boys should come under heavy pressure here and I don't believe they have the spirit to cope.
Prediction; 3-0

Ipswich Town v Norwich City
This is the Sunday derby match and it promises to be a cracker. Town can record an historic win in the vein of "we sent the Palace down." It's almost impossible to call these games but my money would be on Ipswich to have the last laugh.
Prediction; 1-0

Burnley v Sheffield United
This is Monday's match and another biggie as Lancs v Yorks. Burnley know that a win here will virtually guarantee the last play-off place and they would join United who they could well end up playing again over two legs. Psychologically then, Kevin Blackwell will want to win this and that could be motivation needed to see-off a Burnley side who may have to settle for qualifying at home.
Prediction; 2-1

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Bailey reassures fans - "if I have to stay I will."

Nicky Bailey, Charlton's top scorer this season by a mile, has told journalists that he will stay at the Valley and play League One football if no-one comes in for him. In a statement of the bleedin' obvious, Bailey has acknowledged that he still has two years on his contract, that he "hasn't spoken to anybody" and that "if it means I have to be here next year... that's what I'll do."

Yes, Mr Bailey, if you simply have to be here in August your options are limited. At first I thought this might have just been poor wording on young Nick's behalf but he followed it up with "everyone wants me to stay and I know I have had a good season so I am just going to keep putting in the same performances...and see where it gets me." To me this reads "they love me here because I am the best player, so I'll keep doing my best in the hope that I get a move to a bigger club than Charlton now are."

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Loyalty has meant nothing to professional footballers for years and Bailey was quick to seize his chance at the Valley in the Autumn when we went in for him at Southend where he had been for over a year.

So, I am as sure as I can be that our Player of the Year trophy (sic) will be leaving the club pretty shortly. I just hope we get a decent fee (£2m+).

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Twenty years ago to the day...

We'd been to the Old Tigers Head for a few pints before the game and had returned to my flat in Lee Green with cold cans from the 'offey.' Half a dozen of us to watch the F A Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Forest at Hillsborough. It was five minutes into the game before you began to notice the jam in the Leppings Lane and the commentators start referring to "crowd trouble."

We were all familiar with the old end, it's rickety terracing and crush barriers with the large concourse behind it underneath the stand above. Wednesday fans would often come down from the seats above and try to pick a fight in the toilets with visiting fans at half-time. Surely not today with the whole end packed with visiting Liverpool fans? Within a couple of minutes a policeman ran onto the pitch and the referee halted the game taking the players off. The cameras then settled on the Leppings Lane and the enormous crush of fans that was by now plainly visible. The first fans to be helped up off the terracing into the seats above by fans leaning over the balcony was the first indicator to us that the situation was desperate although we were all still joking at that point about Scousers doing anything to get a seat or to avoid paying for one. We had seen them do it at Wembley, jumping and swinging dangerous distances to enter the ground without paying.

It was only when steel mesh fencing at the front of the stadium was finally opened and the first supporters were seen being carried around the pitch on advertising hoardings by shocked and startled looking other supporters that we began to look even more closely at the pictures and began to suggest that "someone might die under all that." The footage from the rest of the day lives strong in the memory and the picture of rows of bodies lined up under the main stand with coats over their faces said everything. The fact that 96 people died and yet only 14 of them were ever taken to hospital also told you of the scale of the problem on that terracing and the failure of the emergency services to be able to respond effectively to it.

The demand for a full public enquiry has been loud and constant on Merseyside where the senior police officers in charge on the day are seen as the prime culprits for giving the order to open a gate to the Leppings Lane that let 2000 ticket less fans join the existing crush on the terrace that was just not sustainable. Perhaps with a general election a year away and this being the twentieth anniversary, an opportunist Labour government will finally concede and order the enquiry to confirm what was pretty obvious.

