Saturday 29 August 2015

Winger the last signing?

Charlton declared an interest in James Henry nearly six weeks ago. The attacking wide man was apparently out-of-favour at Molineux and a deal look very likely. However, Kenny jacket played Henry in a couple of friendlies and was soon keen to tell fans that the door was still open for his former Millwall player. Indeed, Henry has featured for Wolves this season picking up a couple of yellow cards and a goal in recent weeks. In spite of that, speculation remains that Henry could be on his way to the Valley.

With the transfer window closing, Charlton have been dallying with Jermaine Pennant as a possible replacement and he has been about to sign for most of this week. Henry fits the Charlton bill whereas Pennant doesn't. Henry has youth on his side whereas Pennant doesn't. Henry comes with a clean nose, whereas Pennant doesn't. Henry should be affordable whereas I would be very surprised if Pennant was.

Yesterday, Callum Harriott was allowed to join Colchester United on a season-long loan signalling the expectant arrival of a player deemed to offer more, presumably Henry or Pennant. With the Addicks at Wolves today, it could be telling if Henry plays against us, or not. 

A product of our youth system, Harriott has had 76 chances and, to my mind, only taken a handful of them. Bar a purple patch towards the end of the 2013-14 season when I think he netted five of his nine goals for us in two or three games, he has ultimately been a disappointment. Blessed with plenty of pace, he was also encumbered with a footballing brain that wasn't as fast. He never seemed to be aware of red shirts around him and lost possession far too often. He will make a living in the lower leagues and I hope he can settle in at Colchester and earn himself a permanent move. 

The question remains, will it be Henry or Pennant, or could we get a curve-ball with someone else?

Friday 28 August 2015

Banana skin in the Black Country?

Looking ahead to tomorrow's league clash with Wolves, I find myself unable to join the common Addick viewpoint that we are favourites to return with the points. I think we may be writing off the Wolves start to the season too easily.

The Old Gold lost a two-nil lead at home to QPR in their last home match and will be smarting over that. Rangers have the personnel to do that in matches but Wolves were two-up. They also won at Blackburn on the opening day and have seen off two lower league sides in the Cup. Losing in Cardiff was hardly unexpected and their only other showing was a point at home to Hull who we know were very poor at the Valley, but they very nearly took a point from us.

We haven't been behind in any of our eight matches so far this season. It's going to happen and we will need to be able to retaliate. With Watt and Vetokele both fully fit, I think we have the firepower to do that by changing things with Makienok and Ahern-Grant, but Watt will still be missing tomorrow and Igor is unlikely to get more than a substitute showing. We will need to keep it very tight at the back or hope to open the scoring to give us something to hang on to. Wolves will put us under pressure and if they can score first they have the quality to maintain momentum.

Trying to be more positive for a moment, our next four matches are against sides in the bottom eight of the fledgling table so there should be more points to come and there is every prospect of us sitting pretty after the first ten games which is, for me, the first time we should consider counting any chickens in terms of ambitions for the season.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Peterborough United 1 v Charlton Athletic 4

In a Cup competition which has been about as disappointing for Charlton Athletic during it's history as it's possible to be, last night's victory at the Abax Stadium stands out. The draw for the third round, which pitches us against local rivals Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park also gives us a rare draw we can actually get excited about. Manchester United away in the 70's was the last one I can think of and I was too young to be there on a school-night.

What was remarkable about last night's victory was that it was achieved by a side with an average age of 21 and over half the side was home-grown. Mikhail Kennedy opened the scoring three minutes into his debut and he was brought down after 53 minutes to win the penalty that effectively won the match. Ahearne-Grant stepped up to score his second goal in the competition and from then on we could relax and hit Posh on the break. 

Luzon brought on more experienced fresh legs in Kashi and Vetokele who bought added to the goal tally. Kasha's was a 40 yarder and he also hit a post. There was time for Oliver Muldoon to also make his debut (I think) and even a late Peterborough consolation goal wasn't enough to take any shine of the showing.

