Thursday 30 September 2010

League One Weekend Preview, Game 10

Well here it is, game number 10. They say the table after ten games gives the first real indication of how things might pan out come the end of the season. So Saturday's results could bring us some more welcome cheer as I think more will go for us than against us. The big question is, can we capitalise on Tuesday's home win?

Brentford v Charlton Athletic
We won't get a better opportunity to win at Brentford. They have just gone bottom of the table and their manager is under enormous pressure. There's been very little in most of their games which suggests they might be a better side than their current predicament would suggest. In the circumstances I will opt for the draw.
Prediction; 1-1

Carlisle United v Peterborough United
Posh lost their unbeaten home record in the week as Carlisle demolished Hartlepool. All leads to a Carlisle home win as they cement their surprisingly good start to the season.
Prediction; 2-0

Dagenham & Redbridge v Swindon Town
Both these sides upset the form book in the week; the Daggers earned a 2-2 draw at Colchester and Swindon lost 2-3 at home to Plymouth who managed a 96th minute winner. Town should be too good here.
Prediction; 1-2

Exeter City v Rochdale
Like Carlisle, Dale have had a fine start to the season and their 3-0 win over Huddersfield on Tuesday was their best result so far. I have to think it won't last and fortress St. James should prove too hard a test?
Prediction; 2-1

Huddersfield Town v Bristol Rovers
Town to bounce back here and put the Pirates to the sword.
Prediction; 2-0

MK Dons v Colchester United
Unbeaten away plays unbeaten at home. MK looked very ordinary on Tuesday and purely on that basis I think Colchester will be good enough for a point.
Prediction; 1-1

Notts County v Sheffield Wednesday
County had a great win at Peterborough in the week and will relish the opportunity to heap more misery on Wednesday who have only managed a point from the last 15.
Prediction; 2-0

Oldham Athletic v Leyton Orient
The O's are like Birmingham fans; they don't travel well. Oldham looks like a routine away defeat.
Prediction; 2-1

Plymouth Argyle v Hartlepool United
After Plymouth's surprise win at Swindon and Hartlepool's demoralising home defeat in the week, this should be a Home Park banker.
Prediction; 1-0

Southampton v AFC Bournemouth
Bournemouth should win this on form but I can't bet against Southampton at home. Amazingly, it would be their first home win of the season in five attempts.
Prediction; 2-0

Tranmere Rovers v Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton are expressing themselves very well at the moment and their visit to the Valley in two weeks time promises to evoke memories of our fantastic early season 4-3 win over them 33 years ago. A point here would be a decent result for both teams.
Prediction; 1-1

Walsall v Yeovil Town
22nd play 21st in this glum-fest. The Saddlers will be targeting this as a rare three-pointer. A goal wins it.
Prediction; 1-0

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Have we turned a corner?

At the risk of sounding like I suffer from huge mood swings (I am a Charlton fan after all), I am wondering this morning whether last nights late winning performance might represent a turning point in our season if not our fortunes? A draw that looked likely for most of the game would have seen us drop to 13th in the table and may have made Brentford look very awkward on Saturday with the long trip to Plymouth to follow.

As it is, the winner cemented a solid enough defensive display and Jonathan Fortune's return to centre-half ably demonstrated some of the depth in our squad. The points push us to seventh and as we go to Brentford, their fans and players will be conscious that they hit rock bottom after their latest defeat at Brighton. Andy Scott is under enormous pressure and this could be the ideal time to play them.

The fixtures this weekend look like they could be very good to us. However unlikely, there is every chance that none of the sides above us could win. The unbeaten and improving Colchester go to MK Dons this weekend having drawn 2-2 at home to  the Daggers (makes Saturday look more respectable). MK looked very poor last night but they are a very different proposition at home where they have won three and drawn one from four. 

Above them, Peterborough travel to third -place Carlisle where we would hope for a draw, although Carlisle's 4-0 demolition of Hartlepool on the east coast last night looks ominous.

That leaves Rochdale in fourth and the one-two of Bournemouth and Brighton. All three of these go away on Saturday; Rochdale face an improving Exeter City, Bournemouth go to south coast rivals Southampton and Brighton make the long trip north to Birkenhead. 

All we can do is get the three points in west London. It won't be easy, as it proved last season, but confidence there will be low and, as I commented last night, I think our players might be able to play with a little more confidence and slightly less pressure. Brentford don't concede many, despite being bottom of the table and we haven't exactly been prolific so far. It looks like it may be another slog and one goal could be enough to propel us into the rarefied atmosphere of the top three. That really could be the start of a virtuous circle.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Charlton Athletic 1 v MK Dons 0

I am obviously very pleased that Parky's picks proved me wrong today and managed to break the deadlock. Not only that, but it was Paul Benson who netted the winner to finally break his duck, although it must be said, it was all he did. It wasn't a great game and MK Dons made very unambitious and, frankly, disappointing opponents. In the circumstances, we remain a work in progress at best.

There will, no doubt, be a hoo-ha about the referee (Waugh) but I have to say that some of our fans got the performance from him they deserved. He was being cat-called and challenged on nearly every decision from the off when, in my opinion, he was largely getting things right. Our players play for every decision and it's a bit pathetic when the more fickle amongst us scream in derision about every decision almost as a matter of course. Almost inevitably it lead to a series of poor second-half decisions that went against us.

