Tuesday 31 August 2010

Three in - no complaints

Good to see that we finally managed to strengthen our squad further with the addition of three new faces before the deadline closes. Paul Benson was finally signed in a deal that I suspect Dagenham & Redbridge will be happier with than Richard Murray & Co, on the basis that they held their ground over the price and I suspect we had to yield. Let's just hope that this 30 year old can give us a return that might seem unlikely bearing his age and relative experience.

Jon Fortune has also been signed and again, I suspect the timing of his signature meant we have moved more towards Jon's view of his worth than we wanted to give him. Nonetheless, Fortune is a proven player, certainly at this level, and I suspect Miguel Llera might see even less playing time as a result. Who knows, Forch might even get the testimonial he missed when he left for Stoke a couple of years ago?

The third signing was something of a surprise, in that Joe Anyinsah has joined from Carlisle. Anyinsah is a right winger who is 25 and has made less than 100 full appearances in six seasons at three clubs (Bristol City, Preston and Carlisle), and those include loan spells at Hereford, Bury, Crewe and Brighton. I'm not expecting too much from Anyinsah. My guess is he's been signed as cover for Wagstaff or last 15 minute run-outs when young Scott may be puffing.

The only other news was the unsurprising shock exit from Southampton of Mr Alan Pardew and entourage. Coming on the back of a 4-0 away win at Bristol Rovers, you have to think the decision had already been taken late last week and perhaps the players were aware of it when they travelled to Bristol. The official line from Southampton hints at working disagreements between "the First Team management" and that of the "Development team" and "support areas" of the club. Interestingly, Les Reed, is running the development side of things at Southampton and he remains at the club. The timing may prove to be fortuitous for Southampton as all they appear need is a motivating force to galvanise their expected promotion push. What price Curbs? It might not be a PL job but it's a club he could reasonably expect to get promoted and who could expect to arrive in a strong position in the Championship. With a decent support base and a modern stadium and training facilities, he could save face in lowering his sights and Mrs C wouldn't need to learn a foreign language or be uprooted from her Essex mansion.

I'm home late tonight and can't wait for my next home game on, er, 11th September.

Sunday 29 August 2010

Huddersfield Town 3 v Charlton Athletic 1

Two Sky Sports updates within a couple of late first half minutes ended my interest in our visit to the Galpharm yesterday. Jordan Rhodes is the type of player we are lacking and I fear that will tell come May. The fact that Huddersfield have managed to pair him with Alan Lee confirms why they are warm favourites for promotion this year.

It's a shame we couldn't hang on until the break, but all-in-all, it's no great loss and it's one of the three hardest fixtures of the season out of the way (Southampton and Peterborough away). Huddersfield will have to come to the Valley next year where we will get the opportunity to even things up. Ross Worner appears to have been given part of the blame for the first two goals by Parky, but that sounds harsh from the reports I have read elsewhere - maybe it's the best excuse he had at the moment? I didn't know he was playing until this morning and yet the result was no surprise. We are vulnerable when we have just conceded away from home, so no surprise either that they quickly went two up from a corner at which their man had a free header.

Things should look different this week. I couldn't care less about the JPT but we should expect to see off Dagenham & Redbridge at the Valley. In view of the number of new faces and our relative lack of playing time, I would put out a near full side. I'll miss the game as I am travelling back from Cyprus on Tuesday evening but I expect to hear that we have seen them off.

On Saturday we face Notts County who are still adjusting to League One and it's an ideal time to beat them and score some goals. Er, we have another away game at Exeter on Saturday. I suspect Mr Benson will finally be signed, having tactfully sat out Tuesday's encounter, and will put in an appearance alongside Pawel Abbott on Saturday. He might be 30 and lower league standard but we are very short up front and we will be better with him in the side. Just how much better is the big question and I fear our fortune this season will depend largely upon it.

Thursday 26 August 2010

League One Weekend Preview, Game 4

Soaking up the sunshine here outside Paphos in the Cypriot countryside. Not much to do but take it easy and that involves a healthy football diet on Sky that I don't really get a chance to watch much of at home. It was refreshing to see the monsoon at White Hart Lane last night as Young Boys failed to show and were giving a sound thrashing by Arry's Boys.

I have also just seen that Huddersfield have signed Alan Lee, the lanky journeyman striker, from Crystal Palace. Just in time for a scoring debut against the Addicks on Saturday? Maybe it'll be too soon and his arrival might put a nose or two out of joint? Whatever, here's the games I'll be following in a bar in downtown Paphos on Saturday as we make a day of it.....

Colchester United v Carlisle United
Friday evening's Sky game and this is already a fixture we will have a healthy interest in. The immediate reaction is that it would be good to see Carlisle beaten to help our push for the top of the table but Colchester are also unbeaten on five points, so a draw is probably the result we want. It's a long awkward trip for Carlisle and I suspect Colchester might just have a enough attacking threat to edge this.
Prediction; 2-1

AFC Bournemouth v Notts County
County are finding their feet more slowly that Bournemouth have done since joining the elite of League One. AFCB have lost Brett Pitman but looked none the worse for it putting three past Tranmere away from home. I suspect this will be a much closer affair that recent results from both sides might suggest but I'll still take the Cherries.
Prediction; 1-0

Brentford v Rochdale
Can't see beyond a home win here. Brentford should be too good for a Rochdale side who look set for a struggle.
Prediction; 2-0 

Brighton & Hove Albion v Walsall
Walsall have made a decent enough start to the season with six points from three and this will be a good test of whether or not they might improve on last season. Brighton drew their only home game so far courtesy of a 92nd minute equaliser from Rochdale and I think they will have learnt from that.
Prediction; 2-1