Cynical Addicks were comfortably predicting Carlisle away in the next round, but the draw paired us with the Nigels. It's an evening they won't look forward to. Thousands of baying visitors, a poor home turnout, possibly a weakened Palace side and we have nothing to lose. A chance to put one of Pardew too. Rubs hands in eager anticipation.

Guy Luzon has eclipsed the start made by Bob Peeters last season. Confidence must be flowing through entire squad and players will need to be raising their game or risk losing their place. Exciting times for a long overdue change....

Saturday 22 August 2015

Charlton Athletic 2 v Hull City 1

Guy Luzon's men won at the Valley for the second successive time to assert their fine, if unexpected start to the season. The victory was fully deserved but not without some added time drama.

Hull were clearly here for the point. Their lack of first-half ambition was embarrassing. I can't remember us having such a complete run of it for many a season. The fact that we didn't capitalise was reflective of our lack of cutting edge, but we held the ball well and outplayed the visitors. 

Solly, Watt and Reza were all missing as expected and Luzon chose to bring Cousins in at right-back and play a five man midfield with Kashi, Ba, Bergdych, Ceballos and Gudmundson. Kashi was again the standout player making space for the ball and finding other red shirts whenever in possession. Ba tied up all around him and it was left to the other three to probe the Tigers defence. 

Simon Makienok was struggling with pace and touch but after the break and attacking the Covered End, he took his chance five minutes after the re-start. He attacked the near post and met Gudmundson's cross perfectly to head across McGregor for the opener. His relief was palpable and he paid long homage to Thor before the match restarted.

After that it looked like a straightforward 1-0 home win. Hull struggled to raise their game and we really should have gone for the jugular. As it was, it took Hull substitutions to inject some urgency and with seconds of ordinary time on the clock Hull finally got forward and stretched us. Hayden picked the ball up in space 20 yards out and drove a fierce shot which cannoned off the post. It was picked up in play and with players sliding and back-pedalling, it went back to him a couple of yards closer and in even more space but this time his shot beat everyone but Pope. Nicky blocked the shot but couldn't manage to hold it and as it squirmed free, Hernandez swept it in. That was gutting but moments later we were informed of 8 (eight) minutes of added time.

The momentum was with Hull and they were winning the 50-50's. As they piled forward, a back post ball was headed home and I thought that was it. One of the Hull visitors behind me tapped me on the shoulder to tell me it was offside and we breathed again. Before the dust could settle we were back in their half and with men breaking right and left, Makienok beat their keeper to a challenge and the ball broke inside for a rampaging Johan Berg Gudmundsson who was able to run on and head the bouncing ball into an unguarded net. 

A deserved win and great to see a Valley crowd leaving in high spirits once again. The three points pushed us into third and cements a fine start in spite of injuries. If we can avoid defeat at Wolves next week we have a great opportunity to record our third home win in-a-row against struggling Rotherham. 

Thursday 20 August 2015

Toothless for Tigers

Nottingham Forest's robust approach to Tuesday evening's clash appears to have taken it's toll and my pre-season concerns about our possible lack of firepower seem well-grounded. Wyn is reporting that in addition to Chris Solly, both Tony Watt and Reza Goochannejhad will also miss Saturday's home match against Hull City.

Solly took a very bad tackle late on in the game (one that commentator Stephen Froggatt winced at and said it was a carbon copy of the one that ended his own career) so is not a real surprise. Both Watt and Reza also took knocks but played on, albeit Watt was subbed and replaced by Reza well before the end.

With Igor still out, it will mean Simon Makienok will lead the attack and I am guessing Karlan Ahearne-Grant will get another start. Big Mak's confidence might be suffering having failed to score for us since joining and after missing two sitters against Forest. Ahearne-Grant is at least off the mark but with only one goal between them, Hull City will hardly be biting their nails.

