Wednesday 31 March 2010

League One Weekend Preview, Game 39

Eight games to go in League One and we all get two of them out of the way over this extended weekend which should let us know exactly what we're fighting for in the remaining six matches.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Southampton
This South Coast derby kicks-off tomorrow evening, when Alan Pardew expects to see his goal-scoring superstars sweep Brighton aside. Current form would appear to favour the Saints but Brighton have been improving of late under Gus Poyet and with local pride at stake, I'll take the Seagulls for a point.
Prediction; 1-1

Carlisle United v Bristol Rovers
Bristol Rovers still have outside hopes of making the play-offs but they could be trodden into the mud at Brunton Park. Lose and they will most likely find themselves with too much to do to catch Huddersfield and Colchester.
Prediction; 2-0

Exeter City v Colchester United
Colchester go looking for their sixth away win of the season at Exeter who have only been beaten four times at home. After two stuttering home draws, this could be a costly defeat for Colchester.
Prediction; 2-0

Millwall v Brentford
Another of the Good Friday fixtures and Millwall fans will be praying for more goals and three points which would take them clear into second place. Brentford have been playing party-poopers in recent weeks, having drawn 3-3 at Colchester, but this is a huge task against a high-flying and fast-finishing Millwall. We might have to wait until Easter Monday to see Millwall dropping points.
Prediction; 3-1

Tranmere Rovers v Norwich City
The last of the Good Friday matches and Norwich can almost put one hand on the League One title. Tranmere are back in the drop zone and will fight hard but City should have too much class and enough confidence to collect the points.
Prediction; 1-3

Leeds United v Swindon Town
Another cruncher at Elland Road and their long-suffering fans will be dreading losing further ground in the race for promotion. I suspect they will start this game in third knowing that a defeat would see them slip below Swindon. For that reason alone, I think Leeds will avoid defeat but suspect this will be very close and Leeds may have to share the points.
Prediction; 1-1

Leyton Orient v Hartlepool United
Hartlepool hover perilously close to the drop zone and this is a big opportunity against mid-table Orient for Hartlepool to record a rare away win.
Prediction; 0-1

MK Dons v Charlton Athletic
On the evidence of their showing at the Valley before Christmas, you would fancy the Addicks for the points here. Much will depend on what side we are able to put out. This could be the final nail in Paul Ince's play-off ambitions, but they have a good home record and will need to be beaten. On the evidence of the point at Huddersfield, I am going to go for a big Charlton win against the odds.
Prediction; 0-2

Oldham Athletic v Gillingham
The Gills are not out of the relegation woods yet and face Oldham who are level with them on 40 points and will see this as a golden opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the drop.
Prediction; 2-1

Southend United v Yeovil Town
Southend could haul themselves level with the Gills with a win here and I can see them doing just that.
Prediction; 2-0

Stockport County v Walsall
It's fixtures like this that bring home just how low we've fallen and how desperate we should be to get out of this division. Stockport will be in League Two next season but we face the prospect of Walsall again unless we can get a grip.
Prediction; 0-1

Wycombe Wanderers v Huddersfield Town
Wycombe have only managed four wins at home all season. They are seven points behind safety so this could be their last chance of home win that could spark a revival. Trouble is, they face a Huddersfield side battling to stay in the play-off places and I can't see them winning. A point apiece wouldn't help either club.
Prediction; 1-1

Monday 29 March 2010

Pardew wins the JPT

In this season of hard-to-takes, Addicks fans had to suffer again on Sunday as Southampton romped to victory at Wembley in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final. Smug Al got to massage his ego once more and took the opportunity to say that he thought Southampton could yet make the play-offs if they can beat Brighton at the Withdean on Thursday and then win their next two homes games - the second of which is against us. All of a sudden, Southampton failing to make the play-offs takes on added importance, just like Palace being relegated. In the words of Kevin Keegan, "I'd just love it if we beat them."

Saturday 27 March 2010

Huddersfield Town 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

Best draw of the season today at the Galpharm Stadium. The point keeps Huddersfield fully six points away in seventh and gives us hope of the same at least in Milton Keynes next week.

The fact that the point was won without Nicky Bailey makes it all the more remarkable. I only managed to pick up the second-half but it sounded like we were competing despite going behind. Darren Randolph kept his place between the sticks and Scott Wagstaff came in for Lloyd Sam. Kyel Reid played left and Nicky Forster got his first start alongside Mooney. The Huddersfield lead only lasted five minutes before Kyel Reid drilled a volley low and hard across the keeper for the leveller. There was little to worry about after that and we played the game out relatively easily.