In the meantime, Liverpool Football Club marked the occasions last night with one of the most amazing games of football I have ever seen. At 3-1 down from the home leg they were 10-1 to get through which reflected the betting nations view of the outcome, but no-one can have predicted Liverpool drawing level on aggregate and leading twice before the finish. There's only one game a I can never forget which bettered this one as a roller-coaster. Even in defeat, you've got to love Liverpool in Europe.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Coventry City 0 v Charlton Athletic 0

It's all over bar the shouting. The third goaless game in four was enough today to relegate Charlton on goal difference. Forest, Norwich and Barnsley all sit on 46 points and are 12 ahead of us with four to play and better goal differences. Our chances of catching two of them are virtually nil. So, we face the prospect of winning at home on Saturday and being relegated courtesy of results elsewhere over the weekend (Forest look like getting a point at home to Coventry and Norwich could expect a derby draw on Sunday at Ipswich - Barnsley are at Reading and are struggling badly but will surely get one more point before the season finishes).

It was another battling performance at the Ricoh Arena today and we had the chances to have won it - Nicky Bailey saw his shot deflected onto a post late on - but Rob Elliot also made two very good saves to keep us in it during the first period of the second half.  Phil Parkinson is talking about how good this current team is now looking and has told the Newsshopper he expects us to bounce back next season with promotion. I guess that's to be expected from a man whose job hangs in the balance but the interesting thing for me has been his team selection over the last few weeks. He has stuck with his senior pros, including the loanees and the team has had some consistency for the first time this season. Our midfield is looking strong and, so, it has to be said, has the defence recently. It's just upfront where we have been seriously lacking and that has lead to a formation change to a preferred 4-5-1 home and away.

Addicks fans have been asking for youngsters to be blooded and for Parkinson to start sending out sides that might more closely reflect what we are likely to field come August. It remains to be seen what he does in the last four games, but his options look limited as most of the obvious candidates have been loaned out for the remainder of the season in any event. Perhaps Parky has been assured of sufficient finances to secure the contracts of Ward and Butterfield as well as to hang onto the nucleus of the midfield. If the club is to stop the rot, you hope this is the case, however, I am struggling to see it. Darren Ward will have ambitions above League One as may Mark Hudson. Zheng Zhi will have to leave on the grounds of his PL wages and I don't believe we will be able to afford to resist offers for Bailey or Shelvey if they come. On top of all that, we really need to spend what we can afford on someone who can score goals because we will struggle with the present incumbents next year, even in League One. Tresor Kandol's brace against Watford on 7th March were the only goals scored by a Charlton striker since Andy Gray last played in December - a depressing stat.

I've been watching the Millwall v Peterborough game as I write this and could see us struggling against either of these sides as things stand, let alone with a significantly weaker squad of players (Dave Martin has just made Millwall's second goal and has been the star of the game - him the son of a diehard Charlton family). An injection of significant funds into the club looks the only way we are likely to challenge in League One next season. We have to hope it's not through the sale of our remaining best players as that is a double-edged sword, although it's looking inevitable without a Boardroom takeover. 

Finally, spare a thought for Luton Town who were relegated from the football league today after their very harsh points fine by the authorities at the start of the season that made it almost inevitable. They've never been one of my favourite clubs but not one I'd ever have envisaged dropping out. The warning is there for all of us.


Weekend Championship Preview, Game 43

D-Day for the Addicks today and whilst hopes will be high that we can get a result on the back of giving promotion chasing Birmingham a good game, Coventry will be under pressure to take all three points following their 4-0 skelping at Home Park. 

Barnsley v Swansea
Barnsley are limping to safety and the Swans probably know that they have too much to do to close the seven point gap on the last play-off place. In that scenario, I suspect Barnsley will be hard to beat today and will good for a point at least.
Prediction; 1-1

Birmingham City v Plymouth Argyle
Whilst I wasn't overly impressed with Birmingham on Saturday, they are very well organised and they have experience throughout their side. Marcus Bent and Campbell Jerome might not be top class strikers but James McFadden is and Kevin Phillips can still cut it in the Championship. Argyle went a long way to securing their Championship status on Saturday with their second successive win, so they might lack that extra yard today.
Prediction; 2-0

Blackpool v Reading
If Reading are going to go up this year, they will need to do it through the play-offs. Their end of season loss of form would make Alan Curbishley reminisce. They risk another loss here if they are not careful.
Prediction; 1-0