Bristol Rovers v Southampton
Pards won't be looking forward to this after his side were bundled out of the League Cup at St. mary's in the week by Bolton. No shame in that but there's no momentum at Southampton right now and this is a tough fixture in which to aim to break the pattern. Southampton should have the quality to win here but if Rovers can score first, I can see them getting a result.
Prediction; 2-1 

Dagenham & Redbridge v Tranmere Rovers
Bottom play second bottom here but the Daggers have only played twice and both away from home. They will be up for this and Tranmere are ideal opponents.
Prediction; 2-0 

Hartlepool United v Sheffield Wednesday
A bumper attendance in prospect for Hartlepool as Wednesday bring their large Yorkshire following to town. Alan Irvine will be planning a victory but could find this hard work. Hartlepool have a win and a draw on the road but only a draw from their solitary home game. Could be a big day for Pools.
Prediction; 2-1

Huddersfield Town v Charlton Athletic
Ouch! We will be more solid with Dailly and Semedo back in the fold. My heart can see a way to victory with a resolute defence and more fast counter-attacking football. Pawel Abbott is due a goal and I fancy him to score when playing oop north this season. However, my head knows Huddersfield had a very impressive home record last season and they know they need the same against this year if they are to go one better than last year. The signature of Alan Lee could make the difference if he can form a partnership with Jordan Rhodes. A real test for the Addicks this and a draw would be a decent result but I think it may just be beyond us at the moment.
Prediction; 2-0

Leyton Orient v Exeter City
Home win for the O's. After their excellent point at Southampton, surely, they will seize the initiative and go one better here?
Prediction; 2-0 

MK Dons v Swindon Town
Derby of sorts I guess. It's MK's first home match of the season and Swindon have yet to win from three starts. MK good enough for a draw at least here.
Prediction; 1-1

Oldham Athletic v Yeovil Town
Well, this should be the day's banker. Oldham have started very brightly under Paul Dickov and if the pass and press as well as they did at the Valley last week, it should be routine.
Prediction; 3-0 

Plymouth Argyle v Peterborough United
Posh took a five goal trouncing in their only away game so far at Bournemouth. This latest return to the south coast is an early opportunity to make amends and they have the firepower to do it.
Prediction; 1-2

Whatever the weather where you are, enjoy your weekend.

Sunday 22 August 2010

Sunday morning

Horrible grey bastard of a day. We've had a drop of rain overnight in SE7 but nothing to clear the air. Like yesterday, last night was a humid, sticky, airless affair. Still, I'm in a more communicative mood than I was last night when I forced myself to comment on the game.

Seems like everyone appears to have seen pretty much the same game. We didn't play well and struggled against a better passing side in Oldham who were very well organised. I omitted to mention the incident in last few minutes yesterday when Jason Jarrett got himself sent off for a second yellow after a foul on the touchline not far from the Charlton dugout. The foul didn't look too bad from high up in the East but the reaction of the Charlton bench was strong and my immediate thought was that we were trying to get Jarrett sent off. In fairness there was only a minute or so left, but Jarrett clearly felt aggrieved as he hammered the ball at Phil Parkinson after he had been shown the red which lead to a large fracas on the touchline as he went for his bath. Silly boy but I know how he felt.

The 14,842 gate was a little disappointing too. The Latics may only have brought c 300 fans but that would mean that our winning start to the season didn't really attract any more Addicks than the opening day against Bournemouth and possibly a few hundred less. Building that home average is going to take a sustained spell of winning performances and we need to be scoring goals. Interestingly, Palace didn't get the bounce in attendances either in their second home match against Ipswich. There were 15,781 at Selhurst Park (Ipswich would have had a couple of thousand) to see them lose although Edgar Davids was only watching from the stands, so maybe it's too early to judge his impact on attendances. Palace's defeat also blew my coupon as I managed to get the other four results I predicted.

Elsewhere, much fancied Southampton struggled again yesterday and were held at home by the O's and Huddersfield let a two goal lead at Peterborough slip as they crashed 4-2. With Carlisle the unlikely leaders on goal difference from Oldham , us and Sheffield Wednesday, I think our division has some way to go before the table settles down. I don't fancy our chances at Huddersfield next week, even with Semedo and Dailly returning. Their defeat yesterday won't help our chances but we must try and remain positive, so maybe our counter-attacking capabilities will come to the fore and dictate the day.

I'm off to Cyprus tomorrow to spend a week with my old Millwall-loving mate Ray and his wife. Mrs Peeps and the girls are very excited about it. I'm looking forward to a couple of hours a day dog-walking in the Cypriot countryside and slobbing by the pool and beach in between times. Sky Sports will get a bashing and we will watch every live match on TV although that won't mean the Addicks or the Lions.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Charlton Athletic 1 v Oldham Athletic 1

A frustrating and ultimately disappointing match for Addicks fans. Oldham came to do a job like last season and it got them a draw, just like last season. To their credit they were far more positive and might even have snatched a win. Charlton simply didn't do enough to earn the win and it was something of a wake-up call.

Our goal was unexpected when it arrived when Waggy received a ball unmarked at the back of the box and instinctively steered it home. Oldham's wasn't dissimilar as a Doherty header fell to the impressive Furman who took a touch before crashing a shore past Elliott into the roof the Charlton net.

Rob Elliott made a save in each half which kept us in it. The back four generally held firm although both Jackson and Francis made errors as the Latics pushed on. We struggled in midfield all day and Thierry Racon simply didn't do enough. MacCormack was overrun and our wide players played well enough although the supply to Abbott and Martin was poor.

Our attacking play was stunted and with limited ammunition it was no surprise that Pawel Abbott had an indifferent game against his former team-mates. Lee Martin persevered but was short enough on class to open the Latics defence.

We will play better and lose this season so I have no complaints. The honeymoon is over and next week's trip to Huddersfield will be a significant test.

