Saturday 31 January 2009

Burnley 2 v Charlton Athletic 1

Another depressing away result conceded in added time. We are now nine points adrift from safety with fifteen games left. In short, if it was going to happen we needed to build on the Palace win and that meant taking something from this game, especially having been leading 1-0 at half-time.

Phil Parkinson does, for a change, have some reasonable mitigation for this defeat. We lost our centre-half pairing against Palace so Matt Holland was deputising alongside Darren Ward who only arrived at the club yesterday. He also showed more ambition than he has for a long time by playing two upfront and it was encouraging to see Dickson get a long-awaited start alongside Deon Burton. I think the 4-4-2 formation helped us take the game to Burnley in the first half and we deserved our lead when Bailey arrived to finish off a ball from Chris Dickson.

In the second half we were looking good until Stephen Thompson's arrival as substitute. At that point Burnley began to up the ante and the Charlton goal came under siege. Rob Elliott had to make two good saves and Graeme Murty cleared off the line before Thompson arrived at the back post to equalise with 14 minutes left. From then on their was a feeling of the inevitable and with five minutes of added time he popped up to repeat the feat and win the game. 

Bristol City away on Tuesday looks like another defeat and Cardiff will arrive at the Valley next Saturday expecting to beat us. We really do need to take four or six points in the next week if we are not be relegated in March. 

Friday 30 January 2009

Parky swoops for Ward and Kandol

Phil Parkinson (and Richard Murray), took decisive action today to account for the loss of Jon Fortune and Andy Gray for the rest of the season. They have signed centre-half Darren Ward from Wolves and striker Tresor Kandol from Leeds both on loan until May. Both players are familar with south-east London having played for Millwall, and in Ward's case for Palace as well.

Ward has spent this year on loan at Watford where he made nine appearances. His signing looks like ending our interest in Wayne Brown for whom Hull wanted more money than we were ready to give. Ward is a 30-year old and will obviously fill one of two big holes at centre-back against Burnley.

Kandol is a more eye-catching signing having been on loan at Millwall during the first half of the year where he made 22 appearances and scored eight times. He's 27 and has been around the lower leagues all his career, scoring regularly, if not prolifically. On the face of it, that promises more than we have had from any of our strikers so far this season, so he should be welcomed. I just hope it doesn't mean Chris Dickson gets demoted again ahving forced his way to the front of the queue.

Thursday 29 January 2009

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 30

Undeterred from calling nearly everything wrong on Tuesday, here's my take on this weekends' Championship fixtures.

Doncaster Rovers v Norwich City
Both of these sides are targets for Addick survival and both won in midweek - this game is played for the cameras tomorrow evening. It's a no-win game for us in many ways, although a draw is probably our best outcome. Norwich are bouncing under Bryan Gunn but Doncaster have discovered how to win and their 1-0 victory at Bramall lane in the week will have them in fine fettle for this one.
Prediction; 1-0

Bristol City v Barnsley
City went and won at Plymouth in the week so I can see them seeing Barnsley off here. The Tykes need to be careful if they are to avoid being pulled back into a relegation scrap.
Prediction; 2-0

Burnley v Charlton Athletic
The heart is saying we can follow-up the Palace win with another result here. Burnley have lost their last three league games and have injury problems in defence. However, we were not impressive against Palace and it will take a lot more than a resolute defensive display to get us anything at Turf Moor. We have defensive worries of our own and we don't look capable of scoring more than once in a game with the formation Parky is deploying or his insistence on sticking with Gray and Burton. Burnley know they need three points here if they are to stay in touch with the play-offs and that's what their football this year deserves after all of their cup success.
Prediction; 2-0

Cardiff City v Nottingham Forest
It's rare for me to be rooting for Cardiff but I will be doing just that on Saturday. Earnshaw will be out to score against his countrymen, but Cardiff should have too much for Forest. I really hope they get the points because it might make them a fraction less hungry at the Valley on Saturday-week.
Prediction; 2-1

Crystal Palace v Blackpool
Blackpool succumbed 3-0 at QPR at home in the week, so it's hard seeing them getting anything at Palace. Palace are wobbling at the moment and Blackpool have been decent away from home but I can't see the Eagles being beaten at home twice on the spin, especially after their humiliating defeat in the week ;)
Prediction; 2-1

Derby County v Coventry City
The Derby revival has been short-lived and they are back amongst the dead-men. A tough baptism for Nigel Clough. This is just the sort of fixture they don't need at the moment. I can see City getting something although it'll probably only be the point.
Prediction; 1-1

Ipswich Town v Plymouth Argyle
Home banker for me here. Argyle have been sinking a la Barnsley of late (we've got them in three games time). Town have won their last two on the road at Palace and Barnsley and will see this as a golden chance to close in on the play-off pack.
Prediction; 3-0

Preston NE v Sheffield United
Sheffield United tripped up at home to Donny in the week whilst PNE got a whipping at Swansea. Both will want to avoid a second successive so a draw looks favourite to me.
Prediction; 2-2

QPR v Reading
My match-of-the-day here as the hoops play the hoops on the west of town. I think this will be a close game and a goal might settle it.
Prediction; 0-0

Sheffield Wednesday v Birmingham City
Birmingham have been struggling to score of late and James McFadden joined Gary O'Connor on the injury list this week. Wednesday have been impressive at home all season and this might be their last chance to make a dash for the play-offs.
Prediction; 1-0

Southampton v Swansea City
Saints look like they are determined to out-do us in the collapse stakes and we can only pray that "doing a Southampton" becomes the vogue. Like us they have ditched their failing manager and gone least-cost in promoting their number two Dutchman, Mark Wosse. Not a good time to play a bubbling Swansea. For the record, I believe we will finish above the Saints.
Prediction; 0-2

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Watford
Born-again Watford have been smashing the goals in since Brendan Rodgers steadied the ship and they will relish a crack at nervous Wolves. Wanderers have seen their early season lead whittled away and are in danger of making a hash of things. I'll go for them to steady themselves here.
Prediction; 2-1

I will at least be listening in to events at Burnley this weekend.

Can we afford Wayne Brown?

The net is rife with reports confirming Charlton interest in Hull City centre-half Wayne Brown. The Board confirmed interest in a centre-half at this week's AGM and it's hardly a surprise since we have been operating with only two since the departure of Linvoy Primus and Jonathan Fortune sustained a bad-looking injury in Tuesday's victory over the Eagles.

Phil Brown is obviously aware of our desperation as he's saying we haven't met their valuation and he won't be leaving unless and until we do. Brown was bought from Colchester for £450,000 in 2007 and hasn't featured in the Tigers first team this year. He shouldn't be big money but any fee of this magnitude is likley to have forced a look elsewhere. Another loan looks a distinct possibility, especially when we are also in chronic need of someone to fire the goals we need for any survival bid. We have until midnight on Monday to sort something out.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

An eye on Burnley

Bolton-fan Gareth Freeman gives his view of our chances on Saturday...

Finally a bit of something to cheer about at the Valley, that win over Palace ended a dismal run but the Addicks are still well in it.  With that in mind I’ve had a bit of a look at the next opponents to see if I can pin-point the danger men and their weaknesses.

Owen Coyle’s men might have caught the headlines this season with their cup runs and the near defeat of Spurs (which would have been hilarious if it had come off) but their league form of late has been less then impressive.  They have in fact lost their last five Championship fixtures in a row, including losses to Doncaster, Watford and Barnsley. 

Not the sort of form that is going to get Burnley in the play-offs and it does seem as if their confidence has been knocked somewhat.  They have a couple of players in their ranks who are pretty decent though, Chris Eagles and Robbie Blake are names that stick out straight away on their team sheet.  Joey Gudjonsson and Stephen Caldwell are also decent players on their day but Burnley don’t have the strongest squad and, especially at the moment, are a very beatable side.

Trying to find weaknesses in the Burnley side is a bit tricky at the moment, purely because they have so many! They’re shipping goals and not scoring.  The defeat against Watford, who are in no great shape themselves, was a bit of a whitewash and Burnley offered little in way of resistance.