Bristol City v Ipswich Town
A nothing game here but both of these clubs will be looking forward to pressing on next year. Ipswich were surprisingly thumped at home by Doncaster on Saturday and I suspect they might not have recovered fully for today.
Prediction; 2-0

Cardiff City v Burnley
Big game in prospect here and Cardiff will have one eye on Birmingham City with their game in hand. I fully expect them to win here and put the pressure on.
Prediction; 2-0

Coventry City v Charlton Athletic
Ouch. I think we are more than capable of getting a result here at the moment but much will depend on how much City want this. You could take the view that their players went on holiday early at Plymouth but they have been stop-start all season and I suspect Chris Coleman will get a performance out of them today. If Coventry score first I think we will be relegated this afternoon.
Prediction; 1-0

Derby County v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolves know a point here will keep them on course for the Championship championship and they are good enough to get that, with or without Iwelumo and Ebanks-Blake.
Prediction; 1-1

Doncaster Rovers v Preston NE
Preston have finally hit the buffers and this is a fixture they won't want. Rovers won at Portman Road on Saturday and this could be two-in-row as they pick-up on their good form since New Year.
Prediction; 1-0

Norwich City v Watford
Crunch time for Norwich City. They dropped onto the trap-door courtesy of QPR being allowed to loan Dexter Blackstock to Nottingham Forest as a late emergency loan. They need a win here against a safe Watford who might just play party-poopers.
Prediction; 1-1

QPR v Sheffield Wednesday
Gareth Ainsworth was pleased with QPR's 1-0 defeat at Burnley on Saturday. I don't think he'll be pleased with a loss here but I suspect that's what he might see.
Prediction; 0-2

Sheffield United v Nottingham Forest
Wrong time to be playing Sheffield United despite scoring three at home on Saturday. I suspect Forest will make a game of it but United are one of the form sides as the season finishes. 
Prediction; 2-1

Southampton v Crystal Palace
Like Norwich, this is a must-win game for the Saints having lost two on the spin and, just like Norwich, they face a side with nothing to play for. For once I won't mind if Palace get a result today because Southampton deserve to go down. However, it's hard to pick a winner here.
Prediction; 0-0

 

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Charlton Athletic 0 v Birmingham City 0

Honours even at the Valley today in one of those 0-0 games which was actually good to watch. On reflection, Alec McLeish will be happier with the point than Phil Parkinson, although the draw means that Charlton will be relegated on Monday, should they lose at Coventry.

An unchanged Charlton side matched Birmingham in an opening forty-five minutes which was short on goal chances at either end. Cameron Jerome carried all Birmingham's goal threat but he was superbly marshalled by Darren Ward who had his best game since joining us. Lee Bowyer has a fine game in midfield for the Blues and I can't remember him needing to make a trademark Bowyer challenge. He disrupted the Charlton midfield and prevented them from gaining a stanglehold on this game which I believe would have swung it our way. 

Things hotted up in the second half as the game got stretched and we were entertained by some end-to-end football. Lloyd Sam saw plenty second-half ball and he ran at Birmingham whenever he got the chance. He was unfortunate to see a shot cannon off the post having skated into the box and minutes later Darren Ward smashed a loose ball home but the linesman had already flagged for offside.

Rob Elliot made a good save from Fahey and Charlton coped well with three early Birmingham changes in the second half. First, Phillips came on for Larsson and then the ineffective Jerome was replaced by Marcus Bent, much to the amusement of the home crowd. The biggest cheer of the day was reserved for Hameur Bouazza who was subbed for McFadden on 65 minutes, after a game entirely in keeping with his loan performances for the Addicks.

Nicky Bailey and Jonjo Shelvey were carrying the game to the Blues by 70th minute and we were only short in the final third. Tresor Kandol wasn't leading the line and he struggled in possession behind the Birmingham back-line. Shelvey came close with a shot which Taylor had to bundle away and Zheng Zhi was unfortunate to see his quick lob blocked by Stephen Carr after Racon had lifted the ball passed the stranded Taylor.

Kevin Phillips was holding the ball up well and bringing other City players into play and McFadden saw a shot well saved by Elliot.  Chris Dickson came on for Therry Racon with ten minutes to go as Charlton went for the win and within minutes we had the best chance of the game. Dickson broke down the left and as he cut in the ball fell for Shelvey whose shot was deflected across Taylor who had to change direction to make a last ditch one handed save to prevent the Addicks from scoring what would probably have been the winner.

