Monday 29 August 2011

Leon Cort joins the firm

Addicks fans have been calling for central defensive reinforcements. Today, Chris Powell and the Board have answered the call by recruiting Carl Cort's younger brother, the 31 year old Leon on a season's loan from Burnley.

I can't profess to having seen much of Cort but his career is littered with clubs where he hasn't really made it. Barring a stint at Southend from 2001 to 2004 when he made 137 appearances , he managed 86 at Hull, 49 at Palace, 44 at Stoke, 19 at Burnley and 13 on loan at Preston last year. 

 We don't really need a fifth centre-half unless there's a serious chance that he will play his way into the side. Maybe the thinking is that Cort could excel at this level and will get a first-team chance? Otherwise, he's competing for a space on the bench with Doherty. Yado Mambo must be wondering if his time will ever come.

If there's anymore transfer business to be done, it must be for a striker and I would love to see a loan signing of someone surplus to requirements at a Premier League club. Having been appointed manager at Bradford City, Phil Parkinson looks to be targeting Paul Benson which might give us the spur for increasing the quality up front. Fingers crossed.

Sunday 28 August 2011

Bury 1 v Charlton Athletic 2-

A bit later than normal for me, due to an early viewing at the Greenwich Picturehouse of The Guard yesterday (thoroughly entertaining) and a Thai with Mrs Peeps, but I did listen in to the commentary at Gigg Lane yesterday whilst painting the ceiling of the new roof on my shed summerhouse.

I was surprised at how disappointed I felt to learn that Bradley Wright-Phillips was out of the side. I had an immediate fear that it would cost us the game and that lasted until we equalised minutes into the second-half. It's not as if we haven't been playing with confidence, especially away from home and not as if we have relied upon BWP for the goals, but the prospect of no BWP left me flat. I guess I am recognising how important he is to the side, always being capable of scoring irrespective of how the rest of the team is playing.

Our first-half performance didn't sound encouraging either and Bury took control of the latter stages of that. Steve Brown was very unhappy with the centre-back pairing and with how far back they were playing. He kept referring to the gap between them and midfield which Bury began to exploit. The goal they scored was from a quickly taken free-kick which Ben Hamer wasn't ready for. He'll learn from that.

The mood changed after the break when Paul Hayes headed a far-post Jackson cross down and up into the the roof of the net. Suddenly we were on our game and Brownie perked up and gave credit for the half-time re-organisation that had realigned the defence and fired us to go at Bury. Our reward was a second goal as Johnnie Jackson ghosted in at the far post after a mistake in the Bury back line and slotted home the winner. A late rally was almost inevitable as Bury threw their subs on but we held on comfortably to remain joint top of the fledgling table.

I have been looking ahead at the coming fixtures and predict we will go points clear before I return from my India trip on 17th September. The draw for the 3rd round of the League Cup was made yesterday and we face either Swindon or Southampton if we can overcome Preston at the Valley. I hope Powell rewards the B team for their first round win by playing as many of that side as he can against Preston. Southampton will probably await us and that could be the end of the road irrespective of what side we put out, so I would again be tempted to stick with the same starting eleven, not that I am counting chickens or anything.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Charlton Athletic 2 v Reading 1

Charlton progressed to the second round of the Carling Cup this evening in an entertaining game at the Valley that sent the vast majority of the 6,668 gate home happy (I'd say there were 450 Reading).

It's fair to say that Reading were not at full strength having made five or six changes. However, Charlton started with a full eleven swap from that which ran out against Scunthorpe and I believe we had another seven full debuts (inc Euell second-time around). Predictably enough, Ben Hamer started in goal for the first time and he made three good saves during the match. His full-stretch finger-tip save to prevent Reading from scoring in the top corner during the first half being the pick. In front of him it was Evina, Doherty, Mambo and Francis. Evina looked very comfortable on the ball throughout and will press Rhoys Wiggins for the first-choice at left-back. His performance was eclipsed by that of Simon Francis. Francis has taken a lot of stick, most of it deserved, but he turned down the chance of a fresh start in the Summer to make a go of it at Charlton and I personally wish him all the best after a storming performance that set the tone for the rest of the side. There was a great moment in the second-half when he broke up a Reading attack in the box, lead the charge out and played a good ball over the top which drew an appreciative roar from the Valley faithful. Doherty and Mambo were solid enough despite a rocky opening fifteen minutes when the scoreline might have read 3-3.

In midfield, Danny Green was another expected starter as was Bover-Isquierdo but the central pairing of Pritchard and Hughes was quite a surprise. As we already know, Hughes isn't a large player and I envisaged him being signed as a versatile defensive player. To find him expected to hold it together with the inexperienced and diminutive Pritchard looked a tall order. They didn't have it all their own way but with excellent support from Bover-Isquierdo and Green, they did a good enough job and Wagstaff effectively made it a five-man midfield when he came on for the injured Benson around the hour mark.

That meant Benson and Euell upfront and whilst they aren't going to get us out of League One, both scored this evening and neither could be faulted for their work-rate although both missed glorious chances to have scored before either did. 

The game itself was frantic from the off and Reading carved us open twice in the first three minutes, although Danny Green should have opened the scoring early on with Charlton's first chance when an excellent move gave him an opportunity in the box. He took a touch, danced inside the covering defender and only had to hit the target but fired wide. Benson then missed from a similar distance and Jason Euell picked up a back-header and went one-on-one with McCarthy and saw his low shot cannon of McCarthy's foot. Reading faded after the opening twenty and we were good value for 1-0 at the interval.

