Monday, March 02, 2009

Win or Bust?

Luckily, thoughts of Charlton going bust have been dispelled following the January AGM and the month later response to the Fans Forum “Statement of Intent” query, but this game remains a must-win match. Doncaster, as nearly all of us can remember, started the season poorly, and were everyone’s favourites to go down; since the turn of the year though, they have been on a fantastic run of results, and now sit comfortably in mid-table. For Donny to be relegated now would take a crisis of confidence of massive proportions.

For Charlton, quite the opposite is slowly becoming true – to save themselves from a drop into the third tier, points must be won, and quickly, starting in this match. Sure, the current run of three games without defeat is as good as it has got this season, but there is so much ground to be made up that, quite frankly, Charlton need to be undefeated in at least ten games or more of the remaining dozen.

At least, on paper, this game seems to be one that can be won.

Many changes to the side which has won five points in those three recent matches are unlikely, but at right back, with Graeme Murty finally succumbing to a succession of leg injuries and returning to Reading, has meant a change is assured. Phil Parkinson has brought in defender Danny Butterfield on loan to fill that gap, and he will probably line up alongside former team mates Mark Hudson and Darren Ward. Kelly Youga is very likely to continue at left back, with Rob Elliott in goal.

Once again it is the midfield where Parky has most choices to make, although the incumbent four are unlikely to be split unless there is an injury. Saturday goalscorer Nicky Bailey did hurt his knee in the Swansea game, but hopefully the team’s top scorer will be fit enough to start. If he is not, then Parky has a choice between switching back to a 4-4-2 formation (provided Tresor Kandol has returned to the club following a family issue), and dropping Jonjo Shelvey back from his more forward role, or keeping Shelvey pushed up with someone else filling Bailey’s position on the left side of midfield. That could be anyone of Lloyd Sam (who was ill at the weekend so may still be doubtful), Zheng Zhi (left - who warmed up with the squad at the weekend but was not in the chosen sixteen), or Darren Ambrose (who came on as sub for Shelvey toward the end of the match in Wales).

Whatever the situation with Bailey, Matt Spring, Therry Racon and Tom Soares are all likely midfield starters.

The attack obviously depends on the formation, and that may to some extent depend on Bailey being fit. If he is, then I cannot see Shelvey being left out in favour of a more attacking player to join Chris Dickson, although Kandol would be the obvious choice if required.

This being a must win game - surely everyone connected with the Addicks can see that - I really do hope that Parky sets out his stall and goes for the win from the outset. The worst thing that could happen is that the team become anxious due to the crowd getting restless; if the team play attacking football from the outset, then the crowd will settle, even if that early goal does not come. The management and players have recognised how important a part the crowd have to play in this match, and are hoping that many floating fans turn up; the club has given away many tickets this season in an effort to maintain the 20,000 plus gates that we have had for over 160 consecutive matches, but with this being a Tuesday night, it not being half-term, and with Doncaster hardly being the biggest draw in town on the night, then actual numbers are likely to be many less than the final figure quoted.

Pedro45 is optimistic that the good form shown this year will continue, and so has to predict a winning scoreline – 2-0. Anything less than a win just won’t do; I expect Donny to come to frustrate, especially if they get ahead, by playing a passing game and trying to keep possession as much as possible. Charlton are well used to having far less of the ball than the opposition, regularly getting under 45% in matches this season. But what we need to see is the battling and hassling tendencies that have been prevalent recently, with fair tackles being made and won.

The referee will be important too, though I am unaware of who that might be at this stage. A fussy ref will harden the task for the Addicks, and when you think about it, it is about time that a ref did us a favour or two (whatever happened to all those ref’s who used to be homers???).

My one-to-watch in this match has to be our new professional – Jonjo Shelvey. Our youngest ever player, and youngest ever goalscorer is a star in the making, and how we wish that he was the finished article already (OK, if he was then we’d have to sell him…). Jonjo has just that cup goal in January to his name so far, but he cannot be too far away from scoring his first league goal; hopefully it will come in this game. His work rate and effort cannot be disputed, all he needs is to get those long range shots on target...

It really is make or break time now; we must win, or those other poor clubs will be able to go into administration and still be in front of us! Donny will be no easy game, but hopefully the skill and experience that we have throughout the team now will shine through. South Yorkshire has taken far too many points from us this season (Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United); this one must be for the Londoners!

Come on you reds!

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