Tuesday 30 November 2010

Fixture congestion means Thursday and Sunday

The current snow blanket covering the country may well disrupt this weekend's fixtures. They have had it bad up north and I felt a bit guilty complaining to a colleague today about the two inches we've had overnight when he's got a foot of it outside York. Rochdale must be a major doubt.

Irrespective, our continuing cup engagements are clogging up the calendar and we face four games in nine days. Our Luton replay will now be played on Thursday 9th December to accommodate a live airing on ESPN. That means our home game against Walsall moves back to Sunday 12th. It's Brentford away on the Tuesday (14th), live on Sky, before we trek north to Hartlepool the following Saturday. Too early, of course, to be talking about defining moments but our results in these games will give as a strong indicator to the potential success of this season.

The three leagues games give us a solid opportunity to maintain our unbeaten run and to hold our place in the top two. Rochdale is the hardest of these on paper but not beyond us and there's every chance it'll be off as I've said. We simply have to beat a very poor Walsall at the Valley and whilst Hartlepool have beaten Brighton in recent weeks, we have to fancy our chances of repeating last year's victory.

The cup games offer the promise of a two-legged southern area JPT semi-final against a side below us in the league for a place at Wembley and a third round F A Cup trip to Tottenham Hotspur. Whilst I am bullish about our league games, I don't rate our cup prospects. A win in either will, frankly, be a bonus. Brentford have raised their game against the bigger sides at home this year and will relish getting at us again after already having beaten us at Griffin Park. Luton Town will have little fear of us in their replay and I believe they will want a trip to White Hart Lane more than our boys will. Perhaps beating Brentford in the JPT offers more reward than playing Spurs, although Richard Murray might disagree?

Sunday 28 November 2010

And the reward for winning at Kennilworth Road.....

Is a third round F A Cup clash with Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane! Just the incentive Luton need. Spurs on fire at the moment are likely to hit a hatful against a lesser side. Still, it would be a day out...

What on earth were the F A doing with that draw on ITV? Noel Gallagher and one of the blokes from Kasabian? Jim Rosenthal asks the Kasabian bloke "how does it feel" and the unconvincing reply is "yeah man, it doesn't get much better than the third round." They actually managed to pull the clubs they follow out against each other, Leicester v Manchester City, which produced an unedifying fist squeeze and hug. How standards have fallen.

Elsewhere, Arsenal entertain Leeds and Liverpool go to Old Trafford. Palace face a tough trip to Coventry and Millwall host Birmingham City. The Spanners will be praying it remains goalless so they get the chance to play-up in the replay. If Brighton can overcome FC of Manchester then they will welcome Pompey to the Withdean.

The importance of season ticket sales

I've woken up this morning feeling a little depressed, due in large part to events yesterday at the Valley. Scraping a draw against non-league opposition at home would probably be enough to depress anyone but it was the embarrassment of our home gate and the lack of any home atmosphere that hurt more.

The gate given was 8682 which meant approximately 5600 Charlton fans scattered around 24,000 seats. The top tier of the West was closed which at least made the concentration in the lower tier look a bit better. The Covered End was woeful and even the singers in the top tier were huddled together in the central block. I couldn't see the East as I was in it but it was dire around me and the few regular faces who were there raised their eyebrows in acknowledgement that it was a poor showing. Our visitors were clearly perplexed and you could forgive them for their view of "we've got more fans than you." When you combine that with the fact that they largely bossed the game, "football league - you're having a laugh" was a pretty obvious song. 

We are actually averaging 15,382 in the league but many of these gates are boosted by absent season-ticket holders, so the gates look a good bit worse at the match. Tuesday's game against Bristol Rovers was a prime example. In our defence, we have just played four successive home games and it was freezing cold yesterday, but 5,000 home fans is pretty much close to our die-hard, watch paint-dry, Valley following. This was the F A Cup after all and whilst the opposition were non-league, it was Luton Town and not Northwich Victoria. If you consider that it was only a tenner to get in yesterday and a fiver for concessions, I think you have to acknowledge that we attracted hardly any neutrals or walk-up interest, something that used to have a key contribution to gates at football matches.

I am left with the conclusion that our league home gates are actually much better than perhaps we have a right to expect purely based on the football we are playing and our league position. The club obviously understand this, which is why they target renewals so effectively each year. 

It doesn't help that we have not played particularly well at home all season and are having to scrap to get results. I believe our league position is false based upon the quality of the football I have seen at the Valley so far. Based on yesterday's gate, I suspect many of our fans feel the same. 

We are averaging a couple of hundred more than Palace as things stand, and whilst our season-ticket base is probably close to better than Millwall's average gate of 11,300, I suspect Palace will pip us before the season finishes.

Perhaps there is no easy answer to this conundrum beyond Phil Parkinson managing to improve the quality of the product on offer at home. Strong, free-flowing and winning football is compelling to watch and is the best advertisement we have for attracting fans and encouraging newcomers to return. Perhaps our efforts over the last four years have been counter-productive because of four lean years and our tendency to under-perform on the big occasion?

Saturday 27 November 2010

Charlton Athletic 2 v Luton Town 2

A draw against non-league opposition in the cup? Progress, I suppose.

The 5000-odd Charlton fans who bothered to attend today were embarrassed at being chastised by our lowly visitors who were obviously unimpressed with our home support or by the class of our football which, ultimately, was to earn a replay which looks like mission improbable.

Credit to Luton. They came to play football and stuck to their game plan and on both occasions they found themselves behind they simply pressed on. They were actually a yard short of pace when it came to it but they more than made up for it with their running and movement. That Charlton took the lead twice disguised the fact that Luton were doing most of the attacking throughout and our players looked like they were simply trying to get the job done by expending the least effort necessary.

Joe Anyinsah's early opener was a simple goal that reflected poorly on non-League football. Kyel Reid did well to fashion a cross but his arrowed near-post ball was uncontested and Anyinsah didn't even have to jump to steer home his header.