I am hoping we get an overdue goal from midfield and that Big Mak can break his duck. That might be enough to see off our highly fancied visitors. Better still, could we make a move for another proven striker tomorrow?

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Nottingham Forest 0 v Charlton Athletic 0

I managed to follow the game on BBC London this evening in what was a frustrating evening for listening Addicks fans. It sounded like another open game for the most part but Charlton had three good chances in the first-half to have taken the lead and Simon Makienok missed them all. Two were particularly open headers but with all the goal to aim at, both went over the bar.

After the break Forest picked-up the pace, especially after a couple of substitutions and with Lansbury pulling the strings and Vaughan and both Burkes heavily involved, they had us back-pedalling for decent spells. In spite of that, they failed to test Pope seriously and Charlton could still have scored as Reza Goochannejhad and Makienok both went close. Karlan Aherne-Grant and Zag Berdych both got on before the end and Ahearne-Grant might have won it at the death. Bauer was again prominent in defence and he had a thumping second-half header tipped over by De Vries.

Tony Watt had a quiet game and is probably showing his tiredness after four matches in eleven days (he wasn't fully fit at the start) and was the obvious choice to make way for Reza. Gudmundson skimmed the bar with a first-half free-kick but didn't appear to do too much other than that. On the other flank, Ceballos was a contender as our man-of-the-match creating most of the first-half danger.

Most Addicks would have settled for this start although it does feel more like two points dropped than one gained this evening. I hope I am wrong but goal-scoring does look like it may be a problem as I feared. Simon Makienok will undoubtedly get goals but he is already overdue and I can't help thinking a fully fit Igor Vetokele would have notched a couple of the chances that have fallen his way so far. Igor remains injured and a longer term worry. Watt can't do it all on his own as he showed this evening. I think we are expecting too much from Ahearne-Grant and Reza Gooochannejhad isn't good enough to carry the burden week in, week out.

We go again on Saturday in another testing Valley fixture. Our opponents, Hull City, play Wolves tomorrow night, so we should be a day better rested. Chris Solly took a clattering tackle from Vaughan this evening and I hope he suffers no serious reaction to that. Eight points from the opening four tough games and unbeaten in the process would justify the exuberant optimism of many fans pre-kick-off. 

I would like to think that Roly is reading the runes and can see from the mistakes of last year that he has an opportunity before the window closes to bring in a proven goal-scorer to strengthen our attack. If Tony Watt had been brought in a few months earlier he could have changed our season. I wonder if Roly is big enough to admit his mistake of selling Yann Kermorgant? The talismanic Frenchman looks unlikely to feature much for the Cherries this season and is being touted for a loan back to the Championship.

Sunday 16 August 2015

Derby County 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

Late posting today as I headed out after the game yesterday for a drink up town with a couple of returning Addicks so I could get a first-hand account of our battling draw.

I followed the match commentary on line with Sky on in the background. It sounded like we took a bit of a battering and the match stats showed the Rams had 26 efforts to our 9. However, Mexico Vic and Dave the Train were more upbeat and said we gave a solid away performance at a promotion contenders, so I am happy with that.

There were no major surprises with the line-up yesterday with Tony Watt starting and Jordan Cousins returning in central midfield in place of Ba. It sounded like most acquitted themselves honourably although Cristian Ceballos has drawn widespread ridicule for a corner he took that is being described as the worst ever taken. He managed to send it into the crowd way before the goal and it lacked pace as well as direction. He also missed an early opportunity when he put his shot over the bar. Probably too early to jump to conclusions but he looked lightweight in the two games I have seen.

Simon Makienok is also dividing opinion. He played Watt on for our goal yesterday but his main contribution again appeared to be defensive duties. Early days, but we need him to pull his attacking weight as Tony Watt can't be expected to score every week and with Igor a continuing injury worry, scoring goals could again become a problem for us.

