Tuesday 28 February 2012

Chesterfield 0 v Charlton Athletic 4

Charlton won this with something to spare after Bradley Wright-Phillips broke the deadlock just before the break tapping home from a Green effort that come down off the bar. 

Tommy Lee in the home goal had made a fine save earlier to prevent Yann Kermorgant heading an opener and he was kept busy after the break as Charlton stretched the game and added goals. Wright-Phillips may have tapped in the first but he slotted the second after running onto a ball off Jackson's head. Jackson himself scored the third and the fourth was credited as an own goal, although Danny Green did most of the work by the sounds of it (and made a significant contribution for a change).

Clarke and Cort came on together after 70 minutes to give Kermogant and Morrison an early bath. 

The talk around the match was of 21 scouts (8 Premier League) being at the game this evening casting their beady green eyes over our starlets. Only to be expected given the size of our building lead over the competition and the possible chances of snapping up a future Premiership player a million or two cheaper than they might be forced to pay should this side start to cut it in the Championship. 

Money talks of course, but it will be fascinating to see if we can hold this squad together in the Summer. There has been no large scale financial backing and the suspicion at the back of some minds is that we might need to take profits at opportune moments. The alternative view, of course, is that there is big money backing the club, in which case, no need to cash in.

Big shout out to the noisy 610 up there this evening. There will be three times that at least there on Saturday at Bournemouth and I can't wait.

Top versus Bottom

The all-conquering Addicks roll into Chesterfield this evening bidding to increase our points-in-hand margin over third to 15 (over Sheffield Wednesday). Huddersfield are also playing this evening and victory at Stevenage could see them climb above Wednesday and cut our gap to 14 points but that looks a tall order given current form.

Chesterfield is not quite the "gimme" it was a few couple of months back. John Sheridan has brought some focus to the management team and they have moved to change some of the playing staff. That has lead to several wins interspersed with narrow defeats and a draw but this is still a match we should be looking to win.

Avoiding defeat is probably the main aim but we should gamble here for the three points. I remember going to Chesterfield's Recreation Ground in our 80-81 promotion season at a similar time in the season. Killer scored after about ten minutes with a cracking shot from distance which was enough to win the game. If I remember rightly, weather affected a number of games that day and we were joined in the visitors end by fans from two other clubs - Derby and Sheffield Wednesday. 

Incidentally, if you need any convincing about just how much we are dominating this division, back then after 33 games we were top on 68 points and only managed to pick up another 16 points from the last 13 games.  This evening we could be seven clear of that and only three wins short of matching the 84 points we finished on in that promotion season.

I am going for another Red victory tonight. This is a match Bradley Wright-Phillips should relish and after his performance on Saturday I am backing him to win us the match.


Monday 27 February 2012

Scotland 17 v France 23

I said before this weekend that I would settle for one win from two sporting events I was attending and I got that on Saturday, so it was no great surprise to see Scotland lose their third straight match of this year's 6 Nations campaign. It really is all over bar a fight with Italy to avoid the Spoon on the last day.

However, I took a lot of heart from the performance yesterday against a superior French side and when Scotland score two decent tries, you know it's progress, if glacially slow. Our pack dominated the line-out but really didn't build enough from winning possession and our scrum took a second-half pasting as they couldn't withstand the pressure/garlic applied by the French. The front row simply buckled and if we weren't being driven backwards, we were conceding penalties for standing up or collapsing in order to halt the slide. Euan Murray should be back for the Ireland game having sat out the Sabbath but we need to be able to change the pieces more effectively when he's missing.

Sad to see Rory Lamont stretchered off with a broken leg and, not sure if you saw it on telly, but we had a male streaker. I had watched him getting a heavy tricolour painted on his face before the match outside the Murrayfield Hotel but I still managed to recognise him without his clothes! He was pretty fit (in a manly way), if a tad drunk, but he managed a few impressive swerves of the posse before finally being nabbed. Dublin in a fortnight....

Saturday 25 February 2012

Charlton Athletic 2 v Stevenage 0

After some uncomfortable home performances of late, it's great to report that we beat high-flying Stevenage today and outplayed them in the process. All bar a thousand of the 26,546 gate will have left the ground buoyant, most talking about the five gilt-edged chances that Bradley Wright-Phillips missed.

Let me say straight away that I am not being too harsh on BWP. He scored probably the hardest of the lot, albeit with at the aid of a covering defender, but we should be pleased that  he made the positions for the rest and was thwarted twice by Chris Day in the second-half. The two first-half misses were probably the most profligate, one from a clear header eight yards out and the other a lob which beat the keeper but not the crossbar.

Other than that, we controlled the game and marshalled an organised Stevenage side who came looking for large parts of the first half. Like many sides we have played this season, they lacked a cutting edge and floundered on our back four. It was reassuring to see Chris Solly back in a familiar line-up and again he played a blinder. Most people will probably have two names in mind already when it comes to Player of the Year, but my current third place took a huge step forward today. Michael Morrison was again sure-footed at the back but the goal he scored on the hour had me punching the air and applauding a footballing centre-half who provides outstanding leadership.

