Monday 30 April 2012

Oh my Gawd!

I don't know why we are all surprised, but the FA have seen fit to over-rule the clamour for Harry Redknapp in favour of a man well-qualified to do the job but who already looks holed below the waterline. All of the high profile players have come out asking for Harry and they now find that his Dad will be calling the shots. Terms have yet to be agreed but you can't see Roy Hodgson demanding the wages of his predecessor or making any demands the FA wouldn't meet.

Poor Roy has done nothing wrong in all this but he will increasingly be seen as the man who stopped Brian Clough Harry Redknapp from becoming England Manager and winning the European Championships. Harry was always going to be a high risk appointment, although his smirking clearance of tax evasion looked like it had paved the way. The Fossils at the FA have remained true-to-type and they have gone for the Y-Fronts rather than the Speedo's.

I have always liked Roy and will wish him well. He purports to hail from Croydon but his accents betrays the fact that he was raised the adopted son of a Kosher Jewish family in North London. Maybe Roy would secretly prefer Harry's current role and a job swap could be arranged?

Saturday 28 April 2012

Preston North End 2 v Charlton Athletic 2

I was surprised that Chris Powell chose to make wholesale changes today as we went looking for the three points needed to give us a chance of beating Fulham's 101 point League One record. It wasn't as if he decided to deliberately use the game to blood youth or try a new formation or game plan. The incoming players were all squad players and it looked more like a case of allowing everyone to get a game as Champions.

There were few complaints in the opening half after Danny Haynes seized on a mistake from the Preston keeper (Arestidou), nor after Dany N'Guessan got the cigars out before half-time. Preston saw more than their share of the ball and pulled a goal back worryingly early in the second-half. As the clock ran down it was nail-biting time listening in, although the travelling Charlton fans appeared less concerned as they sang and conger-ed their way towards the whistle. Leon Cort cleared off the line and Sullivan was panicking in goal.

It was my Daughter's 7th birthday today and I had a houseful of women. I managed to avoid them for ages but had to come down before the final whistle to see off the entertainment. As I left the commentary, Graham Alexander was on for his 1000th and whatever appearance and I told my Mother-in-Law that he was about to net an equaliser for our opponents (wrongly thinking it was Gary Alexander!). I turned on Final Score just to have it confirmed. Annoying, but we have to put things into perspective and a draw at Preston that maintains our unusually strong finish is still a decent result.

Time then to watch the Blades take on Stevenage and how I feel for the red half of Sheffield this evening. Theirs was a typical live Charlton performance. Strangely unconvincing until it was too late and whilst they managed to salvage a point, they have still managed to hand the advantage to their city rivals who won impressively at Brentford today as the Mig scored another winner. Stevenage are now favourites to make play offs in sixth and they won't fear meeting United again.

I shouldn't concern myself too much. Whatever will be, will be. None of them can touch us and we have a private party at the Valley next week to celebrate the end of a memorable nine months. The close season should also be one of the most exciting on record and we have plenty of reasons to be optimistic for next year.

Friday 27 April 2012

League One Weekend Preview, Game 45

Last away game of the season for us and we face a club who look remarkably similar to us a couple of years back. Proud Preston have fallen on hard times. Relegated from the Championship they looked like they had the staff to challenge this season but, after a bright start (opening day aside), they found the going tough when injuries took their toll. As their challenge began to falter they gambled on a change of manager but this hasn't given the instant success expected. 

Graham Westley is now busy confronting some of the players in his squad and accusing them of lack of professionalism and not being good enough for the club. This sounds to me more like a pre-emptive move before a major clearout than a tactical move to spark a response in their last few games of the season. For that reason, I think we should waltz it tomorrow.

Brentford v Sheffield Wednesday
The table doesn't lie and the Owls will now finish between 4 and a massive 16 points behind us this season. After a slap in the face at Colchester two weeks ago, I am expecting a firm punch to their chin here as the Bees end on a high note at Griffin Park. That will make the gap a resounding 13 points.
Prediction; 2-0

Bury v Oldham Athletic
Local Manx-Satellite derby here and there's nowt to play for. 
Prediction; 2-0

Carlisle United v Exeter City
A must-win for the Cumbrians and it still looks like not being enough. The Grecians will be relegated if they lose. Farewell.
Prediction; 3-0

Colchester United v Tranmere Rovers
Mid-table nothingness in prospect here. There's a feel-good factor at Tranmere with Ronnie Moore back at the helm and ambitious plans for next season. Might be good enough for a point at Colchester.
Prediction; 1-1

Hartlepool United v Leyton Orient
The O's need three more points to be mathematically safe. They will probably get them next week when the finish with Rochdale at home but they know a final result here would ease their nerves. Hartlepool have been poor at home this year and a defeat in their last showing in front of their fans would be apt.
Prediction; 0-1

Preston North End v Charlton Athletic
100 points is a real incentive and for all the reasons above I am expecting our sixth successive victory. Cham-pi-one!
Prediction; 0-2

Rochdale v MK Dons
Morale must be very low at Dale right now and they will be pleased to see the back of this season as they return to their home in the fourth division. MK need to maintain play-off momentum.
Prediction; 0-2