For a change, the vast majority of the crowd, including yet another disappointing Birmingham turn-out, were there at the finish and both sides were applauded off the field of play. All-in-all, not a bad day at the Valley which was enhanced by a pre-match drink with Chicago Addick, Kings Hill Addick and company. I suspect Blackpool will be a much lower-key affair...





Friday, 10 April 2009

Good start to the weekend...

Wolves duly humped Southampton this afternoon and Sheffield United's brave 1-0 win at Reading has lifted them above Birmingham City on goal difference.

The Old Gold were without the injured Chris Iwelumo and Sylvian Ebanks-Blake didn't make it either, but that wasn't enough to prevent Wolves going three-up on poor Southampton within 20 minutes. Wolves must surely make automatic promotion and they deserve it. Southampton are looking nailed-on to accompany us into League One and we will just have to keep our fingers crossed that they start next season 10 points behind us.

Sheffield United are finishing like a steam train and for my money they have been better that than Birmingham City this year as well as being a much better club with proper supporters. As Kevin Keegan would say, "I'd love it if we beat them tomorrow." Sheffield United scored through Brian Howard to take all three points at Reading who have now failed to win in six successive home games after having previously won 12 of 15 at the Mad Stad.

QPR - ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-arr!

Whatever the state of Charlton Athletic and irrespective of the league we will be playing in next season, I wouldn't exchange places with QPR. They are a club where hope has always been close to the surface but delivery of anything agonisingly kept out of reach. No sojourn to the Premier League for them. No ground development, no Target 20,000, no play-offs that I can remember. Just hope that next season might bring an improvement large enough to actually change their fortunes, even if just for a season or two.

The arrival of three, truly wealthy owners promised much. Despite their public declaration that it would be evolution and not revolution at Loftus Road, and that their future would be built on progress and not simply a loose-change investment, Rangers fans must have hoped for far more than they have received. I thought that the egos of these three would be too large not to see them want to buy baubles for their Christmas tree. 

The parsimony of their owners is amply demonstrated by their ticket pricing policy. Having tried to rip visiting Derby fans off earlier this year, their new deal for season ticket renewals makes ours look generous. Minimum adult prices start at £450 and go up to £699! Their early bird renewal offer expires on 17th April, so you will need to commit before the end of this season to take advantage of this year's prices. The VAT reduction from earlier in the year is not being passed on and they have no credit arrangements to allow fans to part-pay by installments.

So whilst Hoops fans continue to contribute heavily to the cots of running of their club,  their Board have been placing all of their eggs in the managerial basket hoping that will make the difference in terms of moving Rangers closer to the PL. Paulo Sousa got the chop yesterday and follows the clueless Iain Dowie, John Gregory and Luigi de Canio out of the hot seat, all in under two years. Given that they have also had two caretaker managers, one of whom, in Mick Harford, was probably the most capable of the lot, it makes for a damning indictment on the men at the top. 

The excuse being trotted out is that Sousa divulged sensitive information relating to the loan of Dexter Blackstock to Forest. This appears to be because Sousa has said it was done without his agreement. Presumably he should have said nothing and gone along with it. His sacking has been anticipated for a number of months, so it's a lame excuse in the circumstances for moving him on. I'd love to see a few out-of-work managers shun the post if it comes their way but that's not really the way it works, especially in the current climate. In the meantime, the footballing world will continue to chant QPR-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-arrr.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Royal Oak doesn't sell

Bad news for the long-suffering match-day customers of the Royal Oak. The pub failed reach it's reserve price of £85,000 for the 22 year lease today, so it will be auctioned again at an auction house later this month. In the meantime, the pub continues to be badly run by an absent landlord who relies on part-time, non-professional bar staff. The pub gets tattier by the week and the locals continue to find that beer has run out or that the pub's "closed temporarily" due to staff sickness etc.