It won’t be easy and I don’t know if I’ll include this game on my football betting slip but this trip to Turf Moor offers a decent chance for Charlton to pick up just their second away win of the season.  The win over Palace will hopefully spur the Addicks on to a bit of a run and mount a challenge for survival.  After I started writing on this blog I’ve made it my business to watch as much action as I can of the Championship and especially the Addicks.  The game against Forest in particular was disappointing, after hammering them for so long without scoring, Nathan Tyson and Rob ‘pretty boy’ Earnshaw pop up and kill you off.  It is amazing how much one win can change things around (Doncaster anyone?) and hopefully I’ll be able to start including Charlton in my football betting picks.  I’m going to leave it for this next round of fixtures though, for the up-coming Saturday I’m going to go for Reading and Swansea away and Ipswich and Derby at home. 

Up the Addicks!


Tuesday 27 January 2009

Charlton Athletic 1 v Crystal Palace 0

Last season we brushed Palace aside relatively easily at the Valley and against the form book at the time. Tonight we did the same again although we were made to suffer in the second-half as we defended our lead deeply. Annoyed as I am about the way we played, we beat them again and Phil Parkinson won't be apologising; he might get a decent night's sleep for the first time in over three months.

We started with Elliott in goal, Murty, Hudson, Fortune and Youga. Soares was a surprise starter on the left wing and Lloyd Sam was on the right. Matthew Spring and Nicky Bailey were paired in the middle which meant a rare two upfront although it was the ineffective Gray and Burton.

Kicking towards the Covered End, we started well (as usual) and spent the first ten minutes passing the ball and probing the Palace defence in their half. Soares got the first shooting opportunity but his weakly hit shot was easily collected by Speroni after ten minutes.  Several minutes later and Charlton opened the scoring in emphatic fashion. A break down the left flank had half-a-dozen players scrmabled for position in the box, all moving with their markers. The cross, from Sam I think, was deflected and ballooned up into the box and dropped around the penalty spot. All of the players continued to move with their markers which meant no-one was attacking the dropping ball except Matt Spring and he smashed it home with no hesitation. 

The response from Palace was weak and they didn't fashion their first chance until twenty-odd minutes into the game and then Paul Ifill failed to connect with a driven cross. Charlton looked comfortable but nothing was sticking with Burton upfront and Gray appeared to be trying to play the withdrawn striker role. One-nil at half-time and we looked good value. 

In the second half Palace began to try to up the ante but they weren't finding any easy way through. Nick Carle was second best to the impressive Bailey throughout and the Addick back-line looked solid. Jon Fortune limped off on the hour and Matty Holland was again pressed into service as emergency centre-half. At this point the message from Parky seemed to be a very definate "defend the lead," because our midfield dropped back to within 30 yards from our line and rarely come out for the remainder of the game. Murty was carrying a knock by now and he struggled through the rest of the match. Holland wins balls at centre-half in the air that he couldn't win playing in midfield. Hudson was strong but a number of his last ditch clearances were skewed to Palace players and we were fortunate they weren't able to make more of them. 

The petty referree, Stuart Attwell, booked Kelly Youga for time-wasting at a throw-in and began to make an arse of himself for the last twenty minutes, managing to book Dickson minutes after coming on for complaining to the linesman about a particularly poor off-side call.Mr Atwell will go far, he's the sort of bloke who would have made a good Waffen SS officer. He will do exactly what his bosses tell him, without any regard for common-sense or the good of the  game. The stuffed shirts love a man who blindly follows orders.

Palace did finally create two decent chances, both close-range headers, but Moses and the Fonte both directed them straight at Rob Elliott. Gray was screaming to be taking off after contributing nothing, but Dickson had to wait until the 74th minute to get on. Lloyd Sam later made way for Grant Basey as we counted the clock down. Rob Elliot was called on to make a good save with his feet from Moses before Chris Dickson very nearly set Burton up with a tap-in after some good work down the right flank when he was really playing for time.

That was it really and the Valley faithful had to suffer 5 minutes of extra time from somewhere but Palace didn't look like scoring having left it that late. The theme from the Great Escape greeted the final whistle and the team were rightly applauded off. Palace were sent packing again with their tails between their legs although their supporters made the most of the circumstances, with an especially loud chourus of "Sa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la, la, who's fucking laughing now?" earlier in the match. Er, us actually. 

It won't be anywhere near enough to spark the kind of revival we now need to avoid the drop, but it was our first win in 19 (nineteen) league games and we have been given the one victory we wanted this year over all others. The three points moves us to 22 and we are now 8 points (9 with goal difference) behind fourth-bottom Doncaster, Watford and Norwich, none of whom lost this evening! Doncaster won at Sheffield United, Watford beat Burnley and Norwich were pegged back to 2-2 by Southampton.

The message is clear

All that was required was an alteration of the first word.

Monday 26 January 2009

Midweek Championship Preview, Game 29

A full Championship programme again this week with all bar one of the matches tomorrow night. Losing interest rapidly though I am, I will maintain my professionalism and continue to give a view on all of the matches!

Barnsley v Ipswich Town 
Barnsley are not out of the woods yet and could do with two or three more wins in the next month or two to be sure they will gain the necessary points total to avoid being dragged back into a relegation fight. Town are hard on the heels of Palace and will fancy another crack at the play-offs. They might just want it a bit more than the Tykes tomorrow.
Prediction; 1-2

Birmingham City v Derby County
Brum blew their game in hand at Blackpool and are now two points behind Reading in third. They need to win this to maintain the pressure and I think they will have enough for Derby.
Prediction; 2-0

Blackpool v QPR
I wouldn't fancy this as a Hoops fan and their players might fancy it even less. Blackpool will be up for it after seeing off Birmingham at the weekend. A day off work and all that way for nothing.
Prediction; 2-0

Charlton Athletic v Crystal Palace
I can't see us winning this one but there should be enough fight to keep it close. Palace have lost three on the spin and their vocal backing might just help spur some of players on as well as the home fans. It's the sort of game Darren Ambrose might fancy a goal and Chris Dickson if Plucky can swallow his pride and give him a start.
Prediction; 1-1

Norwich City v Southampton
Norwich can climb further out of the mire here and press Southampton faces deeper in the mud in the process. Southampton are in a Charlton-like mess and them being relegated with us will soften the blow in some ways.
Prediction; 1-0

Nottingham Forest v Sheffield Wednesday
Forest are on the up and with Tyson and Earnshaw in tandem, they have strike-force that can win you games. Wednesday will fight here but it could be a good night match in the Trent End.
Prediction; 2-1

Plymouth Argyle v Bristol City
West country derby of sorts and City should be well backed. Both sides are mid-table this year and I'll go for Plymouth to take the points.
Prediction; 1-0

Reading v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Match of the Evening here and Reading know they are on the home run. A twelfth home win would put them within two points of Wanderers.
Prediction; 3-2

Sheffield United v Doncaster Rovers
United won at Rovers earlier in the season and I am confident they will complete the double here. 
Prediction; 3-1

Swansea City v Preston NE
A fine F A Cup win over Premier League opposition and more to come at the Liberty Stadium. Martinez won't have given up on the play-offs either and a win here would be a six pointer.
Prediction; 2-0

Watford v Burnley
A good win for free-scoring Watford on Saturday to dump Palace out of the cup. Brendan Rodgers has got them playing and scoring again and Jack Cork will be looking to score again as he follows in his Dad's prolific footsteps. Burnley have had a fine season so far but have been slipping up here and there of late and this might be another.
Prediction; 2-1

Coventry City v Cardiff City
This is the Wednesday evening game and I can't see the Sky Blues winning. Fresh from holding the Gunners, Cardiff might find more joy attacking Coventry and they have a play-off place to fight for.
Predcition; 0-1

Sunday 25 January 2009

Cup aftermath

Well no need to bother with listening in to the fifth round draw. We slipped out very predictably at Bramall Lane yesterday. Conceding the inevitable first during the opening period it was game over after 25 minutes. I have seen the goal on the box this morning and it has to be a fluke. Danny Webber is claiming he had spotted Rob Elliott coming for crosses early so was deliberate in going for goal. Elliott says it took a deflection from Yassin's closing challenge. Either way, it was lucky and yet another gifted lead we have been surrendering during the last three months. United scored again in the first half but it was ruled out for a close off-side call or we could have been in for another hiding. As it was, Lee Hendrie returned from loan to settle the contest early in the second half from yet another set piece free kick. Elliot claims this shot took a heavy deflection but you couldn't see it from the replay, although he looked at fault to me, so perhaps another angle would prove him right. 