Despite all of the injury concerns, we only started with two changes; Jonathan Fortune was back for Llera and Matt Fry came in at right back to allow Johnnie Jackson to move up and play wide left, enabling Lee Martin to start upfront with Paul Benson. We started well and looked comfortable enough in the first-half but didn't put MK under anything like enough pressure. The count was a thumping long-range save from Semedo, a free kick which cannoned off the wall, three crosses and a corner or two. MK managed nothing that I can remember. 

Semedo and Racon had their most controlled game while a long time in the middle and most of our efforts came down the right side. In fact, I didn't notice Scott Wagstaff was even on the pitch until 30 minutes in. He did very little and only had a couple of second-half runs before rightly making way for Pawel Abbott. 

Things improved slowly in the second-half , especially after Abbott came on in the 70th minute and Reid joined for Jackson five minutes later. All of a sudden we were more balanced upfront and Reid looked to be waiting for his opportunity. There was a lot more urgency and as we upped the tempo, MK began to make mistakes as they hurried to match us. Finally Reid got a ball and made a strong run which lifted the crowd who had been very good throughout and you got the feeling we might just break the deadlock. Sure enough, Reidy's next run was a classic as he ran right around MK's right full-back and drove a ball into the near post which Benson got to first and volleyed low past the helpless Martin in the MK goal from six yards out.  The relief was palpable and you could sense the collective determination of our players not to concede after that in the five minutes that remained of full-time and the three of added time. 

Three 1-0 wins at home and a couple of draws is hardly inspiring but it is keeping us in the top-half of the table and we have climbed to seventh ahead of the derby at Brentford. I am looking forward to it much more than before kick-off this season and believe we might just play with a bit more freedom and confidence than in recent weeks.

Monday 27 September 2010

League One Midweek Preview, Game 9

After the latest Valley disappointment, we're back on the horse again tomorrow night. There will be less than the 14,800 who braved it on Saturday and I fear we might be grateful for that because it's threatening to be a long night. We have a spate of new injury worries which look certain to force a number of changes and I think Dagenham & Redbridge's sickening late equaliser might take a few games to get out of our system. 

On the positive front, MK have been beaten already three times on their travels but I just can't see us winning tomorrow. Scoring has been a problem all season and I think it's becoming an issue for the forwards. At least Parky has a ready-made excuse if we don't collect three points. 

It's a full programme in League One....

AFC Bournemouth v Exeter City
Like a number of sides, Bournemouth have the chance to make it six points in four days and consolidate their early season challenge. I'll take them to do so here.
Prediction; 2-0

Brighton & Hove Albion v Brentford
Brighton can make it six out of six and they too shouldn't find Brentford too hard in current form.
Prediction; 2-0

Bristol Rovers v Tranmere Rovers
Tranmere are bottom and likely to stay there. Bristol Rovers are another side that can win consecutive home matches.
Prediction; 2-0

Charlton Athletic v MK Dons
I am trying to remain positive but it's hard right now. The Valley could be an eerie place tomorrow night and the boo-boys could be encouraged to start if things don't go our way. We need a hero right now but I can't see one. Another draw would be a poor result.
Prediction; 0-0

Colchester United v Dagenham & Redbridge
Colchester will probably show us how it should be done. David Mooney could also apply salt to wounds by showing us what we're missing. Another side looking for six from six.
Prediction; 3-0

Hartlepool United v Carlisle United
Hartlepool are another six pointer but they will find Carlisle a harder nut to crack than Walsall. Carlisle went down at Bournemouth at the weekend but might be good enough for a share here.
Prediction; 1-1

Leyton Orient v Walsall
The O's started early at the weekend but their win over Brentford at Brisbane Road gives them a shot at two consecutive wins and it doesn't get better than Walsall at home on a night game.
Prediction; 1-0

Peterborough United v Notts County
Posh can make it eight sides who win the second successive home game, but I will stick my neck out and go for County to get a point here.
Prediction; 1-1

Rochdale v Huddersfield Town
Straightforward away win here as Huddersfield bid to make up the ground they lost in the last minute at Swindon. 
Prediction; 0-2

Sheffield Wednesday v Oldham Athletic
Wednesday's early season surge is looking like a flash in the pan. Their defeat at home to Southampton on Saturday wasn't a complete surprise and Oldham will be out to bounce back from defeat at Brighton. Wednesday might have to settle for their first home draw of the season.
Prediction; 1-1

Swindon Town v Plymouth Argyle
Wednesday may have slid down the table but Swindon are on an equivalent rise and they are playing very well right now. Can't see Plymouth holding them up even if they did manage a point at Rochdale.
Prediction; 2-0

Yeovil Town v Southampton
Tough place to go on a Tuesday night but having only managed to win away so far this season, I can see Southampton doing it again here.
Prediction; 0-1

I'll be at Brentford this weekend because I bought the tickets before the game on Saturday. It might be the last time I see us away from home until 2011.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Player ratings

I had to skimp on the post last night, so want to elaborate on the performances yesterday. As I suspected, Parky stayed faithful to the side that got the point at Prenton Park.

My second-half man-of-the-match was undoubtedly Ross Worner. He pulled off three saves he had no right to and kept us in it. It was the first time I had seen him and was surprised at his lack of height. A mate of mine will be screaming "Shay Given" at this, but he simply looks too small to me to seriously cut it. For all his athletics, he was vulnerable at corners and crosses. The giveaway is the fact that he gels his hair up to appear bigger. I wouldn't be surprised if he wears lifts in his boots either.

The back-four of Jackson, Llera, Doherty and Francis were untroubled in the first-half but Llera was caught out yet again in the second. He has no burst of pace and from a standing start will be left trailing by anyone under 40. Worner saved him the first time and I would have put Fry on then.