As predicted, Millwall thumped Stockport and have now caught Leeds on points. Hard to stomach it may be, but we just need to grin and bear it and hope we get an opportunity through the play-offs. With Palace losing at home yet again and their relegation rivals winning, they find themselves an amazing four points adrift having played a game more. What's more, they travel to Watford for a six pointer in the week. South London's footballing order may be about to change once again. Who's to say we couldn't yet be restored as Top Dog next season?

Friday 26 March 2010

Last roll of the dice

The Board of Charlton Athletic gritted their collective teeth yesterday and handed Phil Parkinson the funds necessary to strengthen the squad yet again in a final bid to secure promotion. Three, yes three, new faces have arrived at the club in the wake of injuries to Elliot and Burton; goalkeeper Tony Warner joins from Hull, Matt Fry from West Ham and we also have the unlikely signing of Brighton's Nicky Forster.

35 year-old Warner has had more clubs than hot dinners and made by far his most appearances in goal for Millwall. Not sure how he would feel playing against the Lions in the play-offs? Matt Fry is a 20 year-old defender on West Ham's books who made a number of loan appearances for Gillingham earlier this season. That leaves ageing Top Gun, Nicky Forster, who has also done the rounds. Most notably he's featured in protracted spells for Gillingham, Brentford, Reading and Brighton helping himself to goals wherever he has been. 

My guess is that Tony Warner has been bought to enable Parky to demote Darren Randolph once again. I hope I am wrong here because I believe Randolph deserves his chance. Matt Fry's signing is a curious one because we look to have enough in defence to survive the remaining fixtures. Forster's is clearer cut but I am left wondering whether any 36 year-old striker is ever capable of getting more than a handful of goals. Deon Burton disproved this theory early on this season but has reverted to type, although he would , no doubt, point out that he's been playing with a hernia for months. Having said that, I'd rather have a Forster than a Mooney at this stage in the season when we need goals now, not in ten games time.

The "no-more-loans" brigade have their next batch of complaints ready-made but I, for one, have to applaud the Board for their courage and their commitment to this season's campaign. Shame it hasn't quite been matched in all other quarters. 

Thursday 25 March 2010

League One Weekend Preview, Game 38

Luke Varney sent a reminder to all Charlton fans of the player he could have been for us with another vital goal for Sheffield Wednesday. The 89th minute winner lifts Wednesday three points clear of Crystal Palace in the relegation zone. Palace have to go to Wednesday for one of their last games when Luke will get the chance to formally join the ranks of Addicks heroes. You know, Kitson, Rommedahl, Claridge, Fortune etc.

Meanwhile, back on Planet Grind, our struggling Addicks face an uphill task in Yorkshire this weekend against Huddersfield Town, the side most likely to join the current play-off place-holders if they can make-up the three-point gap on Colchester or the six points to us and Swindon.

As I have already said, it looks too tall an order to me for a team short on confidence and struggling with injuries. Once again, we may have to hope other results  go our way. Here's who's playing whom...

Brentford v Leyton Orient
The Bees have managed to avoid defeat in all but two home games this season and should do so again here.
Prediction; 2-1

Brighton & Hove Albion v Tranmere Rovers
Tranmere have been one of my relegation tips all season and whilst they have fought their way out of the bottom three , they hover precariously close and their away form is good enough to ensure they go down. Brighton are improving under Gus Poyet and could be challenging next year.
Prediction; 2-0

Bristol Rovers v Southend United
Southend are one of the sides desperately trying to catch Tranmere in a bid to stay in League One. My money would be on them joining Tranmere in League Two next season and this looks like a fruitless trip.
Prediction; 2-0

Colchester United v Wycombe Wanderers
Second of what should have been two slam dunk home wins for Colchester. Screw this and they could find themselves seventh come 5pm. Wycombe, however, look resigned to relegation, so unless they have already accepted their fate and play with gay abandon, it looks like another defeat.
Prediction; 2-1

Exeter City v Walsall
Big game for the Grecians. A home win here against a mid-table Walsall should see them move out of the relegation places. I can see them doing it and winning their battle to stay up.
Prediction; 2-0