After the break we continued to take the game to Reading and whilst there were mistakes from both sides, the pace of the game was good and both teams looked to attack when they had the ball. The excitement got through to the Charlton fans and the atmosphere was quite stirring at times for such a small gate. After Wagstaff came on for Benson it meant Jason Euell was playing the lone striker but he took full advantage to get on the end of a near post cross and adjusted himself beautifully to take what was a lowish ball and steer it beyond McCarthy. We looked home and dry but on 70 minutes we lost the limping Doherty and Michael Morrison came into central defence. From the ensuing corner the ball fell to Morrsion who couldn't clear and it was knocked into the centre and swept home from close range. Two-one and the nerves were momentarily jangled but Charlton survived fiften minutes of Royals pressure and several desperate headers before we broke the stranglehold and again took the ball into the Reading half with purpose. Green and Wagstaff provided the running and Bover-Izquierdo managed to strike a post after a good burst into the box and loosing off a shot. Chris Solly came on at the end and we managed to play our four minutes of added time without any incident. 

I am not a fan of fielding significantly weakened teams and it won't win you too many games but today was an exception and for £10 (£5 for concessions), there won't be many who would argue we didn't get value-for-money.

Saturday 20 August 2011

Charlton Athletic 2 v Scunthorpe United 2

Points thrown away in the last minutes at the Valley but if I am being honest, a draw was the right result. Scunthorpe came to compete and they held their own from the off. They were unfortunate to fall one behind when they did and probably even more so to go two down. They looked like they would score and when they did there were a worrying 17 minutes left. That wasn't enough but the five additional minutes were.

The downpour for the couple of hours before kick-off meant most people arrived dripping wet, especially those of us who had been out in short-sleeves since the burning sunshine of midday.

We looked lack-lustre and evidently short on the pace and movement of the last couple of games. Bradley Wright-Phillips and Johnnie Jackson apart, I thought we  looked sluggish from midfield and didn't do nearly enough in the first half. The goal , when it came, gave an unrealistic advantage and it didn't galvanise our performance. It was a looping header from Jackson which looked to be going over and then looked like it would cannon off the bar. Instead it dropped down on the line and I still expected it to bounce out, but in it went.

After the break I thought we would step up and kill it off. There was improvement, but nowhere near enough to control the game and it was at this point that Danny Hollands managed to drive a ball to the back post where BWP once again was first to it and nodded home. The two-goal lead flattered us and  yet there was still no step up in the pace. I felt we should have made a couple of substitutions on 70 minutes but we didn't and within a few minutes Scunthorpe had cut the deficit. For once they managed to find a man in the box in a yard of space and he beat Elliot from close range. 

We steadied the boat after that and had a couple of chances of our own. Danny Green whipped in a couple of decent crosses, having come on for Waggy and Jason Euell wanted to know in Paul Hayes' place. Unfortunately, we didn't get the break and we still weren't committing enough men forward. Scunthorpe hadn't panicked and on the announcement of 5 minutes added time, visibly moved up the field as they sought the equaliser. Chris Solly, who I thought had an otherwise excellent game, got in front of their ball-player in the box and won possession but he opted to clip it out to the wing instead of leathering it and it was picked up by a claret shirt and crossed to the back post. Three red shirts in-a-row went up but the ball beat them all and was nodded back down for another close range score. There wasn't enough time for a response and Bradley Wright-Phillips had just been replaced by Gary Doherty.

Perhaps it was too much to expect to win a fourth successive game and the point keeps us level-top with MK Dons and Sheffield United. It's early days and perhaps this will look a better point as the season progresses. It still feels a big disappointment after the previous three performances. 

The crowd of 15,505 was a little disappointing too, as there were probably the same number of home fans as in the opener against Bournemouth. Clearly, repairing the damage of five years is going to take a little longer. Reading will offer some light relief on Tuesday and then we need to throw everything at Bury and go in search of another convincing win.

Jim Davidson's new Charlton Blog

No doubt this will receive a mixed reception but I, for one, was pleased to see it. I'm not sure (as yet) that Jim's on the money in terms of us having acquired a great defence but I guess the record speaks for itself so far. I will be interested in his thoughts on today's game.

Friday 19 August 2011

League one Weekend Preview, Game 4

Scunny tomorrow and I am hoping the sun stays out to boost what should be a bigger crowd than we managed for Bournemouth. On the basis that the visiting Iron support will probably be 500 light of what Bournemouth brought, any improvement on 16,111 will be a result. Getting any newcomers to return is the key and, for that, all we need to do is to put on another display of attacking and winning football. Easier said than done but it's what I am expecting.

How do you top three wins where we have scored 3, 2 and 2? By scoring 4...

My early season predictions could probably not have been worse but I have called the Addicks right so far.