Pulling power

I think I have already commented on how much closer I expect gates to be at the Valley, the New Den and Selhurst Park this season. Both Palace and Millwall will see increases this season; Millwall because they have been promoted and Palace because they have survived Administration and are under new ownership.

Millwall may have only had a 13,292 gate in their first game but that represents a reasonable increase and they can expect to build on that, especially if they continue their impressive start.

Palace meanwhile, pulled in a 17,488 fans for their first home fixture and the arrival of Edgar Davids yesterday should see them match or better that today when they host Ipswich. Davids may be past his best but he will put a couple of thousand on the gate which would probably cover his pay-per-play wages. I can't see him being there beyond this season but it may be a shrewd piece of business in the short-term.

Our own 16,236 starting home gate was decent enough in the circumstances but I think we might just fall shy of that today as we will struggle to attract 1,000 additional fans to make up the drop in visiting numbers. Oldham's turnout is likely to be less than 500.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

League One Weekend Preview, Game 3

Don't know about you, but I can't wait for Saturday. The fact that we can go two points clear at the top should be a massive incentive and would give us an enormous boost for the difficult looking trip to Huddersfield the week after. Oldham may have a new manager and may well be playing with confidence themselves, but this is a game I fully expect us to win with something to spare. Pawel Abbott is due to open his league account and who better than against his former club and the manager who "wasn't bothered" about seeing him move on. If you need any more convincing, the Latics have never won at the Valley and are traditionally poor travellers to the capital. The stage is set then for us to continue our winning start to the season as we seek to emulate last season's opening six victories. Here's what the rest are up to...

Carlisle United v MK Dons
The Borderers have started well with a home win and a draw at Home Park last week was a 1-0 victory until the last kick of the game. I will go for Greg Abbott's boys to maintain the bright start here.
Prediction; 2-0

Charlton Athletic v Oldham Athletic
If we can continue our impressive progress so far, I would expect another solid defensive display, even without Christian Dailly, and a more attacking showing from our midfield and forward line. Abbott for first goal has to be the bet of the day even if you don't get much more than 5-1.
Prediction; 3-0

Exeter City v Bristol Rovers
Another West Country affair for Rovers although they will not have the home advantage that saw them see off Yeovil with a 95th minute goal last week. The Grecians should be up for this and I'll take them to edge it.
Prediction; 2-1

Notts County v Dagenham & Redbridge
After the champagne of last year, County have started with a hangover and are rock bottom after successive 3-0 defeats. The Daggers missed their match last week and will find their second away game just as tricky against former League Two opponents as they did their opener at Sheffield Wednesday. 
Prediction; 1-0

Peterborough United v Huddersfield Town
Could be a decent match this with goals aplenty. Posh got trounced at Bournemouth last week and will want to atone in front of the London Road Road faithful. After hitting three at Notts out on the opening day, the Terriers were held at home by Tranmere, so will be equally determined to get back to scoring ways.
Prediction; 2-2

Rochdale v Colchester United
This two have managed two draws a piece so far. A third wouldn't be out of the question but I think Colchester can nick it.
Prediction; 1-2

Sheffield Wednesday v Brighton & Hove Albion
This will be a real test of both sides early promotion credentials. They sit in fifth and sixth respectively with three points apiece. Wednesday will start warm favourites but I expect Albion to make a game of it.
Prediction; 1-1

Southampton v Leyton Orient
Surely no mistake this time? Saints should skate this. If they don't, we can begin to speculate that Pardew has too many players to manage or that the club's racked with fear and doubt for the immediate future following the untimely death of Herr Liebherr. 
Prediction; 2-0

Swindon Town v Brentford
Neither of these sides have started at all well. Two straight defeats for the Bees and only one goal from their newly strengthened forward line - Nicky Forster anyone? Swindon lost at home to Brighton on the opening day and had to battle back from two down at Hartlepool last week for a point. Charlie Austin at the double.
Prediction; 2-0

Tranmere Rovers v AFC Bournemouth
Tranmere look like they have another year of struggle ahead and may have their hands full against a bouyant Bournemouth who should be good enough for a point.
Prediction; 1-1

Walsall v Plymouth Argyle
I don't rate Walsall but they proved me wrong last week in winning at Brentford and this looks easier by comparison.
Prediction; 2-1

Yeovil Town v Hartlepool United
An opportunity for Yeovil to win at home again and find themselves in the rarefied atmosphere in the top half of the table. Hartlepool's own fans think they are in for a relegation battle and who am I to disagree?
Prediction; 2-0

If you haven't renewed your season ticket and missed the opening game, get yourself down to the Valley on Saturday. I think you will see a decent side in the making and will help make up the gate shortfall in visiting fans between Bournemouth and Oldham. I'll be pleasantly surprised if we can top our opening day gate of 16,236.


Tuesday 17 August 2010

Spurs fall at the feet of Young Boys

Very entertaining first leg of Spurs' Champions League qualifier this evening which they were expected to win in Switzerland. The game finished 3-2 and Harry Redknapp's side lead a charmed life to take two away goals and only a one goal deficit back to White Hart Lane. They were battered from the off and were 3-0 down within half-an-hour.

Bassong pulled one back before the break but Young Boys should have finished the tie off before falling victim to a Spurs break which saw Roman Pavlyuchenko hammer home from 15 yards having burst into the right-hand side of the box. Home advantage should be enough now but Tottenham will need to be careful because their opponents have proved themselves more than capable.

Can't help wondering what Young Boys call their youth teams? Young Boys Youth? Young Young Boys? Youth Boys U14's?

Sunday 15 August 2010

Premier League? It's all over.

The fledging premier League Table makes frightening reading. After only one game, it looks to me like the prizes and the penalties have already been decided. 

