Monday 30 November 2009

Five successive wins needed to match '80-81

I thought it was worth a check on our progress so far this season in relation to the last promotion campiagn from the third division. The stats show that after 18 games played we are bang on target with the 1980-81 season.

_____Pl---W D L F A------W D L -F A ---GD Pts
09-10 18--7 2 0 21 8-----3 4 2 13 11 +15 36
80-81 18--7 0 1 17 6-----4 3 3 14 11 +14 36
80-81 23-10 0 1 25 7----6 3 3 16 11 +23 51
80-81 46-14 6 3 36 17-11 3 9 27 27 +19 84*
* equivalent at 3 points for a win

This is good news until you consider that we won the remaining five matches that brought us to the halfway stage in 1980. The next five are all winnable prospects although it will take some doing; Brighton (a), Southend (h), Stockport (a), Millwall (h) and Swindon (a). If we fall short then we do at least have the prospect of making up ground in the second half of the season as we only collected 33 points on the back half as opposed to the 51 at half-way in 80-81.

We only managed promotion in third place last time although with three points for a win, we would have finished in second and been within a point of eventual Champions Rotherham.

League One Midweek Preview, Game 19

Weekends where we don't play can be right washouts and this one was no exception. Listening to other clubs performances and results in the F A Cup brings only passing interest, even if I was delighted to see Millwall earn themselves another game having drawn with the massive town of Staines. They also have another injury crisis looming which bodes well for 19th December. Tomorrow evening's opponents Brighton were also given a tough match at home by Rushden & Diamonds and they needed a late winner to edge it 3-2. Darren Ambrose reliably put a downer on proceedings by scoring again as Palace beat Watford convincingly at home in front of 14,085 fans. It's high time Ambrose was drug-tested as there must be an explanation; Neil Warnock may have some powers of motivation but the transformation is simply too great and I suspect a performance enhancing cocktail of rocket fuel.

I also spent much of yesterday at the old Royal Arsenal Sports and Recreation Association down in Abbey Wood tucked away behind the prison and those huge new grey warehouses. The occasion was a benefit game for an old mate who has been off work for a few months following a fall from poorly erected scaffolding. His old Abbey Rangers side did him proud in the lashing rain and there was an excellent clubhouse attendance. The irony of the borrowed strip sporting the name of a scaffolding firm was lost on no-one.

So, attentions turn now to tomorrow night when the 800 descend on the Withdean for our first league match at the former running track.Another soaking in prospect too but hopes are high that we will win away from home for the first time since August. We really do need to turn the screw here if we are to have any chance of beginning to open the gap to third. With a run of very winnable games ahead, this really is our big opportunity.

Brentford v Colchester United
Both of these sides won 1-0 in the cup on Saturday, Brentford at home to Walsall and Colchester away at Hereford. league form favours the Essex side but I am going for the Bees to cause a mini-upset.
Prediction; 2-1

Brighton & Hove Albion v Charlton Athletic
If we are going to go up this year, we have to match the results of our rivals and most appear to win here. Six home defeats tells it's own story. We need a strong start and the first goal and we are due a bit of good fortune away from SE7. Parky must be bold and play 4-4-2 now that we have Mooney and Sodje to help Burton play it. I am praying it stays dry for those uncovered seats.

Bristol Rovers v Exeter City
The Grecians went down 4-3 at MK Dons on Saturday but will head to Bristol on Tuesday hoping to spoil the party. Rovers fans appeared pre-occupied with this fixture when they came to the Valley and I suspect it means more to them than it does their Devonian neighbours. Rovers didn't look like much of a side at the Valley, particularly in the first-half and Exeter might well find they are playing a side with pressure on themselves.
Prediction; 1-2

Carlisle United v Hartlepool
The Cumbrians had a fine 3-1 win over Norwich on Saturday which makes our reversal up there a little easier to swallow. After a poor start, a win here will see them match Hartlepool's 23 points and I see no reason why they can't win again.
Prediction; 2-0

Huddersfield Town v Tranmere Rovers
It's looking grim for Tranmere. They were held 0-0 at home by Aldershot on Saturday and have lost eight on the road so far. Huddersfield's unbeaten home form matches our own and they will surely make short work of this.
Prediction; 3-0

Leyton Orient v Gillingham
The Gills squeaked past Burton Albion in the Cup to earn a winnable third round tie against Accrington Stanley or Barnet. I hope they don't take their eye off the league because away from home they are relegation candidates.
Prediction; 2-0

Millwall v MK Dons
A draw would be ideal here and it looks odds-on to me. Millwall are missing key players and the injury list is swelling.MK are scoring and shipping goals in equal measure, so anything's possible here.
Prediction; 2-2

Oldham Athletic v Leeds United
Hard to see Leeds leaving Boundary Park empty handed but the Lancastrians always have a little more to play with when they face their arrogant Yorkie neighbours. Hopefully there will not be another late Leeds winner.
Prediction; 1-1

Southampton v Wycombe Wanderers
Wycombe could actually leap-frog Southampton in the relegation basement with a win here but I think it's asking too much. Saints have been playing much better of late and scoring goals. Lallana seems to score every week and I can see his name appearing again tomorrow evening.
Prediction; 2-0

Southend United v Norwich City
Oh dear! Hard on the heels of defeat at Carlisle, Norwich face another tough road trip at Southend. The Shrimpers can be mean hosts and I suspect Norwich is a highly-prized scalp in east Essex. I suspect City will do better than their showing on Saturday but it might only be good enough for a share of the points.
Prediction; 1-1

Stockport County v Swindon Town
Swindon have been quietly going about their business this season winning twice as many games as they have lost. They will fancy the job here against a side who have won only once at home.
Prediction; 0-1

Yeovil Town v Walsall
Not a particularly attractive fixture in prospect here, especially if the rains that are lashing the capital at the moment persist down Yeovil way. I can't see too many fans from the Midlands making this journey either, although I guess the M5 might make this more accessible than I might think? Got to go with the home win here.
Prediction; 2-1

Thursday 26 November 2009

Reflective Murray

Richard Murray and David White faced the fans this evening in a long-awaited Q & A in the North Stand lounge. Over the best part of two hours they kept the 200 plus crowd enthralled as they spilled forth with views on pretty much everything raised.

As a long term observer of Richard Murray at these events, I thought he was more philosophical than I have ever heard him before and at times a touch wistful. No harm in that. As ever he was upfront and honest. I wasn't taking notes and it's hard to recollect everything said over two hours but my summary of what I picked up this evening was as follows:

- Richard can't ever see him returning and thinks he's in a difficult place in terms of jobs because he feels he wants something not too disruptive personally and yet the sort of big clubs likely to make him an offer are largely in the north. He would see an Ipswich as an ideal opportunity...
- When he refused to extend his contract, he felt people were telling him it was time to move up, including his brother Bill, which I found interesting bearing in mind his rumoured interest in acquiring the club subsequently.

The need to sell in January
- The Daily Mirror article this week was rubbished. Our finances are sorted for this season. Not to say we wouldn't sell if someone offers us silly money for a player.
- Money is tight and we have stretched ourselves with the loan signings but it's not beyond our means.
- Murray actually told us we were hoping to extend David Mooney's deal by a month today as he thinks he's an intelligent player. He was told by the audience that this deal had gone through according to the late papers and website.
- Similarly, he acknowledged that Carl Ikeme was on his way because he has a big future according to Richard.
- He spoke positively about Akpo Sodje and, I believe, alluded to the fact that he may be a player who is very keen to play for us and that it might come to pass in time, even if it's when his contract expires.