Scunthorpe United v AFC Bournemouth
Another nothing match and I'll take Iron at home.
Prediction; 1-0

Walsall v Huddersfield Town
The stage is set for a dramatic Walsall relegation if, if, if. Huddersfield Town should grind this out. Jordan Rhodes to finish his Town career with a flourish.
Prediction; 1-2

Wycombe Wanderers v Notts County
C'mon the Chairboys! With the powerhouse Gary Doherty back in harness and boosted by their good showing at the Valley, Wycombe know this is their last good chance of three points and County may be feeling the heat.
Prediction; 3-1

Yeovil Town v Chesterfield
Yeovil to prove to Chesterfield what they have been missing to stay in League One.
Prediction; 2-0

Sheffield United v Stevenage
I think the furore surrounding Ched Evans may prove to be damaging for United. I have said all season that they would finish above Wednesday but didn't factor on them losing their talismanic striker. They haven't been able to move on as yet and they look largely divided over Evans. This is a great opportunity for play-off chasing Stevenage.
Prediction; 1-2

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Looking up

It was a couple of years ago that I lost interest in the Premier League and I have never had that much for the Champions League, save the odd exhibition match or the final. Since we secured our return to the Championship, however, the Premier League table sits just above us and the relegation battle is now of real interest as we will face he losers next season; chances are we will be pitted against one of them in the Opening Day fixture.

This evening I have been watching the Barcelona v Chelsea game whilst surfing for updates on the Villa v Bolton tussle. First, credit to the Chelsea ten for one of the best defensive performances the Champions League has ever seen. I'll gloss over the sending off of the no-mark John Terry for his sly knee in an opponents back which he thought he would get away with. Remind me, this is the arrogant shit who thinks he deserves to captain his country? I trust he will, at least, miss the final for his stupidity. I'm pleased too that Fernando Torres eased it for Chelsea at the death with a breakaway equaliser, the sort of goal he's failed to score since leaving Liverpool. What a story this season could turn out to be for Roberto Di Matteo.

Meanwhile, in a match more recognisable to us mortals, Bolton Wanderers got the win I hoped they would at Villa Park to maintain the pressure on QPR. In spite of some unlikely looking home wins in recent weeks, QPR remain in Deep Doo-Doo and the have to go to Chelsea and Man City in their last three games. It would be good to play them next season and relegation is nothing less than they deserve for the premature sacking of the man who got them the promotion others failed to achieve. It would also serve as a salutary lesson for their new Chairman who thought he could buy safety with Mark Hughes. Even if Rangers' stay in the PL is extended for another season, there is also the delicious, if unexpected, prospect of Villa dropping down to pay us a visit.

Exciting times all round.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Charlton Marathon Runners

Just back from watching the London Marathon from outside the Rose of Denmark. Spotted four Charlton fans running; two carrying 'Charlton Promoted' flags, one in the away shirt and another I recognised as an Addick and I glimpsed his 'CAFC' socks! I missed Michael Slater, so that' was five at least. If you fancy it next year (watching), they make a big effort at the Rose and it's a great way to start a Sunday.

I noticed Sam Bartram sporting a Demelza shirt as I walked back passed the ground. I guess we are getting ready to go 'dotty' at the Hartlepool game...

Saturday 21 April 2012

Charlton Athletic 2 v Wycombe Wanderers 1

As anticipated, the nigh on 18,000 Addicks fans in the disappointing 18,500 gate left the Valley celebrating the title this evening following a typical Charlton performance this season which saw us edge out a spirited Wycombe. Ched-less Sheffield United were losing before half-time at Milton Keynes and all we needed to do was win at the Valley.

We made a fine start today after taking a first-half lead from a driven low free-kick from Yann Kermorgant which beat Bull at his right-hand post. There were chances to go two-up before the break which would have opened the floodgates, but we didn't take our chances and Wycombe hit back just before half-time when Stuart Beavon wouldn't be denied and followed-up an initial effort which Hamer saved with a flying header that gave his side hope.

Wycombe came out fighting after the break and went looking for a winner for fifteen minutes before the game slowed and we came back in to it. Bradley Wright-Phillips made way after 75 minutes for Danny Haynes and this was the signal to up the ante. Haynes himself was pivotal in the winner having raced clear on the left flank to collect a ball over the top and then curled a free-kick to the back post where Yann the Destroyer was lurking. Kermorgant made the cross his own and picked out the advancing Stephens who latched on to fire home from 15 yards. 

That was the signal for the ridiculous trooping out of dozens and dozens of stewards who ringed the pitch in a confrontational move to prevent a massed pitch invasion that was never likely to happen in any event. I know the club have to do all they can to prevent fans from encroaching on the pitch but this was OTT and I was momentarily tempted to make a move down to the front to make a point. 

Once the game was over and the Sheffield United result confirmed, the players celebrated on the pitch and we were treated to a loan pitch invader who entertained us all with a spirited run as he evaded the goons for awhile. Shame, but I guess he'll be prosecuted and banned (I will happily pay his fine).