Gillingham v MK Dons
MK Dons look like they have left it too late to join the party as they sit 8 points off sixth-placed Colchester. The Gills need the points to avoid being sucked down and this is a very winnable game for them. It might also see a collapse in confidence for MK just before we visit next week which would be no bad thing.
Prediction. 2-0

Hartlepool United v Swindon Town
Tough game for Swindon but one they can win if they put in the performance that won at Southampton and drew with Norwich in their last two. I am hopeful that Hartlepool can upset the odds but a point may be as much as they can take here.
Prediction; 1-1

Huddersfield Town v Charlton Athletic
We won there 30 years ago when we climbed out of this division at the first attempt. It was 1-0 victory against the odds and the same again would be brilliant. History does tend to repeat itself, but it's hard to see it here given their rock solid home form and our current problems. Expect more excuses from Parkinson and Bank Holiday Monday's home game against Carlisle becomes an absolute must-win.
Prediction; 2-0

Millwall v Stockport County
The division's banker here. I'm guessing Stockport will be 6-1 or 7-1 and 10-1 wouldn't be enough for me at the moment. It's really a four pointer for Millwall as they can notch a few goals to improve their best-in-class goal difference.
Prediction; 3-0

Norwich City v Leeds United
Who would have thought five or six weeks ago that this fixture would look like a routine home win? Leeds' annual implosion look like happening for the third consecutive season. can you imagine another two seasons of close failure for us? By the time they run out against Swindon Town at Elland Road next Saturday, I expect them to be in third place (Millwall are at home to Brentford on Good Friday).
Prediction; 2-0

I am off to Legoland (Windsor) for the weekend where I hope my kids will keep me suitably distracted to minimise the pain of what I expect will be another difficult weekend set of results for us to bear.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Tuesday cheer

Some heart-warming performances and scores this evening. Battling Brentford were never behind at Colchester this evening but had to settle for a 3-3 draw. The point keeps Colchester a full three points adrift and maintains their less than convincing finish to the season.

Even better news in the Championship where Palace were beaten 2-0 at Nottingham Forest and had Lawrence sent off. Only 6 points out of the last 30 tells it's own story for Palace and with Scunthorpe winning 4-0 and Plymouth recording a 2-0 victory at Portman Road, they find themselves in deep doo-doo. If Sheffield Wednesday can see off lowly Watford at Hillsborough tomorrow night, Palace will be three points adrift of safety with Plymouth closing in on them from below and 6th placed Cardiff to come at Selhurst on Saturday. 

Replacing Palace in the the Championship should be the biggest incentive ever for our fans to bite their tongues and get behind the side, even if it is only until we are finally thwarted.

Monday 22 March 2010

Charlton go fourth

If there was any lingering doubt about the seriousness of Millwall's late surge for the second automatic promotion spot, it disappeared at Elland Road this evening, where Millwall put on a confident all-round performance and beat Leeds 2-0. They have moved within three points of Leeds who were playing without the hamstrung Jermaine Beckford and lost Kisnorbo through injury in the first -half. 

If Leeds fans are anxious, we know the feeling. They go to Norwich on Saturday for a game they can't afford to lose. Millwall entertain bottom club Stockport at the New Den and look odds-on to join Leeds on 71 points. With Colchester playing at home to Brentford tomorrow evening and home again on Saturday to second-bottom club Wycombe, this could be the weekend where we slip to sixth. Swindon are at Hartlepool, where they too will be favourites for the points.

A defeat at Huddersfield would put our side under enormous pressure but a draw would be enough to keep the Terriers six points behind us. A Charlton victory would give us a nine point cushion on the seventh place side and put one foot firmly in the play-offs. I think it will also be our last chance to kick-start the engine and renew any hopes we still have of automatic promotion. Trouble is, a win there looks like Mission Impossible based on our form of late and we then have to go to MK Dons.

By the time we play Carlisle at the Valley on Easter Monday, Phil Parkinson might just have to repeat his comments about having built his side on a shoestring and that the boo-boys should, er, take a look at the league table. Seventh might be justifiable to Phil Parkinson but not by anyone else connected with Charlton Athletic Football Club after what would be yet another another end-of-season nosedive.

The last loan?

This morning will see our squad return to training and assessments made on the fitness of Deon Burton and Rob Elliot. Both have been carrying injuries and both succumbed on Saturday during the first half. We have been unfortunate with injuries this season and this latest two threaten to undermine the most critical phase of this make-or-break season. 