Apparently, a bid of £69,000 was the highest made by someone fresh out of the army with a pay-off to invest. Those in the pub game who made bids dropped out at the £50,000 mark, which tells you all you need to know about the current leaseholder's valuation of £85,000. Looks to me like there will be no good news until next season at the earliest unless the seller gets real on the price.

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 41

Hard on the heels of the 3-2 away win at Southampton, Championship League action returns to the Valley on Saturday when Charlton Athletic get the chance to complete back-to-back wins for the first time in 17 months. Surely the statistic that tells you all you need to know about our plight during the last two years.

In a busy Public Holiday Easter weekend, the games played counter will click on another two and we should know where we all stand come Tuesday morning. Not, of course, that Addicks fans will be at all surprised irrespective of our results.

Reading v Sheffield United
A crunch match in the race to catch Birmingham City. Played on Good Friday, Brum will have the added incentive of knowing what they have to do at the Valley on Saturday. Sheffield United are on a rich run of form and have been finding late goals when they have needed them to win games, as they did last night at home to Barnsley. Reading were my shout for automatic promotion at the start of the season (with Derby!) and this really is their last chance. They have a game in hand on the clubs above them but need to win it and to win this one if they are to be the club to threaten the Blues. I'm going for the Royals to start their belated surge here.
Prediction; 2-1

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Southampton
Wolves can see the finishing line and should limp home (like Chris Iwelumo after Lee Carsley's tackle on him on Monday) but will need to knock over fall-guys like Southampton. Saints nicked a late point at Watford last night but you have to think that draws won't be good enough at this stage of proceedings. Wolves to crush Southampton here and pile on the misery. SEB to do the damage. This is the other Good Friday match, so again, Birmingham will have all the incentive they need come Saturday.
Prediction; 3-0

Burnley v QPR
Burnley are desperate for play-off points and should get them here. QPR have had another disappointing season and their annual change of manager is due. I think that's where their Board spends the pocket money that they give the club each year.
Prediction; 2-0

Charlton Athletic v Birmingham City
Three home matches left after this one, Blackpool, Cardiff and Norwich. Cardiff will come for play-off points and Norwich look like they may still need something to finish clear of the drop. So, apart from the Blackpool match (lowest gate of the season?), the others, starting with Birmingham on Saturday should have some added spice. Birmingham might actually bring a decent away following for a change - their traditional away support is as pathetic as ours has become when you consider it as a percentage of their home gate. I always put this down to the reluctance of Brummies to spend money and the fact that Birmingham have such a bad reputation for abusing visiting fans that they subconciously fear they will get the same treatment in return away from St Andrews. It's a holiday weekend, too, so I am expecting a boisterous and swaggering set of the second city's most unpleasant fans. On paper City should get the result but I am going to take a punt on a second successive Charlton victory, propelled from midfield again, although Tresor Kandol might find another opportunity here to score.
Prediction; 2-1

Crystal Palace v Cardiff City
Palace are going about sowing the seeds for a relegation campaign next year. They are in dire financial trouble and want-away Simon Jordan has found no takers this season. Their results have collapsed since Christmas and there are rumours of dissent in the camp. A draw at home to Coventry last night in front of 12,898 fans shows you the apathy that exists in SE25. Once we are nestled in League One, it may be time for the Simon Jordan saying of "what goes around comes around" for the Eagles. In the meantime, I expect Cardiff to get a draw and their unpleaant supporters to cause trouble at Selhurst Park on Saturday as they make a weeekend of it. I am glad our game against them is now a night match as the opportunity for trouble will be much more limited.
Prediction; 1-1

Ipswich Town v Doncaster Rovers
This is effectively a mid-table nothing match but Rovers are on a poor run and need to find another win before the season finishes. Can't see them getting it here as Town seek to finish a poor home season by their standards (only six wins) on a high.
Prediction; 2-0

Nottingham Forest v Bristol City
Forest have managed only two draws in their last five and scored only three goals in the process. They will face a City side who have to win to stay in contention for an increasingly unlikely looking play-off place. I would have taken City to win this two months ago but a determined Forest performance might see them off here as they wake-up to the reality of their situation. Sitting on the fence then.
Prediction; 1-1