In the middle it was Semedo and Racon again but Dagenham were so unadventurous during the initial forty-five that Semedo-alone was enough. The fact that Racon didn't impose himself on the game at this time was disappointing. Wagstaff had a quieter game than we have been used to from Kyel Reid at home but maybe that was because Lee Martin saw so much of the ball. Martin's early shot which smacked the bar gave plenty of encouragement but for all his running there was no effective link play with the front pairing.

Benson, it must be said, had another indifferent game. I can recall just one second-half shot at Roberts.  Anyinsah was my first-half man-of-the-match. He held the ball up well, ran intelligently and generally looked the part. Akpo was full of running and purpose when he came on after the break but there was no end product and desperation set in.

Kyel Reid got on for Wagstaff and he upped the ante for twenty minutes before limping off for Matt Fry. Hardly an attacking switch but we did manage to get our heads in front when Jackson ran into the box and got on the end of Racon's cross to steer his header home off the outstretched hand of Roberts. Less than 90 seconds to survive but we buckled. MK Dons will look like Barcelona on this form. All doom-mongerers say "aye."

Saturday 25 September 2010

Charlton Athletic 2 v Dagenham & Redbridge 2

Today's game marked the 25th anniversary of the last match at the Valley in 1985. It was poignant for many reasons. The souvenir programme I bought at 11am sported a cover of a dozen or so Charlton fans laying a wreath on the centre circle at the last game against Stoke City. There was Steve Martin, Kevin Hopkins, Ted Land, Graham Sharkey, Matt Finnegan, Someone Whose name I should know, Tony Hopkins, Clive Scales, Duncan Frame and Mark Aaaargggh. I was twenty yards behind - story of my life.

It set me up for a big day. A Charlton win against a side who didn't exist 25 years ago was surely inevitable. If I looked ahead, then Tuesday's home match is also against a side who also didn't exist 25 years ago. Who could possibly have guessed that in 1985? If we had known that then, we would have assumed the worst, that we had dropped out of the football league.

As it was, we came out of the traps like the club we are and pressurised D & R from the off. Four decent scoring chances returned only one goal but we were coasting and it was only a matter of time.

A matter of time, of course, before fate intervened and Dagenham & Co were level. Referee Moss somehow saw fit to award them a penalty on the stroke of half-time, I think because Racon jumped for a ball with one of theirs. Ross Worner did his best but you can't expect to save penalties. One-one at half-time then, but D & R were poor and I was very confident we would sort it out second-half.

Unfortunately, Dagenham came out the more fired-up and they took the game to us. Akpo Sodje had been brought on for the, presumably, injured Joe Anyinsah who had enjoyed a lively first forty-five. However, it was the Daggers who pressed first and it took a fine save from Worner to keep us level. We huffed and puffed second-half but there was a desperation about us and Martin began to tire which didn't help. The visitors got a guilt-edged chance for a second but Worner again denied them.

With all eyes on the clock, we finally scored a second after Johnnie Jackson latched on to a left wing cross and headed powerfully home past 41-year old Tony Roberts. At last all was well with the world and we had the familiar feeling of robbery at the Valley. This time, however, it wasn't to last and the Daggers earned a valuable point with a last gasp equaliser from a far post header. It was no less than they deserved.

If, like me, you saw this and Tuesday's games as indicators of our end-of-season chances, then you can't help but feel disappointed this evening. It's going to be a slog and we need to lower our sights.

Thursday 23 September 2010

The Coupon 3

A miserly three from eight last week but I was encouraged that the other five were draws which might easily have tipped my way. Close but no cigar, as an old boss of mine used to say. I'm back again and more upbeat about my selections this week. There are a number of other home wins I could have selected with more confidence but this bet already limits the return, so Arsenal at 1/6 are an offer I can decline.

A few people have asked how to put this bet on, so there's a snap here...

My selections for Saturday are as follows...

1. Peterborough v MK Dons (8/11 home win)
2. Birmingham v Wigan (4/5 home win)
3. Bournemouth v Carlisle (6/5 home win)
4. Watford v Middlesbrough (7/5 home win)

5. Colchester v Tranmere (7/10 home win)
6. Coventry v Preston (Evs home win)
7. Rochdale v Plymouth (13/10 home win)
8. Fulham v Everton (6/4 home win)
11 bets @ £3 each = £33

8 Trebles

1, 2, 3 = £20.51
1, 2, 4 = £22.36
1, 3, 4 = £27.34
2, 3, 4 = £28.51
5, 6, 7 = £21.21

5, 6, 8 = £23.05
5, 7, 8 = £26.50
6, 7, 8 = £34.50

2 Quadruples

1, 2, 3, 4 = £49.22
5, 6, 7, 8 = £53.02

All 8 = £962.22

TOTAL clean sweep = £1269.43


Wednesday 22 September 2010

League One Weekend Preview, Game 8

Two games at the Valley in four days should help confirm whether or not we have or haven't officially made a good start to the season. Fans appear split down the middle between the optimists and pessimists with the results and our table standing at odds with the standard of football we've been served.

So bring on Dagenham & Redbridge, 23rd in the table with only one win from seven so far. We've already seen them off at the Valley in the JPT, so expectations will be high for a straightforward home win. I missed the JPT game, so will interested to see a side who appear to be close favourites for a return to League Two. Paul Benson should get a chance to do what he failed in his opening game against his former club and he is overdue a goal having none from four so far.

I suspect Parky will largely stick with the side he put out at Tranmere or else he risks being accused once again of not knowing his best eleven. So expect to see Benson and Anyinsah paired upfront. If there is going to be a change, he might fancy Kyel Reid at the Valley again in place of Wagstaff or Martin.