The transfer window for loan signings closes on Thursday and it looks like the Board may have to stretch their fingers for the final coppers in a final bid to save their investment of £7m made earlier this season to support a promotion campaign which offers us the only realistic hope of avoiding an impending financial meltdown.

Darren Randolph had a steady forty-five in goal and I would be confident enough that he can perform the Sasa Ilic role and see the season out. If Rob Elliot is going to be out for more than a couple of games, we are going to have to contemplate a loan signing to provide cover for Randolph. 

Our pockets might not stretch to a second player but serious consideration must be given to getting an impact striker in. With Burton and McKenzie injured and Dickson and  Fleetwood on loan elsewhere, we are really only left with Sodje and Mooney and they don't look like firing enough goals to get us promoted. Good strikers are like hen's teeth but this is probably the best time to get one when other clubs are more likely to know who they can reasonably dispense with for the final matches of the season, especially if they might be looking to off-load someone come the Summer. 

On the subject of Mooney and Sodje, things would appear to have fallen flat for them as they play for new deals. Akpo looked a real threat when he first arrived on loan but he has ambled his way through the last few games since returning and looks short of something. Mooney has given it everything since he arrived but is very inexperienced and has missed more than he has scored which has angered the more impatient Addicks amongst us. I didn't see the Millwall game but he appears to have been singled-out for his powder-puff showing and his detractors booed him as he lined-up on Saturday. He responded in the best possible way by smashing the equaliser but might have thought twice about cupping his ear as he ran the length of the pitch to celebrate. His next bad miss will be the cue for a cacophony of boos.

I can't let the weekend pass without mentioning two personal highlights. Having finally written off Scotland's chances of a 6 Nations victory, they only went and beat Ireland in their back-yard thereby avoiding the Wooden Spoon and proving Lawrence Dallaglio wrong - always a good thing. The significance of the victory may become more apparent next Spring as Ireland's ageing squad takes a step backwards and Scotland's developing side a step forward. 

Oh, and the other a delicious case of schadenfreude as Crystal Palace move into the Championship relegation zone. They face third place Forest away during the week as their nearest rivals play winnable home games. Crumbs of comfort and all that...

Sunday 21 March 2010

Charlton Athletic 2 v Gillingham 2

I'm twenty pounds lighter after backing the Gills and it's typical that all we get is a point in exchange. As the games tick away, it was ultimately an ok point, with only Huddersfield in the top eight managing a win. Leeds and Millwall play tomorrow evening and another draw would be no surprise.

Parky made four changes from the Millwall line-up and there were no real surprises; Sam Sodje replacing clanger Llera; Gary Borrowdale making his loan debut at left-back; Lloyd Sam replacing left footed Reid on the right and Deon Burton returning to the spearhead. The biggest surprise was that Simeon Jackson was on the bench for the Gills.

The players were wearing black arm-bands which had those around me puzzled. I thought it was perhaps to remind the players of their hopeless performance at the New Den, but learnt this morning that it was to mark the sad passing of 60 year-old Bob Curtis on Friday.

Gillingham looked worryingly like Millwall in their blue and white kits and they started the game in fine fettle backed by a noisy Medway following of close to 3,000 fans, which swelled the gate to our largest of the season and broke the 20,000 mark (20,024) for the first time since we last played in the Championship. 

The game was played at good pace and was end-to-end for most of the first-half without any real chances until the half-hour mark when Sam Sodje showed some determination and thumped a header against the Gillingham bar. We went in front a couple of minutes later courtesy of a soft goal when Fraser Richardson's under-hit shot from distance bobbled over the out-stretched arm of Andy Julian. The moment was short-lived as Andy Barcham seized a pass from the restart and careered towards the Charlton goal. Given far too much space, he wound up a drive and hammered it beyond the despairing dive of Rob Elliot and into the top corner to the delight of the Gills packing the Jimmy Seed Stand behind it.

Charlton responded and Deon Burton got up very well and planted a goal-bound header only to see Julian touch it onto that crossbar again. It was Burton's last touch of the game as he limped off to be replaced by Akpo Sodje.
Gillingham weren't finished though and took the lead minutes before the interval after getting the ball into a congested box and seeing Elliot block one effort before it fell to Dennis Oli several yards out. 

Elliot must have managed to do himself some damage in the lead-up to the goal because he didn't come out for the second-half. In his place was the assured looking Darren Randolph who had a forty-five. His kicking was good and he managed the only real save that came his way from an Oli shot. 