It was a fine goal and one that spoke volumes. We were beginning to turn the screw and were getting men forward in numbers. After a probing move down our left flank, the ball was played across the edge of the box and on to Morrison in a little bit of space. I don't think he had "goal" in mind when the ball came to him but he could see in an instant that we were running out of options and his first touch was sublime. The ball sat up for him and begged to be struck. What a shot. He put his laces through the ball and drove it high into the top corner as Day clawed thin air. That was really the moment the game was won and it was only ever going to be a case of could we score again? Bradley Wright-Phillips managed that from an angled drive after out-pacing the Stevenage rearguard and slotting home courtesy of the covering defender but we had the agony of watching Day smother two one-on-ones with Bradders that could have put some gloss on the scoreline.

We are now 10 clear of Sheffield United, 14 in front of Hudders and MK and a massive 15 to Sheffield Wednesday. With two very winnable homes games coming up (Colchester and Notts County), we only need to pick up something at Chesterfield or Bournemouth in the next seven days to begin to get clarity on when promotion will be achieved. Leyton Orient (h), Oldham (a) and Walsall (h) are looking likely candidates to me.

I see today today that the club announced the last home game of the season against Hartlepool will be another discounted offering, so we will have the prospect of a full-house to parade the Trophy. I might be getting un-Charltonly ahead of myself here but it is very difficult to see how it could go wrong from here. The stats speak for themselves and this is already an all-time record-breaking season for Charlton Athletic. We only have one genuinely tough fixture left and that is at Huddersfield on 24th March.

We can sit back and enjoy the Steel City derby tomorrow safe in the knowledge that it shouldn't trouble us. Assuming we can avoid defeat at Chesterfield on Tuesday, we will have close to two thousand Addicks urging victory at Dean Court and I can't wait to be in that number.

Friday 24 February 2012

League One Weekend Preview, Game

Two objectives this weekend; burst through the 70 point mark and put on a good home performance. We might not be firing on all cylinders at the moment but we have the squad to play much better than we have managed at home lately and to beat a Stevenage side who lowered our colours in a lack-lustre display that saw our first defeat of the season. We must play the ball on the ground on Saturday and with urgency and movement.  

With our two nearest rivals facing each other on Sunday, we have the chance to increase the gap to fourteen, if Huddersfield beat Exeter at the Galpharm or fifteen over Wednesday if they fail. We also play our game in hand over the Wendies on Tuesday at Chesterfield, so we have to expect to be increasing the gap on them.

AFC Bournemouth v MK Dons
The Cherries may have more to fight for here as they battle to get into contention whereas Milton Keynes look like they have established enough of a lead to defend and a home record to enable them to do it.
Prediction; 2-1

Bury v Leyton Orient
Both anchored mid-table and I fancy the O's might improve further on their decent record away. 
Prediction; 0-1

Carlisle United v Yeovil Town
Carlisle can edge into play-off territory if they win this and we beat Stevenage. I expect them to beat Yeovil.
Prediction; 2-0

Charlton Athletic v Stevenage
On the evidence of our home form, we are heading for our first home defeat of the season and our first league reverse of 2012. However, we have shown an ability to focus and concentrate our performance when we have needed this season in all of the big games and I have to believe we will do it again. Team selection will be important and I hope Chris Solly has recovered sufficiently to return to duty. I am guessing Johnnie Jackson may be some time yet but we need  to tighten midfield. Daryl Russel or even Andy Hughes might give us that option. Pritchard and Green also need a good talking to before they go out because both need to be involved in creating goal-scoring opportunities, something neither managed on Tuesday.
Prediction; 1-0

Colchester United v Rochdale
I expect Colchester to make short work of Rochdale. Perhaps their spirited showing at the Valley is evidence of new manager syndrome but we really should have beaten them and I don't expect Colchester will hang about in the task.
Prediction; 3-1

Huddersfield Town v Exeter City
Huddersfield need to kick-start their promotion bid and with Simon Grayson now installed as manager, this could be a defining moment. They don't deserve it of course after the way they dumped on Lee Clark but I suspect Larry will get his first victory.
Prediction; 2-0

Notts County v Chesterfield
County rack up another 2-1 victory here as Chesterfield continue their relegation battle.
Prediction; 2-1

Oldham Athletic v Tranmere Rovers
Neither of these sides are comfortable yet and Tranmere's away record is probably good enough to earn them a point at least.
Prediction; 1-1

Preston North End v Walsall
Not much to call between these sides although Walsall are just out of the drop-zone and should fight tooth and nail here. It's grim oop north and this hardly promises to be a classic.
Prediction; 0-0

Scunthorpe United v Brentford
All of a sudden, Scunthorpe look in big trouble. Brentford probably only have another handful of games in which to make their play-off case. Can they start here?
Prediction; 1-1

Wycombe Wanderers v Hartlepool United
I see plenty of goals (lump on 0-0) here.
Prediction; 3-3

Sheffield Wednesday v Sheffield United
Sunday's Hog Roast. How these two dislike each other. Until this season, I had always thought of Sheffield United as the more prosperous of the two, certainly in my lifetime. Wednesday have always been massive, of course, but in the same way as Preston North End and Huddersfield Town i.e. when God was a small boy. My education this year has meant I now understand just how wrong I have been. Admittedly, I take bugger-all interest in the Champions League so have missed Wednesday's exploits in the Nou Camp and the San Siro, of late. Having said that, their pre-war (Second World War) exploits are evidently still on the curriculum in the blue half of Sheffield. That will count for nothing, as usual, in 2012 and momentum is with the Blades. A draw would be a satisfactory result but Ched Evans can turn the knife and nick the win. I hope to catch the action at Murrayfield.
Prediction; 1-2

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Charlton Athletic 1 v Rochdale 1

Oh dear, oh dear. Another disjointed footballing performance by the Addicks on home soil and we are doing our best to ensure we don't encourage too many stay-aways to return to the Valley. For those there, precious little entertainment for the 15,000 home fans and the less than 100 visitors.

