Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stale Mate

Charlton Athletic 0 Preston North End 0

There isn’t a huge amount to report after yesterdays nil-nil draw with Preston; both team had a good headed chance (Parkin nodded across goal and wide, and Tresor Kandol’s header from a corner was tipped over), and Therry Racon had another shot that fizzed wide, but apart from that it was fairly quiet all match. Charlton huffed and puffed after half time, but couldn’t string together enough to threaten the deadlock, and anything else that Preston put together was manfully blocked by the Addicks defenders.

Phil Parkinson rang a few changes for this match, with Jonjo Shelvey getting a welcome start in midfield, and Darren Ambrose being a less welcomed preference on the right wing. Tom Soares was left out, as was Matt Spring. Darren Ward also returned to central defence at the expense of Matt Holland, who dropped to the bench. In the first half, Shelvey started as the support for Kandol, but after twenty minutes or so, he swapped positions with Zheng Zhi, who looked brighter going forward. The main problem was that though there was some fancy passing, it didn’t get very far, as the midfield was too close together, and eventually moves were snaffled out.

After half time, with Lloyd Sam on for the injured Ambrose out wide and ZiZi pushed farther forward, Racon had more space and Charlton looked much better.

Chris Dickson came on to add to the search for the elusive goal, but he seemed way off the pace in the twenty minute cameo he had. Maybe he does need more game time on a regular basis?

Mark Hudson got as nasty bang on the head about ten minutes from the end, and Holland came on to maintain the defensive strength, but the game ended with Charlton pushing forward in vain. I actually though that the referee had a pretty good game, letting the game flow as best he could and not blowing up for endless minor fouls. He had to deal with a flare up between Nicky Bailey, Kelly Youga and a Preston player, and gave each a stern lecture but no card, which was good to see. There were no other bookings in a clean-ish game.

The Prston fans tried to enjoy themselves, but their bowler hat wearing remembrance show for the Gentry was not upheld by any more than half the present 600-or so who travelled. What was interststing about the crowd was that it was announced at a mere 19,200, and therefore represented the first Addicks home game with a crowd of less than 20,000 for quite soime years...a sign of things to come.

Ultimately, this point won is pretty irrelevant in the context of the season, and the management now seem to be accepting the inevitable. I for one still wish to see the best team that can be picked – which includes Zheng Zhi – each game and the club have that responsibility to do so until all is lost and relegation confirmed. At that point, decisions on which players becomes easier as they make their minds up on who is to stay and who will be let go this summer. Mark Kinsella is quoted as saying that up to fourteen players could be out of contract, though some of these may be offered new deals (maybe at lower terms?). Those known as out of contract include Nicky Weaver, Matt Holland, Darren Ambrose, Zheng Zhi, Svetislav Todorov, Harry Arter, Dean Sinclair, Martin Christensen, and possibly Aswad Thomas, Scott Wagstaff, and Danny Uchechi. I’m not sure who any others may be? Everyone has their own favourites, and some of these players may be persuaded to stay at (sometimes drastically) lower terms – Matt Holland for instance – but who knows.

What we will have next year is a drastically reduced squad, a much lower wage bill, but hopefully one which can compete and be near the top of the league table. I just hope the fans turn up to see them play...

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Pedro - I think our squad for next year will be largely determined by who is prepared to take what lower deals rather than who we absolutely want as priorities. Darren Ambrose will be something of a barometer here; he's out of contract, he's had a wake-up call being knocked-back by Ipswich and I suspect there won't be a queue of takers offering him the same money (or better) he's on now. If he takes a big cut they might see him as value-for-money in League One (for me we've seen enough). It promises to be an interested close season - Dave.
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