Luton pressed throughout the first-half without looking really dangerous but they got their reward after half-an-hour with a soft looking penalty when the lively Morgan-Smith made the most of a tackle from behind from Miguel Llera. Drury took the penalty which Rob Elliot saved but he was able to follow-up and head home the rebound. Charlton restored their lead within five minutes when Johnnie Jackson headed home after a goalmouth scramble and the ball bobbed up for him ten yards out. 

Two-one at the break then and it looked like Luton were going to be outclassed. However, they stuck to the script and continued to pass and move around a Charlton side who simply weren't able to put their opponents under any sustained pressure. You can guess what happened next. Substitute Walker broke strongly for Luton and carried the ball from their half to ours before rolling it across to Drury 25 yards out. We had plenty of men back and ready but Drury was left to his own devices and he simply stepped up and chipped home into the Jimmy Seed Stand which sent the excited visitors into raptures.

We weren't able to up our game after that and have the unwanted re-match to play as a result. We have better players than them but it will take a major effort for us to win this tie and I am not sure we have the commitment to do it. I expect we will now slump out in favour of a concentrated effort in the league. Not a good day.

Friday 26 November 2010

Game on

The much rumoured snow is looking like it will hold-off at least until well after Saturday's second round F A Cup clash with the Hatters. It's going to be cold but we should get the game out of the way. I am looking forward to a break from League action and this should be a game we can all enjoy - the players too. It gives us a sniff of a big third round draw and the potential to see the Valley full to the rafters once again. The revenue could also be a major bonus in keeping the Administrator from  the door or even allowing Phil Parkinson the unlikely opportunity to bring on one or two new faces in January.

First of all, we have to avoid another embarrassing giant-killing. In recent seasons we have become accustomed to being sent packing from cup competitions in the early rounds by League Two sides and last year suffered the ignominy of our first ever humbling (I think) by non-league opposition at Northwich Victoria.

Luton Town may well be Up-for-the-Cup but we have to believe our professional status should be enough to see us through. It will take a spirited Charlton display and we might benefit from some solidarity amongst what is likely to be a make-shift side. Jose Semedo won't recover from his hamstring injury in time and Gary Doherty limped off on Tuesday with a dead-leg. Lee Martin is unable to play in cup competitions and loanee Marcel Seip is cup-tied. With Matt Fry facing a points suspension too and Christian Dailly sitting this one out, the side will largely pick itself and there may be an opportunity for one or two young players to join the squad.

Ordinarily, it could be a day to give Rob Elliot a rest but I suspect we'll go for familiarity in goal in view of the other forced changes. Johnnie Jackson can expect to start in his old position as cover for Fry. Miguel Llera will get a start with Jon Fortune and Simon Francis should take right-back.

McCormack and Racon  should run midfield and I expect Wagstaff and Reid to be given key roles in terms of running at Luton to give them plenty to think about in terms of cover when they go forward. This a game made for Akpo Sodje and Paul Benson although Joe Anyinsah may figure if fit enough to play.

The best reason for a rousing cup victory may be to extend our unbeaten run to ten games and allow us to take it to Lancashire next week. Who would have ever envisaged a time when a league fixture at Rochdale is more important than an F A Cup tie against Luton Town?

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Charlton Athletic 1 v Bristol Rovers 1

A sparsely populated Valley crowd this evening (a good thousand less than the official 13,468) saw a better Charlton performance than some of late but it was still some way short of top gear and we were far too weak up front to knock over a Bristol Rovers side who couldn't believe their luck.

Martin and Benson aren't a good enough front pairing to be dominating opposition defences and Parky needs to realise this quickly. Both did plenty of work and Martin ran his socks off but they are lightweight and it was only when Sodje came on towards the end that we began to knock holes in the Rovers back line and create genuine panic and opportunity. 

The first-half was an improvement on recent home games as we took the game to our opponents and we limited their attacking forays. We had several goal-scoring opportunities and should have been one-up at half-time but Mikkel Andersen made a couple of good saves, especially a close range effort from Martin. Benson and Jackson slid in on another chance but Wagstaff's cross managed to avoid a touch from either which would surely have put us ahead.

Kuffour and Akinde were prowling whenever Rovers crossed the half-way line but Gary Doherty had a commanding showing and Matt Fry, Jon Fortune and Simon Francis swept up whenever Rovers managed to get beyond Racon and Semedo. Jackson and Wagstaff were busy enough on the wings but there was often little to cross for.

The second-half was much the same but it was Rovers who broke the deadlock with a well worked corner played to the near-side of the box and then slid across for Brown who had time to control the pass before drilling a low shot under Rob Elliot from 20 yards as we failed to close him down quickly enough.

Rovers almost immediately fell back as they looked to defend their lead. It invited us on and the pressure began to tell. Reid came onto the left wing as Jackson went to full-back and the impressive Matt Fry was subbed. Semedo had already limped off for McCormack and Sodje got on before the end. Our goal, when it came, was a complete mess but the just reward for the pressure we had been exerting and panic we had caused in the Rovers defence. The ball was played across the box from the right-hand side and it fell to Reid who took aim but managed to square his shot which cannoned off a Rovers defender and looked like it went in off Benson. Reid wheeled away and was credited with the goal but I can't see how he'll hang on to it. 

Will Hoskins was a late substitute for Rovers and he was played in before the end but somehow managed to miss the far post when it looked easier to score. We then set about Rovers for the final ten minutes but we couldn't get another late goal. McCormack had a solid effort saved by Andersen and Martin missed the goal from ten yards with players arriving inside and square on to goal.

The draw at least preserves our recent unbeaten run and it doesn't look a bad point after the rest of the evening's results are taken into account. With Southampton and Brighton drawing and Colchester losing at home to Brentford, we stay two points clear of Bournemouth and Sheffield Wednesday with Huddersfield joining Colchester three points adrift in fifth and sixth.