The Law of Averages would suggest we are due a bit of a performance and Dagenham might cave in if we can take an early lead. Elsewhere, here's who's got whom...

Leyton Orient v Brentford
A Friday night east v west London derby here. I'm surprised to find the O's bottom of the table. I know they have not been doing particularly well but thought they were better than that. Brentford haven't been doing much better and both have managed only one win so far. It might be hard to separate them here although the Bees could be tired after their Carling Cup heroics over Everton's B team.
Prediction; 1-1

AFC Bournemouth v Carlisle United
Who would have had this down as a top-of-the-table clash pre-season (ok, 4th v 8th)? Carlisle are unbeaten away and Bournemouth unbeaten at home. The Cherries have hit eleven goals in only three home league games and I think that sort of form could prove the difference come Saturday.
Prediction; 2-1

Brighton & Hove Albion v Oldham Athletic
The Seagulls had a very good win at Plymouth on Tuesday and it's lifted them joint top with Huddersfield. With Brentford to come at the Withdean they have a great chance to go clear at the top and cement their early season challenge. Oldham could prove hard to beat but Brighton have every incentive.
Prediction; 1-0

Bristol Rovers v Notts County
Notts County looked good at the Valley two weeks ago but they still managed to lose. I suspect we made them look a bit better than they perhaps they are and Bristol Rovers might not be in such a charitable mood. They won well at Dagenham & Redbridge last week and will be up for this.
Prediction; 2-0

Charlton Athletic v Dagenham & Redbridge
I'm going to err on the side of positivity this week and try to ignore our lack of recent creativity. Instead I'm concentrating on the Daggers who lost 3-0 at home last week to the Pirates and against whom I expect Paul Benson to score.
Prediction; 2-0

Colchester United v Tranmere Rovers
The fact is that Colchester are one place above us and haven't managed a home win yet. I don't rate Rovers and Colchester must break their drawing sequence at home.
Prediction; 3-0

Hartlepool United v Walsall
Tumbleweed match this one. I hope it's kid-for-a-quid or something or the gate could be depressingly low. The odd-goal should be enough to settle it. Walsall to enter the drop zone.
Prediction; 1-0

Peterborough United v MK Dons
With twelve goals in three straight home wins, Posh fans are being spoilt so far. MK could do with a convincing defeat before they make the trip to SE7 on Tuesday.
Prediction; 3-1

Rochdale v Plymouth Argyle
Like Colchester, Dale are up there based on their away form where they have collected eight of their twelve points. Argyle are still adjusting to the drop and will be flat after losing at home to Brighton in the week. Dale!
Prediction; 2-1 

Sheffield Wednesday v Southampton
Wednesday's early season burst looks to be over and they will need to grind out a few results after two successive reverses. Hard to tell what you are likely to face from Southampton but now is certainly the time to be playing them.
Prediction; 2-1

Swindon Town v Huddersfield
Swindon are recovering from a slow start but face table-topping Huddersfield in the match-of-the-day. Could be hard to split these.
Prediction; 2-2

Yeovil Town v Exeter City
Ooh-arr! This could be a cracking local derby. I'm thinking a split of five goals!
Prediction; 3-2

Daggers softened up

Saturday's Valley opponents, Dagenham & Redbridge, were held at home by Exeter City last night as they played their catch-up match. The point lifts the Daggers one place off the bottom but they will be disappointed to have shared the points with the Grecians. Paul Benson must we worth a first-goal flutter on Saturday.

In the Carling Cup, Brentford pulled off a famous win at home by knocking Everton out on penalties. We visit the Bees in just under two weeks and I was hoping we would catch them when they still aren't firing too well at Griffin Park. Charlie MacDonald managed to miss a penalty in normal time which would have given them a more impressive 2-1 victory, but they did it in the end and will now have another cup fixture to contend with.

At the New Den Millwall slipped out of the same competition with a second successive home defeat, this time to Ipswich. Two first-half goals were enough for Town and Millwall now face something of a test of confidence. Their next two games are away at QPR and Cardiff which could see the Lions drop below halfway in the Championship which would look far more realistic than their early season form appeared to indicate.

With Palace also on the road at Derby and Cardiff in the next two matches, I am hoping all three of us will be much more closely grouped between top of League One and bottom of the Championship. The current inequity nags away at the sub-conscience and the sooner it's remedied, obviously the better. In the meantime, a visitor from another Galaxy would get completely the wrong impression, lest they actually visited a league game at each of the south London clubs.

Monday 20 September 2010

Thin on the ground

It's hard work blogging right now. There's a paucity of anything much to write about. Our side is uninspiring and our fans are flat. The message-board on Charlton Life has had far more non-football related threads in recent weeks and visitor numbers to this site have tailed off and that's not just because I'm posting less. The early season euphoria is well and truly over.

At this point I usually look at what our neighbours are doing. Respective gates this season will be interesting as we struggle to retain our "number one in south London" tag. Palace got the boost of being saved in the pre-season and having come out of Administration and their four games so far have averaged 15,484) which puts them top of the heap. We are second on 15,171 with a fourth game to come although we are unlikely to make up that difference in just one game (need a 16,423 gate). Millwall trail on 12,150 and it's a real shame there weren't more there at the New Den on Saturday to see Watford hit them for six. I can't see Millwall challenging on the gate front this year.