Chelsea began with a wholly predictable thumping of newly promoted West Brom and already look like they will waltz to the title again unless Manchester United can stop them. The odds for correct scores at Stamford Bridge when Chelsea play the weaker sides must make interesting reading because I suspect 5-0, 6-0, 7-0 and 8-0 are probably shorter odds than 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 and 4-0.  How depressing is that? Man U go tomorrow at home to Newcastle and 3-0 or 4-0 looks likely to me. Don't be at all surprised if we go into next weekend with Chelsea top from United.

I watched the Liverpool v Arsenal game this afternoon and I am not buying into the hype that Arsenal are ready to challenge for the title. They are a decent top side and will be hard to beat at home, but I don't fancy them when it comes to it against the better sides and for that reason, Arsene, I'm out. They struggled against ten man Liverpool today and only a Spanish goalkeeping error earned them a point they barely deserved. Their own Spanish goalkeeper has been their Achilles' Heel for far too long and a more ruthless manager than Wenger would have dispensed with his services a long time ago. I expect Roy Hodgson to prove his doubters wrong again but that would mean third place.

At the other end of the table, it's all the W's again after only one match. West Ham, Wigan and West Brom are already in the drop zone and their fans had better get used to it. We know the problem of being a yo-yo side but West Brom appear to be desperate to take this to extremes. I assume someone at the Hawthorns is making a tidy profit because the Baggies have been on big money and parachute payments forever and they never seem to push the boat out.

Blackpool may have taken the headlines for their commendable walloping of fellow Lancastrians, Wigan, but that result might not look so outrageous come the end of the season. Wigan have had six seasons in the top flight and they are due to run out of steam. That leaves the hapless Hammers who are still adjusting to the pound-wise double-act who have been upfront enough to tell anyone who wants to listen that they intend to turn a profit whilst running the club they both grew up close to. I'm sorry, but that's mission impossible at West Ham's end of the table and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they are prepared to see their club relegated rather than gamble extravagantly if necessary as seems likely. I have a soft spot for the Hammers and hope they will be good enough to catch Stoke, Bolton, Blackpool or Wolves.

If the league tables after one or two games give us a good indication of the finishing positions in May 2011, I don't suppose too many Addicks fans will be complaining but we would need to acknowledge that Millwall could be making an unlikely double promotion. They have made short work of their first two opponents and face the awkward trip to Elland Road next weekend where their travelling support will again be limited to 1284 and those making the trip will need to have national security clearance and and will be bussed in and out like scab workers entering a South Yorkshire colliery during the Miners Strike.

For us, things couldn't really be better. We go into our second home game of the season knowing that a win over table-toppers Oldham will take us two points clear at the top. The real test comes the week after that when we travel to promotion favourites Huddersfield who don't lose too many at the Galpharm.

Football's back!

Saturday 14 August 2010

Leyton Orient 1 v Charlton Athletic 3

A stormy night in East London on Friday 13th promised bad news for someone and I am delighted to say it proved to be for the locals only. The gloss of the performance for me was taken off by Chris Solly scoring a completely unnecessary third goal which ruined my otherwise perfect scoreline prediction for the two games so far. Over a few more pints in the Rose of Denmark I came to terms with this and instead decided to focus wholly on the positives.

First, after a dozen or so visits to Orient over 30 years, we managed to find a proper pub last night. Not only that, but the Birkbeck Tavern behind Leyton station was half-full of Charlton fans who have clearly been keeping this secret to themselves. A choice of real ale, a well kept garden that would be excellent on a better day and welcoming locals and O's fans.

A balti pie and choice of seats in the decrepid 50 year old East Stand meant we were well settled for the match which was, unusually, a pleasant viewing experience. I normally live on my nerves and fingernails away from home, because we are invariably under the cosh but I didn't really feel that last night. The opening goal kept the 1500 plus Charlton fans in good voice and it was only for a ten minute spell after Christian Dailly was unfortunately dismissed that Leyton Orient really looked like they might get back into the match. The fact that Waggy's winner was against the run of play mattered little because our reshuffled defence was holding firm and the O's were showing signs of desperation. 

Like my fellow SE7 inhabitant, Charlton Casual, we too were back in Charlton by 10.10pm and able to join some of locals and compare match notes with what Sky viewers had seen.

Our back four looked very solid up until Dailly was sent off. I was fuming in the ground as I had assumed the bumbling idiot had shown him a straight red. For a split second I had traced my route down to the front of the stand and the leap I was going to take to enter the field of play. Chris in the Rose of Denmark filled us in on the fact that the ref had flashed the red twice when he meant to show a second yellow then a red. Just as well I sat still in my broken seat.

In any event, Llera came on and seemed intent on atoning for his poor showing at Shrewsbury, heading everything away that came near him. Doherty was solid, although I thought he may have been culpable for their goal by not cutting out the ball to McGleish. Again, the lads in the Rose said that was expecting a bit much from the television view.

The fact that Johnnie Jackson was hardly noticed again is another feather in his cap. Simon Francis is getting fitter and looked close to the mark last night. The pair also give us height across the back four and an imposing physicality I can't remember from a Charlton defence.

McCormack worked his socks off, which was just as well because Thierry Racon didn't do enough for me. He made a couple of key interceptions and tackles but he must do more if he expects to play regularly. Kyel Reid had another decent game but he does fade in the second half and we need to have a plan to better manage this. After a quiet game against Bournemouth, Wagstaff took his chance this evening creating two and scoring an excellent goal himself with his left foot which just nicked him the man of the match award for me.

Upfront, Pawel Abbott showed how it should be done and made Akpo look positively clumsy by comparison. Abbott will be very pleased that he has met Lee Martin. The bloke was everywhere last night and his intelligent movement is creating space and opportunities for those around him. It is extremely encouraging that we have managed this level of attacking football after only two league starts. One of my biggest frustrations in watching Charlton over the last couple of seasons has been our inability to really put sides under prolonged spells of pressure and dominate games to the extent that we are regularly scoring four or five. Watching Martin, Abbott, Reid and Wagstaff, I can see that those days might not be too far away if they can all stay fit. Martin is an exciting player and on the showing so far it's hard to understand why he hasn't made it elsewhere yet. Time will tell.