This weekend should bring some light relief in terms of the cup. but unless we can raise our game, we could easily be beaten by a non-League Luton who will be up for it and backed by a noisy following. 

Time for Rovers to walk the plank?

I haven't got time for a real preview of this evening's match and New York Addick (now back in the UK) has done a better job anyway.

I will be working late today but still hope to make the Royal Oak for a pre-match pint. Like Yeovil on Saturday, Bristol Rovers will arrive at the Valley on the back of a winless streak. Form then will be with us and whilst the Glovers didn't fold after our opening goal, we have to hope Rovers might.

It's hard to believe we are sitting pretty in second place and still haven't taken a two-nil lead at home this season. It must only be a matter of time before we do this and when we do I believe it will give us the confidence to settle down properly and maybe get that elusive convincing home performance.

Rovers won't be pushovers, as they proved at Brighton on Saturday,  so we will need to be bold. It's rare that a side in the lower half of the table goes away to the top two in successive matches and avoids defeat in both, so I am plumping for a Charlton victory again and I am going for the elusive winning margin and performance. We can settle for a slog against Luton on Saturday.

Wrap up warm because it'll be c-c-cold this evening as the cloud is expected to lift.

Monday 22 November 2010

Google Smiles

Thought I'd share this gem.

1) Go to Google Maps.
2) In "Directions" or "Get Directions," enter "New York, NY" as your starting point (A) and China as your destination (B).
3) You will see that it is a journey of 12,206 miles and that there are 145 steps in making it.
4) Follow the directions supplied down to step 31.
5) Try to keep a straight face.

Amused me all day yesterday.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Dailly hope

We haven't had much luck when appealing red cards and suspensions over the last few years. With something of a reputation from our Premiership days of being continual moaners, it would appear as if we have been given short-shrift by the authorities when complaining about decisions. That could be a load of baloney of course and it might just be that we have been more inclined to chance our luck than other clubs.

Following Christian Dailly's dismissal yesterday, it looks like we will challenge the decision. Tim Breacker was quick to say we will take a look at the video and made the oft-heard refrain that Dailly isn't "that sort of player." I don't think he is that sort of a player but it looked bad at the time and the Yeovil player's reaction seemed to indicate that they all thought they saw something malicious. The encouraging thing last night was that Terry Skiverton said he's seen the video and whilst he thought the ref got it right at the time, "it was clearly a clash of heads" and Sam Williams has confirmed as much himself. Case for the Defence your Honour.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Charlton Athletic 3 v Yeovil Town 2

With Brighton only managing a 2-2 home draw with Tuesday night's opponents Bristol Rovers, a squeaky 3-2 win in a tense match means Charlton remain in second place with a two point lead over third-placed Colchester and now four points from the pack. 

It says something about this current side that they continue to get results without really playing particularly well. I would have been tempted to comment once again that's it's got as much to do with the poor quality of this division, but that would be unfair on a Yeovil side who looked a lot better than their current 23rd position would suggest. Terry Skiverton deserves credit for bringing his side to play football today and they will consider themselves unfortunate not to be going home with at least a point. 

On arrival in Harvey Gardens this afternoon, you could have been forgiven for thinking Manchester United were the visitors and not Yeovil Town. Enormous queues for the turnstiles were everywhere. The immediate reaction was that our recent winning streak had suddenly caused thousands to return but I quickly established that it had more to do with the fact that only half the turnstiles were open. The club will no doubt trot out some line about us having to turn up earlier or that they are cutting costs. What they are doing, of course, is deterring some of those fans from hurrying back. We walked up to the Sam Bartram entrance and got in far quicker than had we joined the queue.

The side Parky sent out was predictable enough with Martin and Benson playing up front. In front of Elliot were Fry, Doherty, Dailly and Francis. Jackson, Racon, Semedo and Reid made the midfield, although I suppose you could argue that Martin had a free role.

The first-half was tidy enough and we took the lead twice. The opening goal came after 11 minutes and was a delightful finish from Johnnie Jackson to an excellent Martin cross. It looked like we might be in the mood for a rare romp at home but Yeovil stood up well and got men forward at every opportunity. It was hardly a surprise, therefore, when they equalised after 24 minutes when Andrew Williams burst between Dailly and Doherty and fired off a quick shot which Elliot could only get tips to and it squeezed in off the post. We were in front two minutes later when Therry Racon collected a ball in the box and drilled a low shot past Sullivan into the opposite corner. 

Two-one then at the break with the promise of being home and dry well before the finish. This is Charlton though and this is the Valley. Yeovil came out the more determined looking and whilst we looked very comfortable on the ball, they looked the more likely to score. Benson was leading the line but not making space and Martin was struggling to impose himself against a beefy Yeovil defence.

Yeovil snatched their second equalising goal ten minutes into the second-half. Dailly conceded an innocuous-looking but professional foul outside the box. The free-kick was driven in low and was not cleared at the first attempt. The ball fell amongst the posse of waiting players and was blasted high into Elliot's net from short distance. It's being reported as an own goal by Doherty but it looked a strikers finish to me.

We really found it hard to up the ante after that and I was fearing we might even throw it away as Yeovil refused to settle for the draw. We were crying out for more pace and power upfront but Parky seemed determined to persevere. After 70 minutes, Akpo Sodje was brought on for Matt Fry as we finally prepared to go for it. A minute later and Christian Dailly was shown a straight red after appearing to lead with his elbow as he clattered Sam Williams. Referee Whitestone may have been tempted to show just a yellow as the offence was out wide and there was an element of subtlety about about it. If he was in two minds, he was quickly settled by the four or five Yeovil players who ran across the pitch to remonstrate. 