Bradley Wright-Phillips started again upfront for the injured Danny Haynes and Johnnie Jackson was missed again as Bradley Pritchard deputised once more. In the back-line Cedric Evina came in at left-back and Rhoys Wiggins was switched uncomfortably to right-back. Not sure what's wrong with Chris Solly but he was missed this evening.

Our midfield pairing again stuttered and Stephens and Hollands struggled to compete with the bald duo of Jones and Kennedy. Green did nothing and Bradley Pritchard tried hard but he has no physical presence or pace.

We started well enough with BWP streaking into space to collect a through ball and flashing a shot wide of Kurucs right-hand post. Bradley was creating space, getting caught offside as well as winning aerial balls. I thought he looked odds-on to score. Then Dale came into the game for a twenty minute spell where they forced the pace and made us look uncomfortable. We came back into it before the break but nil-nil at half-time was only fair.

After the break and kicking towards the Covered End, surely it was only time before we broke the deadlock. Afraid not and we were instead caught out on a three against two break which gave Dale the lead. Bury revisited I'm afraid and in spite of a fabulous Yann Kermorgant equaliser which was stroked home from a 25 yard free-kick, we simply didn't do enough to deserve  a winner. 

The substitutions we are making now seem to detract from the performance, not enhance it. Green was very poor this evening but Wagstaff did little more after coming on. Well, I say little, he managed several appeals to the linesman for imaginary touches off Dale players and non-existent fouls. The usual. Leon Clarke then came on for BWP but I struggle to see what he adds. He looks the part, prowling around but he struggles to lose his markers and seems to possess no weapons. 

At the death, Leon Cort came on for Evina which necessitated a defensive shuffle but, again, unclear to me what it added other than an unnecessary distraction in the final few minutes.

Chris Powell will tell us it's a long season and you can't them all etc, but I am afraid we look nothing like the side our league position reflects and it needs changing not tolerance. Stephens isn't working in midfield since he came back and frankly, I would revert to a previous central pairing. Illogical though it seems, Hughes and Hollands probably gave us as much mobility and control of the middle as any pairing we have so far tried. Jackson will strengthen the side when he returns but we need a modicum of consistency on the right flank which neither Green or Wagstaff look capable of providing.

For me, it's the midfield that needs sorting. I am confident Yann Kermorgant and Wright-Phillips will resume scoring when they are fed chances and not hopeful balls from deep. Kermorgant was forced to come into midfield tonight far too enough to get the ball.

I thought Amankwaah was outstanding for Dale at centre-half. He handled Wright-Phillips very well in the first half when he threatened most and continued to break up most of our best opportunities.

I have two guests from Stevenage on Saturday and the way we are playing, we have to expect to be beaten at home. Perhaps we will raise our game against the better opposition and three points from them would be better than three from Rochdale, but we will need to be far better than this evening throughout the side. It looks like we are asking a lot.

Monday 20 February 2012

Promotion March

Before Sheffield Wednesday entertain Sheffield United on Sunday, we get to play two donsecutive home matches and could reasonably expect to have acquired a 17 point lead over Wednesday. Huddersfield could make up ground but the bottom line is we could be effectively be crossing off the last six games of the season. That gives us every prospect of sealing promotion during March.

I do not expect Rochdale to halt the procession tomorrow nor stay on even terms for long after 7.45pm kick-off. Their away form is reflective of a side 23rd in the table and a club who have never won at the Valley look like their wait will go on for at least another couple of seasons. I am desperate to see us give someone a good hiding and having said we wouldn't get a better opportunity than two up against ten men at half-time last week, maybe the chance will come sooner than expected. Tomorrow night is no time for a wobble.

Stevenage looked decent on Sunday against Spurs and they are flying high right now. However, we owe them for one of our two league defeats and I was very confident after slipping up at their place that we would batter them at home. If we can get a confident winning performance under our belts tomorrow night, I would hope we can play some football on the deck against Stevenage and secure the points to increase the gap on third.

Saturday 18 February 2012

Tranmere Rovers 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

In the end it was a good point this afternoon at Prenton Park. With Sheffield United managing a late winner at home to Preston, our gap at the top was cut to six points but both of us moved a point further away from mighty Sheffield Wednesday who lost for an inconceivable third successive time. The Wednesday message boards will make entertaining reading this evening as blood vessels burst.