Chris Dickson netted his second ever Charlton goal to give the small number of travelling fans some hope but it sounded like a draw would have been pushing our luck and the nearest we came was a fifty-fifty looking penalty appeal when Lloyd Sam went down in the box during the closing stages. It looked a bit desperate to me, so no real surprise it wasn't given. Therry Racon also came on as a second half sub and he should see more action against Palace on Tuesday.

Parky saw an obvious improvement from the Wednesday debacle. He made same comment about our players needing to be more competitive and praised transfer-listed Dickson saying that he might be good enough to start a game if he continues in this vein. You have to laugh, Andy Gray and Deon Burton have been talking it in turns not to score and Dickson is encouraged to believe he might get a start. 

No doubt all change again for the Eagles with Murty and Spring almost guaranteed their loan places back. Tom Soares might be saved the embarrassment of vilification from his former fans which he has told us he fears and Mark Hudson is suffering from a knock which might also give him a breathe-easy out card. The sort of form we are in, it might be a good idea to drop the pair of them for this game anyway just to give their fans one less thing to harp on about.

Palace have sold their allocation and their supporters will be eagerly anticipating some long overdue payback. Tempers on the internet have been rising for a couple of weeks and the match could be volatile. A sweet derby victory to further dent Palace play-off hopes would at least give us the opportunity to save some face and quieten the gloaters. A Palace victory on the other hand could light the touchpaper and things could get ugly. This is the sort of game where any fatal playing errors will receive enormous focus and could result in over-the-top condemnation. Any defeat will see Plucky come under intense abuse and the local constabulary might be well employed for a change in keeping rival fans apart after the match.

What is sure, is that it promises to be an evening of drama in a season during which we have become accustomed to routine performances, predictably poor results and increasing apathy. In fact, it could be the last decent atmosphere of the season.

Saturday 24 January 2009

My favourite run...

Should I tune in on CAFCTV annd follow the match at Bramall Lane this afternoon, or take advantage of the forecast break in the weather to go for a run? Having thought about it for a minute, I decided on the run as Charlton are unlikely to keep my interest for the whole 90 minutes and if I set off before 3pm I should be back to catch the last half an hour of the action.  I have tried many runs in and around Greenwich over the years but nothing beats my old favourite, so I tend to stick to that now. I only set out when it looks like it'll be dry for the 75 minutes or so it usually takes me and I try to do it several times a week.

It's a quarter to three and I am off out the gate and up Charlton Lane. I am wearing two layers and a windcheater. I am bare-legged but am wearing my Elgin City FC beanie which will ensure I return warm. I turn into Harvey Gardens and amble past the Valley looking up at the impressive mock-stone club badge that I use on my blog. Down the narrow terraced streets keeping one eye out for dog droppings as I skip up Floyd Road. I feel awkward. Not yet into my stride and my breathing has not yet adjusted to my pace. I wheel left up Charlton Church Lane and cross into Wellington Gardens. Past Valley Cars and the Charlton Takeaway (head and shoulders the best Indian for miles around). I am still getting used to the struggle and have to clear my airways before I reach Vicky Way. I make my way up Highcombe and along Bramshott Avenue before turning up Eastcombe Avenue. This is the last uphill stretch of my run and I have to shorten my stride and breathe a little harder to get to the top. That's a mile or so done and the least interesting part of my route out of the way. I have about another seven miles to go.

I head over the A102 and look down at the O2 Arena where I will be in little over half an hour. I leave The Standard at Westcombe Hill and bear left along Westcombe Park Road. I forgot my gloves and my hands have been stinging cold so far. The red and blue of my knuckles is fading and I know I will be comfortable in Greenwich Park. There are some fantastic houses in Westcombe Park Road. It's a modest enough road but there are some real gems tucked inconspicuosuly behind high garden walls. My favourite is the last house on the left across the road from the strange Vanbrugh House, or Vanbrugh Castle as I have always known it. This house is well maintained and has it's living room on the corner of the house with panoramic views over the Park and London beyond. What sunsets they must get on good Summer evenings.

I love Greenwich Park. I enter from the gate at the top of Maze Hill and follow the footpath to the crest of the hill above the swings and the boating pond where I spent hours as a nipper. From here I get my first view of the river and I can judge the height of the tide. The Dome is prominent again and I am looking down on Docklands. As I start my descent, the City comes into view and I am again reminded that this is the best vantage point in London.  Down the hill and I am quickly onto the Meadow between the Observatory and Queens Anne's House. You can always judge how busy the park is at this point. Not bad for a cold but bright Saturday in January. 

Out through the park and I throw an envious look at the drinkers in the Gloucester. It's not so hard in the winter but it's a killer in the Summer when the sun's warmer and the beer colder. There are always tourists up and down King William Walk so I stay in the road and negotiate the traffic on the one-way system. Again, this stretch is great in the Summer and you don't notice the road or feel your limbs when there are so many people to look at. I check the works at the Cutty Sark for signs of progress but there still aren't any. The Thames Clippers are operating their queues further around by the foot tunnel now so no wave or abuse from "Captain" Eddie, Dundee's own legend who is usually charming the queues on behalf of AEG. 

I am now on the riverfront and heading back home-ward passed the Naval College. For years these fanstastic buildings were closed to the public but no longer. Not only are the grounds open, but students abound and there is usually something happening - the odd film crew or, as this Summer, our very own "Greenwich Eye." Two weeks ago as I ran along in front of the Naval College I was treated to a spring tide and the footpath for two hundred yards was six inches deep with Thames water and the waves lapping the perimeter wall of the college. Once my trainers were wet, it wasn't a problem but I did feel for those I passed who had ventured beyond the point of no return and were getting properly wet.  

I turn passed the Trafalgar and there are only a handful of Customers sitting outside and they all have hot drinks. Into Crane Street and the fleeting food smells from the Yacht. The flag stones here are large and irregular and I can't avoid altering my stride to avoid stepping on the cracks. Trinity House appears next on the right and I glimpse in as I pass the front doors. There are still a few locals out and about and the odd tourist but this is where things change. The Cutty Sark pub isn't doing much business and it's outside tables and chairs are empty - definitely a better Summer trade here.  Onto the cobbles of Ballast Quay and I have to stretch to peer into the elegant front rooms behind the imposing sash windows. Lots of money here and how handy for Greenwich. There are luxury flats going up at Enderby Street which promise much needed new customers for the Pelton Arms. Somehow though, I think they might take some time to arrive and they might be the sort who prefer a bottle of wine indoors than a drink in a back-street boozer. I have left the river for a minute or two but am quickly back running down a dark corrugated iron alleyway that might have tourists deciding to turn back towards Greenwich. On either side of this alley-way is a scrap metal business which I see as the gateway to the industrial riverfront. 

The footpath opens to the river again and winter sunlight is shining brightly on the Thames and illuminating the tower blocks of Docklands to my left. A Thames Clipper speeds passed and I subconsciously count the number of passengers on board. I am always concerned that these services cannot be run profitably and that AEG will one-day pull the plug on this fantastic service. Above me loom the enormous concrete grain silos built towards the end of the 70's which employed my Old Man for a time. There are a couple of tales here but no time today. The path twists and turns here around former yards and businesses and there are a few rare trees before Dog-Shit Alley. I'm not sure if it's got a proper name but the smell is always intense. It has nothing to do with dog-doings and everything to do with Tunnel Refineries. I am told it's malt or a variety of other harmless sounding substances, but the smell is always fresh. I always feel for tourist or other day-trippers I pass here because they look in pain and are invariably wondering how long they will have to put up with it. Amazingly, it disappears after 80 yards or so and the path is fenced through a flattened building site which was undergoing soil tests last year. The previous business was  a dirty operation and the top yard of soil has been lorried away. I guess it may be a while yet before luxury housing appears here on this prominent riverfront.  A hundred yards or so and I am back on the river, this time in front of open aggregate works and directly across from Docklands. It is quiet today but there is often a barge being unloaded via a mobile crane on the quayside or a huge tanker disgorging it's own cargo using it's onboard gear. If there's work going on, there will be someone patrolling the Quayside to alert the crane drivers to the occasional passers-by who are usually on two wheels if not jogging. 