Brentford v Leyton Orient
The first League One derby of the season and the O's will go in short of confidence after losing all three to date. Normally I would favour a 1-1 but the Bees are buzzing and that may be enough here.
Prediction; 2-1

Carlisle United v AFC Bournemouth
Carlisle have picked up four points on the road and will be confident of getting their first home win here against a Cherries side who have a long trip in front of a handful of fans.
Prediction; 2-0

Charlton Athletic v Scunthorpe United

They have yet to win, we have yet to lose. However, they have kept it relatively tight and we should be ready for a slow down of sorts. Bradley-W-P to score again and give us all the transfer jitters before the window closes.
Prediction; 2-0

Huddersfield Town v Colchester United
Clash of the blue and white stripes and I would favour Town heavily after seeing Colchester in the week. However, Huddersfield have only managed draws so far and they may play under something of a cloud. Colchester will need to be as ambitious as they were at Preston on the opening day. A draw would be an upset.
Prediction; 2-2

MK Dons v Chesterfield
These two sides have quickly found the levels I expect them to be operating at this season which should point to a convincing home win.
Prediction; 3-0

Oldham Athletic v Rochdale
Not the most glamorous derby in England. Both of these sides are languishing and I fancy Paul Dickov's charges to have enough determination here.
Prediction; 1-0

Preston NE v Exeter City
PNE have recovered from their opening day shocker at home to Colchester with four points on the road and a win here will steady the boat. The Grecians have lost both home games very uncharacteristically and might be in for a year of turmoil.
Prediction; 3-0

Sheffield Wednesday v Notts County
Our win at Notts County looked even better after they saw off fast-starters Tranmere in the week. This will be a test but Wednesday have slumped to defeat in both aways and Gary Megson might not find this season as straightforward as he might have expected.
Prediction; 1-1

Stevenage v Hartlepool United
Stevenage will be pleased with their start and this could be a great opportunity to cement it, although Hartlepool are very unpredictable and I'll take them to get something this time out.
Prediction;  1-1

Tranmere Rovers v Sheffield United
Decent match in prospect here. Addicks fans will be hoping Tranny can continue their decent start and recover after an added-time goal at Notts County cost them a point in the week. United are buzzing though and should have a sizeable and vociferous following.
Prediction; 1-2

Walsall v Yeovil Town
Home win for me. Walsall managed a couple of goals at Bramall Lane in going down to United in the week whereas Yeovil slumped to a 1-0 home defeat by MK Dons. 
Prediction; 2-0

Wycombe Wanderers v Bury
Another League Two fixture from last year. Perhaps the Fixture Computer is being helpful in handing the new boys opportunities to get some confidence-building points on the board Wycombe will fancy it after a positive beginning.
Prediction; 2-1

Thursday 18 August 2011

Elliott on the Toon

In common with just about every other player move this Summer, the rumour that Newcastle would be signing Robbie Elliot looks about to become a reality. Perhaps it's the prevalence of the internet and Twitter but there appear to be very few genuine surprises nowadays. It could, of course, be the Modus Operandi of the new owners?

Whatever the reason, I wish Charlton-fan Rob all the best in his quest to become a Premier league keeper. There is, as yet, no mention of a fee but as he's contracted to 2012 and is our first-choice currently, I believe we should be expecting c £1m? If that proves to be the case (it may remain "undisclosed"), Slater and Jiminez must be very pleased with their Summer business.

I guess we should expect Ben Hamer to debut on Saturday. What's the chance of a blooper that costs us the points and punctures our balloon? Let  me be positive (for once) and suggest a penalty save that keeps us top-of-the-league.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Colchester United 0 v Charlton Athletic 2

A thoroughly professional night's work and a third successive league win. Top of the league with a home game to come against a Scunthorpe side who slumped to a home defeat to hitherto pointless Oldham. Everything's looking rosy.

Charlton started like a team possessed this evening and roared on by what must have been closer to 2000 fans than the 1500 I expected, we made short work of Colchester. They couldn't cope with our pace and movement and it took only 13 minutes to unlock the U's defence. Bradley Wright-Phillips careered through the Colchester backline with a 1-2, 1-2 with Scott Wagstaff which sent him clear on goal and he buried his chance. Fifteen minutes later and it was goodnight Colchester. A cross into the box was headed on by Paul Hayes and there was Wright-Phillips again lurking at the back post to beat Colchester's Man-of-the-Match from close range.

We played some really neat and quick football up to half-time and there was a confidence in our game which surpassed anything seen so far. A third would not have been too much and we really could have been out-of-sight. Colchester were strangely lack-lustre and it took them almost 45 minutes to create their first opening when Odejayi got a foot up to a high back-post ball but could not keep his effort under the bar. 

After the break it was apparent that our game-plan had changed. We were sitting back and content to defend and await for opportunities to breakout. Still the better goal-scoring chances came our way and Johnnie Jackson was unlucky with a curled effort after an excellent five-man move. For all Colchester's possession, they were unable to create any clear-cut chance as they were repeatedly foiled by a hard-working rear-guard. It was no-nonsense stuff again from Morrison and Taylor who launched everything that came near them. Chris Solly had a stonker at right-back and Elliott was assured behind him. It was a quieter day for Rhoys Wiggins than at Notts County.

We saw less of Wagstaff after the break but he and Jackson knew what to do when we did breakout as Bradley Wright-Phillips looked desperately for his hat-trick. Paul Hayes worked his socks off again and eventually made way for Jason Euell, who was himself unlucky to see an effort go narrowly wide. Andy Hughes came on for Dale Stephens and Danny Green provided fresh legs at the end for BWP.