- Very clear that he wasn't blamed completely for relegation last season. Pardew set the rot and we had a squad that contained a number of players who were doing very nicely and who weren't necessarily as motivated as they should have been (we knew that).
- Equally clear that getting shot of Parky at year-end included concerns at the cost of change.
- Then very clear that they have faith in Phil and are expecting him to get us promoted. Both Richard and David were very complimentary about aspects of his management style as well as the type of player he attracts to the club.
- "Spends our money as if it was his" was one comment and he was likened to Curbs in that respect.

Dowie and Pardew
- Old ground with Dowie covered although his case against us continues. The Board are confident over their reasons for dismissal and the hearing is due very shortly.
- Murray's disappointment over how things worked out with Pardew were obvious.

- Surprisingly little on this in the circumstances. It's clear they want to sell but also that they would like to be offered the chance to stay involved if possible - the Zabeel deal would have been perfect from that perspective.
- Tony Jimenez and Dennis Wise rumours summarised as"anyone can express an interest."
- More careful consideration given to the prospect of Gold and Sullivan. Murray acknowledged the pair as potentially good for the club and our place in the pecking order with local rivals in terms of their affections.
- Richard still very positive about Charlton as a buyout proposition. A London club that owns it's own training ground and stadium, that has trimmed it's cloth etc etc. Sounds better when compared to West Ham or Crystal Palace.

League One
- With Leeds, we have the largest wage bill and the most valuable squad so it should be no surprise that we are in contention. He bracketted Norwich and Huddersfield with us and also Colchester, in terms of backing, although he wonders how much money can be ploughed into Colchester on the back of 3,000 plus gates.
- Southampton are clearly well backed but their ten point deduction rules them out for this season and he will be intrigued to see how a competitive Alan Pardew fares.

I will save Richard any potential embarrassment but I think it safe to say he sees things pretty much as the rest of us do in terms of the good, the bad and the ugly! Having said that, the current squad got a largely clean billing, certainly compared to some of those of yesteryear.

David White played his part this evening and would also appear to be a plain speaker and clearly one of our own. All-in-all a good evening and, for once, I have to applaud the efforts of the Fans Forum in getting it on and running it.

The Scoreboard

The electronic scoreboard at the Valley has been part of the "matchday experience" for so long now, that I would feel like I had forgotten to wear a watch if it wasn't there. It saves me continually referring to the programme to see who's playing for the visitors and it makes it easy to see where you are with the more temperamental, card-happy officials. It's also a visual reminder of the big-time and something that clubs like Yeovil can only aspire to.

It was, of course, the cause of all the fuss on Tuesday evening when the Valley faithful wrongly assumed that Chris Lines was being booked for the second time, because he already had a yellow card showing against him incorrectly on the screen at the time that belonged to the lunk Baldwin. The Rovers fans must have wondered what he furore was about, unless they could see the scoreboard themselves. In a strange way, the mistake served our purpose because it got the fans really going and appeared to disrupt Rovers for the easy fourth goal.

I was dismayed pre-season when it was suggested by the club that the scoreboard would be out of action this season because of the cost (£85,000 from memory) to keep it operational. The obvious disappointment was the fact that we would miss it and the fact that a non-functioning screen would reflect poorly on our club and our fall from the big-time. I couldn't understand how it might be so expensive to run.There's the electricity costs for sure and undoubtedly maintenance charges of sorts but I always assumed these were relatively small to operate the srceen for less than 100 hours per year, and didn't sponsorship (the Bream Team etc) more than cover these? Perhaps it was just a ploy to see if someone would step forward and sponsor it?

Looking at the screen on Tuesday, I found myself guessing that we haven't renewed the maintenance contract and are winging it in terms of operation. It was out-of-action altogether at one recent home match and the increasing number of blacked or whited-out strips seems to increase at every game and it looked like we were super-imposing a barcode across the screen when the "Upbeats" video was played at half-time. It is fast becoming a visual reminder of the state of the clubs finances and we really should be keeping up appearances. The sort of money that would be required must be something that could be targeted and raised as a one-off initiative if we put our minds to it?

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Charlton Athletic 4 v Bristol Rovers 2

Charlton collected another three precious points in an incident-filled match at the Valley this evening. The headlines will rightly belong to the fussy and ultimately incompetent referee, Mr Cook, who did his best to ruin the game.

It started so brightly as the Addicks came flying out of the traps and went two up within 15 minutes. The expected back-four of Basey, Llera, Dailly and Youga were making it look like a training game. Youga was eating space on the right and a sure-footed Lloyd Sam was creating havoc ahead of him. After three minutes he cut through the Rovers back-line for the third time and his cross found Burton who whipped a shot at Anderson that he could not hold and there was David Mooney steaming in at the far post to notch the second of his loan spell. After a quarter of an hour Charlton got their second from the spot after Llera was pushed going up for a corner-kick. It looked soft to me but the pernicketty Mr Cook had already spoken to the aggressive Baldwin immediately prior to the corner being taken about the attention he was paying to Llera, so they brought it upon themselves.

Nicky Bailey and Jose Semedo had the grip of the midfield and at that point, it was only more posing from Shelvey that threatened to let the side down. I don't know why Racon was dropped but Shelvey didn'toffer anymore on the left wing. Just after twenty minutes Kelly Youga had to go off and Elliot Omozusi came on and I am sorry to say we lost all momentum as a result. Omozusi was all over the place; his first touch was awful, he couldn't find a red shirt over anything more than four yards away and he was promptly booked as well. We still should have wrapped it up following a scramble in the Bristol goalmouth, when a Burton shot from a prone position had beaten Anderson but Mooney was too close and he couldn't get out of the way and inadvertantly blocked the shot.

Rovers seized their chance and came back into the match. Coles fired a twenty yarder that Ikeme did well to push away but all of a sudden we were in a game and didn't Mr Cook then decide to level things up a little by giving a penalty against Christian Dailly just before the break. I will have to see what it was for but Dailly also went into the book, so I am assuming he was equally unimpressed with the quality of the refereeing.

We came out for the second period defending a one-goal lead but with Dailly and Omozusi on yellows and Rovers sensing their opportunity, we came under pressure from the restart and it was no surprise when they levelled after 56 minutes. Yet another corner was swung across the six yard box and with Ikeme rooted to his line, Chris Lines beat a clutch of players to the header and he powered it down and up into the top left-hand corner. Rovers then briefly sensed victory when a good chance fell to Jeff Hughes but he dragged his shot wide of Ikeme.

Warning well and truly served, it was time to roll some sleeves up and get back to work and that's just what Charlton did. Lloyd Sam broke down the left and cut in to cross for Mooney who's close-range header beat Anderson but hit the bar and bounced off the line. He got another header in which was blocked but as it fell in the six yard box, there was Nicky Bailey busting his lungs to get on the end of it and ram the loose ball in for 3-2.

There was then time for Cook to book his 7th or was the 8th player of the game? Lines had already been booked but he went in again for good measure. The Addicks faithful were chanting "Off, Off, Off" but Cook didn't show a red card. The Rovers players looked stunned by the decision and with half the ground booming out "he's got two yellows," Charlton forced a corner that was whipped into the six yard box where Akpo Sodje slid in to make it two in two and end the game as a contest. Scott Wagstaff came on for Shelvey and he swapped wings with Lloyd Sam. Wagstaff did a lot of good running with the ball to help run the clock down for our seventh home win.