So today then and I can listen to the games this after and enjoy seeing how the rest fare in their attempts to catch the runway leaders. "Top of the league, top of the league, Charlton!"

Friday 13 August 2010

League One Preview, Game 2

Off to Brisbane Road this evening for our first proper away match of the season. The first-teamers caught up in the disaster at Shrewsbury will be glad to have their first-choice colleagues returning alongside them and we should be confident of making a game of it. The O's bounced back from their defeat at Yeovil on Saturday with a decent 2-1 away win at Swindon although that result may say more about Swindon right now. I don't know what strength of teams each played in that tie, so won't read too much into it.

The nagging doubt I have about this evening are those Sky cameras. Leyton Orient were inspired to a 1-0 at the valley earlier in 2010 with them present and, as we know, our live broadcasting record is appalling. Having said all that, I am not superstitious and I don't believe the cameras directly influence our results. We have fielded dozens of completely different sides live on TV under different managers and we must just view this as an unfortunate coincidence. Time then, to get a result and begin to lay the ghost.

Back at full strength, I will be hoping to see another assured defensive performance. The enforced introduction of Racon to the midfield will give us an eary look at a different central midfield pairing and we will need to see a holding role from McCormack. I expect Martin to start, so suspect he will replace Sodje as Parky looks for more goals from the pairing with Abbott which started so brightly at Shrewsbury. It would be a fantastic start to the weekend to get another win and be sitting pretty at the top with a three point lead before the rest play. Here's who they all face...

Leyton Orient v Charlton Athletic
Like blogger Wynn, I don't know where all the optimism over Leyton Orient's hopes this year has come from. Their squad looks weaker to me and they struggled last year. If we can weather the storm of their first home appearance, I expect us to settle into this game and create the opportunities which could win it. If you are going, take a raincoat.
Prediction; 1-2

AFC Bournemouth v Peterborough United
The Cherries looked less than average to me last week whilst Peterborough came out of the traps like a club confident of regaining their Championship status. Home advantage shouldn't be overlooked here but my money's on Posh continuing their bright start.
Prediction; 1-2

Brentford v Walsall
Both of these team will going looking for the first point and I think Brentford will secure the victory. Forster, MacDonald and Simpson should provide enough firepower for the Bees.
Prediction; 2-0

Brighton & Hove Albion v Rochdale
Brighton get their first opportunity to begin to build the home form that let them down so badly last year, especially during the first half of the season. They have strengthened and will be harder to beat under Gus Poyet this year. Matt Sparrow made an impressive two-goal contribution in last weeks win at Swindon and I think Brighton will make it two out of two.
Prediction; 2-0

Bristol Rovers v Yeovil Town
The Pirates got a drubbing at Peterborough on the opening day but that might say more about the home side than Rovers. This is an all west-country affair and I think Yeovil might be good enough for a point here.
Prediction; 1-1

Colchester United v Sheffield Wednesday
Could be the League One match-of-the-day. Two big, strong sides used to playing in blue and white stripes and imposing themselves on the opposition. Alan Irvine will be confident of avoiding defeat but Colchester have Wordsworth and Mooney scoring the goals for them and that could be the difference.
Prediction; 2-0

Dagenham & Redbridge v Exeter City
Sadly, the game has been postponed in memory of Exeter's Adam Stansfield who died this week of bowel cancer aged 31. 

Hartlepool United v Swindon Town
After a home defeat that will have hurt, Swindon face the long haul to Hartlepool to confront a side with their backs to the wall and amongst the bookies favourites for the drop. It could be a tough game and it could be hard to find a winner.
Prediction; 0-0

Huddersfield Town v Tranmere Rovers
Both of these teams won their opening games, but Huddersfield's away win at 
Notts County outshone Tranmere's 2-1 humbling of Oldham. Hard to see beyond another convincing Town victory with the usual suspects featuring amongst the goals, Jordan Rhodes the favourite.
Prediction; 3-0

MK Dons v Southampton
Unusually, the second game to be postponed following a bereavement. Markus Liebherr's sudden death could have a profound affect on the Saints season.

Oldham Athletic v Notts County
The Latics will be aiming to make it two out two and set Paul Dickov up for a fine start to his managerial career at Boundary Park. I don't know what to expect from Notts County this season following the shenanigans of last year but a struggle shouldn't be a surprise following their promotion from League two.
Prediction; 2-1

Plymouth Argyle v Carlisle United
Carlisle fans wanting to make the journey for this one will be getting ready to leave in the early hours of Saturday morning and an overnight stay looks a near must. I'm guessing there will be the sorts of visiting numbers we took there in 1980 (c 60) when Argyle had half as many herberts in our end at the start of game as we had fans! They left after the initial confrontation didn't quite go to plan, followed by the solitary policeman on duty. Oh how times have changed.
Prediction; 2-0

If you're going this evening get behind the boys like last season. If you're not, remind the neighbours that you're Charlton fans! COYR!

Thursday 12 August 2010

The wind of change over Southampton

Death is always a time to take stock of life. The passing of a loved one or a close friend invariably puts things into perspective, at least for a few days and often for much longer. Sudden and unexpected deaths typically hit us all much harder and that period of reflection and the coming to terms with the passing and the ultimate fragility of life is often more painful and prolonged.