A look at who Palace have played so far, tells you they have benefited from playing four of the more attractive clubs with decent travelling support (Leicester, Ipswich, Reading and Portsmouth). Certainly when compared with Bournemouth, Oldham and Notts County. I remain hopeful we can overhaul them this season but we need to start playing some football.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Tranmere Rovers 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

I tuned in yesterday to the commentary but was supervising the kids and had company, so couldn't really concentrate on the game. In the circumstances, I won't pretend to give an account.

It was great to hear we were one-up through Scott Wagstaff by the time I managed to join the commentary and it took some time to fathom out the five changes that Parky had made. We knew Ross Worner would start in place of the injured Elliott, but Llera was in for Fry which looked harsh on Fry and Racon, more understandably, replaced McCormack in the middle. Up front, Kyel Reid was dropped in favour of Scott Wagstaff and Joe Anyinsah got a start ahead of Pawel Abbott. 

I don't think our attackers can have any complaints at being dropped at the moment because, perhaps with the exception of Martin and Reid at home, none are doing enough or looking threatening. Reid will be disappointed but he has to play home and away. Colin Powell would empathise with him over this. Abbott will also be peeved to have been dropped after his big move, but two goals in the League Cup apart at Shrewsbury, he has shown very little. 

After taking the lead, it sounded like a war of attrition and a matter of when Tranmere would equalise. They managed it seven minutes after the break but we fought on for the point. The obvious comparison to last year's 4-0 rout will be made elsewhere, but I think this was a good point in the circumstances i.e. we have been poor so far this season.

The early goal briefly had us up to third in the updated table but the draw saw us drop back to tenth. That shows how tight this division is proving and just how valuable two successive wins can be. We get that opportunity over the next ten days when Dagenham & Redbridge and then MK Dons visit the Valley. That would set us up nicely for the trip to Brentford but two wins look beyond us at the moment. I think I'd settle for four points now....

Friday 17 September 2010

The Coupon 2

Jumping the gun. Always risky - thanks Daggs!

This has been a very busy week for me, so I am feeling rushed and flustered. I have had to sort my football coupon out first thing this morning and am not feeling anything like as comfortable with the selections on offer. Sometimes they just jump out at you and sometimes they don't. In any event, I have settled on eight and will perm them as follows...

1. Tottenham v Wolves  (2/5 home win)
2. Stoke v West Ham  (10/11 home win)
3. Southampton v Colchester  (8/11 home win)
4. Barnsley v Derby (11/10 home win)

5. Huddersfield v Yeovil (8/15 home win)
6. MK Dons v Rochdale (10/11 home win)
7. Wigan v Man City  (8/11 away win)
8. Carlisle v Brighton  (13/10 home win)

11 bets @ £3 each = £33

8 Trebles

1, 2, 3 = £10.54
1, 2, 4 = £11.52
1, 3, 4 = £12.82
2, 3, 4 = £20.76
5, 6, 7 = £15.16
5, 6, 8 = £18.26
5, 7, 8 = £20.16
6, 7, 8 = £22.74

2 Quadruples

1, 2, 3, 4 = £22.13
5, 6, 7, 8 = £34.86

All 8 = £346.84

TOTAL clean sweep = £535.79 (16-1)

- prize to anyone who checks my maths and finds an error....

Thursday 16 September 2010

League One, Weekend Preview, Game 7

Last night's 2-0 win for MK Dons over pre-season title favourites Southampton saw the Addicks drop down to tenth in the table, although we remain only two points from top in a heavily congested early season competition. The Pardew factor certainly looks like it's hit Southampton much harder than us Charlton fans would have anticipated, with straight defeats since his departure. It's hard not to imagine Southampton recovering from this and putting the sort of run together they did last year with the squad Nigel Adkins has at his disposal. For now, however, they languish at the bottom on four points.

Tranmere Rovers are also joint bottom and they are next up for us. Having dismissed them in a one-sided encounter at Prenton Park this time last year, hopes will be high that we can come away with three points although we are playing nothing like the quality of football we were then and we look ultra-defensive away from home.

It promises to be another intriguing week as the early season unfolds and here's my take on all the matches.

Brentford v Hartlepool
Not a great start for the Bees and they have only a creditable home win over Sheffield Wednesday to show from three home games so far. Hartlepool haven't been much better and this should be a routine home win.
Prediction; 2-0

Carlisle United v Brighton & Hove Albion
Carlisle remain unbeaten and their fine win at Sheffield Wednesday will have them in good spirit for their visitors from the South Coast. Brighton too have started well but don't yet look as convincing as their pre-season spending and ambition threatened. I suspect they will compete this year although this could be shaded by the home side.
Prediction; 2-1

Dagenham & Redbridge v Bristol Rovers
All of the Daggers four points have come at home this season and Rovers have managed two draws on the road. Rovers couldn't break the deadlock at home last week against Brentford and might find it hard again here. 
Prediction; 1-0

Exeter City v Peterborough United
Exeter are hard to beat as we found out to our cost a fortnight ago. Posh appear to blow hot or cold and much may depend on what mood they are in. They certainly appear to have the personnel to get the goals and I'll gamble here that they will blow hot.
Prediction; 1-3

Huddersfield Town v Yeovil Town
Town are unbeaten at home but have surprisingly drawn two from three. I can't see them failing not to win this one.
Prediction; 2-0

MK Dons v Rochdale
Dale are enjoying their first foray outside the the bottom flight in living memory.They have actually been better away from home where they have won two and drawn one from three. MK have an equally impressive three straight home wins and will be keen to make it six points in a week that would help cement their start. I think they will do just that.
Prediction; 2-0