The travelling fans were in great voice and the thumping drum that was present at Notts County was back and being beaten with even more vigour. On this form, we are going to take some stopping. I also think we will score goals and some very good ones at that along the way.

There should be a bumper crowd at the Valley on Saturday and this would normally be the point at which to predict we fall flat on our faces but we have been so much better than all three of our opponents so far, that I am expecting another convincing win. Dale Stephens and Danny Hollands did nothing wrong tonight but in comparison with those around them in red shirts, probably contributed slightly less if I am being critical and I expect a stronger performance from both at home.

If you haven't been to a game so far, get yourself down to the Valley on Saturday. This could just be the real deal and the start of something far better than we have experienced for the best part of ten years. Too early for me to blow the horn for Powell, Slater and Jiminez just yet, but like the Addicks present, there is a building cacophony each week of "Chrissie Powell's Red Army!"

Monday 15 August 2011

League One Midweek Preview, Game 3

Fresh on the heels of our first win at Meadow lane since 1977, our team travels up the A12 to Colchester tomorrow for another test of our new-season credentials. We have never beaten the U's in a league game at their place (in five attempts) and it's high time we did. I was there in 1981 when our promotion winning side from this division were beaten 2-0 and my visit two years ago ended in a humiliating 3-0 trouncing. That was enough for me to avoid the place last year when we managed a battling 3-3 draw.

I spoke to a work colleague this afternoon who is a Wycombe Wanderers fan and he was impressed with Colchester's attacking football from their recent League Cup encounter that finished three each. Having managed a 1-1 draw at Colchester in the league on Saturday, I am encouraged that we can go one better than the Chairboys.

It's a full league programme tomorrow night and here's who's got whom...

AFC Bournemouth v Stevenage
Two draws for Stevenage in their fledgling League One season but things may hot up here and my money's on Bournemouth recovering from their Valley set-back with a second successive home win.
Prediction; 2-0

Bury v Sheffield Wednesday
Wednesday will be looking to bounce back from defeat at Dean Court and they should fill the ground at Bury. Looks tough for the Shakers.
Prediction; 0-2

Chesterfield v Preston North End
Neither of these sides have started well and Phil Brown might well be feeling some early season heat if he can't start putting points on the board. This could  be another humbling result.
Prediction; 2-1

Colchester United v Charlton Athletic
I am expecting an open and attacking match tomorrow night where we could well share four or more goals again. I would take a draw now but at this point in the season, why not gamble and go for all three? The Valley should have an expectant buzz for the visit of Scunthorpe on Saturday if we go into it unbeaten and sill top-of-the-table. 
Prediction; 2-3

Exeter City v Brentford
I am tipping the Bees this season for a promotion push. Tough start on the road at Sheffield United but I expect them to do better at lesser clubs. The Grecians are always hard to beat at home but I can see Brentford getting something here.
Prediction; 1-1

Hartlepool v Huddersfield Town
Sluggish start from Huddersfield (thinks Southampton) and they may be suffering from the weight of expectation after going the distance in the last two years.
Prediction; 1-2

Leyton Orient v Wycombe Wanderers
The O's are also slow starters this year. Surely they will get a win over one of the promoted sides here?
Prediction; 2-1

Notts County v Tranmere Rovers
I wasn't nearly as impressed with County as many other Addicks on Saturday. They may have a demanding manager who will make them fight for everything but when your side has so obviously had it drilled into them to steal 5 years at every dead-ball, you know that they are trying to make-up for a shortfall in quality. That shouldn't come as a complete surprise following their 19th placed finish last time. Having said that, I can't see Rovers winning three on the spin and both sides might take a point.
Prediction; 1-1

Rochdale v Carlisle United
Dale to go one better here than their 2-2 home draw with Huddersfield on Saturday.
Prediction; 2-0

Scunthorpe United v Oldham Athletic
After two 1-1 draws, the Iron have a pointless Oldham limping into town tomorrow. I'm expecting an ambush.
Prediction; 3-0.

Sheffield United v Walsall
Blades fans may be wondering what all the fuss is about after two successive wins. Walsall might not ask too many questions either but bigger tests lie ahead.
Prediction; 3-0

Yeovil Town v MK Dons
Good wins for both of these sides at the weekend, especially MK's 2-0 triumph at Exeter City. Might be hard to split them here.
Prediction; 2-2

If I am blogging at Midnight tomorrow on the match, it will be because we have maintained our perfect start to the season. We had sold 950 tickets by late afternoon and tickets will be available on the night, so maybe we can expect 1500 noisy Addicks there tomorrow? 

Sunday 14 August 2011

Thoughts on Sunday

I have downloaded the Sunday times and will venture out for a real paper shortly. In the meantime, Mrs Peeps is preparing the Sunday dinner and Charlton are still top of the league. Feels good doesn't it?

I have been reflecting on yesterday's showing and wondering where the main differences are between this side and last season's. The most obvious is in midfield where we have been pressing rather than holding and where there has been notably more width than we managed in the second-half of last year's campaign. Johnnie Jackson's return obviously accounts for half of that and we are getting the annual surge from Scott Wagstaff as the season gets underway. Wagstaff needs to remain focused but we have the luxury of a more than competent replacement in Danny Green and he may play his way into the side in any event. With Alonso and Bover-Izquierdo waiing in the wings, midfield looks to be well served. Stephens and Hollands played ok yesterday but didn't dominate the game as they did at the Valley against Bournemouth.