The second-half was all about could we get two? David Mooney got the first chance when Lloyd Sam slipped him in but Julian was flying out and smothered Mooney's first-time shot. Nicky Bailey tested Julian with a looping header that he had to tip over before Mooney struck the equaliser. It was a finish of some quality and one that would not have looked out of place in the top flight. The ball came to him eight yards out with his back to goal and a defender on his rear. Mooney stepped aside with the ball and turned and fired in one movement that sent the ball high into the roof of the Gillingham net. Julian simply didn't see it. The stick that Mooney's been getting in recent weeks has clearly got to him because he celebrated by running down the length of the West Stand with his ear-cupped. 

The last half-an-hour passed without much further incident and Charlton looked content to take a point. Therry Racon was subbed to make way for Kyel Reid and he didn't like it. He stormed past the Charlton officials standing in his way and booted the back of the dugout. He might have had a decent game for a change but he was fortunate to start based on recent performances and it meant we had Nicky Bailey playing on the fringes once again.

The point might look alright in the circumstances but it will very much be a case of two lost if we get beaten at Huddersfield next weekend when they can cut the gap on us to a solitary win and match our goal difference. We are going to have to knock over the likes of Gillingham from here on in and will probably need to win a couple of our harder looking fixtures. It's going to run and run.

Rest in peace Bob.

Thursday 18 March 2010

Hollow Parkinson

Another very predictable Thursday press conference with Phil Parkinson. "We need a positive reaction" was the first familiar understatement. "So far this week, training had indicated we'll get that" was the second. We don't have a record of reacting particularly well to any poor display under Phil Parkinson or any of his immediate predecessors for that matter. If we are honest, our side is short of characters and players willing to shoulder the burden of responsibility. I don't understand how training tells us we will get a reaction to a bad performance and humiliating defeat. Perhaps the players are all laughing and joking and getting on with it? Maybe they are all stern faced and crunching into tackles with gritted teeth? Whatever it is, it's a big leap to claiming we are going to bounce back, especially when it's plainly not happened in the past.

Phil then went on to try to show us that he is not taking last weeks trouncing lightly. No Sirree! "Some people won't be playing on Saturday who played against Millwall because I feel there has to be some changes." Yes Phil, there has to be some changes although the wording you use makes it sound like they will be made to appease the fans or the Board rather than your personal view that they are needed. He goes on to say that "there are people out of the team who deserve to play." No Phil, there people in the team last week who don't deserve to play. We have had more than enough changes in recent weeks, all largely to no avail, so I am not convinced there are too many who deserve to play but plenty who don't. The trouble with our current squad is that there doesn't appear to be the hunger to be in the first eleven that many inferior playing squads have. Substitutions have rarely worked for us.

One player who will go straight in is Gary Borrowdale, the 24 year-old former Palace left back who is surplus to requirements at QPR. This comes as no surprise bearing in mind our current shortages and the Board must be credited for putting their hands in their pockets again for the next six games as we try to get the results needed to take the season into extra-time. 

On the basis that Elliot has to play and Richardson holds the right back spot, the options for changes in defence look limited to Llera and Dailly. Neither had good matches at Millwall but we can only afford to drop one and I suspect it will be Llera. In midfield, Reid has hamstring trouble, so Parky will probably rest him anyway as one of the easy options for showing his ruthlessness. Expect Lloyd Sam to return and probably Waggy or Jonjo. The folly of playing Bailey out of position has to have sunk in by now and I expect him to be back in the middle with Semedo. Racon deserves to be dropped and the only question-mark for me is whether we play 4-5-1 or 4-4-2. 

Up front, David Mooney has come in for universal criticism although Akpo did little more against the Lions. I expect Deon Burton to return if fit and Leon MacKenzie might get another chance alongside him with Akpo held in reserve for a substitutes appearance. I am left wondering what Parky will tell us next week.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

League One Weekend Preview, Game 37

With the next banana skin rapidly approaching, time for a look at this weekend's League One fixture list.