Lucky Leeds scored another last gasp winner to beat the O's but with Millwall being pegged back at Exeter and MK Dons going down to their third successive defeat, this was good night's work from Charlton. Huddersfield also lost at Swindon, so it was only really Colchester and Norwich who kept pace with us following their home wins.

Brighton next Tuesday now takes on added significance and I will be making the trip after all to, hopefully, see the mini-revival continue with Millwall and Christmas approaching. I am praying that Rob Elliot will be fit enough to return and that Fraser Richardson or Kelly Youga are ready to resume at right-back. It would be good to extend David Mooney's loan period but Fulham can have Omozusi back and judging by the number of Charlton players arguing with him in the second-half over his positioning and play, there won't be too many sorry to see him go.

I'm not superstitious, but....

Just back from Sainsbury's by the Dome. It's my Wife's birthday today and in addition to being treated to a match-ticket this evening - at her request I might add - I was getting drinks and snacks for a mini pre-match party. So, imagine my surprise when I bumped into Miguel Llera in the wine isle (Spanish section of course). Twice in ten days? That's a definite sign in my book.

He confirmed he would be playing this evening and by the look of things, was planning on celebrating a victory with a bottle or two of his home red.


Monday 23 November 2009

League One Midweek Preview, Game 18

I have been suffering with the post-Yeovil sniffles for 24 hours and full-blown man flu is in the offing. Hopefully it will turn out to be Swine Flu which will make the epic Yeovil trip even more memorable. Before that, however, I will be at the Valley tomorrow night for what is promising to be another strong Charlton performance and a convincing result that the elements can't deny us.

There is a full League One programme tomorrow ahead of the F A Cup weekend for those clubs who's players bother to compete in it - here's who's playing whom tomorrow and my take on events....

Charlton Athletic v Bristol Rovers

Rovers have rallied in recent weeks after a dip in form and they saw off the Gills in Bristol on Saturday in conditions not too dissimilar to those in Yeovil although the Gills fans had the benefit of a roof. Chris Dickson can't play in this one, so we might have a psychological advantage as we start. Irrespective, if we can repeat the energy and focus of the last two outings I think we will be too strong for Rovers. They have been all or nothing on their travels so far this season, so I am hoping we can keep it that way and take the points which should help cement our second -place berth, at least until we return to the Valley after next Monday's visit to Brighton.
Prediction; 3-1

Colchester United v Stockport County
County are in the drop zone although they have only been beaten three times away from home. They lost at Edgeley Road to Exeter on Saturday and this looks like the proverbial mountain to me. Colchester will want to make-up for the two goals they conceded to Oldham having established a two-goal lead and I'll take them to make quick work of it here.
Prediction; 3-0

Exeter City v Millwall
Shock result of the weekend was Millwall losing at home to bottom-placed Wycombe. This has been a Millwall weakness in recent seasons and Exeter away is not the fixture you would choose in which to attempt to bounce back. The Grecians will be strong at home after winning at Stockport and it could be two in-a-row for the Lions. Perfect preparation for the 19th December if they can keep it going.
Prediction; 2-1

Gillingham v Yeovil Town
Probably harsh to judge Yeovil based on the conditions but they didn't look much on Saturday and I am convinced we would have run out comfortable winners under normal atmospheric conditions. They haven't travelled well this season and I can't see them adding any points to their tally here.
Prediction; 2-0

Hartlepool v Southampton
The fixture computer can be cruel. Remember our Boxing Day trip to Newcastle? Well the Saints have drawn a stinker here and only the die-hards will make the journey for this. After rallying in recent weeks, Alan Pardew mentioned the play-offs and results immediately nose-dived. Southampton are probably too good to go down but they remain in the zone and are four points adrift of safety. Hartlepool might just have enough here.
Prediction; 2-1

Leeds United v Leyton Orient
Come on the O's! Someone's got to halt the runaway train. With five straight wins, Leeds are threatening to open an unassailable gap. Carlisle and Norwich have both come close to winning at Elland Road under floodlights and we have to hope that the O's can go one better - they don't have much to lose...
Prediction; 2-1

MK Dons v Carlisle United
A defeat here would signal a crisis of confidence for MK Dons after going down at Southend on Friday night. Carlisle can be stubborn although I'll take Paul Ince's boys to break them down eventually.
Prediction; 2-0

Norwich City v Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton rolled over at Leeds last time out as Norwich were fighting back against the Saints at St Mary's. I can't seen beyond a convincing Norwich win here which might put us under a tad more pressure when we visit Gus Poyet's boys' next week.
Prediction; 3-0

Swindon Town v Huddersfield Town
Swindon are fighting to stay in touch with the play-off places and they recorded a fine 1-0 win at Carlisle on Saturday. Huddersfield came from one behind to beat Hartlepool but this will be tougher yet. A point might be the best both sides can expect.
Prediction; 1-1

Tranmere Rovers v Southend United
Tranmere look doomed to me and a defeat here against a combative Southend might force the board into making a permanent managerial appointment.
Prediction; 0-1

Walsall v Oldham Athletic
Walsall are in tenth and they have only lost once at home so far. Oldham have only lost three away from Boundary Park and they might have ambitions of another point here.
Prediction; 1-1

Wycombe Wanderers v Brentford
A West-of-London derby and the Chairboys will be cock-a-hoop after winning their first away match of the season at the New Den. Could be time to record back-ti-back wins and only their second home win.
Prediction; 2-1

Sunday 22 November 2009

Yeovil Town 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

This was an away-day that will live long in the memory of Charlton fans. The sending off of Sam Sodje for a professional foul before the break and the fact that his brother Akpo scored a screaming equaliser and did everything but win the game single-handedly will be forgotten over time but the atrocious wind and rain will not.

To be fair, it had been forecast and we knew what we were in for. Having said that, when we tumbled off the train at 10.30am, it was not raining and there was no wind. I felt over-dressed in my full Berghaus outfit and began to regret the acres of fleece and goretex as we got comfy in the first pub, a depressing chain house relatively close to the ground. They had forgotten to tap the cask ale the night before, so at least one of our party was not happy and we had to taxi it back into Yeovil before Midday. That proved to be the best decision of the day because we found a real pub that ticked all the boxes.

As 3pm approached we arrived at the ground but by now it was raining heavily and the wind was up. Time for a quick one with dozens of familiar faces in the Yeovil marquee which was shuddering and creaking in the gale. As we took our places on the terraces it was a sea of hoods tightly drawn around grimacing faces. This looked a lot worse than the Portsmouth, West Brom and Swindon of yore, and it was.

The game itself was, not surprisingly, a mess. Yeovil must have won the toss because we had to play into the storm. Football was virtually impossible as the conditions made it a complete lottery and a struggle to watch. Carl Ikeme's goal-kick attempts summed things up perfectly. The ball was boomeranging out up and around before coming back at him. Yeovil did at least do their best to capitalise and Charlton were wounded before the break as Sam Sodje was left with little opportunity but to commit a professional foul outside the area and he had to see red for it.