Upfront, I still think we are just short of being first rate. BWP is a poacher supreme and whilst he might not actually be better than Shaun (as the song went yesterday), he's got goals in him and time yet to mature into the finished article. Paul Hayes had a decent match yesterday. He thinks about his game and has a good touch but he doesn't have real pace and, as yet, no obvious sign of an aerial threat. 

Jason Euell got on at the end and put himself about a bit but he looks 34 and there was a moment shortly after he came on that told me all I needed to know. A ball was played up to him which dropped goal-side of the marker and he should have bustled on to the ball, sped clear and shot. Instead, he looked for the marker and waited to ride the challenge, I think, in the hope that he could knock him off the ball to give himself two additional seconds he would need to fashion a shot. Having said that, I think he's a decent acquisition as I have said before as long as we are not paying him too much. That leaves Paul Benson who is an average League One striker and probably no better than Hayes or Euell at this stage.

In defence, it was hard to make any strong views based on yesterday. What I did notice was that the centre-halves appear to be operating on a one-touch policy. Last year we had to watch our central defenders on the ball probably more than the midfield. This was largely because of how our midfield was operating (so deep and negatively) but the obvious problem is that the longer the ball is there, the greater the risk that someone will make a mistake. Taylor and especially Morrison look to get rid of the ball at the first opportunity, even if it's putting it out. Perhaps that tactic makes them more effective or covers weaknesses in their game elsewhere but so far it's worked very well. 

I thought the full-backs both had decent games yesterday. Solly and Wiggins are similar in that they are both probably better players than their styles make them appear. Both are combative and are prepared to move into a tackle early which can leave them work to do, but by-and-large they are quick enough to recover and get in a second tackle. 

That only leaves Robbie and I didn't think he did anything wrong yesterday but County didn't really trouble him. 

Colchester are unbeaten and the game on Tuesday should be another good test. I am planning on being there.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Notts County 1 v Charlton Athletic 2

I am on the train back from Nottingham and posting fom a phone, so persevere. A thoroughly solid performance today keeps us top and sets us up for Tuesday's trip to Colchester. Come what may, next Saturday's home game against Scunthorpe is already a more attractive fixture than we might have expected.

The same starting eleven as last week went for it from the whistle and it was only really a question of when, not if. The breakthrough was simple enough. A ball through on the right flank beat the offside and Waggy skated in. He steered the ball wide of Burch before clipping home as BWP closed in on goal. The second came before the break and was similar. Wright-Phllips beat the trap on the right and crossed for Paul Hayes to notch his first Addicks goal.

There really was no County threat and I was surprised that Lee Hughes hadn't started. I was told after the game by County fans that he suffered from the Benz on a diving holiday and is making a gradual recovery. He did start the second-half and they looked better for it. Irrespective, we should have wrapped it within the hour but were a touch too casual and then County pulled one back from a poorly defended corner. Set pieces look to be a problem.

After that we steadied the ship and should have had the third when BWP was sent clear but he chose to shoot when Johnnie Jackson was on acres of space to his right. Not to worry because we saw the game out after that.

There was a post-whistle altercation involving about s dozen players apparently because Jason Euell took exception to the final ball being lashed into the Charlton fans at at death.

Top of the league after two games. Time we put Colchester in their place.

Friday 12 August 2011

League One Weekend Preview - Game 2

Unlike most of you, I have first game fever and am itching to see the Reds in action at Notts County tomorrow. I will be on the rattler early for a day-out and I am expecting to get the fix I missed last week. I have now had a chance to watch the Bournemouth game on CAFC Player and I have to say that a couple of things struck me in particular; the first was that we defended far better as a team than last season and the second, was that I didn't think Bournemouth were quite as bad as reports seemed to suggest.

Our players were quick to get behind the ball whenever the Cherries were on it and were throwing themselves at  every pass and shot. We won a lot of interceptions as a result and whilst it might have looked disorganised at times, I thought we defended pretty well. The consensus appears to be that we will score goals and concede them this year and many are predicting a 3-2 defeat tomorrow. I'm not ready to agree.

Similarly, I thought Bournemouth tried to play football last week and had plenty of possession without creating much. At home that sort of play readily converts to goals.

My assessment of the fixtures last week was about as wrong as usual, but hey, I enjoy looking at the other games and seeing how the results and performances might go. So...

AFC Bournemouth v Sheffield Wednesday
I watched the poor Wednesday v Blackpool cup game last night (Preston at home if we can beat Reading). Wednesday were lucky to get extra time and whilst they will have fresh legs out at Bournemouth, I fancy the Cherries to get off the mark here.
Prediction; 2-1

Bury v Carlisle United
The Shakers earned a good point at the Galpharm in the first game last week and this is a great chance to cement their League One start. Carlisle may be dragging a leg after their home humping by Notts County.
Prediction; 2-0

Chesterfield v Stevenage 
League Two fixture from last season and I'll go with home advantage. Neither of these sides managed a goal last week.
Prediction; 2-1

Colchester United v Wycombe Wanderers
Surprise win for the U's at Preston on Saturday and with us to come on Tuesday, they will want to make quick work of this. Wycombe won't lie down but I can see Colchester edging it.
Prediction; 2-1