Charlton Athletic v Gillingham
We have been squeaking results at home whilst not playing particularly well. Stockport would have got something with a little bit more ambition and fortune. Gillingham should have the motivation and in Simeon Jackson they have the goal-scorer we lack. We should see a Charlton playing reaction to the embarrassment of last week but I have an overwhelming sense of deja vu about this game, reminiscent of Pardew's last days. It could get ugly.
Prediction; 1-2

Leyton Orient v Huddersfield Town
Huddersfield have been matching our slip point-for-point and need something to steady the ship and kick-start their play-off push. The O's could do us a favour here.
Prediction; 2-1

MK Dons v Southampton
Swindon all but ended the Southampton charge on Tuesday evening by winning at St. Marys. MK Dons look like they might be re-focusing their play-off ambitions and I'll stick my neck out for a second successive defeat for Pardew's   boys.
Prediction; 2-1

Oldham Athletic v Brighton & Hove Albion
Both of these sides look safe for another year. Brighton had their best home win of the season in the week and they have been good away from the Withdean. They might have enough for a seventh win on the road here.
Prediction; 0-2

Southend United v Carlisle United
Shit or bust for the Shrimpers. Carlisle don't travel well and might not have enough fight to get anything here.
Prediction; 1-0

Stockport County v Brentford
Stockport haven't scored in their last four games and they are counting down the matches to mathematical relegation. This will be another off the list.
Prediction; 0-2

Swindon Town v Norwich City
Great win for Swindon at Southampton after a jittery few weeks. This would be a great scalp but Norwich are playing relaxed football and have the fire-power in Holt and Martin to get the goals to keep on winning.
Prediction; 2-3

Walsall v Colchester United
Colchester play their game-in-hand on us on Tuesday evening at home to Brentford. I expect them to win that but they might find this a much tougher prospect. After losing at Carlisle on Saturday, my money's on Troy Deeney downing them here.
Prediction; 2-1

Wycombe Wanderers v Exeter City
The Grecians beat Bristol Rovers with a last-ditch goal on Wednesday and that should put them in a relaxed mood for a trip to relegation-haunted Wycombe who haven't won since beating Millwall five matches ago. A draw might be the best either side can hope for.
Prediction; 0-0

Yeovil v Brentford
Defeat at Norwich apart, Yeovil have been scoring and winning of late. Should have more than enough to see off the Bees.
Prediction; 3-0

Leeds United v Millwall
Monday's hooligan grudge match. The four coachloads of Millwall's finest will be escorted up the M1 to collect their match tickets at a secret venue before being shepherded into the cauldron at Elland Road. Millwall have a good recent record against Leeds and they will be up for this. A no-lose for Charlton fans, so it will probably finish a draw.
Prediction; 1-1

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Gillingham 5-1

That's 5 to 1 to win at fortress Valley on Saturday (Paddy Power), not some drug-induced prediction of the scoreline. It may be heresy for some of you, but I will be wagering a twenty pound note on the Gills at these huge odds, safe in the knowledge that I will be equally happy to lose my money if the game goes with League placings.

Mark Stimson has publicly admonished Chris Dickson this week for lack of effort and has very cleverly paid a back-handed compliment to second-choice striker Dennis Oli. Oli will partner Simeon Jackson at the Valley on Saturday and I can see them both scoring which would probably be enough to hand the Gills the points.

I'm hoping to have found some deep reserves of optimism before Saturday.

Monday 15 March 2010

Phil Brown makes four

Back in September I was spouting forth about my early season view of the most likely managerial casualties; John Barnes, Paul Sturrock, Paul Hart and Phil Brown. John Barnes was dismissed pretty quickly and Paul Sturrock hung on until New Year. Paul Hart was quick to follow and Phil Brown has finally fallen victim today as Hull City hit the panic button. 

The early comment from Hull's Chairman, Adam Pearson, seemed to indicate that Alan Curbishley might be on their short-list but that quickly turned to a what sounded like an about-turn this afternoon. I'm guessing Curbs was sounded out but wisely saw this as a hiding-to-nothing. Nine games left in which to try and throw a double-six? The likelihood is that he would then be tarnished with taking them down and would have the unenviable task of trying to steady the ship in the midst of the financial maelstrom which will engulf them. All this whilst having to live Oop North. No-brainer really.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Scotland 15 v England 15

An ultimately unsatisfactory draw for both home and adopted countries that ends ones remote hopes of a 6 Nations title and hands the other the Wooden Spoon. Still, it was a cracking day in Edinburgh yesterday, if deceptively cold in the wind, and one spent with friends. The match was a kicking contest and neither side looked remotely capable of scoring of a try. I honestly think we could have played for another 80 minutes without one.