Yesterday we received the very sad news that the man behind Southampton's renaissance, the German businessman, Markus Liebherr had died suddenly aged 62. Irrespective of our views on Alan Pardew and the fact that his association with Southampton has given most Addicks a reason to see them fail, I am sure we have all looked enviously at the way their fortunes have been revived by Mr Liebherr. So much so, that they are the overwhelming bookies favourites for promotion and few would have disagreed with that assessment before last Saturday. The fact that the Saints lost the opening game live on Sky and at home to Plymouth Argyle bust many a football coupon but probably deterred few in their belief that the Saints would go on to skate the league, especially after the example set by the Canaries last season.

The passing of Markus Liebherr potentially changes all that and reminds us very poignantly of our own dependence on Richard Murray. I have no doubt at all that the estate Liebherr leaves behind will be significant and could probably keep Southampton prosperous for some time to come. However the critical issue here will be just what provision Markus Liebherr left in the event of his untimely departure and how his heirs decide to treat his investment in the Saints. However you look at it, this is not good news for Southampton Football Club, especially at this time of the year.

My fellow blogger, Kings Hill Addick, recently raised the "what if" prospect of Richard Murray's sudden death following the worrying news that he had undergone a heart operation. Obviously Richard Murray will know the likely significance of that operation best and it would appear to be relatively minor. He will also have given thought to the "what if" although you have to believe that his personal financial situation may not be strong enough to safeguard the club for any length of time in the event of his sudden death. Indeed, he has never owed us a living and it would be unrealistic to expect him to provide for us beyond his Chairmanship. I guess the only positive to take from our situation, is that Richard has overseen the restructuring of the club, the near-eradication of paper debt and has put us much closer to a break-even financial footing than ever before. We are a more attractive proposition for all that but I don't think the same can be said for Southampton this morning if their bankrolling stops suddenly.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Shrewsbury Town 4 v Charlton Athletic 3

Same old, same old. Not sure how we top this but no doubt we'll get an opportunity in the first round of the F A Cup. No point in saying much more.

Groundhog Day at FA HQ

Sir Geoffrey Fotheringham glanced furtively at his timepiece. It was 11.40am and his committee had been toiling hard for just over two hours. Fothers hadn't eaten since the two Danishes he had polished off with morning coffee at 9am and his stomach was reminding him of the large calorie intake it was used to. Across the table he had noticed old Maurice, the minutes stalwart, struggling to keep his eyes open and knew it was time to call a halt to proceedings before luncheon.

"How much more is there?" he asked aloud, directing the question at no-one in particular of the eight people sitting around the enormous mahogany table they were using (the very same table referred to by those in the know as the "Faria" table). 

 "Just the Semedo appeal Sir Geoffrey and we're finished" answered Harry Spooner, the ambitious graduate who the FA had recruited last year after an exhaustive selection and interviewing process that had gone on for four months.

"Which club?" spat the rotund Chairman.

"Charlton Athletic, Sir Geoffrey" said Harry confidently, ever keen to demonstrate his knowledge of the game. He had carried a growing sense of guilt since starting at the FA that he had never really been "into football" and that he felt something of a fraud. Nevertheless, he had settled in quickly at the FA and was surprised to find that he knew as much about the laws and intricacies of the game as many of his much more established colleagues. Ever keen to further his personal development, young Spooner had set himself a personal goal to be able to correctly name twelve or more Premier League sides (as picked at random by his fiance Josephine) before Christmas. He had also been making a conscious effort to read the sports section of his daily broadsheet, scouring it for any reference to the national game.

Sir Geoffrey let out a small groan, but realising that the reward of a lavish meal at the RAC club was at hand, he moved quickly to finish the days' business. "Oh dear. Not them again. You'd have thought by now that they would have got the message. Still, I suppose we should follow procedure." He held out his small, puffy, childlike hand and beckoned at Miss Hardicock for a copy of the appeal. Miss Hardicock took the opportunity to make eye contact and gave a him a knowing look that said "behave Geoffrey." 

Gary McDonald, the only former player on the Appeals Panel (his claim to fame was a single F A Cup appearance for Workington AFC at Anfield in 1952 in front of 52,581 spectators), moved slowly towards the DVD player but was stopped in his tracks. "No need for that" hissed Sir Geoffrey "I think we know what's happening here. The only question in my mind is whether or not to increase the ban from three matches?"

There was an uncomfortable silence before Harry Spooner spoke. "Sir Geoffrey, I read on Sunday that the Brighton player Semedo was dismissed for tackling has gone on record to say he didn't think the incident warranted a red card." There was a further uncomfortable silence as Sir Geoffrey looked around the room from man-to-man, daring anyone to speak further. 

"I think as a Committee we need to show leniency on occasion and I am minded to do just that taking into consideration what Mr Spooner has had to say for the defence." With that he scrunched the appeal between his hands and quickly turned it, so very appropriately, into a ball. He then threw it ceremoniously towards the corner of the room where his wastepaper basket was always carefully positioned to aid his throw.

It was time for lunch.

(With apologies to Commeth the Haddock! - http://comeththehour.wordpress.com/)

Oh for an opt out!

This evening, Phil Parkinson is forced to drag a coach-load of players across England to the market-town of Shrewsbury to play the first qualifying round of the old League Cup. In all of my years of following the Addicks, I have always wanted us to field our strongest side in every cup competition. Our relative lack of cup success in my lifetime has left me with the feeling that we are somehow less equal than most, if not all of the other clubs, certainly of those we have competed against.

If you think just of the London clubs, with the exception of Brentford, I believe all of the others have at least made a semi-final and purely in South London terms, Millwall, Palace and even old Wimbledon have gone one better. North of the river, I think all of them have won a cup barring the O's and I believe they have managed a semi. We have truly under-performed in the cup and our League Cup showing is much worse than what we have managed in the F A Cup.

Now that we are established in League One, we also face the ignomy of the having to compete from the first round which makes the prospective job of reaching a semi-final that bit more impossible. Having played on Saturday and with another important league fixture on Friday night, we need this trip like we need Iain Dowie back at the club..