Yeovil duly took the lead before half-time when Spurs-loanee, Okiba, broke free to beat Ikeme and all of a sudden the second period looked daunting. The weather of course, came to our aid second-half and a re-jigged Charlton side playing Llera at the back and Akpo Sodje upfront took the game to the hosts and fully deserved the draw if not the win.

The feel-good factor on the train back to the Smoke was palpable. In addition to the drink purchased to celebrate, there were plenty of people in new clothes, bought at Asda after the game to replace their sodden ones. The £4 jeans seemed to go down particularly well. I am just pleased that the Berghaus get-up did it's job and I didn't have to do the same.

All-in-all, it was a good result. With MK Dons getting beaten at Southend on Friday night, Colchester losing a two goal lead to draw at Oldham and Millwall losing at home to bottom-placed Wycombe, we reamin in second place, three points clear. I think we can be confident of getting stuck into Bristol Rovers on Tuesday and if Akpo Sodje is as determined as he was against Yeovil, then he might show Chris Dickson how it's done in a red shirt.

Thursday 19 November 2009

League One Weekend Preview, Game 17

Addicks fans will be looking to the heavens this weekend and hoping that our game at Yeovil survives the downpour. We desperately need to build on last weeks emphatic win and a result here with Bristol Rovers at home on Tuesday could set us up to go on another run that might recharge our promotion ambitions and carry us into 2010 still fighting to maintain an automatic promotion place. With a three point cushion restored, we are likely to hold onto second unless Colchester win and we lose, but here's what the rest might do...

Southend United v MK Dons

The Shrimpers go early again this weekend when they take on an MK Dons side with something to prove on Friday evening. Until their trip to the Valley, the Dons had conceded only six goals away from home and the Shrimpers had only scored nine. Looks close to me and a goal apiece might be as good as either side can hope for.
Prediction; 1-1

Brentford v Walsall
The league table and current form would suggest that Walsall will be favourites in this one. I suspect Brentford might upset the applecart here and get their fifth win of the season.
Prediction; 2-1

Brighton & Hove Albion v Leeds United
Gus Poyet has something of the Midas Touch when it comes to joining new clubs and having seen his new Seaside charges win two out of two, this is his big test. Leeds didn't play last Saturday and they responded very strongly after the last international break. I fancy them to go again here but Brighton might just come close to an upset.
Prediction; 2-2

Bristol Rovers v Gillingham
Chris Dickson's days on loan at Rovers look numbered unless he can spark again. Ironic that Gillingham is the club he needs to perform against but that might re-affirm the Gills own interest in him. Rovers look to have got over their recent bad patch and a win here could push them back into play-off contention. The Gills have climbed the table again but they are the only side in the league other than bottom placed Wycombe who haven't managed an away win.
Prediction; 2-0

Carlisle United v Swindon Town
The Borderers have found a bit of form in recent weeks and will be seeking their third home league win on the spin. You can guarantee it will be played in a downpour if it goes ahead and that will suit them. Danny Wilson might have his work cut out to motivate his boys for a result here.
Prediction; 2-0

Huddersfield Town v Hartlepool
Hudders are fire right now and playing after hitting Wycombe for six last time out will expect to see off Pool. Hartlepool might start off looking on a damage limitation mission.
Prediction; 2-0

Leyton Orient v Tranmere Rovers
Not an appetising fixture this. The O's will see this as good a chance for their third home win of the season as they will get. They will need to reverse the performance they gave in the first round of the F A Cup when Tranny beat them 1-0 at Brisbane Road. Home win this time around for me.
Prediction; 2-0

Millwall v Wycombe Wanderers
Kenny Jackett will be rubbing his hands here in anticipation here. the divisions' whipping boys are in town and the Lions could well build on their plus 10 goal difference.
Prediction; 3-0

Oldham Athletic v Colchester United
Oldham have lost three in-a-row and this looks fated for four. Colchester needed a late goal at home to Exeter last week to salvage a point but I suspect they will win here to maintain the pressure on us.
Prediction; 0-2

Southampton v Norwich City
My match-of-the-day here and I'll take Norwich to upset the odds and inflict a second successive home defeat on Alan Pardew's upstarts.
Prediction; 2-3

Stockport County v Exeter City
Stockport have managed one win at home and Exeter one away. Exeter came within five minutes of an unlikely win at Colchester and this will be a great chance to go one better. It would be good for County to be softened up before we visit on 12th December.
Prediction; 1-2

Yeovil Town v Charlton Athletic
Two weeks ago this looked like a bear-trap in the dark. An impressive home win over third-placed MK Dons and we travel with high hopes of recording our first away win since putting four in at Tranmere. We will need to be bold and take the game to them but with Bailey prompting from central midfield and restored confidence in our scoring ability, I am going for us to win here and put another 1,000 on Tuesday's home gate.
Prediction; 1-2

Addicks Cup run continues

The U18's knocked mighty Woking out of the F A Youth Cup last night to set up a third round clash with Chelsea. There should be a significantly larger crowd than the 553 who were tempted last night. It was a case of the Tamer Tuna show as he hit a hat-trick which started with two goals in the opening ten minutes to effectively end the contest. I will be making the effort for the visit of Chelsea.

The Daily Mirror carried a piece yesterday about Sullivan and Gold's West Ham ownership ambitions but was firm that they are negotiating with Charlton as their Plan B in case West Ham's debts present an insurmountable problem. The Q & A with Richard Murray next week will be interesting assuming it actually goes ahead. It will be good to hear if he's not allowed to comment and probably even better (for those desperate for new ownership) if they have to cancel once again.

Looking forward to Yeovil on Saturday, it was encouraging to learn that we have sold our initial allocation of 1400 and that we have been rushed another 300. I'm guessing that will give us north of 1500 at the match which should be a tad more than a third of the gate. Fuelled by local brew and banded together in defiance against the elements, I can see us creating plenty of noise from the open visiting end. It won't be lost on our players as we will be very close to the pitch; that couldgo either way but I think it will be inspiring.


Wednesday 18 November 2009

Saracens 24 v Republic South Africa 23

I went to Wembley last night with some South African friends to see the Springboks arrest their two game losing streak and restore some pride after being beaten by Leicester.

Saracens are currently top of the Premier League. They are funded by South African backers and half the team is made up of South Africans so it was bound to be an interesting encounter. An under strength South Africa dominated the first half and went in 18-6 to the good. It looked like game over to me as I expected to see them extend their advantage after the break, but Saracens were playing the long game and they fought back brilliantly in the second period and got to 21-23 with a minute or two left. The game was set for a spectacular finish and Derrick Hougaard delivered with the winning drop-goal for Sarries. The 46,000 crowd lapped it up and even the South Africans in the crowd had to applaud.

An amazing thing happened at half-time too. Three fans were invited onto the pitch to attempt to hit the bar between the posts from 30 metres a la Soccer AM's Crossbar Challenge. The prize for achieving this unlikely feat was a mere £250,000. Up stepped a short bloke who decided to kick in his socks much to the amusement of the crowd. He caught the ball well and got it airborne. There was a huge gasp followed by an enormous roar in the stadium as the ball smacked the bar. You have to hope that the organisers took out appropriate insurance cover for this. If not, I suspect someone was looking very silly indeed in the posh seats!

Monday 16 November 2009

News from Scotland

News reaches me of Charlton interest in an 18 year old Livingston forward as well as the sorry departure of national team boss, George Burley.