As the clock ran down the game became a little bit more stretched and it was the 11 man Glovers who cracked. A ball down the middle towards Sodje fell beyond Huntington and as Akpo broke free of him there was the slightest touch from the Yeovil player. It wasn't enough to bring Akpo down but within half a second I think he realised he wouldn't beat the advancing keeper to the ball and he crashed to the ground. The linesman on the West stand touchline flagged immediately and it may have been that he was doing so from the moment Huntington appeared to snatch at Sodje but there was a strong suspicion that it was Sodje's dive that persuaded him. Whatever it was, Johnnie Jackson stepped up to hammer home and secure the victory and net his sixth goal in five league games.

If you are prepared to brave the queues, Tuesday's game against Bristol Rovers promises to be something special as the mighty Reds go in search of their sixth successive league victory. That would make it eight wins and a draw from nine in all competitions since the Brighton debacle. Who'd a thought it?

Thursday 18 November 2010

League One Weekend Preview, Game 17

Back to league action and all sides in League One face two games in the space of four days as we play on Saturday and Tuesday. It's a huge opportunity for us to establish our automatic promotion credentials and even to challenge Brighton for top spot. We have two home games against 23rd placed Yeovil and 15th placed Bristol Rovers, however, we have a poor track record in recent years when in similar positions and our home form has been far from convincing.

All we can hope for is that Parky has as close to a full strength squad to choose from and that we put in two disciplined performances and take the game to our opponents. Yeovil have lost four out of their last five league games and squeaked a draw in the other. They are ripe for another defeat and I have to take us to do it although I suspect it might not be pretty (again)

Brighton & Hove Albion v Bristol Rovers
Both of these sides were well beaten last weekend but Rovers have to pick themselves up after a surprise 3-0 home defeat by the O's. Brighton will want to get back to winning ways after their long unbeaten run came to a stop at Hartlepool. They should have enough.
Prediction; 2-0

Charlton Athletic v Yeovil Town
Surely we can't blow this - can we?
Prediction; 2-0

Colchester United v Hartlepool United
This should be a routine home win but I'm going to take Hartlepool to nick a point after their sound win last week.
Prediction; 1-1

Dagenham & Redbridge v Oldham Athletic
Both of these sides had good wins last time out; Oldham edged it at home to Huddersfield and the Daggers ran out 3-1 winners at Yeovil. Home advantage will favour Dagenham but a draw's on the cards.
Prediction; 1-1

Huddersfield Town v Exeter City
The Grecians have been beaten five times on the road and this looks like a sixth against a Huddersfield side who need the win to maintain their play-off status.
Prediction; 2-0

Leyton Orient v AFC Bournemouth
Bournemouth's away form is hampering them from a serious challenge to the top two places. Their home form has been sparkling but five draws away might not be good enough. this will be a stiff test against a rejuvenated Orient who won well at Bristol Rovers last week.
Prediction; 2-1

MK Dons v Sheffield Wednesday
Wednesday have dropped below MK Dons in the table and won't find this easy. MK Dons are unbeaten at home (in the league of course) and could rack up a seventh home win here. Tough on Wednesday.
Prediction; 2-0

Notts County v Tranmere Rovers
Tranmere have scrambled above County at the bottom and this could be icing on their early season cake. County in turmoil.
Prediction; 0-2

Plymouth Argyle v Brentford
Two very unpredictable sides meet here and I'll take home advantage.
Prediction; 2-1

Rochdale v Swindon Town
Could be a good game this. Swindon are spluttering and have only one away win to their name. Rochdale might just fancy another scalp here.
Prediction; 2-0

Southampton v Peterborough United
It's been a case of two steps forward, one step back for Saints in recent weeks and they lost 3-2 at Carlisle last week. Posh showed their vulnerability against us and I can't see them having enough here.
Prediction; 2-0

Walsall v Carlisle United
Best away tip of the week. Walsall are poorer this year than normal and Carlisle are battling away to maintain an unlikely promotion challenge. They need more points away from Cumbria and you don't get better opportunities than this.
Prediction; 0-2

Charlton forever!

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Luton Town at home Saturday week

Luton Town will be visiting the Valley on Saturday 27th November in the second round of the F A Cup having beaten Corby 4-2.

Our reward for limping past Barnet is to host the Conference National promotion contenders who currently carry the biggest chip on their collective shoulders about their demise and ultimate exit from the Football League. Their fall since 2006 surpasses that of our own and they were harshly treated along the way in terms of hefty points deductions for Administration and other irregularities.

Luton are handily placed behind AFC Wimbledon in their league and are averaging 6-7,000 for home games. I can see them filling the Jimmy Seed if not asking for some of their entitlement in the East Stand.

Their fans are itching for a return and they have a growing, if still relatively small, unsavoury following boosted by the intellectually challenged English Defence League whose local branch has formed something of a reputation for itself with it's contradictory and random political alignments and policies. A one-off cup tie at a former Premier League club will be right up their street. Luton traditionally don't do away matches but I fear they might make an exception for this and it could be ugly. You have been warned.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Charlton Athletic 1 v Barnet 0

Another stuttering home showing from Charlton Athletic here this evening and another winning performance that sees us progress to the second round of the F A Cup. Barnet fans will be sick of the sight of Rob Elliot and will remember his two displays against them during which he made ten first class saves to deny them scoring. Three of those came at Underhill but he made seven this evening to keep Charlton in it.

Parkinson put out a strong 4-5-1 side with Abbott up front supported by Reid, McCormack, Racon, Jackson and Wagstaff. The back four started Fry, Fortune, Dailly and Francis. Barnet were quick out of the blocks and had two chances in the opening minute. Charlton settled into the game but looked sluggish up until the opening goal which was a blur of speed by comparison. Reid, playing on the right, having swapped with Wagstaff, chased down a long ball which the left-back should have been comfortable with. However, Reid made up five yards as his opponent sought to bring the ball under control and literally ran around him in top gear, taking the ball as he went. He turned left and careered in on goal before swerving wide of the on-rushing Cole and planting a low shot firmly into the net. It was the only piece of quality football we managed in the first half although Johnnie Jackson had a fierce shot from the edge of the box saved after being teed up by Racon.