Looking desperately for some positives, it is an opportunity for Parky to include some of the fringe players and use the fixture to absorb a game of the three match ban that Jose Semedo faces (unless revoked on appeal), but you can't help thinking it's all a bit of a waste of time and money. The fact that a miserly 188 tickets had been bought by Charlton fans tells you all you need to know about how unattractive this fixture is. I suspect at least half of those going are probably first-time visitors to Shrewsbury or are going because they want to add the Greenhous Meadow to their list of grounds visited. 

Using the logic that home gates less than we might attract for a Premier League friendly cost us money, we should be grateful we have been drawn away again! 

Perhaps in a couple of season time, if we are still in this division, I might revise my opinion and see it as the best chance we have in cup competitions of a bigger-club scalp by beating one of their lesser formations. In the meantime,  I believe we should be given an opt out so we can avoid the need to field a weakened side and hope to slip out of the competition by the odd-goal to save face.

Monday 9 August 2010

Pressure mounts on Capello

Interesting sequence of events emerging ahead of England's ridiculous friendly with Hungary this week. It's a fixture no-one other than Fifa and probably the FA wanted and a couple of players have already taken the opportunity to duck out and to disassociate themselves with Fabio Capello's reign as manager. 

Yesterday Paul Robinson withdrew from the squad announcing his retirement from international football and this morning Wes Brown has done the same. Incoming managers are usually quick to have a look at out-of-favour players or those with the ability who haven't been playing for whatever reason. I suspect that's just where Robinson and Brown have placed themselves and I wouldn't be surprised if they are the only ones who have been giving this sort of decision careful attention.

The game itself is hardly an attractive fixture and those who are brave enough to put on the shirt risk some vitriolic abuse from disappointed England fans who expected so much more than they were given in South Africa. Wayne Rooney was roundly booed at Wembley yesterday every time he touched the ball and this was far more than than would normally be the case in a Chelsea v Man U match.

I expect the FA to look very closely at the gate on Wednesday and the reaction of those present as well as the performance and the result. If that isn't overly positive, I suspect the back-turning of Robinson and Brown may take on greater significance and Mr Capello's continuing employment may be deemed unsustainable.

Sunday 8 August 2010

Charlton Athletic 1 v AFC Bournemouth 0

We're off and we got the win we so desperately craved and can look forward to Friday evening's match at Leyton Orient. It was a controlled performance against an unambitious Bournemouth side who didn't look like they had any players who will make a difference for them in League One this season. They battled hard and kept their concentration and restricted us to a solitary goal but I suspect we would have scored three or four if we had managed the second goal that our first-half play deserved. 

The most encouraging thing about the performance was how solid our back four looked and the fact that our midfield had the freedom of the park. Dailly and Doherty were imperious in the middle and Jackson was untroubled at left-back. Chris Solly saw most of the action as Bournemouth probed Charlton's right flank and whilst he had to work overtime during the first sixty minutes, he really came into his own before moving up the field to allow Simon Francis to make his debut as a late substitute.

In the middle their was no start for Thierry Racon with Semedo and McCormack preferred in a 4-4-2, and Wagstaff and Reid on the flanks. McCormack saw plenty of the ball and his distribution was pretty good. He twice made runs and played balls out to Kyel Reid in the opening period that saw the speedy winger fly down the line before cutting in and pulling two low balls back fast across the box to the onrushing melee of players. Akpo Sodje got a touch to both; the first rocketed off the top of the bar with the goal gaping but he adjusted his touch for the second opportunity on 22 minutes and rammed home the winner. Man-of-the-match, Kyel Reid, also drew a save from the Bournemouth keeper from a free-kick but that was really all we managed in terms of goal-scoring chances. 

Pawell Abbott had a useful debut and I was impressed with his generous support for Akpo as well as as the players around him and he was professional in leaving the field after 60 minutes as the make-weight in a tactical reshuffle following Semedo's sending-off. 

That brings me nicely on to Grant Hegley, the referee, who had an absolute 'mare. He looked like a chronic homer in the first-half giving us a succession of decisions that were either 50-50 or clearly Bournemouth balls. None were critical to the outcome of the match but you had the feeling he might even things up in the second half and that's just what happened. He continued to make poor decisions and it hurt us when he dismissed Jose Semedo following a hard, low 50-50 tackle with Symes that left his opponent writhing on the ground and drew in all those players to hand. Hegley was quick to flash a straight red and I am guessing he saw raised studs, although I had a good view and honestly thought a yellow would have been sufficient. 

That largely ended our search for goal number two and we inevitably sat back and defended for much of the rest of the game. Bournemouth came on to us but didn't really look capable of scoring even though we all feared they might get the undeserved equaliser. Lee Martin came on for a disappointing Scott Wagstaff before the end and finished playing the lone striker after Akpo left the field. He doesn't look like a goal-scoring but his touch and awareness were very encouraging. As it was we played out the five minutes of added time largely in their half and can now look forward to building on this decent opening showing.

I called the result correctly before the game and was also sitting comfortably with my guess that the attendance would be c 13,000. My mate surmised that the South, West and North looked "barely half-full" and that the gate was maybe 12-13,000. I had to agree, so it was a surprise when it was given at 16,236. Oldham won't bring nearly as many as the 1500 Cherries who made the trip but I reckon Notts County and Dagenham & Redbridge will, so we should look forward to establishing a c 16,000 average if ewe can continue to get results, which would be no mean feat given our reduced season ticket base.

Elsewhere the biggest surprise was Plymouth's lunchtime win at St Mary's which put a smile on everyone's face as a pig-sick Pardew strutted and puffed the touchline. Brighton also got a good win at Swindon and, ominously, Huddersfield Town scored three at Notts County to top the fledgling table.

If I can still get tickets for Orient in Friday, I have decided to go and see us go three points clear at the top. Football's back, dont you love it!