Other than that, we are fourth and unbeaten, so what not to like? Forest away on Tuesday is a game we should be looking forward to, especially if we can shackle Antonio who dragged forest back into it yesterday. Hull City next Saturday also gives us another opportunity to stamp our good start with another ex -PL scalp in front of what should be another decent gate. I will be entertaining a couple of Tigers for the day, so hope the hospitality finishes in the pub before kick-off.

Finally, I report on a huge police presence at Charlton station last night as we tumbled off at midnight. must have been forty officers with back-up vehicles and a helicopter. They were on both platforms and appeared ready for trouble. My guess is they were planning on stopping the next train....

Friday 14 August 2015

Posh night out

The draw for the second round of the Carling Cup has seeded us against Peterborough United at London Road, probably a week on Tuesday. With due disrespect to the Posh, it's hardly a blood pulsing draw but given the nature of the seeding again in round two, that was pretty much what you were likely to get. My main hope was for a home tie. Still, we are only 90 minutes away from a possible draw against one of the Big Boys. We are overdue one of those in SE7.

Tomorrow sees a tricky fixture at Derby where we have taking a regular pasting in recent times. The Rams have started surprising slowly, having scraped a draw at Bolton in their opener having had their woodwork battered and slipping out of the Carling Cup at a rejuvenated Pompey in front of 11,000 fans in the week.

No doubt they will fall into line at home and we will get a stiff test. Nicky Pope and the back four will need composure and the same resilience they showed against QPR and, if we are to get anything, we need to be prepared to commit men to attack when we break. Our midfield duo could hold the key to us getting anything.

Whatever happens, we will get another go in the east Midlands on Tuesday when we schlep back up the M1 to visit Nottingham Forest who appear to be struggling this season. I am tempted to say three points from both fixtures would be good but I guess a point from each would probably be better in a way by avoiding defeat and keeping our run going. Momentum is huge in football and I think it kept us going early last season, even if we were drawing too many matches.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Charlton Athletic 4 v Dagenham & Redbridge 1

A night of a few surprises as Charlton waltzed into the second round of the League Cup. Little less than a year ago I had written this fixture off in my mind and I was still convinced a week ago that I wouldn't bother. Saturday's feel-good win changed that and I decided I would attend earlier today when at work as my wife, a daughter and her friend who is staying over all said they wanted to go.

I was late coming home and scurried past the ground at 7.40pm. There was an ominously long queue for tickets but the good lady had already been around to the office earlier and secured ours. I past her and the kids on the threshold as I raced in to change and grab a bite to eat. As a consequence I missed the opening 15 minutes but did receive a call from a mate to say he wouldn't now be joining us after all having admitted defeat with the queueing throng for a ticket. The last straw was an official saying there would be a further delay whilst "more tickets are brought 'round." Oh dear.

There was no queue once again at the turnstiles and I was into the East in plenty of time to see Tony Watt bludgeon a straight shot which beat the Daggers keeper in the centre of his goal. I said a few surprises it was good to all four stands open, albeit with top tiers closed. The Charlton line-up was certainly another surprise and the bench even more so. Credit to Luzon for playing most of his first eleven tonight. It may just be because we are still trying to familiarise players and get game time but, equally, the lessons of previous seasons where the selection policy has been disrespectful to the supporters and the opposition may have been taken on board. Whichever, it was, Tony Watt notched scored again and Ahearne-Grant also opened his account. Zag Berdych got off the mark too before Reza netted once again in Addick colours. 

Nicky Pope had another match in front of the impressive Patrick Bauer and Bauer got a match with Naby Sarr. Fox played again although Solly was rested and replaced by Charles-Cook.

As expected, this was a match for Jacko in the centre alongside El-Hadji Ba with Berdych out right and Ceballos on the left. Guy Luzon used all his substitutes before the end with the unlikely appearance of Johan Berg Gudmundsson, the return of Reza and a start for Holmes-Dennis.