Rob Elliot was called upon to make an excellent low reflex save to his right after Grant Basey arrived at the back of the box to dig a fierce shot back across the Charlton goal. Five minutes later Steve Kabba shot from distance and an airborne Elliot pawed the ball clear.

After the break you expected Charlton to wake up and take control of the game. Wagstaff, who may have been carrying a knock, was replaced by Benson as Jackson went out right. Unfortunately we slumbered on and invited Barnet to come forward. Elliot save again from Kabba and then somehow stopped a shot from Jarvis who sprung the offside trap and should have scored from where he was. Grant Basey then stepped up to a free-kick which curled over the wall and was heading into the roof of the net before Elliot intervened again and got a hand to scoop it over. 

We then had a couple of chances to score on the break but Abbott fluffed one and McCormack skied another, before Barnet resumed their attempts to equalise. Kabba was thwarted again before Elliot made the save of the game as Barnet got three-against-two and played in their man on the overlap only to see Elliot come screaming off his line and smother the shot at close quarters which caused him a blow to the face in the process. With Toilet Paper McLeod entering the fray shortly afterwards, that was to be Barnet's last effort.

The Man-of-the-Match award was easy but Christian Dailly was everywhere this evening and was was well supported by Matt Fry and to a lesser extent Fortune and Francis. Doherty came on for Forch before the end and we looked a bit more secure when he did. I didn't think Racon and McCormack did nearly enough in the second-half and how we miss Semedo when he doesn't play. 

Reid had a quiet game and it was as if the goal took everything out of him. Wagstaff looked like he was carrying a knock and Jackson did well in the opening period playing off Abbott. Poor Pawel is desperate for a goal and I felt for him when he was subbed for Akpo towards the end having missed a great chance to seal the game with a tame and under-hit attempt at a lob when a straightforward toe-punt would probably have been enough. The second-half battling also cost us three yellow cards as Dailly, Doherty and Fry had their names taken.

We will have to be better than this on Saturday if we are to send more than this evening's paltry gate of 4,800 home happy. There were barely 400 Barnet fans there and the Addick faithful looked lost in just the West and East with the North Stand closed. The first game was far from a cup classic and this wasn't far behind it. 

Routine home win please

Having scrapped our way to second place in the table and with a decent chance of staying there for a while and even establishing a lead, all of a sudden the F A Cup looks like an inconvenience. It will enable Jose Semedo to serve his one-batch ban and clear his points after his deliberate booking on Saturday for time-wasting over a free-kick. I suppose it also allows us to introduce a couple of youngsters to the squad, which Parky is doing this evening and it will allow a couple of the fringe players another match.

Having said all that, the next round could become a nothing match and might not be so welcome by the time it arrives, although a result there does throw up the prospect of a money-spinning third round tie. All-in-all then, I guess we shouldn't turn a potential cup run down although getting out of this division has to be the overwhelming priority if we are anywhere near to it come January and February.

I'll settle for a straightforward 2-0 home win this evening with a goal in each half. We need to keep our collective feet on the ground at the moment because in spite of our recent run of excellent away form, we still haven't been particularly good at home. I'm assuming c 7,000 attendance for this although I expect the Barnet turn-out will be 500 or less having played us at the Valley in cup competition only last year. A victory maintains the momentum and confidence and should allow us to prepare for Yeovil on Saturday. We need to play with more confidence and swagger at home. Parky needs to find a way to play counter-attacking football against sides who sit deep. Not easy but the key is pressurising them early and scoring which forces them to come out.

Come on you Reds!

Sunday 14 November 2010

You cannot be serious

Jay Bothroyd called into the England squad? I can't believe that. Fabio Capello must be having a laugh at his employer's expense. Sure, he's a lump and a bit of a handful with a cannon on him at free-kicks, but good enough to play for England? Sorry but I can't see it. I'm just pleased that he's not got a Scottish Granny.

When you see Andy Carroll called up too, you have to wonder if Capello is working his ticket to get a premature pay-off. Who next? Darren Ambrose?

Peterborough United 1 v Charlton Athletic 5

I had a good day out yesterday. Watched a mate's son make his full debut for Dartfordians at 18 years of age and felt proud of him myself (I wish he'd still come to home games but we managed to grind that out of him these last four or five years).They shipped a lot of points after the break but took the game to their top-of-the-table opponents first-half and carried a small lead at the break. 

Throughout that first half I thought something was wrong with my phone. Every update I got on it showed that Charlton had scored another goal. Apparently it was 4-0 at half-time! It was only when back in the club house for a cold drink that television confirmation was received that we were indeed thrashing promotion rivals away from home. What a game to have forsaken! I will get the detailed catch-up from a few mates who went but I am now seriously considering the Rochdale trip.

I think the last time we scored five away was at Grimsby Town at the end of 1999. I remember it well because it was a Friday evening and we were playing our way out of the Championship. It was also the night before the Scotland v England match which we drove on to, only to see Paul Scholes break my heart. Can we expect to wait until 2021 to repeat the feat?

The bonus, of course, was that whilst we were putting Posh firmly in their place, those around us were also taking set-backs. I fancied Brighton and Southampton enough away from home to back them both - both went down! Huddersfield also lost at Oldham, so our win has moved us into that precious second place. We now have a real opportunity to make that spot our own as we face a number of genuinely lesser sides - Yeovil, Bristol Rovers, Rochdale, Bristol Rovers and Walsall. There is no reason why we shouldn't be able to extend our current run at least until Christmas when we face Brighton and Southampton.

We are carrying a few injuries after yesterday and one or two face suspension (Semedo) but we appear to have a good squad of players and the feel-good factor should be enough to see us through against Barnet at the Valley on Tuesday. Hopefully, we will be close to full strength for Yeovil in SE7 on Saturday.