First the Charlton interest. The Scottish Mail on Sunday ran a story about live-wire attacker Andrew Halliday. The youngster has a host of English clubs chasing him for signature in January but apparently the only concrete offer so far has come from the Addicks. He has a prolific record as a youth player and has been scoring, from the wing as I understand it, in recent weeks for top-of-the-table Livingston.

Secondly then, George Burley has paid the price for managing only 3 wins in 14 matches in just under two years. The faceless suits at the SFA ditched their man today with a statement almost identical to when they said they "will find the best candidate available ahead of qualification for Euro 2012" before choosing Burley. I attended a good number of Burley's matches and never felt he got a fair crack of the whip in terms of available players. Injuries and absenteeism played their part in limiting his options and he had to contend with the nonsense of losing the likes of Barry Ferguson after being disrespectful to colleagues and supporters.

The Scotland Manager job is fast becoming a poisoned challice and if the SFA continue at this rate, they will soon start scraping the barrel in terms of who's available to take it. Giving Burley a vote of confidence in September was weak in the circumstances. He was then forced to take representative sides to Japan and Wales for money-generating friendlies. The better players with more important club matters all pulled out and Burley was left with reserves to do the job. It was no surprise that Scotland lost both games and failed to score.

Yeovil away

This weekend's first ever visit to Huish Park promises to be a classic away game and I am already looking at the weather forecast for the week and fretting that we could see it postponed due to a water-logged pitch if the downpour continues as promised. We need this game to go ahead as we aim to capitalise on the feel-good factor recreated by Saturday's battling display.

Hot on the heels of our five-star showing against MK Dons, we are likely to sell our initial allocation of 1400 this week as the remaining 300 tickets are snapped up. Not the largest away following in history but when you consider Yeovil's gate on Saturday for the visit of Sarfend was 3906, then we look like having a third of the crowd. Fuelled by early starts, early arrivals and Somerset's native drink, then I think the travelling contingent could be in good voice, especially as we can associate freely on open terracing once more.

A drop of rain on the open away end and we could have a day to remember; who still fondly remembers Portsmouth away in the early 80's on a night game when the heavens opened and everyone got soaked to the skin? Nylon flight jackets might have been good against the cold but they could get very heavy when the cotton lining became saturated.

After weeks of on-line bickering over the side and the formation we should be playing, there should be very little dissent in the lead-up to this one as the side will pretty much pick itself. I can't see Carl Ikeme being dropped and the only injury concern would appear to be Fraser Richardson. Akpo Sodje will come into contention to start the game. I hope Parky is bold and decides upon a more attacking formation for this one.

Yeovil have a decent 4-3-1 home record but the list of who they have faced at the Huish might detract from that a little; Tranmere, Orient, Swindon, Stockport, Brentford, Brighton, Carlisle and Southend. In other words, five of the bottom seven and no-one in the current top ten.

A coachload of Charlton Lifers will be stopping off at the Rose and Crown in Sherborne prior to the game and the Ciderspace website gives the low-down on those closer to the ground.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Sunday smile

Good to see the Southampton revival ended by local rivals Brighton at St Mary's this afternoon. My Sunday smile has just widened a fraction.

Thought you might like to know that I past a Charlton player whilst out running along the river this morning. As he bounded towards me in a tracksuit and a fleecy deerstaker with his hood up, my first instinct was a boxer - his stature and the chiselled chin. The second we passed and our eyes locked I realised my mistake. Miguel Angel Llera. He must have turned around by the Cutty Sark because he overtook me later on around the outside of the Dome - I had already done five miles so it was to be expected. Good to know he keeps himself fit and doesn't rely on training sessions.

Saturday 14 November 2009

Charlton Athletic 5 v MK Dons 1

After three successive defeats away from the Valley, including the humiliating loss to Northwich Victoria, Phil Parkinson's men had to face the music today. It couldn't really have gone any better as the Addicks hammered out a five goal warning to the challengers.

The news that we had signed Akpo Sodje on loan from Sheffield Wednesday set the tone for the day as we attacked the Dons. Fraser Richardson was back on the right so the back four was at full strength with Sam Sodje restored and Youga back on the left.

I was pleased to see Nicky Bailey back in central midfield with Semedo and he played a blinder. Lloyd Sam stepped out of the shadows too and had as good a game as he has had all season. Therry Racon looked uncomfortable on the left wing but played his part nonetheless in supporting Burton and Mooney. I should say straightaway that Burton was outstanding today and looked like he had just returned from a six week break.

The only negative for me on team selection was that Darren Randolph was again ignored in favour of Wolves' third choice, inexperienced keeper. The story here will unwind in future but Randolph looks finished at the Valley and I have some sympathy with him.

The game started brightly and MK Dons set about us in the first ten minutes and looked like a side breathing down our neck in the table. When Aaron Wilbraham volleyed home from long range after nine minutes it looked like it might be a long afternoon. Ikeme was nowhere for the shot and I feared the worst in terms of his personal performance.

Three minutes later, however, and we levelled. Mooney was fouled outside the box and Nicky Bailey's free-kick was knocked down to Mooney who drilled a low shot past Willy Gueret. Ten minutes on and we were in front following a quick counter attack down the right as Lloyd Sam broke and surged to the line, cutting back into the box and delivering a cross that was touched on to the far post where Nicky Bailey appeared to nod home. Bailey managed to hit the corner of the bar and post before the break as the wind took a curling free-kick and almost did for the Dons.

After the restart, the game still looked delicately poised for twenty minutes. Fraser Richardson went off with what looked a recurrence of his hamstring and Grant Basey came on with Youga switching to right-back. Within a couple of minutes Charlton had killed the game; a ball up to the edge of the area was headed down to Sam inside and he danced past the last man and smacked a quick shot beyond Gueret to end the match as a contest.

MK heads dropped and Charlton upped the ante. Within five minutes Nicky Bailey drove a corner into the box and onto the head of the leaping Sam Sodje and he powered home in familiar style. Three minutes later and with the home fans demanding "we want five," Lloyd Sam headed on for Deon Burton to beat Gueret from close range. It was Burton's last touch as he made way for Leon McKenzie. Mooney went off for Akpo Sodje as Charlton pressed for a sixth and Sam Sodje missed from a great chance with a header that somehow went wide.

So, all-in-all, an excellent day and a real morale booster for the side, not to mention the supporters. We will expect more at Yeovil next week and my confidence has been restored. Wyn, I suspect you can begin posting again!

Friday 13 November 2009

League One Weekend Preview, Game 16

We're back at the Valley tomorrow folks where we are unbeaten. We are facing a red hot MK Dons side but they will be without three key players which might even things out a bit in terms of our poor recent form.

As long as the boo-boys stay silent and our players realise that all they have left now is the grind of league action, I believe we can get a result here to steady the ship. Our players are so much of a muchness at the moment that it's almost not worth worrying too much about who gets selected. The formation we play is probably more important and tomorrow we must start and play 4-4-2.

Personally, I would like to see Holden given a start on the right and Mooney and McKenzie upfront. Sam and Burton can warm the bench. Nicky Bailey should go into the middle with Semedo or Spring and I would be tempted to try something different on the left wing.

The back four should pick itself depending on who's fit and, surely, Darren Randolph will start in goal. If he doesn't, I will have to conclude that a deal's been done on appearances for Ikeme whilst he's here that will be appalling if true based o the nonsense we experienced with loan players under Pardew. The rest of the league One action looks like this...