Danny Haynes started for Bradley Wright-Phillips today and Bradley Pritchard came in for the injured Johnnie Jackson. It was a disheartening first-half listening as we struggled to make any headway or even any sustained pressure. Haynes and Kermorgant were playing too far apart and effectively as lone strikers. In the centre of midfield we were a yard short and Weir and Wallace were forcing the game for Rovers. 

Ben Hamer had to make a couple of good saves before Tranmere finally broke through. A quick break saw them play the ball out wide and it was put over Taylor and Morrsion for Brunt to reach and beat Hamer from a short distance.

After the break Charlton took the game by the scruff of the neck and immediately forced a succession of corners. Fon Williams and his defence were being stretched and he had to make a fine finger-tip save to deny a trademark Danny Hollands back-post header. Charlton weren't to be denied and it was from another corner that Michael Morrison again showed Matt Taylor how it's done, when he crashed a header off the underside of the bar. It bounced down over the line and I think it came out but the referee had seen enough and awarded the goal. 

After that we had our chances and Bradley Wright-Phillips was amongst them after having come on to replace the limping Danny Haynes (hamstring). Hollands missed a glorious chance and Bradley Pritchard managed to step on the ball a yard out and fluff it, although he will be relieved that the linesman had flagged for offside.

All-in-all another good day to be a Red. We remain unbeaten in the league in 2012 and nothing seems to be going against us. Big shout for the 347 who made the long trek up there today.

Friday 17 February 2012

League One Weekend Preview, Game 30

Tranmere away tomorrow is our 30th league match of the campaign and presents us with opportunity of reaching the impressive 70 points total. Beyond that we can realistically begin the fevered countdown to promotion and begin chalking off the matches to identify when and where it will be achieved. History repeats itself and it has to be Carlisle away for me, even if the gap and our relentless march suggests it may come sooner.

Having said all that, I see tomorrow as a potential banana skin. Rovers may be languishing too close to the trap-door for comfort but that is due, largely, to their away for. At home they are 5-7-3 and have conceded the fewest numbers of goals at home other than ourselves. They don't score many either, so I predict a very tight game with maybe only a goal in it. If we are to win it we may need a moment of Johnnie Jackson genius.

Here's what the rest are up to...

Chesterfield v Sheffield Wednesday
A derby of sorts and the Spireites are beginning to rise to the fight to avoid the drop. The beauty of this fixture is that they have picked a plum time to be playing the Wendies. The moment of crushing realisation has finally descended upon the northern half of the Sheffield Metropolis and the multi-millions of delusionals were delivered of a moment of genuine insight this week with two successive defeats by Sunday pub teams from villages with populations counted in their hundreds. Oh how it must hurt. I am not sure the Ginger Pele will survive a third defeat in-a-row and with Lee Clarke available, it will be an uncertain time on the Wednesday private jet to Chesterfield. I am loving it and going for the Village eleven.
Prediction; 1-0

Exeter City v Bury
Hard to call but I will plump for the home side here as they have more to play for right now.
Prediction; 2-1

Hartlepool United v Notts County
County should arrive with all the momentum here and they will know that they have every chance of an away win a nervy home side. Hartlepool went down by the only goal at Preston in the week and they are in no immediate danger of relegation.
Prediction; 1-2

Leyton Orient v Scunthorpe United
The O's roller coaster season continued in the week with a good win Dean Court so they will be hoping for a second win this week to bring some stability to recent results.
Prediction; 2-0

MK Dons v Oldham Athletic
Whilst I saw little cutting edge from MK in the week, there was plenty to acknowledge; the passing, the movement, the composure and the confidence. Should be too much for Oldham and Alan Smith is due a goal.
Prediction; 2-0

Rochdale v AFC Bournemouth
Rochdale look fatally wounded and Bournemouth should take full advantage as they seek to atone for a home slip against the O's.
Prediction; 1-3

Sheffield United v Preston North End
Look away Preston fans. Sheffield United appear to be on the verge of seizing the second hot seat. Their excellent victory at Huddersfield has caused a mini earthquake in Yorkshire Minor and Blades fans will have been whooping up the home loss by city rivals on the same night. With games in hand to come, the Blades just need to win the next few games and they will create a breakaway gap. I am reminded of the Valley announcers over-generous end-of-match comments that we would see them again at the Valley next year - he may be right. Preston certainly don't look capable at the moment of stopping the train.
Prediction; 3-0

Tranmere Rovers v Charlton Athletic
Deep breaths here. Our away following will be relatively tiny for this one, maybe as low as 300. Rovers may rise to the occasion and give us a very tight game. I can't see us continuing to collect wins and draws all season and we are due another reversal. I fear with two home games to come in the next week, it may come here.
Prediction; 1-0

Walsall v Wycombe Wanderers
Wycombe's glass chin was cracked by Yeovil Town in the week and I expect the Saddlers to deliver another big blow tomorrow.
Prediction; 3-1

Yeovil Town v Colchester United
Fresh from their triumph at Wycombe, a great opportunity for Yeovil to put some distance between themselves and relegation. I am guessing they will take it.
Prediction; 2-0

Brentford v Carlisle United
Monday night match on Sky Sports One. Carlisle are back on the fringe of the play-offs and a win here would effectively finish the Bees season. Uwe Rosler must have expected more this year.
Prediction; 1-2

If you are making the trip to the Wirral tomorrow, I salute you and will be glued to the commentary, so hopefully you have plenty to shout about. Come on you Reeeeddddddsss!

