Monday, September 15, 2008

Dunkin' Donny

One of the Addicks former managers once coined the phrase "bouncebackability" while with a former club, and that is exactly what the Charlton need to do in the away game at Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday evening. After consecutive losses, the only way is (hopefully) up, and that is where Alan Pardew must hope to take his players as the season progresses. Sure, we fans don't really expect to be pushing all that hard for a play-off place this season, but we do need to see a mid-table team playing each week and one who are not going to get dragged into the edges of the relegation battle.

I suppose, at the start of the season, Doncaster themselves would have been hoping for mid-table mediocrity, and the way they have set out this season, they may well accomplish that, provided they maintain early season form. Us southerners probably don't know much about the team we are playing, and being honest, I don’t have much to add. I know they chase and harry at every opportunity and will try to deny space to the ball-players. They also have a couple of old-hands who will be known to fans - Neil Sullivan, ex-Spur, Don, and Leeds reject will be in goal for instance - but the only other player I have heard of is Jason Price.

Now Jason Price is not exactly a household name (even down the divisions) and probably a complete mystery to most Charlton fans, and I have to admit that he was to me until a couple of months before the end of last season. At that point, one of my new staff admitted that she used to go out with a footballer when she was a youngster in Hull; who was that I enquired? Jason Price she replied - it was a "phase" she was going through... The conversation moved on but I Google'd Jason, mainly to see who had captured the heart (albeit briefly) of my co-worker, and there on Google I found him describe himself as the "Afro Goal Machine". Of course, the images of Jason back up part of this claim, though his football statistics show that "goal-machine" is a bit of an ambitious monicker. He's bound to score against us now! If he gets on that is (he was a second half sub on Saturday). Anyway Jason, Laura says Hi!

Alan Pardew meanwhile will be hoping he unearths his own goal-machine in Yorkshire, as just the Andy Gray penalty at Preston has had fans cheering in away games so far this season. Gray was withdrawn late on at The Valley on Saturday so I hope he isn't carrying an injury, and he really could do with some service further up the pitch in order to add to his goal tally this season. Luke Varney would also benefit from better service, and there isn't really any point throwing in Chris Dickson if the rest of the team cannot get the strikers decent ball to feed on.
Hopefully the width and possession that was afforded the team by Reading and nullified by Wolves will be available, and we can look more dangerous in the attacking third once more.

Pardew will pick his team carefully, and hopefully - bearing in mind we have three games in a week - he will not let anyone important get too tired this early in the season.

Nicky Weaver is bound to start in goal, and I cannot really see any change to the defence being made; on-loan Crainie will continue at right back, Hudson and Fortune in the middle with, I suspect, Kelly Youga being given another run at left back. Pardew could offer Linvoy Primus a return game, but that must still be doubtful after so long out injured in what could be an important game not to lose. Similarly, Grant Basey could offer an alternative at left back but Youga would always seem to me to be the better defensive (and therefore away game) option.

Up front, unless Gray or Varney are injured, we will see them continue with Chris Dickson on the bench and willing if the need arises.

It is in midfield that we may see changes - Lloyd Sam was limping for quite some time before being taken off on Saturday, and there could be a doubt over him. Hameur Bouazza will start unless Pards changes tactics completely (which is doubtful at this early stage in the season, but not beyond him!), and Nicky Bailey will also play. Who plays next to Saturday's goalscorer and how that all fits in if Sam is injured is where the choice really needs to be made. Matt Holland is always willing and able, but can his legs take three games in a week? JonJo Shelvey had a restful weekend (and wasn't even a sub), and he could be given a chance away from the limelight, or we might possibly even see Jose Semedo being thrown back in to shore up the middle of the park. The only other possibility was Zheng Zhi, but he got crocked by Dickson on Friday and will not be risked in this game Pardew says. At Preston, we saw Bailey moved out wide and Shelvey playing centrally - it didn't work. I can't see Pards shifting Bailey wide again, so the option it seems is maybe to move Holland out, or play Darren Ambrose who must be just about fully fit after his hip injury and able to complete an hour at least by now.

This is the team I think our manager will send out in search of three points -

Nicky Weaver
Martin Crainie
Mark Hudson
Jonathan Fortune
Kelly Youga
Darren Ambrose
Matt Holland
Nicky Bailey
Hameur Bouazza
Luke Varney
Andy Gray

Subs from Elliott, Moutaouakil, Basey, Semedo, Primus, Shelvey, Wright, Fleetwood, Dickson.

Sadly, Pedro45 has a prior engagement that will prevent him watching Charlton away against an 84th league team. Happily ensconced in the Royal Albert Hall when the game kicks off, I will eagerly await a texted score flash, much as I did when Charlton played Cardiff last year when I went to see Squeeze at Hammersmith. On that occasion, we won 2-0 with goals by Holland and Reid and I am going to predict a similar scoreline at Doncaster. We have a touch of class when allowed to show it, and that may be too much for Rovers on the night, who could run out of steam after a tough game on Saturday.
My one-to-watch is going to be Jonathan Fortune; Forch is under pressure at the back, ever since Crainie and Primus joined from Portsmouth on loan a couple of weeks ago. He has been there, seen it, worn out the t-shirt, so whatever happens next shouldn't phase him. He needs to play well otherwise Pardew will drop him for one of the loanees - Pardew and Primus have history going back quite a number of years so it wouldn't be a surprise if the manager was eager to thrust him in given an opportunity. We know that Primus and Crainie are competent at right back, but prefer the centre of defence, so with Moutaouakil already relegated to the stiffs (again), that just leaves Forch and it will be fait-accompli for the Pompey boys. It is up to our home-grown player to keep them both at bay, and another good defensive performance could just delay that switch a little longer.

One thing I would like to see more of is Forch going forwards; I know we aren't a long ball team (thank god!) but when we get free-kicks on the half way line, why pump them at Gray when neither Hudson or Fortune is pushed forward. Going back a couple of years, every free kick near the middle saw big Hermann stride up to the edge of the penalty box and try to get on the end of the dead-ball. The option for Fortune and Hudson to alternate moving up to use their obvious strength is there and would be what the defence doesn't want to see;, so stop taking them Jon, and start getting on the end!

This is a pretty important match for the Addicks - a win and we will be back in mid-table and confident going into a tougher match on Saturday, but a defeat, and we will be under real pressure and too close to the bottom end of the table for comfort. We have to believe we can bounce back, and so should the team.

Up the Addicks!

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