Exeter City v MK Dons
Both of these sides drew in the opening match, although Exeter's point at Stevenage was slightly more impressive than MK's last gasp equaliser at home to Hartlepool. Another home win.
Prediction; 2-0

Hartlepool United v Walsall

Battling display by Hartlepool last week although Jeff Stelling was typically frustrated at the death after Pools late second goal was matched. Routine home win for Hartlepool.
Prediction; 2-0

Leyton Orient v Tranmere Rovers
The O's went down by the only goal at the Bescot which will have been a big disappointment for them. This is set for a winning home debut.
Prediction; 3-0

Notts County v Charlton Athletic
Right then, they can't all be home wins can they? County may have Lee Hughes and they may be cock-a-hoop after their 3-0 win at Brunton Park but I am going to be brave here and go for a winning Addicks performance. Largely the same side (Green for Wagstaff?) to take the game to County and to score first and last. BWP or Hayes to open their accounts.
Prediction; 1-2

Rochdale v Huddersfield Town
Disappointing starts for both of these sides and this could be a tough match as a result. Huddersfield have the pedigree and I suspect it will come through.
Prediction; 1-2

Scunthorpe United v Preston North End
A League One fixture from last season and the Iron will be up for this. Tough start for the Brown one.
Prediction; 2-1

Sheffield United v Brentford
Other than Meadow Lane, this could be the game to be at tomorrow. Brentford won in regulation last week and this will be an early season test of their new credentials under Uwe Rosler. 
Prediction; 2-2

Yeovil Town v Oldham Athletic
Both of these teams are looking for their first point and they may get it tomorrow.
Prediction; 1-1

Come on you Reds!

Wednesday 10 August 2011


News that Jason Euell has signed a one year deal at the Valley hardly comes as a surprise following several weeks of training with us and positive noises from both player and manager. Jason made his Charlton-mark in the top flight where he plundered 30-odd goals in little over 130 appearances.

At 34 and having managed only a dozen goals since he left us, I am not expecting much. My guess is that he will get to play in the moody cup competitions and appear from the bench on occasions. I assume he's not on big League One money because he may struggle to provide value-for-money. Having said that, he may be a positive influence around the club and hopefully Benson and Hayes will be kept on their toes. I suspect that our recruitment drive is now over and that we will now limit our market activity to loan dealings as and when necessary.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

"Flying back to riots"

I am flying back to London late tonight. Poor planning and a calculated risk over the first game of the season meant I was expecing to miss two home matches. However, this evening's match against Reading has been postponed to allow more police officers to be available to contain the wave of looting sweeping London. Not such bad thing for me obviously and perhaps it will be better to play Championsip Reading after another league match or two when confidence may be higher still.

I have been watching the disorder on BBC and Sky News. It's very sad to see, especially as the beleaguered Old Bill appear to have orders to contain the looting rather than confront the looters, that or they are stretched so thin they have no option. I suspect it's the former and a result of recent history where senior officers fear humiliating sackings and humble PC's worry about being caught on camera dishing out a bit of old-fashioned policing.

I am amazed by the current media coverage. Everyone wants to know how it's started and why? Are macro economic policies to blame? Is it chronic under-investment in the inner cities? Is it a lack of jobs? Local Authority budget cuts? Poor schooling? Perhaps a direct link to the shooting of the local hero in Tottenham? A form of social network rioting? Why doesn't someone just come out and say that it's opportunist and copy-cat. The Summer's here. Less rainfall than normal and warmer to stay out at night. When you have next to nothing to lose, why not the excitement of a running battle with the local constabulary and the opportunity to help yourself to Mr Patel's over-priced booze and perhaps upgrade your telly?

What annoys me nearly as much as the rioting is the Doom-mongers who revel in it. I was up early this morning cleaning the pool and had to endure the neighbours conversation over the fence. They are from Croydon originally (probably Palace fans) and how they are loving it. This is why they moved out here, six years ago. They wouldn't go back for all the money in the world. The whole city will burn down etc. I retreated inside to book my taxi and the lady on the desk at the local firm was very perky and delighted to inform me that I would be "flying back to riots." "What, in Charlton" I asked? No, but in Lewisham, Peckham and Deptford. I know there has been trouble in Lewisham and Peckham but I think Deptford might be old-hat. What I want to know is why Woolwich is dragging it's feet? It will be a laughing stock forever if it can't get it's act together. That new screen in the square must be a talking point amongst the local Yoot although it would take a lot of them to remove it and no-one has a socket big enough to run it. Still, it would look good wouldn't it?

At least Dave C and Boris are also returning today, so they will have to "do something." I expect Plod will be given a bit of licence to do some looter-battering to restore confidence and set an example for a copy-cat end to it. The politicians will then get their photo opportunity by a burnt-out car and have to endure a conversation with a local youth who they will not be able to understand, whilst his mates all crowd the camera saying "innit" and showing their Staffs off. The Enquiry will follow and in a year or so there will be some relatively well-paid soft-soap jobs set-up for "community leaders" and a few million quid wasted updating the local swings for the dealers.

I just hope the battering and mass arrests start quickly so we can move on. None of us want to see league games being postponed.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Charlton Athletic 3 v AFC Bournemouth 0

A resounding opening day home win was the cause for much celebration in SE7 yesterday. After a near complete team re-build and a positive pre-season, Chris Powell's new-look Charlton Athletic were under pressure to meet expectations at the Valley. For once they rose to the occasion and looked impressive in dismissing last year's surprise package Bournemouth.