Brentford v Millwall
The Lions are purring nicely having dealt with their early season injury crisis and will look forward to collecting another three points here. The Bees are on the slide and will need to be careful or they risk turning their bright start into a relegation fight.
Prediction; 1-2

Bristol Rovers v Carlisle United
Bristol Rovers recent fortunes have mirrored our own and the loan of Chris Dickson hasn't quite gone according to plan. The goals look to have dried up. Carlisle have been relatively resilient on the road this season and on the back of a couple of home wins (ouch) might have enough here to avoid defeat.
Prediction; 1-1

Charlton Athletic v MK Dons
Potential League One Match-of-the-Day. My dislike of Paul Ince is fairly intense and winning tomorrow will give me that much more satisfaction knowing Mr Ego will be leaving empty handed. I have little time for this football club either or Milton Keynes. Ordinarily that much negativity would be enough to set us up for defeat but I am going for us to get a result here and I can see us winning.
Prediction; 2-1

Colchester United v Exeter City
City had a fine 3-0 win over Brentford at St James last time out but they will be stretched here. Colchester lost in the last minute at the New Den, so will be fired-up for the points. That should be all they need.
Prediction; 2-1

Gillingham v Oldham Athletic
the Gills impressive home record might be enough here to see them home but the Latics have fared better away from home this year. I'll go for them to squeak a draw. I am also left wondering how many hospitality packages they have sold - has it climbed much above the 39 they had booked when we filled their facilities?
Prediction; 1-1

Hartlepool v Leyton Orient
the Pool have been a real Jekyll and Hyde side this season. they seem to upset the form book every week. Surely they will see of the ordinary O's here?
Prediction; 2-0

Huddersfield Town v Wycombe Wanderers
No defeats at home plays no wins away. Foregone conclusion. Gary Waddock needs to turn things around quickly or his first season could look ominous.
Prediction; 3-0

Norwich City v Tranmere Rovers
Another home banker I'm afraid. City look like they have thrown a double-six with the appointment of Paul Lambert. handily placed in fifth, I expect they will have staying power now and the likes of Tranmere at home is a gift.
Prediction; 3-0

Walsall v Stockport County
Not one to set the heart racing.
Prediction; 1-1

Yeovil Town v Southend United
Tight match in prospect here at Yeovil prepare for the visit of the Addicks. I suspect Town might just edge this one.
Prediction; 2-1

Southampton v Brighton & Hove Albion
Sunday's south coast derby and I can't see beyond Southampton here. I don't think they were great against us although they might have given us a pasting if they had kept at it. Brighton will make this a close derby affair but the Saints should be too strong. It's about time Pardew started crowing which might signal an end to the Saints recent good run.
Prediction; 2-1

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Southampton 2 v Charlton Athletic 1

First, the bad news. We lost predictably again for the third match in succession. A large number of changes did nothing to instill determination or ambition as our 4-5-1 were second best across the park until Saints had their opener after 33 minutes. Again, predictably, we conceded a poor second just after the hour when Ikeme was slow to get down to a long range effort from Lambert.

Then some good news. With Southampton taking their foot off the pedal, we did at least play most of the rest of the game in their half, even if it was without causing them any real trouble until added time when Youga forced a good save from the Saints keeper and Leon McKenzie reacted first to the following cross from Luke Holden to score from close range. Some hope for a more convincing performance on Saturday.

Unless Parky has done a deal with Randolph and justified playing Ikeme in this game, so he can start on Saturday, Randolph must be finished at the Valley. There is simply no other explanation for him being dropped after his excellent display at Northwich. Ikeme was flapping early on as Southampton pumped balls into the box. He was rooted on his line as they scored from a corner delivered across the six yard line and I believe Elliot, and probably Randolph, would have stopped Lambert's shot which beat him for the second.

I thought the back four of Basey, Llera, Dailly and Youga did well enough tonight to have got us a result if the midfield had put in a shift. I was pleased to see Llera again although I am sure Sodje will start in his place on Saturday with some justification. The Basey-Youga full back combination looks more solid to me than anything with Omozusi.

The midfield was a mess this evening and played too deep. Wagstaff looked naive on the right, Sam half-interested on the left, Spring and Shelvey largely anonymous in the centre in the first half, which left Semedo struggling to match Southampton on his own.

Wayne Rooney would struggle playing on his own upfront for us, so David Mooney deserves a pat on the back for keeping going. He looked far better once joined by Burton and supported from midfield towards the end.

The first change after the break saw Luke Holden finally get on but he came on as a straight swap for Lloyd Sam which seemed wrong to me. It proved so ten minutes later as Burton and McKenzie were introduced for Wagstaff and Spring. Burton went upfront which left McKenzie looking out-of-position on the left wing. No big deal I guess given the nature of individual performances in recent matches. As I have said, we did at least get to play in their half for much of the last twenty minutes as we pushed for a goal. Typically, it came too late, but the combination of two players we've yet to really see this season was encouraging.

MK Dons will be without three key players on Saturday and we need a win if we are to turn the corner and maintain our push in the league. The two cup defeats this week have hurt but the pain will soon be forgotten if we can get a couple of league wins under our belt and renew our challenge.

I hope our fans show some patience on Saturday and get behind the side, if only from the off. The manic depressives and "told-you-so" brigade are out in force and we can ill-afford to feed the fire in terms of team confidence. There is a time for turning and it isn't when you are still second in the league irrespective of current form.

We're going out

Thirty-three minutes gone at St.Marys and we have conceded a simple goal from a corner. It looks all over to me. Mooney is looking for the long ball which we are struggling to deliver as our five in midfield battle to match their four. Other than that it's been all Southampton in the rain and Carl Ikeme looks vulnerable at crosses. With limited options from the bench it looks like we could be two down before we switch to a more attacking formation.

Parkinson has made plenty of changes from Sunday with Ikeme, Basey, Llera, Spring, Wagstaff and Mooney all starting but scoring still looks beyond us.

Fasten your seatbelts...

Tonight's JPT game at Southampton has taken on more importance following Sunday's shoddy defeat by non-league opposition. This is a competition that Addicks fans were warming to after victory in the last round and realisation that a Wembley appearance was so relatively close and not completely unrealistic for a change. In fact, we were close favourites.

Kings Hill Addick covers the Wembley angle very neatly here, although I do not share his confidence about the result. I will be following events on the box and team selection, formation and the players attitude will be of as much interest to me as the score. Southampton are on a very good run and have been scoring freely for the last 5 or 6 matches. I expect them to get at us and to score which immediately makes it hard to see a Charlton victory when we are struggling to score at all, let alone more than once in games. penalties might be as good as we can hope for.

As a minimum we should see a positive reaction to Sunday's defeat and I hope that comes in the form of a concentration on playing football and not a harder foot in the tackle. The last thing we need is our discipline fragmenting and the loss of key personnel through suspensions. In spite of our well recognised weaknesses upfront, we have already shown that we have enough footballing talent within the squad to play competitively against League One opposition and that must be where we refocus now in the hope of getting some results going for us to re-inspire the side.