The Daggers weren't much cop to be fair although their fans made up for it. Our opening goal was met with "you're nothing special, we lose every week!" They also started an impressive conga (below) after we scored the third just in case we thought they might be even slightly bothered.

Saturday 8 August 2015

Charlton Athletic 2 v QPR 0

Oh joyous day, calloo-callay! Apologies to Lewis Carroll but what a fantastic start to the season. Beating ex-Premier League opposition at home was as much as anyone could ask for. It wasn't spell-binding but it was efficient and there is certainly hope.

On a cracking day, we all seemed to arrive earlier than normal and I am pleased to report that there was no delay at the turnstiles although I was 20 minutes early. The screen flashed "not valid" or something equivalent but the turnstile still opened. The steward said "it wouldn't have opened if not valid" so I will reserve judgement. 

The only disappointment was the omission of Tony Watt from the starting line-up. Karl Ahearn-Grant started but struggled for the opening 45 to make a real impression.

QPR started fastest and for twenty minutes it looked like we would do well to manage a draw. The Hoops were busy but they struggled to make any headroom. Solly, Diarra, Bauer and Fox were resolute and Kashi did all the scampering in front of the back four. We came back into it after that and by half-time were very much on level terms. There were precious few chances but Nicky Pope made a solid flying save to keep out a long range effort before the break.

After half-time and kicking towards the Covered End we stepped it up and with Tony Watt replacing KAG, we looked more threatening. It was about the hour mark when Makienok left a beautiful dummy for Watt roaring in from the left and the Scotsman picked up the ball, jockeyed inside his marker before beating Green at his near post.  The goal lifted the game and effectively killed Rangers off. Charlie Austin was a surprise starter for me but largely anonymous and he didn't look particularly interested. It took an hour before I recognised Konchesky was playing which typified the lack of impression made by any R's player.

Morgan Fox stepped inside to fire a crisp second and it was game over. Two thirds of the QPR fans had left before the end and Chris Ramsey must be a worried man.

Bauer and Diarra were solid and Kashi the man-of-the-match in front of them. Ba was competitive in midfield and Cousins and Gudmundson active out wide. Gudmundson was denied a late third by a fine two-handed clawing save from Green up to his top right from a superbly struck free-kick. Makienok needs to do a lot more and didn't really look any threat in the air although he made a couple of good defensive interventions in the last twenty minutes.

It was a good opening day win but QPR are surely not the benchmark for this season. Derby will be a much better test next Saturday.

Friday 7 August 2015

Poor show

Spent rather longer than I expected queuing for tickets today. There was a long and steady queue swollen by angry season ticket holders who have yet to receive their passes for the opening home game tomorrow. The Club's statement that they were all posted out by 31st July suggests that either the Club's postal service has failed rather spectacularly or else someone has been gilding the lily. Even if the club uses one of the more competitive postal services, Royal Mail are pretty reliable for their next day delivery (I am assuming they were being sent First Class) and they still do the actual deliveries.

To add insult to injury, the club somehow only managed to have three out of seven ticket office windows open. There were a couple of people visibly manning the phones in the background and several others standing huddled chatting without a care in the world. They should at least have had the decency to do it out of sight of the inconvenienced supporters or looked like there was some urgency about what they were discussing. The lad who served me was polite, apologetic and efficient as were the other two from what I could see but why weren't there more staff on?

I have no doubt the mass of season ticket holders managed to get their tickets on time but there was clearly a sizeable minority who haven't and it's simply not good enough given the criticality of keeping and trying to grow the support base. A number of people walked off muttering expletives once they had sized the queue and calculated the delay. I also had to collect two season tickets for a couple of boys who haven't received theirs and was surprised to see that the club can now print the credit card season passes including names and other details. This means there is no outsourcing to a third party, so assuming the fault doesn't lie with the Royal Mail, the ticket office boss needs to be holding his or her hand up.

