Friday, February 27, 2009

Up The Swanee?

First, it’s Happy 17th Birthday Jonjo Shelvey; thanks for signing that birthday contract. May you continue to improve, and if you cannot play Premiership football with Charlton in the next couple of years, then at least we should be able to benefit from a decent transfer fee (not set by a tribunal).

Jonjo’s next involvement with the first team squad comes with the visit to Welsh Wales, and a first visit to The Liberty Stadium in Swansea. It remains to be seen if manager Phil Parkinson starts Jonjo, now he is definitely committed to the club, rather than leaving him on the bench where he has been for most of the last month or so.

The likelihood is that Parky will keep an unchanged side, especially as the team have won four points from the last two games, and not conceded a goal in the process. There are no reports of injuries from last weekend’s Barnsley game (where Parky didn’t use any substitutes), and the only changes may be to the bench where Deon Burton is available again after one game suspension, and Zheng Zhi could be recalled after another week’s training having recovered from injury.

Rob Elliott is now firmly esconced between the posts, having seemingly won his battle for the goalkeepers jersey with Darren Randolph and Nicky Weaver. In the right place at the right time to take his chance, and having not conceded a goal for couple of weeks, Elliott should be full of confidence for this challenging match.

The defence in front of the goalkeepers has seen plenty of changes this season, but at least now, we seem to have settled back four too; Graeme Murty, Mark Hudson, Darren Ward and Kelly Youga are the chosen ones and the record does suggest that they are good enough at this level. With Yassin Moutaouakil out of favour, and Jon Fortune and Jose Semedo injured, there really aren’t too many other options around at present either.

That cannot be said in midfield though, even if the incumbent four are likely to play once more on Saturday. All of them – Tom Soares, Matt Spring, Nicky Bailey, and Therry Racon – have scored this year, and that goal threat is one good reason that the manager keeps picking them. Pushing all the way is another 2009 goalscorer – Shelvey – plus Lloyd Sam, Matt Holland (whose midfield appearances may be limited due to other options even if he can still do a job in defence), Josh Wright, Darren Ambrose (another 2009 scorer...), and the returning Zhi.

It is good that goals have been coming from midfield as the forwards at the club have not been scoring recently. Chris Dickson has promised, but so far failed to deliver a league goal to go with his cup scores, even though he has been a breathe of fresh air in attack. Alongside him recently has been Tresor Kandol, who has goal pedigree with Leeds and Millwall this year, but he hasn’t really looked very close to scoring for the Addicks yet in his loan spell. Neither has Burton over recent weeks, and his penalty some time back is his only goal so far for the club. Svetislav Todorov filled a bench space last weekend, but the fact that he failed to get on the pitch while the game remained scoreless suggests he is not favoured by Parky, and the only other attacking option is Stuart Fleetwood, who has yet to make an appearance for Charlton.

This is the side I think Parky will send out to win points in Wales –

Rob Elliott
Graeme Murty
Mark Hudson
Darren Ward
Kelly Youga
Tom Soares
Matt Spring
Therry Racon
Nicky Bailey
Chris Dickson
Tresor Kandol

Subs from Randolph, Weaver, Moutaouakil, Holland, Basey, Shelvey, Sam, Wright, Ambrose, Zhi, Todorov, Burton, Fleetwood.

Swansea are having a pretty good season for a club that was promoted last year; they are ninth, but have a very good home record with just one defeat. The good news is that they have a few injury problems, exacerbated by a tough midweek cup defeat at Fulham. Hopefully one or two of their team will be below par, and that could give the Addicks the edge that they crave. In saying that, a defeat would not be unexpected, and a point gained would be a point more than hoped for in reality.

Pedro45 is happy to have seen some improvement consistency from the Charlton side over recent weeks, but thinks that to expect anything from this game is letting heart rule head – I forecast a 2-1 defeat. The recent clean sheets are great, but at some time we will concede, and we don’t have a great record of coming from behind this year to look back on with any confidence. I do hope I’m wrong however!

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Mark Hudson; our skipper opened the scoring against the Swans way back when the sun was shining in August at The Valley. He has come through a recent ankle problem, and will hopefully now be fit and free from suspension for the remaining dozen games after this one. His leadership qualities are desperately needed, even when others are natural leaders (Bailey, Holland, Murty…); hopefully he can lead us to a much needed win?

The next week – which includes two winnable home games – will go a long way to defining if this season is a battle won or lost; whether it is Championship or league one next year; whether we need to chop another three million quid from the budget or not. Anything coming home from Wales will be a bonus. Fingers crossed eh?!?

Up the Addicks!

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