Saturday 7 August 2010

Last minute signings strengthen the squad...

In a move that shouldn't have been a surprise and yet comes as one, Phil Parkinson has added two more to the squad with Mapidima "Bally" Smart and Lee Martin joining on a non-contract basis and season long loan respectively. Both join after Matt Fry was re-loaned from West Ham.

It would be interesting to understand how we can appear to sign a player like Smart off-the-cuff and yet take someone like Guillem Bauza on trial for several months before declining him a contract? I suppose the obvious answer is that we can dispense with Smart at short notice and maybe Bauza wouldn't have been willing to sign without some longevity. Smart is a midfielder and I am guessing he will not feature much this season if the incumbents do what's expected of them. Lee Martin is described as an "attacker" who can play as a striker or as a winger, but he's being released by Ipswich who appear to be a club in decline right now, so I find myself immediately questioning what we're getting here. A quick look on Wikipedia tells you that Martin has never established himself at any club and would appear to be a professional loan player.  Six goals from 80-odd appearances over five years also breaches the Trades Description Act for "striker," so I am expecting a few wing cameos for Waggy (right-footer?) when he tires.

Neither go anywhere close to the "special" signing that has been mooted, but perhaps the new faces will add to the new team spirit and provide a bit more competition. If this is the end of the acquisitions (Benson apart maybe), we are still short up front and will struggle to match last years goal ratio, which was itself too low to get us promoted. Perhaps we will be harder to score against this year? Sounds and feels like clutching at straws, but let's see how we go.

Bournemouth look like they have an injury crisis ahead of the game, which bodes well and they have sold "around a thousand" tickets with more expected to pay on the day. The consensus of my fellow Charlton Lifers is that the gate will exceed 15,000. Not sure where that logic comes from? With c 9,000 season tickets, 1500 visitors (generous) and two-three thousand matchday tickets, I can't see us breaching 14,000 and probably closer to 13,000.

Whatever the gate, I'll be there. Come on you Reds!

Friday 6 August 2010

League One Preview, Game 1

Well, it's that time again. The new season kicks off tomorrow and I will wake up feeling like a 14 year-old again, full of optimism and earnest hope for the day and the season ahead. I will hit the pub early and stay out for a few hours afterwards until I am tired enough to go straight to my bed , hopefully to drift off replaying the goals that put us at the top of the opening table on goal difference.

It's a big day for the Football League as well as for League One and here's who else is playing whom in our division.

Southampton v Plymouth Argyle
Cracking opening day fixture this as Plymouth get a south-coast derby. I suspect this may be a rude awakening for Argyle and a tough welcome to League One.
Prediction; 3-0

Carlisle United v Brentford
A trip to Brunton Park on the opening day? No thanks. The Bees have been busy in the close season and will be in positive mood but this represents a real test of the early-season credentials. On last season's form alone I would be tempted by the home win.
Prediction; 2-1

Charlton Athletic v AFC Bournemouth
Oi-Oi! I am immediately drawn to either a 1-0 home win or a hard-fought draw. Bournemouth should bring a sizeable following for what is arguably one of their most attractive fixtures of the season and I expect their players to dig in and battle hard. We will need to play to our potential to win this and will need a hero to emerge from the pack and score the goals to do. Hard to see anyone else other than Pawel Abbott doing the damage. I am going to stick my neck out and claim the points. I am praying we aren't bemoaning our failure to capture additional strikers come 5pm tomorrow.
Prediction; 1-0

Exeter City v Colchester United
Not the most glamourous fixture of the day. David Mooney will be out to remind us of what we've missed but Colchester may not be force they were early on last year and Exeter may have enough to win here.
Prediction; 2-1

Notts County v Huddersfield Town
Big day for Notts County and this could be the Match of the Day. I'm taking Hudders to make a bright opening and signal some intent for the rest of the season.
Prediction; 2-3

Peterborough United v Bristol Rovers
Posh have fallen through the trap-door and have been busy rebuilding but might find this harder going than anticipated as an experienced Rovers. 
Prediction; 1-1

Rochdale v Hartlepool United
Dale fans will relish this fixture outside League Two and will be up for it in  spite of having their pockets picked in close season. Hartlepool were slow starters last year and I find myself opting for another home win.
Prediction; 2-1

Sheffield Wednesday v Dagenham & Redbridge
The fixture computer has thrown up a tie here to match our own against Bournemouth. Paul Benson looks likely to start and it's a hiding-to-nothing match for Wednesday. I can see Dagenham making a bright start but slowing succumbing as Irvine's troops get down to business.
Prediction; 2-1

Swindon Town v Brighton & Hove Albion
Intriguing match-up this, with a slightly depleted Swindon facing a beefed-up Brighton. Town were hard to beat at the County Ground last year but I suspect they may have to battle to take a point here.
Prediction; 1-1

Tranmere Rovers v Oldham Athletic
Not one to get the heart racing. Both of these sides can consider themselves fortunate to still be in League One. Paul Dickov's view that he was happy to see Pawel Abbott move on because of the embarrassment of striking riches at his disposal had a hollow ring to it and he might start regretting that comment as early as tomorrow.
Prediction; 2-0

Walsall v MK Dons
A derby of sorts and one I find hard to call. MK Dons ran out-of-steam last year and Paul Ince must surely be on borrowed time. Walsall managed a respectable tenth but operate on the margins and will need to be running at full steam to match that again.
Prediction; 1-1

Yeovil Town v Leyton Orient
A trip as daunting as Brentford's to Carlisle. At least O's fans will only have six days after this before they get to see their side in action against the mighty Addicks. Another hard one to call, so I'll go home for safety.
Prediction; 2-0


Wherever you are tomorrow, I hope you enjoy your game as much as I do.

C'mon you Reds!