Thursday 16 February 2012

Charlton Athletic U18 1 v Tottenham Hotspur U18 0

Charlton progressed to the 6th Round of the F A Youth Cup this evening in front of 1371 appreciative supporters. From the start when the players from both sides shook hands, one thing struck me, and that was how much bigger our side were than theirs. In my experience, it's our youth teams who are invariably over-shadowed by the opposition.

I questioned the appointment of Paul Hart during the close season because I was surprised we were prepared to pay for a youth team manager of his stature and because I suspected his  ambitions in joining us. This evening I have to say he has proven my immediate cynicism wrong . Not only has he hung around but the fruit of his employment was there for all to see. We dominated play for the first 75 minutes of the game. 

Adebayo Azeez has filled out since I last saw him play and he was a handful down the right flank all evening and was quick to provide an aerial threat when the ball came in from the left. Tobi Sho-Silva (great name) provided a balanced threat and aerial presence on the left and with Joe Pigott's height in the middle, it was no surprise than the majority of our chances came from headers. Pigott probably had the best shot in the opening minute when he chested a ball on for himself before firing in from a tight angle only to see Granger thwart him at the near post.

Harry Gerard was busy in the middle and has the strut and early flair of his Liverpool namesake. Tareiq Holmes pulled his weight in the midfield with Diego Poyet who came into the match as it went on.  At the back, Dillon Phillips had little to do until the closing fifteen minutes but he commanded his area and was well-protected by Cousins, Fox, and the big boys, Ajayi and Lennon.

As the game wore on, Spurs began to show and their noisy mob of 200 die-hards got increasingly cocky with their incessant (and annoying) singing. The pint-sized Jack Munns ("sorry son you're too small to make it") began to find his way past our defenders and pick out white shirts. Phillips made two good saves before Munns struck the corner of bar and post with a fine drive. Spurs then won successive free-kicks, one of which saw substitute Callum Harriott booked. Munns measured both out like a rugby kicker and flashed both a good yard clear of the bar.

With four minutes of added time, Charlton finally made a break of our own and I think it was Sho-Silva who was brought down 20 yards from goal. Up stepped substitute Oliver Muldoon and he curled a beauty over the wall and wide of the despairing Granger. Johnnie Jackson would have approved. The home crowd roared it's acknowledgement as the players enthusiastic celebrations reminded us that this game meant far more to them that it did us. 

A good evening at the Valley for a fiver - can't help thinking we didn't do enough to advertise this one (I only spotted it today whilst walking past the club shop).

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Charlton Athletic 2 v MK Dons 1

The machine grinds on. Another win and another rival despatched. Ten points clear of third-placed Sheffield Wednesday with two games in hand. We should have no complaints, but I am afraid I do. I am not a satisfied punter this evening. After establishing a first half-lead through two penalties, the first of which included a sending off to reduce our opponents to ten men, we let our fans down badly in the second-half. There was very little ambition and even less entertainment.

I will be very interested in Chris Powell's post-match comments because I suspect he has to answer for the anathema that was the second-half. If I hear "it's never easy to play against ten men" I will scream. Two-up and ten men ready to be demoralised further and the game-plan was to knock it about in our own half and see it out. If you can't turn it on for your fans in that situation, when will you? Our home gate wasn't given out this evening but it didn't look great and neutrals might wonder why we haven't seen a notable increase in the numbers of Charlton fans attending home games. We may be victims of our own success to some extent but the entertainment factor is the elephant in the room.

Neat and well organised though they were, I didn't think Milton Keynes offered much in terms of a cutting edge and if we had played the second have with attacking purpose it should have finished up four or five nil. As it was we invited them on for forty-five minutes and it was inevitable that they would pull one back for a nervy last five minutes. Alan Smith looked every year his age this evening and bar a decent first-half contribution to their best chance of the game, he did little and was unsurprisingly subbed. Stephen Gleeson caught my eye and reminded me very much of Ray Houghton, both in terms of looks and style. He prompted everything they tried in the first period but faded a bit during the second.

Our first penalty came from an incident I suspect most of us missed. A ball in was cleared out and as my eyes fell to the Charlton player who ran on to it, there was a roar and Gary Mackenzie was left squaring up to Yann Kermorgant in the back-line. The referee hurtled into the box and flashed a straight red at Mackenzie who had already been booked for flattening the same player in an aerial dual by the Charlton dugout. That challenge drew a strong enough complaint from Chris Powell and Co in my book to make the referee's mind up to show the yellow. Nonetheless, we weren't complaining at the penalty and Johnnie Jackson did what Johnnie Jackson does best. 

Barely ten minutes later and Danny Green fired a scorcher on the run which beat David Martin in the MK goal but struck the bar and post and bounced out. Danny Hollands collected the rebound at the edge of the box and managed to play the ball inside and drop at the incoming tackle. It was a soft second penalty but the result was the same. Two-nil Johnnie Jackson.