Hartlepool will be meaningless unless we can win at Preston but this season appears to have been scripted by a Charlton fan on-high, so I suspect we will be going to set a League One points record. Pitch invasions are unlikely at the Valley given the demographics and the fact that the Boys are in the Upper North, but I am guessing there might be a whole-hearted effort at the Hartlepool game.

Friday 20 April 2012

League One Weekend Preview, Game 44

Three very winnable games left; two at home starting here with Wycombe Wanderers who are looking increasingly like cannon-fodder. They have goals in their side if they throw caution to the wind but their rearguard will fold if we get at them. With nothing to lose now, that's what I expect us to do and I can see a rout if we remain focused on the trophy and a points record.

Notts County v Bury
This is the early kick-off and we should see Notts County taking a stranglehold on the sixth placed play-off finish. Stevenage and Carlisle will push them all the way but they need a County slip-up which looks unlikely to me.
Prediction; 2-0

AFC Bournemouth v Colchester United
These two have mustered only two wins between them in the last twenty matches. Colchester have turned into draw specialists and might just grind  out another one.
Prediction; 1-1

Charlton Athletic v Wycombe Wanderers
Twenty thousand happy Addicks expected in SE7 for this one and the start of the three match promotion party. Wycombe are three points adrift of safety and have a painful-looking away record. Not a good time to be playing the Champions-elect with two teenage central defenders.
Prediction; 4-0

Chesterfield v Rochdale
Chesterfield have to win to keep alive their slim hopes of League One football next season. Their agony to be prolonged another week.
Prediction; 1-0

Exeter City v Walsall
Another relegation six-pointer, although the Grecians look doomed. Walsall have the incentive of knowing a victory should ensure them another relegation scrap next year. 
Prediction; 1-1

Huddersfield Town v Scunthorpe United
Pressure off for both of these sides and Huddersfield will want to finish on a high as they roll into the play-offs. They need to finish above Milton Keynes to avoid playing Sheffield Wednesday in the two-legged semi.
Prediction; 2-0

Leyton Orient v Yeovil Town
One more home win and the O's will have salvaged their season. Yeovil are safe.
Prediction; 1-0

MK Dons v Sheffield United
League One match-of-the-day. Milton Keynes need just one more point to close-out a play-off place and whilst United will be desperate to keep Wednesday at distance, I reckon they might fall short here.
Prediction; 1-1

Oldham Athletic v Preston North End
The Latics are on a poor run but a win here will end their season and Preston are no great shakes as I am sure we will establish next weekend. 
Prediction; 2-1

Sheffield Wednesday v Carlisle United
Carlisle looked a decent footballing side to me last weekend but fortune favoured us and we were too strong for them in the end. Home advantage and need to run the Blades all the way should see Wednesday prevail here.
Prediction; 2-1

Stevenage v Brentford
Brentford can still gate-crash the play-offs but they will need to win here to maintain any realistic chances. They have been going along very nicely but will face a Stevenage team who have awoken and won their last two. Having lost their manager already this year and overcome a mini-wobble in the process, I think Stevenage will continue to push for their highest ever league finish.
Prediction; 2-0

Tranmere Rovers v Hartlepool United
Firm mid-table encounter here and home advantage should be enough.
Prediction; 2-1

Thursday 19 April 2012

Be there for the Champions

A much awaited home game on Saturday. One where I believe we will be crowned Champions of League 1 by thrashing Wycombe Wanderers and seeing Sheffield United wave the white flag at Milton Keynes.

Wycombe could effectively be relegated if they lose but that would need the unlikely scenario of both Leyton Orient and Walsall winning. I expect them to live to fight another day, although it may be uncomfortable viewing for a work colleague and the three boys he's bringing over. 

Interesting to see that Charlton have shown no sentiment or compassion in refusing to allow Gary Doherty to turn out for the Chairboys as they battle to avoid relegation. I guess we have considered worst case scenario in which Doherty scores a Wycombe winner and it potentially costs us a trophy. The cries of "how stupid" would be deafening. There is also the point that it might be unfair on Wycombe's rivals although I suspect that was probably mentioned in passing. So, they will be forced to play two teenagers in central defence. Lump on Bradders (or Yann) for the opening goal.

I understand we should threaten the 20,000 mark on Saturday and that the Hartlepool exhibition will be watched by a 27,111. A fantastic and fitting way to end a record breaking season. If we can beat Wycombe and win at Preston, we will also have the opportunity in the Hartlepool match to break the League One points total record of 101 held by Fulham who broke it in 1999. I am hoping that there is enough incentive here to prevent any sloppy end-of-season displays which often follow hard on the heels of having achieved the main objective.

Unless you have a better offer, like a weekend partying in a European hotspot, there will be no better place to be on Saturday afternoon. 

Sunday 15 April 2012

Up the football league we go!

Back in a sunny SE7 this afternoon after a four and a half hour dash from Carlisle. Like all Addicks, and certainly those who were there yesterday, I am still feeling particularly good about everything and it's great to know we can relax in our last three games and, hopefully, play a bit of exhibition football as we go in search of the title.