Today I look up at the monuments to progress across the river. I count up the 13 floors of Harbour Exchange Tower where I once occupied a glass walled office in the corner of the building which was the envy of many I worked with at the time. I look at the most prominent buildings in Docklands which belong to the Bankers and allow myself a wry smile. These will be empty today but during the week I wonder if there's anyone chained to their desk by the window who look down on me padding by on the other side in my own time and wish they could swop places. 

Out on the river there are three small yachts in a line at ninety degrees to the riverbank and a man is standing in a dingy apparently giving them lessons. I wonder if this is what's actually happening. The tide has turned half an hour or so ago and they are very unlikely to be beginners. I run past the premises of Peters Pies (now appearing at the Valley?)  and the dis-used Delta Wharf as I turn onto the Millenium footpath that runs around the outside of the Dome. I cross the Prime Meridian of the World here and momentarily imagine I am somehow more important for a second or two. I can see Blackwall Reach and the Thomson-Reuters building on the other side of the river. Here there are steel and concrete moorings put in for the Millenium and perched high above them are two Cormorants. Both sit as they are inclined to do in any sunshine with their wings half-opened and warming, Phoenix-like. They rarely move in this position and I find it hard to avert my gaze, just in case.

I am now at the back of the Dome and the smells from the restaurants under cover are fed into the open air via the vast stainless steel extractors. You can't make out any one style of cooking but the blend is delicious and spurs me on. "Slice of Reality" sits here too. It's a cross-section from the wheelhouse of an ocean tanker and it sits on a pedestal above the river-bed. I've seen it a hundred times but I have to peer inside again for some more mundane detail. Do they really sail the seven seas on half-inch thick steel plate?

The winter queue for the Thames Clipper at the O2 pier is small and there is more activity on the building site in front of the Dome. The first building is up and the second, which is larger, is now up to 13 floors. The mock-up of the finished Peninsula was pasted up on a huge hoarding outside North Greenwich station. I thought it was a romantic vision of a mini-Manhattan and something of an artists' dream. However, the first two buildings to appear look just like those on the poster, so I am intrigued as to the future here. All of that is presumably on hold and the never-never as things stand.

The Dome is behind me and I am glancing sideways at the David Beckham Centre. Two huge aircraft type hangars which hold football pitches but never seem to have anyone coming or going. The car park is usually empty too, so I wonder how it survives. On the river here are the first boats of the Greenwich Yacht Club. They are moored to buoys and left to the ups and downs of the river. My obssessive side means that I count them and, as always, there are 31 or 32. I find this reassuring as it once again confirms my view that boats are largely a waste of time. Most boat-owners are people who got really fired-up at the prospect of boating but for whom the novelty has long-since worn off and they can't find another buyer. That's why there are always the same number of boats on view. It's a Saturday afternoon and none of them have slipped their moorings. It's pretty much the same in the height of Summer. 

Ahead are the multi-coloured lego buildings of the original Millenium Village. Darren Bent owned one of the penthouses and lived here whilst entertaining at the Valley. I wonder when he was last here?  There is an ecology centre here too attached to the man-made lake that provides the outlook for the inhabits of the "village." Give it it's due, there is always a couple of visitors here and today is no exception. The main modern Yacht Club boat-yard is also here with it's beautifully positioned bar on two floors above the river. What a great looking venue - almost worth owning a boat for. Unfortunately, it too always looks empty. I accept I am usually running during the day but I've never seen it heaving like it should be in the evening either.

Jut over a mile to go and I am passing the deserted aggregate works on the Charlton riverfront. Today they are silent but during the week one or more of the conveyor belts are usually grinding away and depositing powdery contents from moored ships onto accumulating mountains on the other side of the wall. The footpath here is sandy due to the wind the first runner I have encountered today passes me and nods in mutual understanding.. 

Back in civilisation and I pass the Anchor & Hope. No takers for their improvised marquee and the front room looks quiet too. January is not a good month for publicans. My pace quickens as the Barrier approaches. The sun has now dropped out of sight behind Blackheath but it's light is reflecting brightly off the Barrier's metal piers. I leave the river here and take the home stretch up Westmoor Street. On a week-day I can expect a few derisory looks from the oily overalls and spanner-wielders but they've all packed up early today and it's deserted. The Albanian boys at the hand car wash catch me passing and I get a friendly cheer. Three minutes later I am home and Mrs Peeps give me a look that tells me what I already know - Charlton are losing. 

I shower quickly and am dressed and tuning into the game on CAFCTV. The first words are hear are "it's there, two-nil to Sheffield United and Charlton look to be heading out of the F A Cup." I hear the consolation as I begin to type this but am not really listening. I can't be bothered with the rest of the scores or for reading any reviews. Time to play with the kids before bed. I'll worry about Charlton tomorrow.

Jobi McAnuff turns us down

The Watford Observer is reporting that Jobi McAnuff, their 27 year-old ex-Palace midfielder, has turned down a loan move to the Valley to stay and fight for his place with Brendan Rodgers and Co. Surprisingly, McAnuff is reported as the top earner at Vicarage Road, so the mind boggles as to how we could afford to pay his wages when Watford clearly don't want to. 

McAnuff is probably looking at the move and seeing no longer term prospects beyond getting a few games in a struggling side. Can't say I blame him. For a player who cost Watford £1.75m in 2007, you have to ask just what the Charlton strategy is? There would appear to be little or no chance of securing him for next season in view of his wages and the fact that the Hornets would probably be looking to recoup part of their outlay. We really should be re-building now not desperately looking to bring in players with very short shelf-lifes.  Now is the time for youth and one or two strategic signings with next season in mind.

Friday 23 January 2009

Kinsella raising his profile

Mark Kinsella's earlier quotes regarding the possible signing of Demontagnac and De la Cruz look like they have come from yesterday's pre-match press conference which he took in the absence of Plucky Parky. The official line, as supported by today's email bulletin, is that Plucky was locked away with Waggie desperately trying to sign players - presumably that two. Beam in on CAFCTV to hear Kins for yourself....

After his rant about the pathetic performance at Hillsborough last Saturday, I suggested Parkinson should keep his head down this week and avoid making anymore banal comments about how well we are doing without winning any games etc. I am pleased, therefore, that he has taken this important opportunity not to attend yesterday's briefing but I suspect Mark Kinsella relished the chance to be official spokesman and that the Board will have been keeping one eye on how he did and how he was received. Perhaps Parky is having a big sulk with the players this week and is hoping they will fight for him tomorrow. If so, he might struggle to work out his approach for Monday morning.

I'm not suggesting for a minute that there is anything Machievellian in any of this although Kins or Chapple must be favourite to be picking the team before May's out.

First steps to new look team?

Mark Kinsella is quoted this morning saying that we are close to signing Ulises de la Cruz and Ishmel Demontagnac, both of who are free agents having been let go by their last respective clubs, Reading and Walsall. 

De la Cruz is 34 years old and described by Wikipedia as "a retired Ecuadorian footballer." I can't see the wisdom in signing him, even if he's only on £500 a week. 

Demontagnac is at least a prospect, being only 20 years old and his problems stem from his temperament, not his ability. he will at least be affordable in terms of League One and I suspect we will see another 6-12 of these "anonymous" signings before we kick-off in August and more players from the existing squad will be sold off in the ongoing financial readjustment.

As suspected, the disappointing Martyn Waghorn has gone back to Sunderland where I suspect he's going to continue to struggle to get a first team game.

Tomorrow we will be forced into yet another team shuffle to accommodate those ineligible to play and that should give Plucky Parky the first few sentences of his post-match press conference.

Thursday 22 January 2009

Burnley show the way

What a superb cup tie last night at Turf Moor. Three goals down from the first leg against Premier League Tottenham, Owen Coyle sent his team of motivated lower league professionals out last night to have a go and what a go they had. Harry Redknapp obviously thought the tie was over and selected a weakened side to complete the job but he had to bring on the big guns to scrape through in extra time.