Notts County v Leyton Orient 
The O's are finding it a bit of a struggle again and this doesn't look any easier. Notts will rightly feel aggrieved at their Valley mugging last week and anything like the adventure shown then should be all that's needed.
Prediction; 2-0

Oldham Athletic v AFC Bournemouth
The Latics let a two-goal lead slip at London Road last time out and got whipped 5-2 in the end. Meanwhile the Cherries cruised past the Daggers on the south coast. Bournemouth have started well but have been less impressive away from home but have still managed a draw and a win to add to their opening day reversal in SE7. They should be good enough on current form for a point here.
Prediction; 1-1

Plymouth Argyle v Sheffield Wednesday
Wednesday's healthy travelling support will arrive in Plymouth with mixed feelings after losing at home to Carlisle on Saturday. Argyle took a decent point at Colchester on the same day but have yet to win at Home Park this season. They might have to wait a tad longer for that.
Prediction; 1-1

Southampton v Colchester United
Nigel Adkins will be desperate to arrest the decline but this is a tricky fixture. Who would have thought Southampton wouldn't have a win from their first three home league matches? By contrast, Colchester haven't been beaten away from home yet and it's only three home draws that prevents them from topping the table. Now's as good a time as you will get to play at St Marys and I think Colchester might get a comfortable draw.
Prediction; 1-1

Tranmere Rovers v Charlton Athletic
This is hard to call. I'm trying to get the depressing performance against Notts County out of my head, and yet I can't forget that we haven't dominated any game yet or looked much better than any opponent. Scoring has been hard work and we have been very defensive away from home. Rob Elliott is out for a month, so young Ross Worner's early season baptism will continue. Dailly remains out and Parky seems unwilling to give Chris Solly another go despite Francis looking less than fully comfortable at right back. The central midfield pairing isn't right either, although it's probably suited for trying to close the door away from home. This could be a game decided by the only goal and I fear they might get it.
Prediction; 1-0

Walsall v Swindon Town
A short trip for Swindon to the back edge of Birmingham and a chance to continue their recent recovery of sorts. Their one-nil home win against Southampton looked good last week but perhaps less so after the Saints went down again at MK Dons last night. I'll stick my neck out and go for Walsall to suffer their third home defeat of the early season.
Prediction; 0-1

If you are making the journey to Prenton Park this weekend, they should strike a medal in your honour. I will be with the Home Guard trying to follow the game on the internet.

Monday 13 September 2010

Has the Eagles bubble burst?

I scraped a treble from Saturday's bet. It was the lowest paying of the eight available but I will get 40% of my stake back and with five from eight correct, I feel happy enough. If Colchester and Bristol Rovers could have broken the deadlock at home, it would have looked much better and only my Southampton prediction was reversed at Swindon.

I looked long at hard at the Reading v Palace fixture where I fancied the home win but didn't want to think my heart might be ruling my head. Palace had lost three on-the-spin and I thought they might fight back here. I should have followed my heart because they made it four straight defeats with a solid 3-0 hiding. They have two home matches this week against fellow-strugglers Portsmouth and then high-flying Burnley. Fingers-crossed that a poor showing this week could confirm a season of struggle ahead that would at least divert some attention away from our failure to lead a challenge from League One. We must be grateful for small mercies and clutch at every straw offered.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Charlton Athletic 1 v Notts County 0

I said in the week that following Scotland has been like following Charlton for the last four years - depressing. That was after a last gasp goal had seen Scotland secure a victory they didn't deserve. Appropriately enough, that was just what I have witnessed at the Valley, although Notts County possessed far more threat than Liechtenstein and should have wrapped the game up way before Joe Anyinsah's late winner.

There has been a lot of talk about our misfiring midfield pairing and there were expectations of personnel or tactical changes for today. We got neither as we went out 4-4-2 again with Semedo and McCormack in the middle. The first half as a Charlton fan was dire. Nothing in the middle again. No link play down the flanks and nothing from Abbott and Benson. County were a yard quicker, more cohesive and should have gone in one up at the interval. Lee Hughes missed the best chance when a long downfield punt bounced clean over Doherty and on to Hughes whose header was just too much and it popped over  Elliott's bar.

McCormack paid the price at half-time and was replaced by Thierry Racon who looks incapable of seizing his chance. We were better defensively in the second period but there was still little co-ordination or urgency about our play. As the game wore on there looked like only one winner and when Matt Fry's inexperience saw him stick out a leg in the box in desperation after Reid had given the ball away unforgivably just outside the box, it looked like curtains. Lee Hughes stepped up but drove the ball down the middle where Rob Elliot managed to get a trailing leg to it and send it over the bar. That was a signal for another change and Joe Anyinsah came on for Abbott and Akpo Sodje shortly afterwards for Benson. As if to highlight the inefficiency of Abbott and Benson, Anyinsah and Sodje were everywhere and all-of-a-sudden there was some urgency. Within a couple of minutes we were in front and the robbery complete.

A quickly taken throw-in down towards the corner saw Martin wriggle free and he rolled the ball inside to Sodje who took a touch before sliding it inside to Joe Anyinsah. Anyinsah looked like Racon for all the world  as he ran in on Burch but he slid the ball expertly under the advancing keeper where Thierry might have panicked.

Craig Short will rightly bemoan his luck this evening and I hope Parky has the sense to acknowledge that we were very fortunate and that we are far from a decent side right now. Where Scotland's win propelled them to the top of their group in the week, our win seems only to have moved us up a couple of places which means most of the sides above us also won.  We have to improve much more quickly than shown so far or we are headed for more reversals in the coming weeks. At least the next two up, Tranmere and Dagenham & Redbridge are both struggling at the bottom for now.