Plymouth Argyle v Coventry City
Argyle need a win here to follow-up on their splendid win at Blackpool last time out. However, they have been very erratic at home and the Sky Blues have only been beaten eight times away from the Ricoh. A draw might be the most Paul Sturrock can hope for.
Prediction; 0-0

Preston NE v Blackpool
West Lancs derby here and Preston should win this at a canter. However, these derby games are hard to predict. I'll stick with Preston to get the points they need.
Prediction; 1-0

Sheffield Wednesday v Derby County
Brian Laws is threatening to turn Wednesday into genuine promotion contenders the way they have been going this season. After winning at Norwich last week I expect them to get their tenth home win of the season here.
Prediction; 3-0

Swansea City v Norwich City
Home banker of the weekend for me, even if Swansea's play-off hopes were dealt a big blow by their draw at Ninian Park on Sunday. Norwich should be hard to break down but I can't see them providing too much goal threat.
Prediction; 2-0

Watford v Barnsley
Barnsley are in need of the points here to maintain their gap on Forest and Norwich. Watford should be just about safe now but know they need another two or three points to be sure. Both managers would probably settle for a point apiece.
Prediction; 1-1

 

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Three from four on the last day

With Plymouth Argyle winning at Blackpool in the last minute on Saturday and with Barnsley having two games in hand on Norwich, it's looking increasingly like any three from Charlton, Southampton, Nottingham Forest and Norwich. Of course with us so far adrift that really reads any two from three. The remaining fixtures also confirm that scenario as Southampton, Forest and Norwich have relatively difficult run-ins.

Southampton- Watford (A), Wolves (A), Palace (H), Wednesday (A), Burnley (H), Forest (A)
Forest - Bristol City (H), Sheff United (A), Coventry (H), Blackpool (A), Southampton H)
Norwich - Swansea (A), Watford (H), Ipswich (A), Reading (H), Charlton (A)

The really interesting fact is that all four face each other on the last day. In addition to Norwich having to visit the Valley, Southampton have to go to Forest, in what promises to be one of those days when everyone is glued to their radios. I'll concede it's highly unlikely to be as exciting for us but Southampton have managed to propel themselves into the role of pantomime villains in the eyes of Addicks fans and I'm sure we'll all be hoping we can play them next season. That of course, is if they aren't relegated anyway for the shenanigans they are trying to pull by going into Administration without incurring a points deduction. A ten point deduction at the start of a League One season would be no less than they deserve.

As I post, Southampton are drawing at Watford. Fingers-crossed eh?

Monday, 6 April 2009

How to upset Kenny Jackett

A good friend returned from emigration in Cyprus last week for a wedding and to sneak in two league games at the New Den. Despite trials at the Valley 35 years ago, he has been a died-in-the-wool Millwall fan all his life just like his four brothers. He worked for Millwall on a part-time basis and one of his brothers still does. He's good company and usually has a story to tell.

Well, the smile last week was how big-time Izale Mcleod managed to alienate everyone at Millwall within days of arrival for the remainder of the season. Despite being a "million pound player" and coming from "the Championship," Izale was slow to make friends at the New Den. However, he knew just how to make a big impression on his new team-mates when boss Kenny Jackett got them together for a pep-talk just before his first game. As Kenny was delivering his words of wisdom to his focused Lions, one head at the back was bobbing to his own rhythm. It was our own Izale resplendent with his headphones on. D'Oh! Hard to think then, that Kenny could decide to sub the Championship million-pound man a week or two later for failure to produce anything of the quality necessary in League One. I genuinely hope we don't have to suffer him again next year, even if we've hardly got anything much better.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Southampton 2 v Charlton Athletic 3

Finally, after seven long and painful months, Charlton Athletic have recorded an away win in the Championship. It's Phil Parkinson's third league win in 22 attempts. That it came against the side with the poorest home record in the division, and who face Administration this week, won't matter a jot and neither will the three points in the scheme of things.

It was a roller-coaster of a game in front of a full house at St Mary's as Saints fans rallied to the cause and took full advantage of the £15 admission prices. Charlton lined up in expected fashion with Sam in on the right for Ambrose (Elliot, Youga, Hudson, Ward, Butterfield, Bailey, Zheng Zhi, Racon, Sam, Shelvey and Kandol) and they started very brightly. In a blistering opening 15 minutes we took the lead through a Shelvey finish having latched onto a long ball from Elliot which Kandol may have touched on. The Addicks were buzzing in midfield and Mark Hudson and Tresor Kandol both went close with headers before Eddie McGoldrick equalised for Saints after seventeen minutes.