Once again, Richard Murray deserves recognition for not panicking after the Brighton humiliation. The Parky Out Brigade were beginning their post-match assembly behind the West Stand. Where are they now? Disgruntled and looking for somewhere else to focus their negativity. This is a lesson we never seem to learn. I just hope that more people are prepared to shout them down the next time they get their opportunity to whine and spew their bile. It may have taken longer than we all expected for the new side to come together, but few can still seriously argue that Parky's bought a load of duffers and that he can't manage.

I still don't believe we will have enough to get out this season but it is proving to be a particularly poor division with very little genuine class. Perhaps that is our biggest opportunity? 

Saturday 13 November 2010

The Coupon 10

After a call to arms last week and a concerted effort for more than a treble, I got the clean-sheet I was after. That, of course, was none out of eight! I will persevere although my approach this week has been very different. I have been swayed increasingly by the odds available and not focusing fully on who I expected to win.

This week I have looked at the fixtures online without odds and have made my selections purely on where I see the results. I am looking forward to another treble at least. I haven't been to the Bookies yet but will be having the following punt.

Newcastle v Fulham (home win)
Ipswich v Barnsley (home win)
Bristol Rovers v Leyton Orient (home win)
Hartlepool v Brighton (away win)

Tottenham v Blackburn (home win)
Leeds v Bristol City (home win)
Carlisle v Southampton (away win)
Yeovil v Dagenham & Redbridge (home win)

If I get a chance later, I'll calculate the odds but I am going to watch my mates son make his debut for Old Dartfordians today.

Friday 12 November 2010

League One Weekend Preview, Game 16

Back to league business this weekend and having dragged ourselves into the play-off places, this is a set of games that offers us the prospect of consolidating our position or even moving closer to the precious second automatic spot. As you will see, the fixtures put five of the top six sides away from home, so there is every chance that the table will close a little again after having opened a fraction last time around - in contrast, five of the next six are at home.

It's imperative, therefore, that we get a result at high-flying Peterborough. Trouble is, in order to do that, I believe we need to go out to win. The emphasis has to be on attack, not containment. Peterborough have demonstrated very clearly how they love scoring goals at London Road (21 so far), but they have an Achilles Heel in defence that needs to be exploited. Brighton showed how it can be done.

I don't believe we will be strong enough at the back to keep a clean sheet and suspect we risk being out-scored.

AFC Bournemouth v Walsall
Not looking good for the Saddlers who are beginning to get cut adrift at the bottom. I can't see their away form being enough to overcome a Bournemouth side who go for it at home. 
Prediction; 2-0

Brentford v MK Dons
Very hard to second-guess the Bees. They are very erratic and just as likely to crash at home as win. Their 4-2 win at Exeter the other week was a real surprise and encourages me to think they might just be about to find some consistency. A routine home win against an MK Dons side who always look good value for a goal may be about right.
Prediction; 2-1

Bristol Rovers v Leyton Orient
Home win. The O's don't know how to win away and their plan is to capitalise on the handful of games where they catch similarly-matched opponents on a particularly bad day. I don't see Rovers in that bracket and they are due a home win.
Prediction; 2-0

Carlisle United v Southampton
This should be as tough for the saints as our game at Peterborough but I can see them romping it.
Prediction; 0-2

Exeter City v Notts County
The Grecians suffered their only home defeat of the campaign last time at St James and they will look to rebuild here against a Notts County side who have lost five on the road and are rapidly looking like their promotion-season spark has gone. 
Prediction; 2-0

Hartlepool United v Brighton & Hove Albion
Long trip here for Albion and you have to hope Hartlepool will make it an uncomfortable one. Brighton's run has sent them well clear at the top but they aren't that much better than everyone else challenging. Having said that, their wins at the Valley and at Peterborough were impressive and I can't see them losing it here.
Prediction; 1-2

Oldham Athletic v Huddersfield Town
A potential banana-skin for the Terriers. Oldham are unbeaten at home and Huddersfield blow hot and cold away. It's a Lancs v Yorks derby and a point apiece might be as much as either side can hope for.
Prediction; 1-1

Peterborough United v Charlton Athletic
This could be a high-scoring match. Posh appear happy to concede as they press for goals and whilst we are beginning to look more potent, our defence retains something of a glass chin. Down to Earth with a bump.
Prediction; 3-1

Sheffield Wednesday v Rochdale
I'm not sure that Wednesday are any better a side than Rochdale, even if they dwarf them as a club. I can see Dale enjoying their day out here and being good value for a point.
Prediction; 1-1

Swindon Town v Colchester United
This could be a lively affair. It's a case of which Swindon side are going to turn-up at the moment and they face an increasingly confident Colchester who are unbeaten away from home. Charlie Austin is over due a couple and Colchester might just come unstuck here.
Prediction; 2-1

Tranmere Rovers v Plymouth Argyle
Plymouth are as unpredictable as Brentford this season. Neither side here is going to prosper this season and Argyle will be disappointed having been relegated last year. They should be good enough for a point.
Prediction; 0-0

Yeovil Town v Dagenham & Redbridge
Basement slog in prospect here and my money's on Yeovil all day long. It's one of their targeted "must wins" and they should have enough momentum and desire to get the result.
Prediction; 2-0

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Southend United 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

Not a convincing performance by the sounds of it but we took the lead and hung on. A fine first-half strike from Racon settled it, even if the world and his wife initially reported it as Semedo. Southend got at us in the second-half and we rode our luck. Semedo was lucky to stay on after a hard tackle whilst on a yellow and Parky was moved to replace him immediately. Elliot made several last ditch saves and Southend should have had a late penalty but a handball was missed by the officials.

Parky took the opportunity to rest a number of players as Doherty, McCormack, Reid, Martin and Abbott all started. None of them sounded like they did too much in terms of competing to stay in the side for Saturday. There were an impressive 1200 Addicks fans down there and they were in good voice at the end. 

Roll on Saturday!