Friday 10 September 2010

The Coupon

I mentioned the other day that I have decided to try something different in terms of my boring old football bet that I have been doing for eons. Instead of five results (one from each section), I am doing a perm on eight results in two sets of four. Last week was my first effort which went spectacularly wrong. I have been encouraged to believe that I will get my stake returned most weeks and still have the relatively long-shot of a clean sweep which would net me close to what I might have managed once a season with five results (odds dependent obviously). This is week two of a three week trial and I thought I'd share the bet....

1. Arsenal v Bolton (1/4 home win)
2. Fulham v Wolves (5/6 home win)
3. Bournemouth v Dagenham & Redbridge (4/5 home win)
4. Swindon v Southampton (13/8 away win)

5. Burnley v Preston (4/6 home win)
6. Cardiff v Hull (4/7 home win)
7. Colchester v Plymouth (11/10 home win)
8. Bristol Rovers v Brentford (7/5 home win)

11 bets @ £3 each = £33

8 Trebles

1, 2, 3 = £12.37
1, 2, 4 = £18.03
1, 3, 4 = £17.72
2, 3, 4 = £25.98
5, 6, 7 = £16.48
5, 6, 8 = £18.84
5, 7, 8 = £25.20
6, 7, 8 = £23.73

2 Quadruples

1, 2, 3, 4 = £32.47
5, 6, 7, 8 = £39.55

All 8 = £428.55

TOTAL clean sweep = £658.92 (20-1)

- prize to anyone who checks my maths and finds an error....

Thursday 9 September 2010

League One, Weekend Preview, Game 6

Early season optimism appears to have taken a right-hander with the crushing last minute defeat at Exeter City. We return to the Valley on Saturday when we entertain the newly promoted Notts County. With all Charlton eyes looking for what's going wrong right now, our midfield formation will be under tight scrutiny. The perceived wisdom is that the Semedo-McCormack partnership is not working. Changing it is a big decision when there isn't a better looking two, so I suspect Parky is giving more thought to a return to a five-man midfield although this would almost certainly draw further criticism if he tries it at home and it fails to deliver the goods. Sometimes you just can't win!

Despite a record that matches our own so far (two wins a draw and two defeats),  I believe we should see them off at the Valley. They have been beaten solidly by  Huddersfield and Oldham so far although that was without the mercurial Lee Hughes who returned to action last week and scored in a 4-0 rout of Yeovil Town.

My betting record so far this season has been dismal. For over twenty years I have stuck to a five-results from the sections entry on the fixed odds coupon. I have typically had a win or two each season at c 30-1 which has always kept me interested and minimised my losses. I haven't managed it for a couple of seasons now and in conversation with a Bookie recently he convinced me to try two lines of four results and to perm them for trebles, all four and all eight. last week's first attempt at this saw me get one from eight when I can usually get three or four from five. Like Parky, I will persevere.

Bournemouth v Dagenham & Redbridge
Decent win for the Daggers over Leyton Orient last week but the O's made it easy for them. Bournemouth will be a different proposition away from home where they have scored eight in two games. No joy for the Daggers.
Prediction; 2-0 

Brighton & Hove Albion v MK Dons
Brighton have spluttered in the last couple of weeks after the fast start many predicted for them (me). They are a game behind though and a win here would lift them into the play-off positions. MK Dons will already have one eye on their plum JPT draw...
Prediction; 2-0

Bristol Rovers v Brentford
This looks tough for the Bees despite their first win of the season on Sunday when they beat Sheffield Wednesday impressively at Griffin Park. Rovers have only managed one win so far (at home) but have had two good draws on the road. They will see this a chance to really get going.
Prediction; 2-0

Charlton Athletic v Notts County
If we can get a hold of midfield, I expect us to press the game and score the goals we need to win the game. If we don't, I think County might cause us problems and I can see Baldy scoring against us once again. A change of personnel and formation to do the trick.
Prediction; 2-1

Colchester United v Plymouth Argyle
Colchester have yet to win at home but are sitting pretty in fifth. This looks routine to me. I expect David Mooney to net again.
Prediction; 3-0

Hartlepool v Exeter City
Hartlepool have yet to win at home so here's the perfect opportunity. Fresh from their last minute penalty triumph over us, I suspect City will slump to a defeat here.
Prediction; 2-0

Leyton Orient v Huddersfield Town
Decent looking encounter here. Might be too close to call as both sides will scrap hard for this.
prediction; 1-1

Peterborough United v Oldham Athletic
Two straight home win for Posh with seven goals in the process. Big test for Paul Dickov's boys and I suspect Peterborough might get at them.
Prediction; 3-0

Rochdale v Walsall
Dale have yet to win at home but have managed two very impressive away wins. Having been in the bottom division for 175 years, they are clearly enjoying the experience of visiting new places. They might find it hard to raise their game at home where visitors will be reminded very firmly by their surroundings that they are playing in the lower leagues they might consider themselves better than. Maybe not Walsall though, eh?
Prediction; 1-1

Sheffield Wednesday v Carlisle United
Top-of-the-table clash and Wednesday will be fired-up to recover from their slip at Brentford. Carlisle's home form may maintain their season but it's in games like this I think they will be undone.
Prediction; 2-0

Swindon Town v Southampton
Cracker in the offing here and very hard to call. I think one side will prevail and I don't believe the Saints have fallen apart since Pardew got the boot. I take that Rochdale result with a pinch of salt.
Prediction; 0-2

Yeovil Town v Tranmere Rovers
After their 4-0 trouncing in Nottingham, Yeovil  will be pleased to be back home where they will confident of sending Tranny packing.
Prediction; 1-0

Wednesday 8 September 2010

David Haye - what are you doing?