I was really looking forward to the second-half and a chance to fire the imagination of my impressionable ten year old nephew. We blew that and, as I have said, let our fans down in the process. 

There are often complaints on the message boards about our relatively poor away following and by-and-large we have played better away from home this season, but it's hard if you are season ticket holder and infrequent away traveller to make the effort when the entertainment on offer at home games leaves you feeling short-changed. I might sound like a spoilt git here but I think it's really important in the development and success of our club.

Johnnie Jackson was probably the stand-out player this evening and interesting that he was the first subbed in the second-half. Wiggins and Solly were peerless again even if Taylor and Morrison ambled about after the break invariably looking for the square ball or Hamer. 

Danny Green was poor in the second period and he should have gone off but Hollands and Stephens weren't prompting anything and I suspect Jackson was only too pleased to leave the neutralisation to others when he got his call. 

Once again, I can't fault Kermorgant once for his effort and running but Bradley Wright-Phillips had another poor showing. He saw much more of the ball this evening than of late but his touch was poor and he was tackled almost every time he touched it.

Tranmere on Saturday when we will probably show more ambition than we did this evening but only a few hundred Charlton fans will see it. If we want bigger gates in the forthcoming series of Tuesday home games, we will need to be far more positive and ambitious than we were this evening. 

PS, I got my Bournemouth tickets today.....

League One Midweek Preview, Game 29

Half-term should swell the attendance this evening although it could be tempered by the unreasonable demands of Valentine's. I am pleased to report that my beautiful and intelligent Wife came up with a brilliant solution a couple of weeks ago as I sat puzzling the obvious male conundrum. She told me that her Mum would be baby-sitting, so could I.......get her a ticket for the match? Why didn't I think of that?

The game looks nailed-on and it's the latest of chances to swat the would-be challengers. MK Dons have stuttered of late and their timing is perfect. With close rivals playing each other, three points here would lend us some more distance on the pack. The congested fixture list has now had the Chesterfield match squeezed in to the 28th February which means six games in fifteen days with three consecutive Saturdays and Tuesdays. There's every possibility that we will begin March with a clear view of what's required and the first accurate estimate of when and where we might expect to be counting our chickens and finally being released from our League One imprisonment.

There's a near-full programme this evening...

AFC Bournemouth v Leyton Orient
Looks like a straightforward home win for the Cherries as they strengthen their play-off credentials. 
Prediction; 3-0

Bury v Chesterfield
This should be another routine home win too, but Chesterfield are having a go at the moment and can see the first chinks of light. I suspect we would have been too good for them on Saturday but that they might be good enough here for a point.
Prediction; 1-1

Carlisle United v Tranmere Rovers
Tough trip for Rovers and with ten away losses already, I wouldn't touch them with a bargepole here.
Prediction; 3-0

Charlton Athletic v MK Dons
There is some uneasiness on the message boards out there about this one but I don't share it. We are overdue an expansive home performance and we are a better side than Milton Keynes. We also have a man who is well overdue a goal and if his odds have moved out for first goal this evening, I will take him.
Prediction; 3-1

Colchester United v Brentford
Brentford's away form is similar to Colchester's home form, although Colchester always seem to raise their games against London opposition. That might be enough to see them home against Uwe Rosler's boys.
Prediction; 2-1

Huddersfield Town v Sheffield United
A ding-dong affair in prospect here. I suppose a draw would do us best but Huddersfield are unbeaten in the last nine and I fancy them here to over-power their Yorkie neighbours.
Prediction; 2-0

Notts County v Exeter City
Fine win for the Grecians on Saturday on their home turf but away at Notts County is a tougher proposition.
Prediction; 2-0

Oldham Athletic v Walsall
Can't see beyond a home win here. Walsall have may have squeaked seven draws away this season but only one win. 
Prediction; 2-0

Preston North End v Hartlepool United
I'm taking Pools to capitalise on the ongoing transition at Preston. North End are paying the price for the premature sacking of Phil Brown. He may not be everyones cup-of-tea but you have to think they should have persevered. They were challenging after ten games and them suffered injuries to key players, especially their forward options. Having written off promotion, sacking Brown looked impulsive and they are paying the price.
Prediction; 1-2

Scunthorpe United v Rochdale
Last season this two were two divisions a part and now they are next to each other and heading for League Two. A draw is the result neither side want.
Prediction; 1-1

Sheffield Wednesday v Stevenage
Come on Stevenage! You have a great opportunity to land a knock-out blow on a club who mock your lack of history and your lowly town status. Wednesday must be more unpopular in our division now than MK Dons. If Stevenage can relax and play some football, anything is possible here against a side under pressure to make automatic promotion. 
Prediction; 1-2

Wycombe Wanderers v Yeovil Town
Wycombe's big opportunity to leap-frog Yeovil and put some distance between them and themselves and the trap-door. They are shoddy at the back but can score goals.
Prediction; 3-2

Up the Addicks!

Monday 13 February 2012

Wales 27 v Scotland 13

I had a good day out in Cardiff yesterday in spite of the rugby result. Scotland's 6 Nations campaign lies in tatters after a second-half Welsh surge that was all that was needed to see Scotland off. At least we enjoyed a better first-half and managed a second-half try although it was by the slimmest of margins. 