I was tuned in on CAFC Player and heard the move as Chis Solly advanced upfield and threaded a smart pass to Dale Stephens as Bradley Wright-Phillips took the defence with him. Stephens stroked home with confidence and Charlton's season was underway. We stood off the gas before the break but took a stranglehold early in the second-half when Stephens unselfishly squared a ball for Wagstaff 20 yards out and Scott lashed a shot on the volley into the top-corner. The "goal-of-the-season" comments on Twitter said it all.

We continued to harry the Cherries throughout the second-half and created plenty of chances before BWP's quick feet won him a penalty near the death. That was the cue for Johnnie Jackson to become the third midfielder to open their goal-scoring accounts.

The stage may be set for a spot of giant-killing on Tuesday when Reading make a trip they won't relish in the League Cup. Next week we get the opportunity to cement our top-of-the-table start when we go to Notts Ounty, impressive 3-0 winners too yesterday at Carlisle. Lee Hughes will need to be harnessed but we look like we have goals in the team and I can't wait.

The feel-good factor is definitely back. We just need to make it last.

Friday 5 August 2011

League One Weekend Preview - Game 1

Well, the waiting is nearly over. The clear out of the Summer is virtually complete although I reckon we have a striker yet to join us. The hype of pre-season is behind us and tomorrow, 14 of the new squad will get their chance to claim their place and to show an expectant Valley crowd just what they can do.

We expect to win tomorrow against a Bournemouth side who fell away like us last season and who have had a far more unsettling close season by comparison  as they lost a number of players key to their side. Danny Hollands and Rhoys Wiggins were just two of those and I suspect we will face a side with something of a chip on their shoulder. I expect it to be even more hard-fought than normal for the first game, and like last year, one goal may be enough. I believe we will start with more momentum and desire than the Cherries tomorrow and am expecting a three point start.

Here's what happening around the rest of League One.

Brentford v Yeovil Town
Brentford have been busy and have appointed Uwe Rosler as manager. Rosler has strengthened throughout the side. Man City youngster and ambidextrous full-back, Shaleum Logan has bolstered defence, as has Marcel Eger from St Pauli. The impressive Jonathan Douglas has been lured to drive midfield and they have added Celtic's Niall McGinn on the wing and Crewe's rated Clayton Donaldson upfront.

Yeovil have been predictably less involved in the market with only Alastair Stowe, a former Spurs, Brighton and Northampton midfielder joining as well as the loan re-signing of Tottenham's Jonathan Obika. Flying start for the Bees. They could be a surprise package this season. It looks like another modest year for the Grecians although Terry Skiverton may benefit for keeping his side largely intact.
Prediction; 3-1

Carlisle United v Notts County
Not a great deal of transfer activity of either of these clubs. Gregg Abbott maintains a smallish squad but believes he has enough quality to get Carlisle pressing again. Martin Allen will be relying on his motivational skills as he gets his side to supply the ammunition for Lee Hughes and Craig Westcarr.

I can't see either of these sides troubling the play-off positions this year but they are probably both strong enough to avoid relegation.
Prediction; 2-0

Charlton Athletic v AFC Bournemouth
I'll go for a scoreline repeat of last season's opener, although I believe the gap between the sides in terms of quality is greater now than then. We could enjoy a high-scoring win if we can score early enough.

Our fortunes may well depend upon the points haul from the first ten games. If it fails to meet expectations, Powell could come under heavy pressure and we could suffer from the same pressure-cooker scenario that we suffered for the last half of the season. I think we will end up with a top-ten finish but promotion is a big ask from where we start and I am concerned that once again the expectations of the Addicked are unrealistically high. Bournemouth would probably settle for a top ten finish but mid-table is more likely in my opinion.
Prediction: 1-0

Huddersfield Town v Bury
Huddersfiled are one of the favourites for automatic promotion this season having gone to the Wembley wire last year. Lee Clark has held his nerve and looks like he has a pact with his squad to keep them togther for another challenge. They look like they will be hard to beat and Jordan Rhodes goals should keep them on track.

Bury played their way out of League two last season and they get a crack at establishing themselves. Richie Barker's side are unknown to me although they have a Sodje (Efetobore) in their ranks and the heroic Peter Shirtliff is Assistant Manager. This is a very hard start and I suspect a losing start may set the scene for a shakey season for Bury.
Prediction: 3-1

MK Dons v Hartlepool United
I still can't quite believe that MK Dons made the play-offs last year. They were good at home I suppose and have a decent League One side but it would have been a travesty of justice if they had managed promotion. That said, Karl Robinson is ably backed by the mercurial John Gorman and they can probably place again this season if they get the goals their forward options promise.

Hartlepool ebbed and flowed last year and lack the funds to buy their way out of League One. They may struggle again and I expect to hear more about keeper Scott Flinders than anyone else. Opening day often throws upsets but I can't see one here.
Prediction; 2-0

Oldham Athletic v Sheffield United
A tired-looking Danny Wilson is confident he can arrest the Blades decline, but I feel an element of "he would say that wouldn't he." United are doing a passable impression "of a Charlton" and they might find a play-off finish is as much they can hope for in their first season down in League One.