Internet access on your mobile is nigh on impossible at Murrayfield. Once the crowds build around the ground you simply can't get a signal and the mobile networks were so overloaded that I didn't receive any text messages until after the game. That was the game at Murrayfield, not at the New Den.

The news was broken in a short and stabbing way. "Lost 4-0, Dailly scored another o.g" (from an Hammer). The texts then piled in confirming the grim news and giving me a view of another gutless display against them. We got nothing of what I hoped for on Friday. We didn't match up man-to-man. We didn't play with any belief that we were a better side (although I understand we controlled much of the first half without coming close to scoring). And, we certainly didn't put in anything like a performance we could be proud of.

Shame on you Charlton. Three thousand supporters humiliated and you watched it happen. Phil Parkinson has apologised of course, but so what? Words are free. What else could he say? All this after a week of being ready for the fight and all the players knowing exactly what it meant to the fans etc etc. Hard to know where to go next. We are still third and with Leeds losing it still looks possible, although anyone with a modicum of knowledge about the game and about our club will know that the table is deceiving us and as the play-off pack bunch on our shoulders, we look likely to finally be overtaken by all of them. The only saving grace is that the seventh club, Huddersfield, look to be falling away.

No doubt we will hear about the players wanting to respond by beating Gillingham, but they can stuff all the talk this week. We will amble out at the Valley on Saturday in front of an embarrassed and angry home crowd who will be light in numbers and ready to show their disapproval of a squad of over-paid League One footballers who are dreaming of thinking they can play as a side at a higher level. Questions too about the inability to motivate our side must also be asked. Frankly, I can wait.

Friday 12 March 2010

All I want...

- is everyone who plays to match up to their opponent
- is for us to play with the knowledge that we are a better side than them
- is a performance we can be proud of irrespective of the result

If we do that, it should be a close game and we will give ourselves a chance of victory. I can handle a defeat in those circumstances. A win would deal Millwall a huge psychological  blow in terms of their promotion hopes as well as laying down a marker for any play-off encounter.

It would also shut up all the loud-mouth, baseball-cap wearing, Burberry scarf-toting, sovereign-sporting, bowl-walking, mock-cockney, plastic ganster, pie-n-mash eating, brain-doning, knuckle-dragging, time-doing, band-wagon-jumping, council-faced scumbags who align themselves with Millwall Football Club because they think they are something they aren't (apologies to the several thousand true loyal Millwall supporters who have had to suffer in silence over the years).

It could also give an added edge to our next home game against Millwall's Kent cousins.

Wednesday 10 March 2010

League One Weekend Preview, Game 36

Three days and counting down to a Millwall derby that has taken on enormous significance and captured the imagination, perhaps even more than the long-awaited home leg at Valley before Christmas. That was the most exciting and nerve-racking match of the season so far and I hope that this one proves just the same because it will mean we will be battling and competing.

If we can avoid defeat, the table should make encouraging reading on Sunday with only ten games left before the very real prospect of the play-offs. We won't give up on catching Leeds, and they have a stiff task at Southampton, but that would mean winning at the New Den and that looks beyond us at the moment and the Lions are in top form to boot.

Brentford v MK Dons
MK Dons picked up a good win in the week over Swindon and might find this a step too far. The Bees have only lost at home twice all season.
Prediction; 2-1

Brighton & Hove Albion v Swindon Town
Swindon are feeling the pressure and could make it a disastrous week by losing their third successive game in eight days. Brighton look like they are shaping up under Gus Poyet and look like securing League One football at Falmer when they move in 2011. My money's on the Seagulls in spite of their dreadful home record.
Prediction; 2-1

Bristol Rovers v Tranmere Rovers
Home banker for me. Bristol return home from the rousing 4-0 defeat of rivals Swindon and should make short work of a Tranmere side who have been poor on their travels all season.
Prediction; 3-0

Carlisle United v Colchester United
Colchester looked lacklustre at home to Brighton on Monday. They won't like this trip and Carlisle will want to avoid a second successive home defeat.
Prediction; 2-1

Huddersfield Town v Norwich City
A cracker in prospect here. Town know that if they can avoid a defeat here they are likely to go the whole season undefeated at home. Norwich are cantering away at the top and have a 9 point cushion over us in third. They could sit back here and rest on their laurels but they can also play relaxed football and that may be enough to earn them a share of the spoils.
Prediction; 2-2