My train from Paddington was standing room only when I boarded. Two hours and twenty minutes like a commuter from from Charlton on the 7.22am on a week-day. Amazing how the train companies can still sell you a full price ticket when all the reserved seats have gone and they know that hundreds will have to stand all the way.

A few pints in the Prince of Wales, a Weatherspoon's I am afraid, but I did get some Brains SA and all of the pubs in central Cardiff are the big chains so little option. Onto the match and I was reminded how good the Millennium Stadium is and how well the WRU organises the show. The screens in the stadium are the best I have ever seen and with the roof closed, the rendition of the Welsh national anthem was louder than ever and sent a shiver down the spine. 

It's a week off for Scotland before we face France at Murrayfield in a Sunday clash which looks like a third defeat before a tough fixture in Dublin. Italy can then dump the Spoon on us in the last game. 

I have a week off for half-term so am praying we can get our game on tomorrow evening against MK Dons. It would be good to restore our ten point advantage before we head to Tranmere on Saturday. The snow in my back garden is beginning to melt. The streets around the ground are clear, so fingers-crossed for a continued thaw.

Friday 10 February 2012

League One Weekend Preview, Game 29?

As we head into the weekend, the latest flurries of snow have fallen. They may be too thin and short-lived to affect too many games in the south-east corner, but the north-east, north, midlands and south west have taken a bigger hit. Chesterfield have a 1pm pitch inspection today which suggests they believe the match won't be playable and are seeking an early postponement. The rest of the programme should look like this...

Brentford v Oldham
The Bees hang on in ninth but their recent form has been patchy and they will need to improve to be sure of winning this.
Prediction: On, (2-0)

Chesterfield v Charlton Athletic
Chesterfield have two wins and a draw from their last three but remain bottom of the table. We have to expect something from this fixture and three more points look there for the taking.
Prediction; Off (0-1)

Exeter City v Sheffield Wednesday
This should be a test for Wednesday but the Grecians have lost two on the spin and a postponement might help our cause if Wednesday have to play them later on in the season in a night game.
Prediction; Off (1-1)

Hartlepool United v AFC Bournemouth
Hard to see this going ahead. Both of these sides have recovered form lately although Bournemouth are probably playing the better football. They have six wins on their travels and Hartlepool's home form has been horrendous.
Prediction; Off (0-1)

Leyton Orient v Huddersfield Town
The O's will do everything they can to get this game on as revenues will be hit hard if Town's decent following has to return on a work day. Either way, it looks comfortable for tJordan Rhodes & Co.
Prediction; Off (0-2)

MK Dons v Bury
Can't see this one beating the weather but surely a routine home win whenever it is played.
Prediction; Off (2-0)

Rochdale v Notts County
Rochdale are in deep trouble and they have precious little form but County are hardly shaking the tree. The latest controversy surrounding talisman Lee Hughes won't be helping morale. A rare win for the Dale whenever this one gets played.
Prediction; Off (2-1)

Sheffield United v Wycombe Wanderers
Another that looks unlikely to beat the snow. Wycombe look easy meat away from home and I can't see them surviving the United bombardment.
Prediction; Off (3-0)

Stevenage v Carlisle United
I can't see the primitive facilities at Stevenage escaping the weather either, although they look like good bets to close the gap on MK Dons.
Prediction; Off (2-0)

Tranmere Rovers v Preston North End
This is one that might make it and an opportunity for Tranmere to pick up some points. Preston appear to be floundering again as they attempt to sort themselves out following the sacking of Phil Brown.
Prediction; On (1-0)

Walsall v Colchester United
Off I'm sure. Walsall might appreciate re-playing this later on in the season. Their current form is poor and a night game when desperation is setting in might be the best opportunity for them.
Prediction; Off (2-1)

Yeovil Town v Scunthorpe United
This one has a chance of going ahead if the snow ran out before reaching Somerset. If it does, it's a six-pointer and my money would be on the home side to nick it.
Prediction; On (2-1)

Personally, I will be heading down to Cardiff early on Sunday morning to cheer Scotland on, at least until the points deficit forces me to concede and head back to the pub.


Thursday 9 February 2012

Redknapp and Capello

That conversation in full...

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Rochdale rearranged, 5 games in 15 days

Confirmation today that Saturday's postponement has been rearranged for a fortnight today. That means we will face five league games in the space of fifteen days before the end of February that will go a long to determine our season.

The five up are Chesterfield 22nd place(a), MK Dons 4th place (h), Tranmere 17th place(a), Rochdale 23rd place (h) and Sevenage 6th place(h). On paper it's two toughies and three very winnables but three are at home and neither of the aways looks hugely difficult. In the circumstances, we should be optimistic, particularly if we can find the composure and confidence we had from mid-October until the end of November.

Assuming we don't slip-up completely at Chesterfield, Tuesday's encounter promises to be the hardest of the five and we will need another 90 minutes of concentration to overcome MK Dons. The much maligned Alan Smith could well play against us and I only hope he's faded over he last few yeas to become as average a player as some commentators are suggesting he has always been. He has certainly enjoyed his day at the Valley in the past.