Monday 8 November 2010

The Rollercoaster is climbing again

Two years after the Zabeel deal that never was, the rumours of a takeover at Charlton Athletic continue to simmer away every now and again managing to lift the lid so we notice. The most recent rumblings came from a BBC hack tweeting away. His specifics may have been wrong but there's no smoke without fire and yesterday there were premature and unconfirmed reports linking Peter Ridsdale and Sebastian Sainsbury with the honour. 

What's clear from the hasty statement today from Richard Murray, is that talks are ongoing but that neither of the parties mentioned would appear to be serious contenders. Ridsdale is the equivalent of the Grim Reaper knocking at your door in the middle of the Black Death. I think Richard Murray would rather entertain the prospect of downsizing to a council flat in Sam Bartram House before ever tarring himself with a decision like that. I don't know much about Sebastian Sainsbury but Hedge Fund managers are instantly untrustworthy and one like him with a failed track record of talking the talk but not walking the walk when it comes to takeovers (ironically enough at Dirty Leeds). "Proof of funds" was the reason back then. What that means is that it was either an ego-trip or an attempt to get sufficient people involved who might provide the funds he didn't have or wasn't willing to risk. Either way he doesn't look like the White Knight we need so badly.

The F A Cup draw was kind to us in the sense we got a home draw but Luton Town or Corby is a another potential banana-skin. I only hope Corby win the replay because Luton's English Defence League Men-in-Gear pillocks, have been waiting several years for an opportunity like this and I suspect would cause plenty of trouble at the Valley. Still, there should be sufficiently more incentive to beat Barnet next time around than there appeared to be on Saturday. Who knows, two more cup matches and we get a shot at being the giant-killers.

Our team does battle in Southend tomorrow night in a bid to make the Southern Semi-Finals of the JPT. If we come through that, there isn't really a lot of opposition standing in our way from making a Wembley appearance. Swindon, Brentford, Plymouth, Exeter, Bristol Rovers and Wycombe Wanderers. What can possibly go wrong?

Sunday 7 November 2010

Barnet 0 v Charlton Athletic 0

The thrill of the Cup? The big crowd? The noise? The atmosphere? The end-to-end attacking football? The drama? Even the unexpected? Nope. This was a match played as if it were an early pre-season friendly in a heatwave. Flat and extremely short on tempo.

Yes, we looked solid enough and as if we were two divisions apart instead of one, save that our attacking ambitions in the first-half were virtually non-existent and having tried to up the ante in the second, we quickly nestled back into our comfort zone. By the finish, it was Barnet who were creating more of the chances and Robbie Elliot pulled off a couple of sharp saves to prevent yet another embarrassment.

It wasn't as if Parky had opted for a changed side or anything. We started as we have in recent games. Abbott replaced Joe Anyinsah at the break in what looked like a pre-planned move, but it made no difference. Having been properly demoted, I expected to see some hunger and desire from Pawel. Instead, he played like he'd just finished his Sunday dinner at his Mum's. If you read that he put a header on the bar, don't be deceived. His first touch was as poor as he has managed so far, he was slow and, frankly, Grant Basey had him in his pocket. Kyel Reid also got a late burst but he too couldn't do anything to relieve the torpor.

Other than that, it was a decent day out. Barnet seems a fairly attractive town with a decent high street and surrounding hills sprout as many trees as houses. I was reminded of Wycombe. We had a pint in the Old Mitre and should have stayed there. A 17th century Coaching Inn serving real ale. Instead we left to sample something else. The Kings Head wasn't welcoming visiting fans and was fairly empty. Normally that would tempt us to go in but we could see the next one so walked on. The Misty Moon. I think it was a Wetherspoons. A strange place which was about 20 feet wide by about two hundred long as it disappeared out the back. It had the football on so we were able to snigger as Kevin Davies opened the scoring for Bolton which made us look like Arsenal fans. Not that there was any danger of trouble in this pub as the average age of the clientele was north of 60. We left for the ground after a couple there and made for the Old Red Lion where most of the Charlton fans had plotted-up for their pre-match poison. My 80's flat-mate was there and it was good to catch-up, albeit hurriedly. He's another who didn't renew this season and was attending his second game of the season having been at the Sheffield Wednesday game last week. Not sure he'll race back after this one.

Friday 5 November 2010

The Coupon 8

Despite being wiped out on one line last week, I did manage another treble which returned close to £22 of my stake. That's five trebles from seven attempts and fits with what I was told to expect. I just need to get a four up or a win on both to get into profit. My selections are largely odds-against this week which increase the overall odds.....

1.   Fulham v Aston Villa (home win 13/10) - Villa have lost four away
2.   Barnsley v Leicester (home win 8/5) - Barnsley +7 gd at home
3.   Coventry v Leeds (home win 6/5) - Leeds blowing hot n cold
4.   Accrington Stanley v Oldham (away win 5/4) - Oldham too good 

5.   Barnet v Charlton (away win 4/5) - decent odds for three in-a-row
6.   Fleetwood Town v Walsall (home win 11/5) - Walsall are rock bottom
7.   Macclesfield v Southend (home win 6/5) - home advantage, both L2
Norwich v Burnley (home win 5/4) - Burnley yet to win away

11 bets @ £3 each = £33

8 Trebles

1, 2, 3 = £39.46
1, 2, 4 = £40.36
1, 3, 4 = £34.15
2, 3, 4 = £38.61
5, 6, 7 = £38.01
5, 6, 8 = £38.88
5, 7, 8 = £26.73
6, 7, 8 = £47.52

2 Quadruples

1, 2, 3, 4 = £83.92
5, 6, 7, 8 = £85.52

All 8 = £2392.67

TOTAL clean sweep = £2865.83  (87-1)

Barnet Fair?