I am also now wondering what chaos we face tomorrow as thousands try to use these new passes at the gates for entry. I will be turning-up unusually early to claim my seat. I hope the match proves worth all the trouble and expense.

Thursday 6 August 2015

Bring it on

I have had a hectic Summer one way or another but finally I get the chance to breathe and kick-off is upon us. Our plum home league match of the season is the opener when how-the-mighty-have-fallen-so-predictably are the visitors. I have been tough on QPR in the past and deservedly so, although my posts on them have always brought reliably predictable abuse from servers in West London, so any R's fans reading this may take comfort in the fact that already I see them as our most attractive home opposition.

They have sold their allocation, which is great and reasonably impressive given their form last season, especially on the road. Taking 3100 across London on the opening day isn't exactly a migration of wildebeest but they have taken their full allocation and that's a decent turnout given their home gates.

I am expecting a decent gate of maybe 17-18,000. I attempted to get my match tickets this afternoon but silly me forgot that the Ticket Office has half-day on Thursdays, even immediately prior to the opening fixture at home. Not sure the hard-pressed Charlton office staff Union is that powerful and I am surprised that they weren't forced to change shifts to support a full working week, especially when season ticket production and postage appears to have been left perilously close. Still, not to worry, they are opening until 8pm tomorrow, so if you had a wasted journey today - there was a steady stream of bewildered's clutching application forms - you can always make a return journey tomorrow - one of the reasons I live around the corner from the ground.

Anyway, I digress. I wanted to ramble on about those FFP Fiddlers from West London. I also wanted to coat them off for continuing to mock the Football League and everyone else but having poured another mountain of cash down the drain, but I am pleasantly surprised to find that they have been very conservative this close season and may appear to have learnt a lesson. Despite the enormous waste of money on players in recent years, they have been sober when negotiating contract terms because all the mercenaries have left the building and they now have a reasonably lower-league squad assembled at modest cost. How-the-mighty-have-fallen indeed. That's not to say that Leroy Fer and Charlie Austin might not undo us on Saturday but you have to question whether they will be risked with big money moves in the offing.

So, this has given rise to over-optimistic forecasting amongst the Addcited. All-of-a-sudden we are all now looking at 2-1, 3-1 opening day victories. Rangers are being dismissed out-of-hand and I think it somewhat dangerous. Six weeks ago our squad was paper thin and we had left it too late. The arrival of a number of players largely unknown to us and mostly anticipated low country imports has changed the mood and we are now promotion challengers. The Bookies think differently but many Addicks they are out-of-date. I am not so sure. Our pre-season was scrappy and first-team game time has been limited. We may yet fly but I am hedging my bets on anything more than a draw on Saturday.

For the record, I think we have possible weaknesses in attack and in central defence. Makienok is unproven and if he is another lanky target man with a modest strike rate, we may struggle if Vetokele isn't fully recovered from injury as appears the case. Tony Watt could be carrying a burden. In central defence we look an experienced pro short. Bikey doesn't look like playing for us again and outside of Bauer and Sarr we will be relying upon Diarra or an inexperienced youngster. Much may depend on us remaining free of any long-term injuries.

Rhoys Wiggins was allowed to move to Sheffield Wednesday this week. Not sure that's a good move for us although Morgan Fox would be my first-choice left-back. Wiggins has been a good servant to the club and hasn't had the plaudits he really deserves. He was outstanding in our promotion year and he, injury aside, has looked very comfortable at Championship when fully fit and firing on all cylinders. In my opinion, he could have held his own in the Premier League when at the top of his game (not against Bournemouth, obviously).

I hear that Chris Solly took a knock at Bolton and could be missing from the starting eleven. That could be unsettling if it proves to be true. Irrespective,  I will be out and about on Saturday when I am hoping to meet all those familiar faces again and share our common plight. Come on you Reeeeds!