Yesterday was a fantastic day from start to finish. The advance parties of Charlton fans congregated around the Griffin pub in the centre of town from 11.30am and some, us included, moved up to enjoy a few pints in the very hospitable Carlisle Rugby Club next to Brunton Park. It was good to see so many Scots down to join us. The not unexpected gaggle of Dundonians were present as well as a surprise showing by a group of "Celtic Charlton fans" who had come in fancy dress looking for a party. I also bumped into a Gers fan from Glenrothes proudly wearing his Charlton shirt and he had met a couple of other Charlton-supporting Scots who had made the journey south (not forgetting Elgin Davie).

In the ground, 930 Charlton fans were housed along the same side of the pitch where we saw two previous promotions, although the old stand is long gone. Visiting supporters are shoe-horned in at the far end of the stadium and whilst we had a decent view, many of us were actually so far down the pitch that we were behind the goal-line. It makes you feel like you are being allowed to watch the game reluctantly from a distance. No-one will mind, of course, because our team was superb. The defence anchored the performance and looked very comfortable throughout, barring one moment of panic in the second-half when a long-range shot beat Hamer and rebounded off the inside of a post. 

In midfield, I am pleased to report that Dale Stephens enjoyed a much better game than of late and worked well with the industrious Pritchard who mopped up all the loose balls. Johnnie Jackson and Dany N'Guessan provided the width and Kermorgant and Wright-Phillips lead the line. 

As I have said, it was a rearguard action but we moved the ball forward quickly and with purpose when we were able to and it always looked like we had a goal in us, particularly after the break when we opened up as we have tended to do for most of the season. 

One of the Royal Navy and Charlton's finest was sitting behind me yesterday and he gave us the welcome news that Colchester had taken an early lead over Wednesday. That was followed by a goal at Bramall Lane that meant both of the Sheffield sides were losing and it was confirmed with a loud chorus of "Soo-per Kevin Lis-bie." 

As the match moved on, one Sheffield side and then the other equalised before United took an inevitable lead. There was a then a period of radio silence as we upped the ante and began to force the game and the Cumbrian's hands. Yann Kermorgant got on the end of a far post ball and powered in a thunderous header which the Carlisle keeper did brilliantly well to tip over the bar. Former goalkeeper Davie was most impressed with this but the Addicks were not to be denied. Several minutes later a corner was delivered into the box and touched on towards goal where Bradley Wright-Phillips reacted quickest to flick it in from close range.

This was the cue for pandemonium in one corner of the ground as fans danced left and right holding grabbing at one another as if pinching themselves. A fan made it on to the pitch as the players celebrated in front of us and hundreds poured down to the front ready for what was a poorly disguised first front for the invasion that was to follow. Having done it in 81 and 86, I decided to restrict my celebrations and maintain my decorum and better view from the stand. 

We might have scored again before the four minutes of added time when Wright-Phillips skated on to a long ball and drew the keep but his shot was blocked. Once the whistle went they was a huge roar and then moments of relative silence as we collectively sought confirmation that Colchester United had held the Massives to a draw. There wasn't long to wait and the inevitable pitch invasion began as fans tried to catch-up with players exiting the field. The authorities managed to restore order and get everyone back behind their cordon as we awaited the players and management team to re-appear. 

It was obvious in all the excitement that there would be accidents and I could see a boy pushed over aggressively by the side of the pitch as a frustrated police officer tried to keep fans back. Another fan appeared to be struck by another officer and there were a number of heated exchanges, although what was also obvious was that the police and stewards were going out of their way not to arrest fans, some of whom could have expected a shorter return to Carlisle than they had banked on had this been a regular match.

Nevertheless, spirits remained high and we were all rewarded after a prolonged wait when the whole squad appeared from the tunnel and ran en masse towards us cheering and gesticulating. They remained behind the stewards but the joy was unbridled. Players removed their shirts and flung them into the crowd and a ball was planted high into the stand which fell a row short for me to snaffle. 

I was struck by just how muscular most of our players look without their shirts (I think they like taking them off). It's pretty obvious they do a fair bit training that their predecessors didn't and I suspect they do a lot less drinking and gadding about too. I suppose that's why they are better and stronger athletes and why the game is generally so much quicker nowadays (and they earn far more of course).  It was really good to see the players hoist Chris Powell high above their heads in an impromptu move which spoke volumes for man-management and team morale.

It was refreshing too to see the sponsors allowed to walk across the pitch too and join in the festivities. These were the guys who dug deep to pay for the players flight. I am sure they have had a very special weekend and, like the rest of us, one that will live long in the memory. 

Now for the title and an exciting pre-season when we look forward to the fixture list and a few new faces to help us prepare for the rigours of the Championship and an attempt to follow in the footsteps of previous League One Champions and vault into the Premier League. 

For now, join me in the Championship!

Saturday 14 April 2012

Carlisle United 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

Oh joyous day. The result wasn't hard to predict but the draw at Colchester was more testing. No matter, we have done it. Promoted for a third time at Brunton Park. I will wager it's never been done before (promoted three times at the same away ground).

Great to see so many old faces and to know we all gambled and won. What a performance, but more when I am back home and can devote more time.