I'm sorry to see original Charlton blogger, Wyn Grant suspending his Addicks Diary due to a frustration with our fickle fans. It will be our loss as Wyn has the knack of unearthing snippets the rest of us can't find and he has a unique take on all things Charlton. I hope his holiday will be brief because it will mean our loss of form is temporary and the wailing and gnashing of teeth will be short-lived.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Club silent over McLeod

The Official Site was quick to acknowledge our failings at Northwich Victoria but was strangely silent on the elbowing incident at the restart when Izale McLeod flattened an opponent off the ball. There has been no comment or sign of any action since. The television cameras spotted it and the match commentators were quick to condemn McLeod. Presumably something was said but there the end doesn't justify the means and we were lucky not to be reduced to ten men.

With hindsight, McLeod's sending off wouldn't have made any difference for us and might even have garnered a response from the others. As it is, it can only be a matter of time before McLeod is cited and punished by the authorities for his violent actions. In his current form fans will hope for a long ban. He hasn't made the grade at Championship or League One level and it's high time we acknowledged this and moved him on.

The big problem is that we don't have anyone who is visibly any better. What surprises me is that with an obvious shortage in defence we are quick to enter the market as Yassin Moutaouakil will testify, but the management and Board seem blind to the deficiency upfront. Dickson and Fleetwood are obviously not the answer and neither are Burton and McKenzie, although both could do a job this season with a proper striker in tandem, assuming they were fit and both look short of that to me.

I wouldn't like to be picking the side for the Southampton game tomorrow night. What a quandry? Does he change it around and risk losing three in-a-row? If he does, then he will at least have a ready-made excuse. If he doesn't and goes with the same side to attempt to atone for Sunday, then he risks tiring the first team squad for the important league match against MK Dons. At least Mk Dons also have a JPT match this evening against Northampton.

I guess changes to the formation are needed as much as the personal although it's hard to argue against 4-5-1 at St Mary's and 4-4-2 at home on Saturday. I would change our central midfield formation and bring Bailey back into the heart of things. That probably means no place for Racon but he's been out-of-sorts lately and needs to think about his contribution.

We look light on the left flank and moving Bailey to the middle won't help that. If Luke Holden is fit, he should be tried. That or play Sam left and Wagstaff right. Upfront is a bit of a lottery but we shouldn't waste a shirt on McLeod. I'd play Burton and McKenzie but would let them know I have Tuna on half-time standby. No place for Shelvey then, but he's simply not playing with the directness and focus of last season or the first games of this year. Can't see much different for Saturday unless Richardson is fit.

Carl Ikeme didn't do anything wrong at Carlisle, but the folly of dispensing with our number two was clear from Sunday's game. Randolph must play in the next couple.

Monday 9 November 2009

Brighton away? Can't be bothered.

I was all ready with my away ticket stubs etc to join the queue this morning for tickets to watch the Brighton game at the Withdean Stadium. I will be at the Valley on Saturday because I am a season-ticket holder and am already committed to the Yeovil trip which is looking daunting based on yesterday's shocker. So, do I take a day off work for the Monday evening visit to Brighton? Nah, just like our team, I can't be bothered.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Northwich Victoria 1v Charlton Athletic 0

Red faces all around this afternoon as Charlton were outplayed by non-league opposition and dumped out of the F A Cup. The red faces of the manager and players will be down to embarrassment and those of fans to anger.

As I said the other day, we needed a performance showing determination and ambition if we were to avoid a humiliating defeat. We saw some determination from the goalkeeper and the centre-halves but precious little from anyone else and there was absolutely no ambition whatsoever.

Darren Randolph did not deserve to be on the losing side this afternoon after two superb first half saves, the second of which had to be seen to be believed as he somehow clawed a ball out of the goal and around for a corner from a point-blank header. Sam Sodje was also superb and Dailly looked determined to play his part even if his colleagues in front of him weren't playing theirs.

Our five-man midfield was out-hustled by the non-leaguers. Racon and Semedo wanted more time than they were given. Lloyd Sam struggled to make any headway on the right and Bailey was as involved in the middle as he was on the left flank. Jonjo Shelvey had another indifferent game. Between them they failed to supply anything for McLeod who managed only one run during the whole game and the keeper beat him to that. He should actually have been sent-off at the re-start when he decided for some reason to elbow his marker in the face off the ball.

At half-time we should have been two down and had been given the warning that we would need to score if we were to have any chance of avoiding defeat. It went unheeded, and although we got more physical and restricted the Vics goal-scoring chances, we simply didn't look like we were serious about attacking. Northwich played for set-pieces and used their long throw and very tall centre-half to good effect. They were creating problems and we looked ragged throughout.

Parkinson did at least recognise the need to change it and introduced Burton and McKenzie for Shelvey for McLeod with twenty minutes left but the initial surge of effort soon subsided and Northwich got back to work. The goal, when it came, was a simple long ball over the top. Teenager Riley broke the offside and ran on to stab the ball under the unfortunate Randolph. Game over. We tried to inject some urgency but it just resulted in more errors and general fumbling.

The damage to already shaky confidence and morale will be significant and we have a horrendous game in prospect at Southampton on Wednesday where I can see us losing for the third time in succession. The vicious circle could be completed at the Valley on Saturday where we look likely to be overtaken Colchester and MK Dons if we lose. I will say it again, but we have nothing up-front, the early-season midfield confidence has gone and we look very nervous.

I am left feeling sorry for the 204 loyal supporters who made the journey today. They were let-down by the team and should get their ticket money refunded by the players. Perhaps it's time that we stopped talking about promotion and instead concentrated on trying to play more entertaining and attacking football and establishing ourselves properly at this level?

I heard the rumour again last night, that Kevin Phillips is on his way. I'd love to see him but we need a new strike-force now, not just one player.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Goliath to fall....

I'm going to a 50th birthday bash this evening but will be hoping to sneak into the bar next door for the big fight. It will hardly be a classic as "man fights bear," but I am a big fan of David Haye and this is the fight that could catapult him onto the world heavyweight stage.

To do it, he will need to go for it and beat the Russian decisively. Valuev has used his size in 50 fights to avoid taking too much direct fire and he tires his opponents by smothering them. Haye will need to use all of his power and speed to get through to Valuev's midriff which sits where other boxers chins normally are. If he can get Valuev to bend forward he might be able to attack his head which looks uncannily like Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Haye is an engaging speaker and comes across as a good bloke. If you have ever seen him skipping, you will know that he's taking his sport very seriously indeed and that he has been waiting all his life for the title fight he gets this evening. Going one better than Evander Holyfield would give him genuine options in terms of challenging for other belts and possibly unifying the title once again.

If he fails, he faces following Audrey Harrison down the slippery path to an inglorious career although I believe Haye has too much about him to end up a laughing stock. My money's on David to slay Goliath and go to show us what he can do against ordinary sized heavyweights.

Friday 6 November 2009

Northwich Victoria

I am shifting uneasily in my chair about Sunday's F A Cup tie.

It's a match, of course, that we should win with something to spare. We have a squad of professionals, many with years of experience who should be confident of playing non-league opposition and grinding out a win. Even our front two must be feeling confident about finding a yard of space on the ground or a foot of clearance in the air to get the goals that will see us through? Let's face it, we are second in League One and this should be a canter.

Trouble is, we have to show significantly more determination and ambition than we showed at Carlisle last week. We can't afford to enter this match thinking all we need to do is turn-up and knock it about a bit. We also can't afford to play a seriously weakened team and I am not confident Parky will play a full strength side, especially with a JPT Cup game at Southampton on Wednesday and the crucial MK Dons match next week.