The home crowd were loud on CAFCTV and you feared the worst after Tresor Kandol's lazy penalty was saved by Kelvin Davis. The referee was playing to the crowd as well and we were fortunate to get in at the break on even terms as Rob Elliot was forced into two good saves.

We started the second half brightly and were pressing for the second before Therry Racon curled home an instinctive shot from 20 yards. Kandol was booked for kicking the ball away and Holland was introduced for Zheng Zhi before Nicky Bailey scored a third which put Charlton out-of-reach of a poor Southampton side. There was time for Shelvey to be carded for time-wasting and Ambrose to be introduced for Sam before Bradley Wright-Phillips scored with six minutes remaining to give Charlton fans palpitations. We survived two late penalty appeals and four minutes of extra time before the final whistle.

Perhaps this win will finally spark a few decent performances before the end of the season. Most of our players are playing for moves away from the Valley, so a match-winning performance is long overdue. It also means we can't be relegated by Birmingham City at the Valley next week which is a big plus for me.




Friday, 3 April 2009

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 40

Seven games to go. Defeat tomorrow and confirmation of League One football could be made at the Valley in front of gloating Brummies next week. I really hope it happens at an away fixture.

Barnsley v Nottingham Forest
Barnsley have two games in hand on their rivals at the bottom but a win here would virtually guarantee them Championship football next season. Forest are wagging their tails but might find a draw as much as they can expect.
Prediction; 1-1

Blackpool v Plymouth Argyle
Another relegation six-pointer and I'll take Blackpool to pile the pressure on Paul Sturrock.
Prediction; 2-0

Bristol City v Preston NE
A play-off battle here and Bristol City can leapfrog Preston if they beat them. It might be too late for either of them to catch Cardiff or Burnley.
Prediction; 2-1

Coventry City v Reading
Last chance saloon for Reading. They must win this game or they will be close to conceding automatic promotion if Birmingham beat Wolves on Monday. Coventry will be able to play a relaxed game and I'll take them to get a point at least.
Prediction; 1-1

Derby County v Burnley
Tough game for Burnley here. Derby still need a couple of wins to ensure they avoid the relegation squabble but the Clarets need the points for the play-offs. Another draw in prospect.
Prediction; 1-1

Doncaster Rovers v Watford
Watford need another win and they face a Doncaster side who have lost three on the spin to end a fine run since New Year. A point apiece would probably suit them both.
Prediction; 1-1

Norwich City v Sheffield Wednesday
Norwich need this desperately and they might be playing Wednesday at just the right time. They are safe in mid-table and I can see them slipping to a defeat here.
Prediction; 1-0

QPR v Crystal Palace
A stale derby in prospect here. Neither of these sides have been able to string two results togther in the last few months and this promises to be a drab snorefest.
Prediction; 1-1

Sheffield United v Ipswich Town
The Blades still have an outside chance of automatic promotion. They should see Town off tomorrow but they will probably have to do it via the play-offs.
Prediction; 2-1

Southampton v Charlton Athletic
The press will have a field-day kicking over the ashes here. Southampton look like they have made a right mess of Administration and might have to start next season in League One with a ten point deduction. For that reason, I suspect their players will fight tooth and nail tomorrow as they try to claw their way out of the bottom three. I don't think they are a better side than us but I suspect they will have more fight and if they score first we know the drill.
Prediction; 2-0

Cardiff City v Swansea City
Sunday's south-Wales grudge match. The Swans have an outside chance of the play-offs which would be a remarkable achievement for Roberto Martinez in his first season in the Championship. I'll stick my neck out here and go for Swansea to nick this.
Prediction; 0-1

Birmingham City v Wolverhampton Wanderers 
Monday's Sky match and it should be a cracker. I'd love to see Wolves rub the Blues noses in it here but suspect another derby draw is in the offing.
Prediction; 1-1