News yesterday that Britain's  exciting heavyweight prospect, David Haye - ok he's already a World Heavyweight Champion, but still a prospect in my mind - has been unable to secure a fight with either of the Klitschko brothers. I don't know who's running scared here, but it's a disappointment either way because Haye needs to fight best-ranked opponents to gain real heavyweight credibility and actually cement a position as a true world champion.

Instead then, he finds himself fighting a former British hopeful, a man who won a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics. There were two clues that day to Audley Harrison's real potential. The first, obviously, was his age. No respectable fighter is still an amateur at 28. The second that he won as a Super-heavyweight which has always been inferior to the heavyweight division. It's a quirk of nature that men who are "too big" are naturally slower than genuine heavyweights and are often cumbersome. Dare I say it, they usually lack the killer intinct that gives top fighters their drive, determination and focus. And so it has proved for Audley, since cruelly dubbed "Audrey" and Fraudley."

Haye knows this is a soft option and a money-spinner. Harrison will hang-on for as long as possible, and I mean "hang-on." It will do Haye's reputation no good at all and will begin, for the first time, to associate Haye's career with all the hopeless British heavyweights of the past. I will be doing something else on 13th November.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Help ma Boab

Just when will my footballing pain end? As England cruised to a predictable 3-1 victory in Switzerland this evening, the neighbouring minnows of both nations met at Hampden Park. It's often said that there are no easy games in international football any more but I beg to differ. Liechtenstein is a Principality (not even a country) with a population that couldn't fill Hampden Park. That's right, Scotland's own tiny population of 5 million is one hundred times the size of Liechtenstein's, and this evening we squeaked a 97th minute winner that never looked likely.

It's been twelve long years of gradual national decline for my country and the way we are going, we still won't be able to qualify for the Euro finals in 2016 when the number of finalists increases from 16 to 24. It really is desperate and the win shouldn't disguise the fact that we were mince. We travel to the Czech Republic on 8th October and then host Spain. On the evidence of this evening, I can only predict two defeats which will leave us struggling for qualification.

If only Charlton could get their act together, I could live with Scotland's limitations but the combination is depressing.

Monday 6 September 2010

Euro Qualifiers

I watched both the England and Scotland matches on Friday evening. A horrible deja vu descended as I urged Scotland to get the goal they needed to return from Lithuania with three points. It just wouldn't come and, once again, we were reduced to competing with and not beating a side we are probably better than. With the World Champions in our group as well as the Czech Republic, it looks like mission impossible again if we are to join the party in Poland in 2012. The draw in Kaunus means we will now need to better the Czech republic over two games and not just match them. Scotland will surely beat Liechtenstein in Glasgow tomorrow night but Spain visit next month (a match I'm going to) when a draw would be a great result.

England, meanwhile, made short work of Bulgaria who with Switzerland look like the biggest competition for qualification. If England can follow-up with the goals they need in the Alps on Tuesday, they will already have one foot in the finals. The Welsh look woeful at the moment and with John Toshack ready to quit, they look miles away from presenting any threat to Capello's qualification which might earn him another crack at repairing his tarnished reputation.

Sunday 5 September 2010

That penalty

That commentator yesterday (Mike Parry?) was absolutely adamant it wasn't a penalty. He even overstepped his professional boundaries by calling referee Phillips a "buffoon." At the time it sounded like someone close to Parry saw it as a penalty because he was quick to climb down and suggest he would apologise if he was proved wrong.

After the match, it was no surprise that Parky honed in on the penalty having cost us a point and even City's manager Paul Tisdale described it as "debatable." I saw it on the news round-up late last night and have to say that the view from down the pitch, the same as the ref's, albeit he was much closer to the action, made it look like a dead cert to me.

This morning, however, you get a view from behind the goal and it looks very much like Llera gets the sole of his boot on it although with so little force that the ball doesn't get sufficient pace to make it obvious. Jamie Cureton is already in full dive mode, so I can see how it was given. Take a look.

Bottom-line for me is that if you are left fuming about a last gasp penalty, you probably didn't deserve anything more than a point at best. If we are good enough to be beating sides like Exeter we have to take the game to them. If you don't, then draws and defeats are all you can expect. Parky's confident we are good enough, so I expect to see us having a go. We rode our luck at Orient  and the counter attacking was good enough to earn the win but we have looked conservative in the extreme at Huddersfield and Exeter.

Our away support is a bone of contention with our fans right now, but how can you complain that more people should be travelling when our ambition appears to be to hang on for as long as possible. If we were piling pressure on sides at home and beating the majority comfortably, you can argue that points away from home are all that's required, but I fear we aren't yet playing with full confidence at the Valley and we need a settled side before there's any chance of it. Expect more changes next week as we continue to "gel."

Johnnie Jackson was signed as a second choice left back to Kelly Youga and has played pretty well in every game so far this season, so I don't understand why Matt Fry played yesterday, especially with Jackson as a sub? The midfield pairing of Semedo and McCormack isn't holding the middle and it's affecting our forward play and inviting pressure. I'm not sure Semedo and Racon or Racon and McCormack are the answer either so maybe we have to try something else. Kyel Reid disappears in the second-half of games a la Lloyd Sam, so he should be changed for fresh legs when this happens. Only once we have sorted the midfield out can we start to look at what we've acquired upfront, although I have to say that Pawel Abbott has been worryingly quiet in league matches so far.