Leyton Orient v Walsall
Mid-table nothingness here and I'll take the Saddlers to take a point to add to their decent away form.
Prediction; 1-1

Millwall v Charlton Athletic
The Lions will start as warm favourites for this one. We will need solid performances across the pitch and from Nicky Bailey in particular. I don't see us getting more than a couple of goal-scoring chances and we will need to make the most of them. My heart tells me we can get a point which would be a moral victory in maintaining the four point gap but my head says they will be too strong and we will crack.
Prediction; 2-0

Oldham Athletic v Wycombe Wanderers
Basement battle here and Oldham can take a huge step to safety by beating their relegation rivals. Wycombe are seven points off 20th and I think they are going down.
Prediction; 2-0

Southampton v Leeds United
Another tasty fixture and a big crowd should be there to see the Saints test themselves against the automatic promotion favourites. Pardew will be looking for a response after their disappointing defeat at Tranmere on Saturday and Leeds will be hoping to build on the back of their win at Tranmere in the week.
Prediction; 2-0

Southend United v Exeter City
Not one for the faint-hearted this; both sides are in the drop zone and are level on 32 points. The draw's no good to either of them and this could be a kicking contest. Southend were given a final, final 35 day reprieve in the courts today and spirits will not be high in south Essex. I'll take Exeter to snatch the points Addicks-style.
Prediction; 1-2

Stockport County v Gillingham
This is it Gills fans. Your best chance of breaking your away duck all season. Simeon Jackson fired two last week as they beat Huddersfield and I think he could do it again here.
Prediction; 0-2

Yeovil v Hartlepool United
Long slog from Hartlepool for this one. I can't see there being more than 200 travelling for this one and it looks a fruitless trip.
Prediction; 2-0

Tuesday 9 March 2010

All set for Saturday

Millwall continued their steady climb up the League One table with a three-one win at Carlisle this evening and move within four points of the Addicks, both having 11 games left to play. They will be feeling pretty confident about closing the gap on Saturday in front of their biggest home gate for a number of years.

Leeds also won and have extended their lead over the Addicks to five points and are also left with 11 to play. Their 4-1 win at Tranmere sounds like it flattered them as they only managed five efforts on target, but a win's a win and with Snodgrass, Becchio and Beckford all scoring again, perhaps they have woken up and smelt the Championship coffee! Southampton away on Saturday should be a much harder task but they have the points cushion they needed.

The good news was that Swindon lost their second match in four days as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Milton Keynes. That leaves then six points adrift of the Addicks with only one game in hand and that's at Southampton on Tuesday after they play Brighton on the south coast on Saturday.

I think what we learn from all this is that it's all tightening up and that our prospects for finishing up in the play-offs looks stronger than ever.

Charlton expects...

Every League One side to do their duty. Brighton played their part last night by proving their winning performance at the Valley the other week was no flash in the pan. They bettered fourth place Colchester away from home last night but couldn't break the deadlock. Still, it was two points dropped by another of our chasers and Colchester have now lost the ability to leap-frog us. Their game in hand is another home fixture against Brentford in a few weeks but superior goal difference should mean that they can only draw level on points at best assuming they match us in the meantime.

This evening sees our hopes pinned on home performances of Tranmere, MK Dons and Carlisle as they host Leeds, Swindon and Millwall respectively. None are easy games; shaky Leeds will face a test at Tranmere who managed a very creditable win over Southampton on Saturday; Swindon must recover from a four-nil derby tonking at home and try to get a result in another derby-of-sorts at Milton Keynes, with Paul Ince's men playing in the Last Chance Saloon; that leaves League One's form side since Christmas, Millwall, who escaped with a point at Walsall on Saturday courtesy of a last minute goal and they will need another battling display to get anything on the Border. Fingers-crossed for a Millwall sending-off or a couple of key injuries at Carlisle as well as a morale-sapping defeat.

I am feeling more positive about our opponents inability to win at the moment than our chances of playing well. My money would be on two out of three going our way tonight.

I have also delved into the record books again to check on progress against the promotion campaign of 1980-81 and find that we are three points behind after 35 games played. The side of '80-81 collected another 15 points in the run-in winning four, drawing three and losing four. Spookily enough, that looks pretty close to what we might achieve here which might give us a matching third finish which was good enough in those days for automatic promotion. The players really do need to be focused to concentrate and up the ante in every match we play from here on in if we are to have any hope of avoiding the lottery.