Burnley were a joy to watch as they took the lead in the first half and them plugged away in the second until the deficit was only a goal before forcing the tie into extra time. They were two and half minutes away from Wembley on the away goals rule before Pavlyuchenko struck for Spurs. Defoe scored a minute later to secure victory but the sight of a sick-looking Redknapp on the touchline for most of the encounter warmed the cockles of my heart. This was no flash-in-the-pan for Burnley either and they really have been the surprise side of the Championship (if we don't qualify for that in a more dubious way).  The Clarets deserve to make the Premier League via the play-offs; they certainly have the one-off match experience to do it this year and how ironic if they end up swopping places with the massive Tottenham Hotspur.

The League Cup final is obviously a one-off but it's hard to see Spurs overcoming Manchester United. A potential top-versus-bottom game could prove as one-sided as when Man U thumped Millwall in the F A Cup final.

Back in the Championship, Norwich have surprisingly appointed Bryan Gunn as manager until the end of the year. This on the back of one game, albeit a convincing 4-0 win. Gunn has no managerial experience and this looks like a huge risk to me. It also looks like a least-cost choice which is obviously becoming something of a Championship trend, Gunn having been promoted from his matchday hospitality duties at Carrow Road.

Those of us desperately searching for snippets of hope for the upcoming palace home gamne, will be delighted to hear that Simon Jordan is recouping £2m of his outlay on Palace by selling Ben Watson to Boro. Hopefully the deal will be done ahead of our match or he will be kept out of the game to avoid any possible injury. Jordan himself has also been suspiciously quiet of late and I wonder whether he is planning some high profile piss-take ahead of next Tuesday's Valley encounter. If he is, he needs to think carefully because feelings will be running high and I suspect local tempers may get lost during the course of the evening. 

Wednesday 21 January 2009

More player news....

Following Izale McLeod's loan move to Millwall - let's hope he notches a couple and thereby secures a permanent move - unsettled Chris Dickson looks next to move out. He is being linked with the Gills who are keen assuming " a higher division club" doesn't get him first. As the player whose home shirt I wasted sponsorship money on this season, I will be disappointed to see him go as I don't believe he's been given a fair crack of the whip.

As two go, we are giving a further trial to Ishmel Demontagnac and Ulises de la Cruz. Both have Premier League sounding names but the simialrlity probably ends there as they are surplus to requirement at previous clubs and both are without contracts.

The Club's email Bulletin teases us by saying that Martyn Waghorn has not yet returned to Sunderland folliwng the expiry of his initial month's loan but then helpfully goes on to point out that we have until Friday to take an option on an extension. For me, he's been a big disappointment. Whilst others have come on loan to rehabilitate themselves or put themselves in the shop window, Waghorn looks to have come here to lose weight and been unsuccessful at that. Ok, he's a thick-set sort of bloke, but he's carrying bulk that makes him look a good yard slower than when he played here in the Youth Cup earlier in 2008 for Sunderland.

And finally, it's Wednesday morning and we're still in the F A Cup!

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Goodbye F A Cup

On Saturday (!) Phil Parkinson has to take the coach back to Sheffield for a 4th round F A Cup tie that looks like mission impossible. United have just won two matches away from home and will be relishing the prospect of going one better than their Wednesday neighbours by battering hapless Charlton. Kevin Blackwell's team talk will be short and sweet.

United moved yesterday to add Chesterfield striking prospect Jamie Ward to their ranks. Ward signed for £330,000 but will be cup-tied for Saturday. Interesting to compare us to United at the moment. They were relegated with us but don't appear to have suffered in anything like the way we have financially. This was a club, remember, in all sorts of financial trouble eight or nine years ago. They didn't own their ground and had to rebuild it from scratch over several seasons. They may have just sold James Beattie, but again, it's interesting that they managed to hang onto him well into their second season in the Championship and his goals have fired them into a challenging position in the table and Blackwell is obviously confident that they can now cope without him - he describes Ward as "a development player" adding that he "hasn't brought him here to replace anyone."

In any event, I again fear the worst and believe we will slip out of the Cup without scoring. I can see United scrapping for a 2-0 win and Plucky Parky saying something along the lines of "despite the result that was a much better performance from the lads - I asked them to respond and they did - we are now free to concentrate on the battle to keep this great club in the Championship."

Saturday 17 January 2009

Sheffield Wednesday 4 v Charlton Athletic 1

Another heavy defeat inflicted on our prominent glass chin. Nineteen league games without a victory - that's 7 (seven) points from 57 (fifty-seven). I listened in to an abysmal commentary from, I think, BBC London (via CAFCTV) which didn't make the unpleasant defeat any more bearable. The bloke doing the commentary failed completely to realise that his listeners weren't sitting next to him in the stadium. He gave virtually no view of what was going on other than mentioning the player on the ball every 15 seconds or so, by which time the ball was often at the opposite end of the field from where it had been last time he told you. That and he kept mentioning the scoreline every 40 seconds or so as if we wouldn't believe him or needed reminding.

Anyway, we can't blame him - it's down to Plucky Parky and the non-believers he selects. Once again we seemed to settle quickly and sounded confident only to concede a goal unexpectedly after about 12 minutes. This time it was a powerful shot through a crowded box from a half-clearance and it beat the unsighted Randolph. The scorer was Darren Potter making his loan debut from Wolves and he featured heavily in the first half for Wednesday. After the goal, Charlton could have scored with the next attack but Bailey dived in and steered a header wide, not that us listeners were treated to the excitement of the chance as the commentator said it matter-of-factly after the event as he obviously hadn't been paying attention immediately following the Wednesday goal.

We continued to have a lot of midfield possession and were getting the ball wide to Sam and Soares although we weren't creating any chances, then, with 38 minutes on the clock we stuck our chins out again and Marcus Tudgay headed home unopposed from a corner. Two-nil, game over, Groundhog Day!

In the second half arrogant Scouse-git Franny Jeffers scored his first goal for years to smack salt into the wound and he was booked for his celebrations. Matthew Spring managed a consolation strike and a fine long range volley it sounded too, but Wednesday weren't finished. Potter hit the bar from a free-kick and Randolph saved twice from Michael Gray before Tudgay converted a late penalty after he had been brought down by Basey.

I hope Phil Parkinson and Richard Murray can keep their mouths shut after this latest disaster and save it for the players in preparation for the potentially embarrassing home game against Palace on Tuesday 27th January. I don't want to hear anymore about how hard they are trying and how once our luck turns , win-after-win will follow etc etc.

As I suspected, three of the bottom sides above us won today; Forest, Norwich and Doncaster. We are now 7 (seven) points adrift of Southampton in 22nd and it's 8 (eight) points to Doncaster and Watford. It's about time we stopped fretting about staying up and tried to save some face by playing some whole-hearted attacking football. Enough of this one-up front nonsense; it's getting us nowhere. Let's have two up front and four or five pressing from midfield. Our "back four" aren't individually bad players but they leak goals. Let's take some risks - it can't be worse than we are managing at the moment. Please, please Parky, can you send out a side to attack Palace throughout the game? Your squad isn't capable of playing football chess, so just give them the basic facts - we need to score goals and we look like we need two a game for a draw and three or more will probably get us a win before the end of the season. There are precious few highlights in a relegation season but you can get us one in the next home game.

Boro offer for Shelvey?

The Sun is "reporting" that Boro have offered £2m for Jonjo Shelvey. I only hope this is mischief making speculation on their part because I suspect the Board would bite their hand-off in order to keep the wolves from the door right now. 

We must hang onto Shelvey for now becuase he offers us the hope of leading us on a promotion campaign in the next year or two and because we will get multiple times any current price (even this one) in a year or two's time when he will still be under 19. If he is allowed to go for a fee then it will be the biggest transfer mistake since Paul Walsh and Paul Elliott were flogged to Luton for a pittance.

I appreciate that the club are in a difficult position here what with Shelvey free to leave before his 17th birthday next month but you have to believe that the club have got to him and his parents and sorted this out. He's hardly likely to walk into a top-flight side in the next couple of years and needs the experience he will get from staying with us. If he goes, my Valley Gold subscription will go with him (that'll make them think twice).