The fact that this match is being laid bare for the nation on ITV won't help us either, unless we take control early on. Northwich will fight tooth and nail and they will be cheered on by practically everyone in the ground. We had sold barely 200 tickets as of yesterday and clearly it's not a game that's catching the imagination since the decision to televise it. Ditto Southampton in the week.

On reflection, therefore, I suspect we are in for a torrid afternoon. I still can't envisage defeat here but suspect it might be close enough for a replay. This is a key week for our season. Progress in both of these cup competitions and a result over MK Dons would give us renewed confidence and set us up for some exciting matches in the coming months. A bad week here and we could find ourselves concentrating on trying to get back into the automatic promotion places with a squad questioning it's capability.

Thursday 5 November 2009

Greenwich 2012

I feel like I am sitting on the fence over the planned use of Greenwich Park for the Equestrian events at London 2012. I want to see my borough involved in the Olympics but I would resent it if we lost the use of the park for too long and especially if irreparable damage was done as a result. The proposed use of Woolwich for the shooting seems less controversial as it is unlikely to attract the numbers of spectators or require the sort physical changes around the Barracks that may be permanent.

Greenwich Park; it would appear that the temporary stadium (housing 23,000 spectators) and main event venue for the show-jumping will be built around the natural ampitheatre that is the "meadow" that runs down from General Wolfe's statue to Queen Anne's House, part of the National Maritime museum. This is the reason for choosing Greenwich Park because it gives the backdrop shot of London 2012 - the iconic shot of Queen Anne's House in the foreground shadowed by the towers of Canary Wharf. I'm not sure what else the events will need apart from the out-lying course which, presumably, won't do any long-term damage to the park but the associated affects on life in Greenwich is what looks to be ratting the anti-brigade. The foot tunnel at Greenwich will be closed for months for a face-lift prior to the event and there will be months of disruption on Greenwich's critical roads in the lead-up to the games. The well-organised and vocal west Greenwich community has mounted a protest against the scale of the plans with local journo, Andrew Gilligan, prominent. They have impressive numbers of petitioners but they can only really hope for small victories in this war.

I was out running yesterday when I saw a tree being felled (pictured) in front of the Maritime Museum, which I understand is the beginning of the work to put an access road in front of the museum in order to reach the "meadow" without taking trees out in the park between the main gates at King William Walk and the "meadow." I had to smile when I heard one of the organisers saying last night on the news that "our plans don't involve the cutting down of any trees."

By contrast, the less well-organised and less-vocal residents of SE18 aren't mounting anything like as effective a campaign against the use of the Royal Arsenal Barracks. The organisers have been forced into a temporary re-think involving the existing Bisley range or even a new site at Barking Reach, but after due haste, quickly dismissed those and have re-focused on Woolwich. The Barracks will provide a splendid background for the shooting and the connection with firearms is entirely appropriate. Woolwich has been degenerating for fifty years and surely we shouldn't be looking to prevent it having a week or two in the sunshine?

I have long advocated the building of a "Charlton Wall" from the river to Shooters Hill, but I guess the more realistic hopes for the residents of Greenwich is genuine renegeration of the once-proud Woolwich. On top of the river developments at the old Arsenal site, the Olympics might offer hope of more to come, even if not directly as a result of the shooting itself?

Come what may, I know I would feel sore and like a pariah if the games came to the Capital and south (east) London was again ignored completely like we are a part of London the Cogniscenti would rather not acknowledge. Having said that, the Games are being stage in our poor sister's backyard in East London, so perhaps we should be grateful for small mercies.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Weakened MK Dons to play at the Valley

Looking for any positives (clutching for straws), I see that Paul Ince faces loses three of his more influential players for the crunch match at the Valley a week on Saturday. Captain Dean Lewington (son of Ray) will be suspended and he could be joined by Republic of Ireland U21 Stephen Gleeson and top scorer Jermaine Easter who is waiting on a Wales call for the crucial friendly against Scotland in Cardiff. Come on Tosh, do your duty!

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Curbs cashes in...

Following Kevin Keegan's victory in his constructive dismissal claim against the Toon, it was only a matter of time before Alan Curbishley got his day in front of the Premier League manager's arbitration panel. That came today and this afternoon his claim was duly upheld and he should learn tomorrow how much compensation West Ham will have to pay him. This will hurt West Ham at a time they can ill-afford to be shelling out to a former manager. It should also make interfering club directors think twice before meddling in team affairs.

Charlton's Youth saw off the challenge of the Gills this evening with a comfortable 3-0 win in the first round of the Youth F A Cup. Tamer Tuna played with his peer group as Liam Bellamy, Harry Pell and Lewis Perkins scored the goals.

Three days on...

Three days on and the fallout from the 3-1 loss at Carlisle is beginning to settle. I have been able to see the goals from the game and I am unhappy; the penalty appeal against Sam Sodje which was turned down but which I think lead to the referee bottling it and awarding one from the resulting corner, was never a penalty. Sodje went up with their man who got underneath him and made a meal of it.

The 'penalty' decision itself was an absolute joke. As the ball comes over and players begin their runs, one of our players bumps one of theirs as they both go near post. It was 50-50, both stay on their feet and the ball by-passes the pair of them. Referee Haywood blows before the ball lands. An appalling decision and one that was worth getting sent to the stands for. Our penalty minutes later looked on the edge of the box to me but it I am sure we got it because Haywood had been thinking about what he had done, especially in light of the abuse aimed at him by Phil Parkinson.

As for Kavanagh's goals, I didn't think the first strike was as good or as unstoppable as portrayed on the radio. It wasn't that hard a strike and it went through a crowd of players. Ikeme was very close to it and might have expected to get a hand to it on another day. Kavanagh's second was far better but the damage had already been done by then.

If the Carlisle games serves to give us that extra bit of backbone for the forthcoming Cup games and a point to prove when we face the MK Dons, then it won't be the end of the world, but we must see an improvement in attitude across the pitch and more responsibility than at Brunton Park.

As far as the decision to play Ikeme is concerned, Ketts on Dr Kish makes a good point about Parky's possible rationale here; with Ikeme unable to play in the F A Cup on Sunday, the risk of injury to Randolph at Carlisle would have left us without a keeper. It will be interesting to see who gets the shout for the Southampton and MK Dons games.

I see that the Premier League is questioning the transfer of Michael Turner from Hull to Sunderland. It would seem that Brentford and, possibly Charlton, have complained about the lack of sell-on payments. The deal was rumoured to have been worth £12m but a far lower figure of nearer £4m is being talked about which would obviously result in far smaller sell-ons. I can understand why both Hull and Sunderland might have wanted to talk-up the rumoured fee; Sunderland because it looks ambitious and Hull because it supports the decision to sell their best player. As I understand it the fee was undisclosed, so I am left wondering whether it's a case of sour grapes for League One clubs?

Finally, the premature sacking by Brighton of Russell Slade after only eight months - they are fourth bottom but have been improving and created plenty of chances in their 3-3 home draw with Hartlepool on Saturday - has seen our own Steve Brown elevated from the Youth team boss to Assistant Manager with Charlie Oatway. Martin Hinshelwood, their Director of Football (do they really need one?) is in charge temporarily with Steve Coppell supposedly in the frame, but shows that Brownie might have something about him as far as management is concerned.