Charlton forever.

Friday 13 April 2012

League One Weekend Preview, Game 43

Four left and the permutations and mathematics are becoming far easier. This weekend should see the first confirmed relegations and maybe the first promotion of the season. The excitement being engendered amongst the Addick faithful this week has almost taken solid form. As the numbers attending has crept up to 800 there have been a spate of snarling snipes about the lack of affordable and convenient transport to Cumbria. All the reasonably priced train tickets were snapped up by canny Addicks weeks again who were ready to take a risk on it being a key match and who were prepared to travel (or pay) in the event it wasn't. A form of natural selection in my mind and I am delighted for those who made the commitment. I wasn't prepared to book early so knew I would be paying a lot more on the train or driving. I'm driving.

We will be joined by lifelong Addick Davie from Elgin, whose drive south from God's Protectorate on the Moray Firth will be the same duration as ours north. 

The Club were in a difficult position here because of the uncertainty of the criticality of the fixture until Monday and by then it was too late to book a Special. We would have filled it had a win been enough to guarantee promotion at Carlisle but Sheffield Wednesday's winning streak has meant we will also be dependent on them dropping points at Colchester and, for that reason, I reckon the Club took the right decision or they would be sitting on a sizeable loss.

In the spirit of all-hands-to-the-pumps, I have room for one in the back if there's anyone in Greenwich or Bexley who is still desperate to go but they would need to be ready to stay overnight as we won't hit the M6 back until Sunday morning.

It promises to be a good day for us as long as we don't go expecting promotion.

Brentford v Notts County
If we can win at Carlisle and Brentford can see off buoyant Notts County, it would leave the three of them tied in sixth place on 66 points. It would be great to see the Bees join us and QPR in the London Championship next season.
Prediction; 2-0

Bury v AFC Bournemouth
Both of these sides look safe but Bury probably need one more win to be sure.
Prediction; 1-0

Carlisle United v Charlton Athletic
We have something of the India Sign over the Cumbrians at the moment having beaten them up there last season (4-3) and having done them twice already in the league and cup. I saw very little from them in the two earlier games and they lost two key players to injury this week. I think we can set a new away wins record of 15 at Brunton Park.
Prediction; 0-1

Colchester United v Sheffield Wednesday
The Owl Army will be heading south this weekend (think Game of Thrones) and will be expecting to win again. Colchester have nothing to play for and have drawn seven of the last nine. However, they have the players and the small-club attitude to cock-a-snook at Dave Jones and his boys. History repeats itself.
Prediction; 2-2

Hartlepool United v Chesterfield
No-one has won fewer home games than Hartlepool this season but Chesterfield's away form has been relegation stuff and their return to League One can be confirmed here.
Prediction; 2-0

Preston North End v Huddersfield Town
Huddersfield desperately need some momentum for the play-offs and this is an eminently winnable game against a Preston side with only one win in ten. If we don't get promoted at Carlisle and fail to beat a defensively weak Wycombe (who will be playing two teenagers in central defence), then we will get a crack at this lot. It couldn't be much easier.
Prediction; 0-2

Rochdale v Exeter City
Rochdale could go here and after their thumping on Monday, I will take the Grecians to throw themselves a lifeline.
Predictions; 0-2

Scunthorpe United v MK Dons
A win guarantees Milton Keynes the play-off lottery. 
Prediction; 0-2

Sheffield United v Leyton Orient
The O's have a four point relegation cushion but have lost the last four and this looks like five. I suspect they will be girding their loins for their last home games.
Prediction; 2-0

Walsall v Tranmere Rovers
Walsall's football was again better than expected on Monday and this is a game that could again secure their League One struggle next season.
Prediction; 2-0

Wycombe Wanderers v Oldham Athletic
C'mon Wycombe. They are going to need to win three from four and assuming they are not going to upset the odds next week, they know this is a must-win. The Latics have lost the last five and look like cannon-fodder. Paul Dickov could be looking for work this Summer.
Prediction; 3-1

Yeovil Town v Stevenage
Stevenage have left themselves too much to do and their failure to make the play-offs could be rubber-stamped by a Yeovil side who have found home form in recent weeks.
Prediction; 1-0

Thursday 12 April 2012

Portsmouth to fold

News yesterday that the debts at Portsmouth FC grew by £20m since their last period in Administration. Just think about that for a moment. Having nearly gone to the wall in October 2010 and having survived the rigours of Administration, the job-cutting, cost-slashing, debt-knocking, they actually then went on to build another £20m of debt. 

The mis-management at Pompey borders on the criminal and they look finished. £38m of the debt is to the former Adminstrators who weren't paid for the club last time around. £10m is owed to new owners and the rest is split between player wages, the tax man and other smaller debts. 

Any benevolent benefactor is going to have to give up a fortune to prevent the club disappearing and even then you wonder whether that would only delay a repeat performance. The fact that Pompey's last parachute payment is going straight to the previous saviour, Sascha Gaydamak, is more salt in the wounds. A mortal lesson in selling your club to an outsider, although I guess they were so desperate at the time that they had no option.