By contrast, Paul Dickov is fighting off expectations of a poor season and the fiesty Scot certainly managed an over-performance last year even if they did slacken off towards the end.
Prediction; 2-2

Preston North End v Colchester United
Phil Brown is promising promotion for his Preston side this season and I expect them to go close. Colchester have over-performed in recent seasons as far as I am concerned and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find them struggling this year. It's as hard a start as you could get and my money's on North End to collect the points.
Prediction; 2-0

Sheffield Wednesday v Rochdale
Gary Megson's Wednesday are amogst the favorites for promotion but to my mind that's got more to do with their status than their team. Whilst their city rivals may be "doing a Charlton," Wednesday have already done one and I think they will do well to reach the play-offs this year. They may have big gates but they probably have costs to match and they haven't done much pre-season business. I'm not convinced Jose Semedo's move to the Steel City will work out.

Rochdale had a cracking season last year and my guess is that they will surprise more people this season. I'm going to stick my head out here and call this the upset of the day.
Prediction; 1-2

Stevenage v Exeter City
Graham Westley's Boro side will still be high on the euphoria of a play-off win at Wembley. They will be looking to emulate Rochdale's first season in League One but it could be a struggle. Much will depend on their home form and this is a great chnace for a morale-bossting winning start.

Exeter are no mugs though and know this division as we have found out. I suspect they will be good enough for at lest a draw here and could go close to nicking it.
Prediction; 1-1

Tranmere Rovers v Chesterfield
Rovers begin their annual relegation battle against nearish neighbours Chesterfield. the Spireites won lots of plaudits for their football last season and should be up for this. Much will depend on what more Les Parry can get from his squad. My guess is not much and that neither of these sides will trouble us this season (famous last words).
Prediction; 0-1

Walsall v Leyton Orient

The O's made-up for a slow start last time around with a fast finish and the logic of them picking up from where they left off has shortened their odds maybe more than is justified. Having said that, I think they may join us and the Bees in a competitive London mini league. I expect them to have a good go here at Walsall, a club who regular readers know I believe belong in League Two.
Prediction; 1-2

Wycombe Wanderers v Scunthorpe United
Wycombe are back and they will try to improve on their last appearance where they fell away and went down at the finish. They look like a yo-yo club to me. Scunny meanwhile, have plenty of Iron about them a recent traditional of playing excellent football. They should be competitive in League One and I will take them here.
Prediction; 0-2

Wednesday 3 August 2011

First team for the season

Our Summer acquisitions grew on Monday as former Leeds defender Andy Hughes committed himself to the cause. As a centre-half or right-back, the jury has been out on which position Chris Powell has in mind for him, although having been given the number two shirt, it looks like he's seen as preferred choice at right-back. Hughes is apparently not the most technically competent footballer in the division (by his own omission) but he has been well regarded for his commitment and work-rate which have normally compensated.

The squad numbers would suggest we will start on Saturday with Hamer in goal, Evina, Morrison, Taylor, Hughes across the back, Jackson, Green, Stephens and Wagstaff in midfield with Wright-Phillips and Hayes up front. The departure of Elliot would appear well expected as he has been given the last shirt, some 11 numbers off Chris Solly at 44. I am surprised that Hollands is at 22 but that might be out of personal preference/superstition. Alonso looks high at 23 and I thought Bover-Izquirdo might be in with a chance based upon his pre-season but I guess if you are not first-choice, the number scheme is more irrelevant.

My guess is that Hollands may well start against his former club and will get on if he doesn't for 20 minutes. The only other question-mark is over Evina who has been struggling with an injury to date. Interestingly, he is listed as a striker on the Official Site and described as an attacking full-back or wing-back. With limited league experience, he looks to have been promoted on his move to the Valley and preferred in defence but much may depend on when he is eventually fit and can break into the side.

With only a couple of days left, we only look short now up front. BWP should start every game but we look weak with only Hayes and Benson as alternatives to partner him. I am expecting us to bring in another more experienced striker before Saturday. Rasiak has been rumoured and looks the type I would expect with a bit of pedigree, no fee and something to prove. We also have our loans in reserve and these might allow us to land a bigger fish but that might mean waiting until the musical chairs at the Premier League have stopped and we get visibility of who is surplus to requirement and which youngsters might be given a better opportunity of league football. If we can't land a big fish, I would be quite pleased to see Nathan Ecclestone back at the Valley.

Monday 1 August 2011

Farewell Robbie...

Hot on the heels of his blooper at the New Den, the rumours of Robbie Elliot's departure from the club he and his father love, appear set to be confirmed. With four keepers already at the club (Elliot, Sullivan, Pope and Gough), we have this morning announced the capture of Reading's number two goalkeeper, Ben Hamer.

I will be sad to see Elliot leave us but he has apparently been unable to agree terms to a contract extension and with Alan Pardew rumoured to be sniffing around, maybe he has decided to hold out for a shot at the big time. Whilst not on a par with the best keepers we have had, Robbie gave his all in the green or pink shirt.

Hamer presumably sees the Valley through Rose-tinted glasses, having played on loan in Exeter's 3-1 win in February in front of 24,000 fans. We have paid Reading a fee apparently and my guess is that he will make his debut on Saturday as our first-choice.

With a week to go, we can expect another signing or maybe two this week.