Friday 16 January 2009

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 28

Back to survival business and the Addicks travel to Hillsborough on Saturday for a game they must win if they are to continue the momentum they need to build on Tuesday's Cup victory and begin any serious plan to escape the drop.  It looks like we may well need the points just to avoid falling further behind our relegation rivals.

Birmingham City v Cardiff City
Third versus fifth here and all the pressure will be on Birmingham. They are three points behind Reading with a game in hand but can't afford to lose ground in home games. Cardiff have only lost twice away all season although their eight draws on the road are possibly points dropped in their promotion challenge.
Prediction; 1-1

Bristol City v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolves need to bounce back after their surprise home defeat by Preston. City have been no great shakes at home this year and might find this a struggle.
Prediction; 0-2

Coventry City v Blackpool
Toughie this as it really could go either way. Chris Coleman must be pulling his hair out over Coventry's inconsistency this year. Both of these clubs are middle-of-the-road Championship sides at the moment and home advanatge might tell.
Prediction; 2-1

Crystal Palace v Ipswich Town
Neil Warnock is keeping Palace's season alive in both the league and the Cup. They are handily placed in eight and he will tell his players before they run out that a win here would give them a seven point cushion over Town. I think this will be a close game but the Eagles may edge it.
Prediction; 2-1

Derby County v QPR
County under Clough and he got the best of all possible starts by beating the Premier League and European Champions in midweek. Pride park will be cock-a-hoop and expectant this week and I can see them seing off a QPR side that has flattered to deceive this season.
Prediction; 2-0

Norwich City v Barnsley
I see Nigel Worthington has been refused permission to speak to Norwich - why would he want to return after being forced out previously? Mark Bowen has also dropped out of the reckoning, so they will likely be managerless for this one. I think they have possibly been premature in firing Glenn Roeder so it will be interesting to see if their players respond without him. They looked a poor side in the two games I saw against them recently and their loss to us in midweek only supports that. So, I can see Barnsley getting something here.
Prediction; 0-0

Nottingham Forest v Plymouth Argyle
Forest on a roll and in Tyson and Earnshaw they have a pairing capable of netting regularly in this division. I can see them climbing further out of trouble on Saturday.
Prediction; 2-0

Preston NE v Burnley
Impressive victory at Wolves for PNE last time out whilst Burnley were beaten at home. Momentum therefore for Preston to beat their neighbours and increase their one point league lead over them at the same time.
Prediction; 2-1

Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton Athletic
Oh how I feel bad about this. Despite our first win in eons in midweek, I really can't see us having enough fight and goal-scoring threat to win this. Wednesday are strong at home and I think the flash-in-the-pan against a poor Norwich side will be seen as just that.
Prediction; 2-0

Southampton v Doncaster Rovers
Six pointer here and both of these sides have been boosted by wins in recent weeks. Saints have struggled at St. Mary's all season and I will go for an unlikely result for Donny.
Prediction; 1-2

Swansea City v Reading
Good match in prospect here. Both sides like to get the ball forward and I can see plenty of goals. A 3-2 either way wouldn't surprise me so I'll settle for 2-2!
Prediction; 2-2

Watford v Sheffield United
United were nearly humbled by the O's in the Cup but they battled on. Greg Halford finally equalised and then put them in front before they ran away with it. Watford have been reinvigorated since Brendan Rodgers arrived and this looks like it'll be a feisty encounter. Both sides are desperate for points at opposite ends of the table and a share would be best bet.
Prediction; 1-1

Thursday 15 January 2009

Next up Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough

This is my first post on ‘drinking during the game’ and I hope to provide periodic pieces about Charlton, the Championship and the game in general. I’m going to offer my thoughts on up-coming opponents along with football betting advice.  Next up is a visit to Yorkshire to face Sheffield Wednesday in a match I think Charlton have a decent chance of winning.

Wednesday haven’t won in their last six matches and go into this one low on confidence.  According to the press they’re still harbouring play-off ambitions but in truth that ship has well and truly sailed.  They are a hard side to predict though and seem to do well against the teams above them and not so well against the teams below them. 

I watched the Addicks against Forest and they were desperately unlucky.  How many chances were wasted before Tyson popped up and scored against the run of play? I think the arrival of Graeme Murty will help though.  He was a decent player at Reading in the Premiership and he should be a useful addition.  I don’t know so much about Tom Soares, he was rated at Palace but I don’t think he’s been used at Stoke much.  Hopefully he’ll have something decent to contribute, especially if he debuts on Saturday.

Wednesday did manage a credible 1-1 draw away at Ipswich on their last outing.  They also have some decent players, especially defender Richard Wood who has attracted interest from clubs in the Premier League. Jermaine Johnson, Mark Beevers and Marcus Tudgay are also worth a mention and getting a result out of Wednesday won’t be easy.  They are a side guilty of erratic form though and I think Charlton may well cause a minor upset and get a win out of the inconsistent Wednesday.

Deon Burton is well overdue a goal and wouldn’t it be fitting if he could get one against his former club? He wasted a couple of chances against Forest and it looks like he’s a bit low on confidence, perfect time to start scoring then!  It is a hard game to predict and I think I’ll probably be leaving it off my weekend betting.  My football betting picks for Championship this weekend are Preston and Southampton at home and Reading and Sheffield United away.


Up the Addicks

Gareth Freeman

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Tom Soares joins on loan

The Newshopper is reporting that we have signed Tom Soares on loan from Stoke City. Not sure why this is being done as a 93-day emergency loan - presumably to give Stoke the cover they need to recall him but I don't see why they couldn't negotiate that anyway. It also lends some credence to the rumours about Gray going in the other direction although the comment here is that the Gray move hasn't worked out.

I have to say that I hadn't realised Soares had left Palace. He's obviously not getting much of a look-in at the Britannia and will probably be glad to get a game back in south-east London. No doubt he'll look forward to scoring against Palace in 13 days time. He's in the same boat as Lee Cook for me, a good reputation but no direct opinion, so I'll reserve judgement until I have seen him in a red shirt. He will at least provide more competition for Lloyd Sam who looks like he needs it to keep him focused and playing with maximum urgency and focus.

Meanwhile, Man City look like they've lost the plot and are prepared to waste £100m in signing one player. Kaka has already said he wants to "grow old" at AC Milan but the money looks like it might be speaking and his management team are now open to offers (you don't say?). If City can afford to pay this without blinking then they they have a nerve charging their fans to watch them play.

Roeder pays the price

Glenn Roeder was relieved of his duties at Carrow Road this afernoon in a move that looks harsh compared to how much rope Alan Pardew was given and to how Phil Parkinson has been treated so far. He becomes the latest in a long line of managers to get the boot after losing to Charlton - perish the thought eh? Expectations at Norwich are clearly higher than at the Valley, that or else they are terrified of joining us in our current plight. They look like they will make a quick change and bring in Mark Robins or someone similar from outside who have previous Norwich connections.

Roeder initially saved Norwich's bacon when he joined in the Autumn of 2007. They were adrift at the bottom and he sterred them out of trouble and to safety. His squad was thin and he's had precious little money to spend since what with the ongoing Boardroom squabbles at Carrow Road. They are seven points clear of us in the league but are struggling with Southampton to get out of the third relegation place. They need a bounce from whoever comes in, but with a poor squad and lots of other problems around them, they might just have handed the initiative to Southampton.

Gray interesting Stoke City?

The Daily Mail is reporting that Stoke are keen on taking Andy Gray on loan but Gray would like to make the move permanent. If this is true - bearing in mind Stoke have just signed Kevin Beattie - it will be a major disappointment for me. Gray has been no great shakes since we bought him a year ago but he has been given his chance and he still owes us as far as I am concerned. 

We would be mad to loan him as things stand when we are short upfront (on the basis that we've lost Varney and Dickson and Fleetwood look finished at Charlton)  and Parky himself has been talking about bringing in another striker this month. However, Gray will probably be on a good Championship wage having been bought for £1.5m and it's possible we could loan him out (I can't see them covering our outlay and buying him) to fund the loan of a stiker we can't afford to buy. A change of scenery might also do him some good  in terms of confidence although he doesn't look like he can cut in the Premier League to me, especially playing in a Stoke City side.