You have to hope that the passing of a proud town's historic football club will be a watershed in the finances of the game but the truth is that it may only serve to bring the skeletons rattling out-of-the-cupboards at a number of other clubs who may be forced to suffer the same indignation. 

I guess the powerful Pompey fan base will start again with AFC Portsmouth at a new ground and follow the path trodden by AFC Wimbledon. Anything is possible, of course, but that's the next ten years of your life accounted for as fans and things will never be the same. F A Cup winners only four years ago...

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Carlisle Away

I am reasonably well acquainted with the journey to Carlisle. I have made it on three previous occasions to watch three Addick victories and many more times en route to Scotland.  

I am excited about Saturday's trip as we have our first chance at securing automatic promotion, even if it may require another result or two to go for us. The fact that Sheffield Wednesday's win yesterday means it's not entirely in our own hands on Saturday, has dented demand and the Club's enforced decision not to gamble on laying on a Special train (the train companies need a minimum of seven days notice - why?) will mean Addick numbers will probably be restricted to c 800. 

Nonetheless, we know that a victory could be the spark for historic and familiar celebrations. That means that I will be headed north with an elite team and a large quantity of diesel early on Saturday morning. The decision to go the whole hog and stay overnight to celebrate may be premature but it's a chance we are prepared to take. If promotion is not achieved on Saturday, we will have to make do with beer and save the sparkling fizz of Chateau Kermorgant  for another day.

Monday 9 April 2012

Charlton Athletic 1 v Walsall 0

A game to match the weather today. Dull and uninspiring.

Walsall came to the Valley on the back of only one defeat in ten although they have drawn too many and remain perilously close to the relegation scrap. Given our ongoing superiority battle with the Sheffield pair, perhaps I shouldn't have expected too much but I was hugely disappointed today.

After a bright opening ten minutes in which we again threatened to sweep our opponents away, we settled back to mediocrity and our first half opener gave us the lead we sought and were evidently more than content to protect.

Walsall came with far more ambition than many and perhaps that is how they have managed to hold eleven sides on the road. I was impressed with youth product Alex Nicholls in the first half and they had more movement and commitment to attack than we did. Certainly that was the case after we edged ahead through a routine goal when a Jackson flighted free-kick was dinked home by Djombe N'Guessan in a crowd of converging players.

After the break we threatened to up the ante but failed to put any sustained pressure together and Walsall continued to look like they would snatch the equaliser. Ball after ball flashed into our box but Morrison, Cort or Hamer were there to clear up. Solly out-shone Wiggins once again on the first day that the Player of the Year vote was being collected at the turnstiles and, for me, that seals his win (even though I think Wiggins is the more accomplished player at the moment).

Yann Kermorgant was as physical and as competitive as he always is but there was no end product today and Bradley Wright-Phillips offered him few options. With Stephens adrift in midfield it was no wonder we lacked punch. Bradley Pritchard kept it competitive in the middle and N'Gueussan held his own on the right. Jackson looked like a player returning from an injury, so, all-in-all, that was our problem - midfield.

That we saw it out and collected the three points tells it's own story and those of us tempted to complain too loudly were reminded what it's all about when watching the West Ham v Birmingham match afterwards.

It's just about when we manage promotion and if we can win the title now. One will surely lead to the other but it is beginning to feel like it could be a huge anti-climax. I will be at Carlisle next week looking for a promotion party that is probably dependent upon too many other factors. I will take a ground-out win but I really want to see more from Champions-elect. If I am looking for a straw-poll on opinion here, I only need look at today's Bank Holiday gate. A relatively paltry 15, 263. The importance of League One football was evident to the Walsall faithful. I reckon they had 263 there today urging them on.

Marketing is a fascinating subject and one you don't want to get me on, but in this game it's performances that count and the men running the club might not be quite as ecstatic as you might think. We have failed to recover the relegation gates from the Championship and I am convinced that it is the quality of the football that is to blame. Sure, we need to get out of this division but when you win corners in the last couple of minutes at home and are one-up, the fans expect an effort on goal. Two men in the corner playing keep-ball and one in the box to give the pretence of an actual corner doesn't pass muster.

In tune with this season, I expect more away from home next week and suspect that's what we will get. Shame.

League One, Easter Monday preview, Game 42

This afternoon's crunch fixture with lowly Walsall will take the place at a wet and windy Valley. I was quietly impressed with the Saddlers at their place earlier in the season when we snatched a point. However, away from home and at this stage of the season I am not expecting them to take anything from us. After the titanic victory at Oldham, we could do with a convincing home win that will set us up for promotion at Carlisle on Saturday. Chris Powell's pre-match talk should be relatively short.

The side we put out will show changes from Oldham as we reshuffle midfield to accommodate the suspended Hollands and Wagstaff. If Andy Hughes is fit, I would like to see him start alongside Stephens. I would bring Jackson back into the side on the wing as he would help beef up the midfield. Danny Green is the obvious right-sided starter if he is well enough to resume otherwise N'Guessan could play there. Bradley Wright-Phillips will probably spearhead the attack as we go looking for the goals we need to deny Walsall the draw that I think they will come for. Sheffield United play tomorrow at Rochdale and Wednesday go early again against Oldham in a match we can watch on Sky 1. Pressure.