Monday 6 February 2012

Scotland 6 v England 13

The mantle of favourites never sits easy on Scottish shoulders and so it proved again on Saturday. The first Scottish side to lose at Murrayfield to England in four attempts and a narrow defeat to an inexperienced side. Not good enough. Scotland made over three times the number of passes that England did but England made twice the number of tackles. When you consider that England took their chances and Scotland failed what few they did have, then you know what happened. 

Andy Robinson walked up alongside me at a road crossing at the top end of Princes Street yesterday and I was just about to commiserate with him for the let-down from his players when I spotted his wife and decided not to pester him. I believe Andy Robinson is an honourable bloke with plenty of integrity and I suspect he might be planning on packing the Scotland job in at the end of this 6 Nations if he doesn't see any improvement on his last two years. It must be enormously frustrating to see your squad under-perform so consistently. Still, he can't feel as bad about things as Gregor Townsend. Townsend was an enigmatic player for Scotland who, in my opinion, flattered to deceive and who now has the grand title of "Attack Coach." Not quite sure what he's been doing with the players on the training ground but you have to wonder. A genuine lack of 'trying.' 

However, in spite of the rugby, it was a cracking day out all-in-all surrounded by a mixture of friends and family of all ages and backgrounds. We all enjoyed a long lunch followed by a few scoops after the match and an Italian meal at La Favorita in the evening where we managed to polish off a good few bottles of fruit-based drink. 

We all travelled north and south of Edinburgh yesterday by planes, trains and automobiles and all made it home in relatively good time in spite of the snow (I hope that includes Bill and Zoey who did have a delay in their Glasgow flight back to the Smoke).

At least Pete and I were able to smile about the cancellation of the Rochdale game. Amusing too, to think we avoided the snow in Edinburgh and saw the rugby when the Valley was frozen solid. Huddersfield drawing with MK Dons was an obvious bonus although Sheffield Wednesday's persistence in grinding out results is becoming irritating. The wheels will surely fall off their bus soon as it all goes wrong for the ginger Mourinho.

Friday 3 February 2012

League One Weekend Preview, Game 28

After the relative disappointment and relief of Tuesday, we do battle again tomorrow against historically lowly Lancashire opposition. Forever fourth division Rochdale head south to face the music and we should expect a forward change and a more composure than we got against Bury.

This is the day that Bradley Wright-Phillips should resume his scoring and we need to send a message to those around us that we are alive and kicking. I think we will do just.

I will be in Edinburgh tomorrow for the Scotland v England 6 Nations opener and will meet a group of 20 family, friends and work colleagues. I have had an anxious eye on the weather all week as my flight departs Stansted at Midday (it's alright, it's a five o'clock kick-off, so there should still be ample time for drinking before the game) and I am paranoid about any snow-induced delay.

I will be glued to my phone between 3 and 5pm for news of all of the results. Here are the other League One fixtures;

AFC Bournemouth v Exeter City
The Cherries are on the fringes and should be confident of picking up the points here.
Prediction; 2-0

Bury v Hartlepool United
Both of these sides have better away than home form, so tempted to suggest that Hartlepool will nick it after their morale-boosting 4-0 home win over Carlisle.
Prediction; 1-2

Carlisle United v Chesterfield
Chesterfield look like they may have woken up and smelt the proverbial coffee. two successive wins and they have managed to get themselves off the bottom of the table, albeit only on goal difference. Reality to kick-in here as Carlisle bounce back.
Prediction; 2-0

Charlton Athletic v Rochdale
Come on Charlton, don't mess us about.
Prediction; 3-0

Colchester United v Sheffield United
Interesting fixture here. Colchester have been highly unpredictable this season from their opening day romp at Preston. It's anyone's guess but I am going to stick my neck out.
Prediction; 2-1

Huddersfield Town v MK Dons
Match-of-the-Day here as MK Dons battle to stay in touch with the automatic places. Lose and they will trail Town by 9 points. Should be all the incentive Clark's Terriers need.
Prediction; 2-0

Notts County v Stevenage
A derby of sorts and high-flying Stevenage will have fifth-placed MK Dons in their sights. With Lee Hughes off-field problems, this could be the time to rob County.
Prediction; 0-1

Oldham Athletic v Leyton Orient
Doesn't get my heart pumping this one. The O's are having a decent away season by their standards. Might be enough for a point.
Prediction; 1-1

Preston North End v Brentford
This could be an opportunity for Brentford to close in on the play-offs. Preston are still not firing on all cylinders following the departure of Phil Brown.
Prediction; 0-1

Scunthorpe United v Walsall
If Scunny don't want two successive relegations, they had better pull their finger out. They have fallen into the bottom four which has allowed Walsall, once again, to climb out. Better take full advantage tomorrow and leap-frog them.
Prediction; 3-1

Sheffield Wednesday v Yeovil Town
Home banker as Wednesday pick up all the points after dropping two at MK Dons in the week.
Prediction; 2-0

Wycombe Wanderers v Tranmere Rovers
Back to Earth with a bump at Brentford in the week so how Wycombe need a win here. They are bottom but only three pints from safety. It's going to be a dogfight this year and this looks an opportunity for points.
Prediction; 2-1