Meanwhile, Deon Burton will get the opportunity on Saturday to take some revenge against his former employers and it's high time a Charlton player did this as the goals against us in similar circumstances far outweigh those Charlton players have managed. Burton also owes us a couple of goals and this weekend would be the perfect opportunity to get them, particularly if it fuelled a second successive win and set-us up for the Palace confrontation.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Norwich City 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

Praise be. We have finally won a game, our first in 19 attempts. Phil Parkinson has his first win as manager and maybe, just maybe, the monkey's off our back and we can win again in the league. I followed the game via CAFCTV text and it looks like we did just enough and if we were going to win it, 1-0 was almost certain to be the scoreline. 

Darren Ambrose broke the deadlock after only 5 minutes and we managed to close it out, something we failed to do in the home leg. Norwich piled the pressure on towards the end but we held firm. Unfortunately, Leyton Orient couldn't hang on to their one-nil lead and eventually succumbed 4-1 to Sheffield United which makes any chances of progress beyond the 4th Round a lot harder. Having said that, we can at least play the game without the attendant pressure of our league matches. 

Darren Randolph will get the plaudits for the clean sheet and a couple of great saves which kept us in front. Moutaouakil and Basey were back as full-backs and I am pleased for both that they played in a side that kept a clean sheet. Nicky Bailey also returned and Scott Wagstaff got a surprise midfield start which wil have done his confidence a power of good after months out following his horror showing against Yeovil in the League Cup.  It was one-up front again, but as I said yesterday, that's forgiveable in a fixture like this. Good to see Yussef get on as a sub towards the end.

More importantly, I guess, will be the possible knock-on effect in the league. Parky is adamant that wins would follow the first one, so we need to cross everything and see if we can carry it on at Hillsborough on Saturday. Even if we can't repeat the feat back-to-back, it at least gives us some hope that we might not get rolled over against Palace in our next home game. We are going to take enough stick for our league position as it is, but if we could beat them it would give us something positive to remember and more hope for 2009. 

Norwich again

Phil Parkinson will don his tracksuit and stand a couple fo paces behind Mark Kinsella again this evening as the Addicks try again to win their first game in 19 (nineteen). It's another game against Norwich City that I believe will be close. Our chances of winning this look likely to depend upon keeping a clean sheet or sneaking it on penalties, as I really can't see us getting more than one goal.

Having been critical of Parkinson playing one up front for the last couple of home games, this is a match that we can probably play one up front, if it means we are more competitive in midfield and can provide more support to the back four. It will suit a smash and grab because that's what we've got to do.  Norwich have looked as poor as us in the two games and without Leroy Lita in the first match, both would have been drawn. The relegation fight may in some ways play stronger in their minds this evening than ours. They are level third bottom with Southampton on 26 points and I could see Glenn Roeder being happier with an exit at this stage than Parky, especially as the next round promises a long and fruitless trip to Bramall Lane.

Having said that, Roeder is fighting for his job and any win is a good one right now. He will be conscious that the Norwich public turned out in numbers at the Valley and that they want to progress to the 4th round. On reflection, therefore, I am going to go for a home win although it will probably be by the only goal and might come late on. If we can take it to penalties, I think we could win it. I would definately go to Brisbane Road in the unlikley event that we get to play them in the fourth round. The cup might then offer us some cheer and promise in 2009.

Monday 12 January 2009

Murray adamant no administration

Richard Murray has today spoken about the decision to appoint Phil Parkinson. In his interview for the South London Press, he has also said that the Board "will not let the club go into administration."

On the appointment of Parkinson he says that Phil was the best choice because he has experience of leading a side to promotion and because he was already familiar with the club and the players. He compared the appointment to that of Curbishley and Gritt who were also appointed from within whilst there was a clamour for an external big name appointment. I think those statements on their own might have been fair comment but he then goes on to say that Phil Parkinson could have won every game since he's been manager because of improved performances which is stretchin g credibility and smacks of a desperation to convince us that Parky is the right man. It will be interesting to see how much longer this remains Murray's view, particularly if we are relegated which looks a foregone conclusion at this stage and with the run we are currently suffering.

His comments about administration are reassuring a day after I was ruminating on it becoming a greater risk as the financial crisis deepens and relegation gets closer. He says the Board "care too much to let that happen." I am sure they do but I can't think of too many, if any, football club Boards who haven't care enough and let their clubs go into administration - and plenty have. Administration is what happens to you when you cannot meet the wage bill or keep your creditors at bay. Perhaps what Richard is saying is that the Board are prepared to fund the club if necessary to keep it afloat even if they are having to make very difficult managerial decisions at the moment because we don't have the money, or maybe more accurately, are keeping what we do have to avert the worst possible scenario.

Sunday 11 January 2009

A look into the future

Tomorrow night on Sky Sports 1, MK Dons play Colchester United. It's a great opportunity for those of you who will be renewing your season tickets come-what-may, to get a view of what we will be watching come August. Under Roberto di Matteo, MK Dons are clear in second place and there's every chance we won't play them next season, but Colchester United are back in 11th and they look increasingly like the club we are now modelling ourselves on.

There's every chance that some of those on view, particularly the Colchester players, could be playing on loan at the Valley next season. Phil Parkinson will be gone by then of course but Mark Kinsella is preparing himself for a seamless handover and is already leading all the touchline urging and the half-time team-bonding sessions. Phil Chapple looks like he's playing the long-game, although expect a Peterborough player or two to join in pre-season to mark his elevation to assistant manager and least cost fall-back option should it not work out under Kins.

No apologies for all the ongoing negativity. They deserve it and it saves me barking at the wife and kids.

Saturday 10 January 2009

Charlton Athletic 0 v Nottingham Forest 2

History today at the Valley. Our winless streak of 17 league games is now the longest since we were formed in 1905. There is every reason to believe the current squad of players are capable of extending this some way in setting a benchmark for the future.

The match itself was summarised perfectly by the chanting fans. After Forest scored their second goal in several minutes after the half hour, the commendable 3,000 Forest following in the Jimmy Seed sang "you're going down with the Derby." In response mid-way through the second half, the Charlton fans behind the opposite goal sang "you're going down with the Charlton." That's just about all you need to know about the outcome of this game and goes a long way to explaining how rapidly Charlton fans have come to terms with the outcome of this season.

Today's match was make-or-break in many peoples' eyes and was why the season's highest attendance by some way of 24,553 were present to see it. Prior to kick-off we had the annual minutes applause in memory of all of those connected with the club who have died in the last 12 months. The Forest fans joined in the applause and the scene was set for a battle royal.

To counter the threat of Tyson and Earnshaw, Phil Parkinson opted for a 4-4-1-1 formation with the 5 foot 9 inch, 32 year-old journeyman Deon Burton being relied upon to score the goals, something he's failed to manage from open play in seven games so far. He was at least supported by the outstanding Jonjo Shelvey but we had already set ourselves up to fail.

The midfield welcomed Matthew Spring in place of Nicky Bailey and he partnered Jose Semedo for the first ten minutes before Jose limped out and was replaced by Matty Holland. Lloyd Sam was wide right and Darren Ambrose got his latest chance in place of Rat Bouazza. As expected, Graeme Murty made his debut at right back, so expect a transfer request or something similar from Yassin Moutaouakil before much longer - you can't blame him. Hudson was back at centre-half with Jon Fortune and McEveley returned at left-back. 

In line with recent home performances, Charlton started strongly and should have taken the lead. Twice within the opening three minutes Jonjo Shelvey split the Forest back line to send Burton clear and on both occasions he failed to score. The first saw him have to run 25 yards in on goal and he fired into the side netting from the corner of the six yard box. The second was a better chance as he had half a second more with less to do from a better angle, but he shot straight at the advancing Paul Smith. Whilst Burton should have scored, the biggest problem was the fact that he was alone upfront. If he had someone to his right on both occasions I believe the outcome would have been different.

Charlton continued to attack and Lloyd Sam turned two defenders inside-out in the box before rolling the ball to Matthew Spring but his snap-shot also hit the side netting. We continued to win possession in midfield and Forest were struggling to create anything. Nathan Tyson prowled around doing a decent impression of Stan Collymore and the dentally-challenged Robert Earnshaw looked mismatched against the towering Jon Fortune. As in so many matches recently, it looked hard after 25 minutes to see the opposition scoring. 