Sheffield Wednesday v Oldham Athletic
Oldham are still six points clear of safety but they are falling like a stone. Four successive defeats and eight losses in the last ten. Paul Dickov promised to beat both us and Sheffield Wednesday. Anything is possible, of course, but I think Walsall have a better chance of taking something from us than Oldham of getting owt here.
Prediction; 2-0

AFC Bournemouth v Huddersfield Town
Huddersfield have been forced into the play-offs after falling at home to Sheffield Wednesday and Simon Grayson may struggle to lift his troops here.
Prediction; 1-0

Bury v Colchester United
Bury need the points here and I think they will get at least a share. 
Prediction; 1-1

Carlisle United v Scunthorpe United
Two huge home matches for the Cumbrians this week as they seek to close the play-off door on Notts County and Brentford. With a bit of luck, they will win this and put pressure on their rivals who face each other on Saturday. Scunny are on a fine unbeaten run at the moment and they have avoided defeat in an impressive 15 of their away games.
Prediction; 2-2

Charlton Athletic v Walsall
Bar our purple patch in October/November when we swatted Carlisle, Preston and Co with ease, we haven't really flaunted it at home all season. Surely we will manage it in one of the three remaining Valley matches? Today's might be another battle royale though against a side who have managed as many away draws (11) as anyone else in the division. We are overdue a decent refereeing display and, dare I say it, a bit of luck...
Prediction; 3-1

Chesterfield v Wycombe Wanderers
As you may know, I am rooting for the Chairboys to beat the drop. They work miracles with a constant collection of loanees and rejects and have been having a real go in recent weeks. This is a golden chance but the Spireites will be desperate to avoid relegation at home which will happen if they lose.
Prediction; 2-1

Exeter City v Leyton Orient
The O's are in 20th and a win here would relegate Exeter City. The O's have lost the last three but Exeter have managed only two points from the last 27! Grecians to drop.
Prediction; 0-1

Hartlepool United v Brentford
Brentford face a long trip here but are on the back of five successive wins and this will be nosebleed territory. With rivals Notts County to come on Saturday, they know a win here is vital.
Prediction; 1-2

MK Dons v Tranmere Rovers
Milton Keynes aren't assured play-off fun just yet but a win here would ease any concerns that they might blow it.
Prediction; 2-0

Notts County v Yeovil Town
Yeovil look safe and shouldn't trouble a Notts County side chasing sixth.
Prediction; 3-0

Stevenage v Preston North End
Stevenage look to have run out of gas but they should collect the points here to maintain respectability this season and perhaps position themselves for a genuine promotion push next time around. Preston could be up Shit Creek by the time we visit in a couple of weeks time...
Prediction; 3-0

Sunday 8 April 2012

Charlton Porn

It's what we are all staring at this morning. Help enhance this beautiful picture by getting yourself down to your spiritual home tomorrow and cheering the all-conquering Addicks on. Sure, we'll be short of a couple of regular faces, but this is a squad of battlers who will go for it again tomorrow as they stride towards to the title.

A win and we should see the club hire a special train to help put another 500 Addicks on the Carlisle gate. I was there in 1981 and again in 1986 when we clinched previous promotions. I will be there again next week - it's our destiny. 

Saturday 7 April 2012

Oldham Athletic 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

I saw a piece recently about Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute-mile back in 1954. Bannister had come within a couple of seconds of the record previously but needed to find two men who were naturally quicker than him but who didn't have the lungs to break the record themselves. Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway were the two he needed and they managed push him to a position he needed to break the record. The parallels with our current promotion push were obvious.

Prior to our game at Oldham this afternoon, Sheffield Wednesday won a tough Yorkshire derby at Huddersfield to go within five points of us. No doubt Owls fans are cock-a-hoop but the sobering reality is that they will be arriving back in Sheffield this evening knowing that they are back to 8 (eight) points behind the pace. We have made all the running and we look like we have the legs to win the race.

Bradley Wright-Phillips dropped to the bench today as Djombo "Dany" N'Guessan was given a start with Yann Kermorgant up front. Other than that, it was the same side that beat Orient with Johnnie Jackson fit enough to warm the bench. That meant Lee Cook and Waggy had the wide berths with Hollands and Stephens in central midfield. 

Resting Bradders with two games in forty-eight hours was probably a good move and given the opposition, it made sense to play N'Guessan today against the Oldham lummoxes. The Gallic forward line certainly has the physical presence to mix it.

The first-half was a drab sounding affair on a pudding of a pitch with four bookings before Danny Hollands received a straight red card after 30 minutes for a two-footed tackle. He's not a dirty player but he does have a tendency to tackle with both feet off the floor. It wasn't a decent game but the commentary was interrupted every few minutes to bring us news and goals at other games. CAFC Player is a "must have" for diehards but it's hardly a compelling service and is invariably free to air if you can get BBC London. The only saving grace was that we heard Birmingham's three opening goals against Palace. Oldham managed to level things at 10-men-apiece before the break when M'Voto got his marching orders for another assault on Kermorgant. The referee was booed off the field at the break after we had failed to create a goal-scoring opportunity in forty-five minutes.