Blimey! What a week. Available time for the Internet has been limited to the Swindon match as I followed events in Wiltshire. I work on the Internet practically all day from waking to sleeping and yet I literally haven't had time to check any of my favourite websites and I have had a phone stuck to my ear on trains all week. I am expecting some respite at Christmas but it looks like it's going to be frantic until then. I may even have to get some work done on Sunday but Saturday has definitely been cleared.

I'm off to Barnet with my Lieutenant of 31 years. He's blown a bit hot and cold over the last ten years. Always fanatically Charlton but riled strongly enough by the Nanny behaviour of our club at times, especially whilst in the Premiership, and dismayed by many of the Johnny-cum-Lately Glory Boys we had to endure during the same spell. Whilst I have had some empathy with these views, it would never have been enough to limit my attendance.

His renewed interest is a reflection on the state of our fortunes and an F A Cup  tie at Barnet is right up his street even if he does have to get a day's work in before we head off. I expect we'll make the pub in EN5 closer to 1pm than Midday as a result but that's a small sacrifice. I will need to get home pronto after the game as I am taking my kids up to Blackheath to see the Lewisham Fireworks, so their will be champagne for me.

This will be my first ever visit to Underhill despite having visited 97 league grounds and I am encouraged to believe we should win this with something in the tank. An old work colleague is a friend of one of the Barnet Directors has attended a number of their games over the last couple of seasons (even though he is a Kent-living Gooner). His feedback has always been that Barnet are a mess and that things are going from bad to worse. Not sure they can get a whole lot worse this season, as they sit bottom of League Two, having been spanked 3-0 at home by Stevenage in the week.

So it's all set for a Giant-killing, but surely we won't succumb again? I can't see it although any dramatic change in personnel could give us a problem. On the basis that Parky played a surprisingly strong side at MK Dons in the paint-drying cup, I think he'll do the same here. The side looks like familiarity and confidence is finally building and he should be keen to an the embers. If anything, he might be tempted to rest players for Tuesday's visit to Southend-on-Sea.

The trip to London Road a week on Saturday will be a huge test but the five that follow are all winnable (Yeovil and Bristol Rovers at home, Rochdale away,  Walsall at home and Hartlepool away), not that I expect a clean sweep.

"Round 2, Round 2, we're the famous Charlton Athletic and we're going to Round 2!"

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Swindon Town 0 v Charlton Athletic 3

I suggested in my earlier post that this game could be something of a make or break in terms of our recent form. On the basis of the performance this evening as well as the result, I have to conclude that we appear to be on the make. Three successive wins have moved us up to fifth in the table and we can go to Barnet on Saturday and hopefully play some relaxed football against the Football League's current bottom side.

It was an unchanged side that was sent out to do battle at the County Ground. Those of us who may have been a touch disappointed that Jon Fortune didn't get a start, can't fail to have noticed that Gary Doherty made a number of telling contributions as Charlton fought hard to maintain a 16th minute lead that came courtesy of Johnnie Jackson. Whilst Charlie Austin went close for Swindon on two occasions in the first-half, we remained a threat on the break and Wagstaff, Anyinsah and Benson did a lot of running when we regained possession in our half. Whilst it sounded like Swindon had the best of the opening period, we actually had 60% of the ball even if they had more efforts than us.

Five minutes after the break we made it two-nil when a powerful far post cross from Matt Fry was headed home by Bristol-boy Joe Anyinsah. Anyinsah is really looking like he's settled quickly at the Valley and is beginning to show much more than we might have expected from a lower league cast-off. After that we had opportunities to make it three as we forced a number of corners. Gary Doherty saw a header cleared by Austin on the line and Jackson, Benson and Anyinsah were all touches short of clear scoring opportunities as we took the game to our hosts. It was Paul Benson who finally got the third on 75 minutes after Scott Wagstaff raced clear and played another far post cross which was converted via a defender by the sounds of it.

It was good to gain some revenge for the bitter disappointment of missing out on a Wembley play-off appearance to Swindon in May, even if an encounter against Millwall would have put a massive dampener on it. The victory moves us up to fifth, but ominously, Brighton, Huddersfield, Colchester, Peterborough, and Southampton all recorded convincing wins to join us in the top five places.

Bring on Barnet.

Make or break?

This evening's league fixture in Wiltshire gives us the chance to build on two successive wins. Parky thought the win over Carlisle could be a turning point and with Saturday's three pointer pushing us into an unlikely sixth, the squad travel down the M4 today with the prospect of a rare winning treble.  

Swindon are short on form themselves and they could be vulnerable this evening. Their home record is mixed with good wins over Huddersfield, Southampton and Bristol Rovers, draws with Brentford and Leyton Orient and a defeat by Plymouth. They haven't won in the last three and needed two late goals at Yeovil to salvage a point on Saturday. Much may depend upon our tactics for the match and, once again, I think we need to be set-up to really attack Swindon - on the break at worst. That means we need two up front and I expect Benson and Anyinsah to start if we are ready to play that way.

Jackson and Wagstaff are automatic picks at the moment and Semedo and Racon played themselves into the side on Saturday. My only question-marks are at the back where Parky could be tempted to give Gary Doherty a rest. Jon Fortune might be a better choice against the lively Charlie Austin.

I am still far from convinced we have a side capable of automatic promotion, even in this flat league, and our away form has been well short of it. If I was betting on the match, my head would tell me Swindon might just nick it 1-0. It would be a real boost to avoid defeat this evening ahead of the F A Cup on Saturday, where our players might get a bit of freedom to play a more attacking game away from home for a change. The experience of last year should still weigh heavily in Phil Parkinson's mind.

Come on you REDS!

Monday 1 November 2010

Owls fans' day out...

Had to smile at this Sheffield Wednesday's fans account of his day out in the big city - http://owlsalive.com/RamblesCharltonAway.html? Interesting observations about how both of our clubs and teams are perceived in this division. I have to agree with him that neither of us look like we will do a Norwich or Leeds and march into the Championship.

Us, "miserable set of sods?" What does he mean?