Then it all went wrong again. After finally forcing their first corner and finally getting some men forward, Forest scored a soft opener. An innocuous looking cross evaded the Charlton backline and was knocked down for Tyson in space in the box (think Dexter Blackstock) and it was one-nil. We nearly equalised a minute later when Shelvey did brilliantly to get on the end of Charlton header and volleyed powerfully only for Smith to block that too. With the next attack, it was two nil. Another ordinary ball over the top was not cleared by Hudson and Earnshaw skated in on goal. He had the time he needed to lob Elliot and it was mission impossible again.

Booed off at half-time, Parkinson forced his side out five minutes early and they did a team routine with Kinsella in the freezing cold. It had no effect and Forest looked comfortable throughout the second half. Both Tyson and Earnshaw were replaced as Billy Davies held on for the points. Charlton huffed and puffed but we can't play against a side that defends in depth and we were reduced to frantic shuffling and passing in the box as we tried to get shots on target. Darren Ambrose did force another fine save from Smith near the end but it was all he did throughout the game. You might have expected a better-than-average showing from the man with his tail between his legs, but I didn't. Other than that, all we managed was a sequence of hit and hopes that went nowhere.

On seventy five minutes the ground began to empty slowly like a bath with the plug out. The steady trickle continued, much to the amusement of the Forest fans, and the ground was approaching half-empty after 90 minutes.  Five minutes of added time were played but it could have been another 45 and we wouldn't have managed two goals. Phil Parkinson will look for the positives here and there were some, but his first elusive win, frankly, still looks as far away as ever. 

Coming away from the ground I found myself thinking how many sides in League One will bring 3,000 fans like Forest did today and the additional financial losses we will incur with relegation. After the dire accounts for 07-08 which were revealed this week, an equally shocking set of figures for 08-09 looks almost guaranteed and you begin to wonder how much worse things might get? The Board forced a fire-sale of players in the Summer which has precipitated our current plight and we know that they have also had to increase their personal debt burden to keep the club afloat. On the basis that they collectively don't have unlimited funds, you have to wonder if their last contributions were just that, which might explain some of the increasingly strange decison making of late e.g. the full-time appointment of Phil Parkinson after a disastrous trial period and the ongoing desperation of temporary loan signings. If that's the case, is Administration a real possibility as relegation becomes increasingly likely and the points deduction that goes with it might look more attractive for a chance to clean the decks?

Friday 9 January 2009

Game on Matthew Spring

After some suggestions that tomorrow's home game might fall victim to the cold weather, it has been given the go-ahead. Cynics had been saying that our cold weather pitch covering had suffered a strategic split so the game could be postponed until we are better shape to play it. As it is, we might just be in better shape following this afternoon's signing of midfielder Matthew Spring from Luton Town on an 18 month contract.

With Nicky Bailey suspended for tomorrow's game Spring will provide some options although a full debut in his first session with his new colleagues might be asking a bit much. Spring is 29 and has spent much of his career at Luton in two spells but has also played for Watford and Leeds. He was on loan at Sheffield United up until yesterday where he made 11 appearances. The official site says he has joined on an undisclosed fee, which I assume is minimal as he doesn't appear to have commanded more than £300,000 during his career.

Bouazza and Brown

Expect a storm of indignant protest from the Valley today as Birmingham City have stolen Hameur Bouazza from under our noses. Apparently he had a clause in his season-long contract that enabled him to move in January. If he plays at the Valley on 11th April, he can expect a very warm welcome.

In the meantime, we are being linked with another ex Colchester United player. This time it's 31-year Hull City squad defender Wayne Brown. In terms of the state we're in and the need to dig deep, I think you can forgive Phil Parkinson for turning to players he knows and trusts. Longer term you would hope he might broaden the search.

Thursday 8 January 2009

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 27

The release of the Report & Accounts for the period up to June 2008 make predictably grim reading. The headline loss of £11.5m and underlying operating loss of £6.2m emphasize the Board's drive to recoup dwindling player values through the Summer fire-sale as well to slash the wage bill in an attempt to stem the bleeding. This was all driven by a 25% drop in revenues due largely to falling attendances and much-reduced TV revenues.

The really bad news is that the downward revenue curve will continue on it's current glidepath, particularly if we go down and there will be a continuing need to cut costs. As always, NYA provides an expert analysis for the lay-man but perhaps those who should be sat down and walked through it line-by-line are the players. 

Come-what-may, we have another match to complete on Saturday and guess what? - It looks like it could be the pivotal game of the season. Nottingham Forest are three places above us and five points better-off and come to the Valley on the back of a morale-boosting win at Manchester City in the F A Cup. It also the first game officially in charge for new manager Billy Davies - he who walked away from the Charlton job 18 months ago. Oh how Richard Murray will be up for this one, but what a sickener if Davies has the last laugh.

Reading v Watford
This derby-of-sorts takes place tomorrow evening, so presumably we can catch it on the box? Watford are still hovering above the drop zone but are 8 points better of than us and things look brighter under new man Brendan Rodgers. He has even managed to re-awaken the interest of Sir Elton although recent boardroom chnages will have done as much to get him interested again in supporting his team. This still looks too hard an ask for Watford and they will need to overcome the equal-best home record in the division.
Prediction; 3-1

Barnsley v Southampton
The Tykes are up to 16th and almost out-of-sight. Another three points here will give them mid-table safety and push Southampton deeper into the mire.
Prediction; 2-0

Blackpool v Birmingham City
Blackpool have followed Barnsley's grind-it-out approach to climbing away from trouble and find themselves just a place behind them as a consequence. Their downfall has been their home form, in stark contrast to last year. Birmingham have been strong away from St Andrews and will be under pressure to win, especially as they will know the gap to Reading before kick-off. Expect them to get the three points.
Prediction; 0-1

Burnley v Swansea City
Burnley's fine League Cup run looks to have finally run out-of-steam following the first leg 4-1 defeat to Spurs. Owen Coyle won't have given up all hope of reversing that but should be free to concentrate on a play-off position. Three more points here should focus the troops.
Prediction; 2-1

Cardiff City v Derby County
Expect a larger than normal Derby following at Cardiff tomorrow and I think it might be enough to get them a previously unlikely looking point.
Prediction; 1-1

Charlton Athletic v Nottingham Forest
Oh dear. No Nicky Bailey tomorrow although Hudson and Gray might be back to offer a more familiar shape and, please God, a 4-4-2 formation after last week's inexcusable mess-up. Much will depend here on which Forest side turn-up. The one that struggles to score and who could only grind out a 0-0 with us in their home game or the one that won 3-0 at Man City last week. The nemisis looks like it might be Robert Bloody Earnshaw - he of the West Brom hat-trick in a similar game a few seasons back. I fear the worst.
Prediction; 1-2 - a historic 17th league game without a win.

Doncaster Rovers v Bristol City
As good an opportunity as Donny will get for another home win. Three points here and they might even get out of the bottom three for the first time since September.
Prediction; 1-0

Ipswich Town v Sheffield Wednesday
Ipswich all the way here for me. They have been decent at home and Wednesday poor away. Both look like mid-table finishers and the home side will probably have the greater motivation.
Prediction; 2-0

Plymouth Argyle v Crystal Palace
Big game for Palace this. If they win it could propel them into the top six although I think they will struggle to finish sixth between here and May although I live in hope for a mini-collapse. Plymouth are unpredictable and a draw might be on the cards with a late goal from either side.
Prediction; 2-2

QPR v Coventry
All that Italian and Portugese flair? Another boring QPR home win. 
Prediction; 2-0

Sheffield United v Norwich City
United can do us a favour here and roast City. Nil points is what we want for them and a good tonking might lower morale ahead of the unwanted cup replay on Tuesday. Let's face it, they looked poor enough at the Valley last week to take a battering from a decent side.
Prediction; 3-0

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Preston NE
Home run for Wolves and this is a game they need to close out. Preston will try to keep things tight but it's hard to see Wolves not taking the lead and holding onto it.
Prediction; 2-0