During the break I was hoping for another "game of two halves' that typified the first-half of our season and I was rewarded within minutes of the restart when Yann Kermorgant got on the end of a raking Royce Wiggins cross to score at the far post. The 603 travelling fans let their presence be known with  resounding chorus of "Top of the League." 

There really wasn't a lot more football to report on. The commentators were far more interested in whether or not Trevor Kettle would brandish more cards or not following every challenge. Bradley Pritchard's fresh legs were introduced after 70 minutes for N'Guessan before Kettle got to brandish a second yellow for Wagstaff and a sending off for slipping into Furman in what sounded like an accidental foul. That meant Matt Taylor joined the action for Lee Cook as we concentrated on protecting our one goal advantage for the last 15 minutes. Kermorgant nearly netted a second with a long-range chip which beat the Latics keeper but also missed the far post (CAFC Player was bringing us Wigan's equaliser at the time).

Trevor Kettle managed to flourish another Oldham yellow before we entered the five minutes of card time when he squeezed another two bookings in. It will be easier to report who wasn't booked or sent off. Job done and we are on the home straight heading for the tape.

Friday 6 April 2012

League One Weekend preview, Game 41

How good does that feel, "Game 41?" Very good indeed and aided by the fact that  after Monday's home clash with Walsall we will only have four left. Carlisle (a), Wycombe (h), Preston (a) and Hartlepool (h). Our win over Orient calmed some of the more anxious Addicks and four points this weekend will calm yet more. We may have the added bonus of our chasers dropping points which will  as good as Charlton victories.

The games are spread over three days, starting today, although all the real interest for us begins tomorrow.

Colchester United v Hartlepool United
This two have managed only a win between them in their last seven games. That has cost Colchester a possible play-off place although Pools have clung steadfastly on to mid-table. It's a nothing match and Colchester should take the points.
Prediction; 2-0

Leyton Orient v Notts County
As we know to our good fortune, the O's have been dire in recent weeks. They are heading towards the trapdoor at an alarming rate and desperately need a three-pointer. Trouble is, County remain on the play-off fringe and need to make up a game and four points on Carlisle. They simply cannot afford to lose this and should have the incentive to grab the points.
Prediction; 1-2

Scunthorpe United v Exeter City
Scunny are on level points with the O's but they won last time out and they know that a home win here over "relegated" Exeter should just about see them home for the season.
Prediction; 2-0

Tranmere Rovers v Stevenage
Tranmere are safe for another year. Ronnie Moore is back in the hot-seat and, Charlton mini-hero of yesteryear that he may be, I won't miss not seeing him at the Valley next season. His side can effectively end Stevenage's play-off ambitions here.
Prediction; 1-0

Wycombe Wanderers v Carlisle United
Could be a high-scoring game here today. Wycombe will go again for goals and I expect Stuart Beavon to be amongst them, although Carlisle may be able to relax a little and focus on scoring at the other end. Our match at Brunton Park in a week's time is looking like it could be another historic Charlton visit.
Prediction; 2-3

On Saturday....

Huddersfield Town v Sheffield Wednesday
I will be as interested in this one as ours at Oldham. It's an early kick-off although I don't believe it's being televised. Not sure I will subscribe to listen to the commentary but will look for an internet feed from somewhere. It could put our players in a party mood before we slaughter Oldham. If things go our way, there could be big queues at the Valley on Monday.
Prediction; 1-0

Brentford v Bury
Four straight victories for the Bees but the three previous straight losses have probably cost them a play-off shout. Can't see Bury holding back the swarm here for too long.
Prediction; 3-0

Oldham Athletic v Charlton Athletic
Ideal end-of-season fixture for us. Oldham's season has tailed off with seven defeats in the last nine. Paul Dickov will be feeling the managerial heat and his players will be looking forward to the heat of foreign climes. Without wishing to sound too blindly optimistic, we should stroll this on the  counter.
Prediction; 0-3

Preston North End v MK Dons
Don't laugh but Preston could still do a famous double (relegation) this season. Their current form is good enough to slide into League Two and you wouldn't want this fixture if you were a Northender. Oh and they have us at home to come. We think we have squeaky bum time!
Prediction; 0-2

Sheffield United v AFC Bournemouth
The Cherries season is fizzling out and, whilst they have a decent away record, they have lost seven times on their travels and very hard to see Ched Evans and Co not putting this one to bed, especially if they have just watched Wednesday falter at Huddersfield.
Prediction; 2-0

Walsall v Chesterfield
The permanent relegation battle that is life as a Saddlers fan continues tomorrow. I would love to see Wycombe survive at the expense of Walsall but it probably won't happen. If they win here, they may be slightly easier opposition on Monday. Chesterfield on the brink of relegation.
Prediction; 2-0

Yeovil Town v Rochdale
Rochdale's flirtations with the higher reaches of the football league looks like being cruelly short. Expect Yeovil to show no compassion here.
Prediction; 2-0