Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pride Before The Fall

Derby County 1 Charlton Athletic 0

An inauspicious end to Charlton’s away day games this season, finishing as it started with a one-nil loss. Rob Hulse headed the winner for Derby in the 70th minute, and from the reports I have read, Charlton offered little to a pretty poor game.

Phil Parkinson picked an unchanged team once more, preferring Deon Burton to Tresor Kandol, and also included youngster Chris Solly on the bench. I would have preferred Solly to have been given a start, especially as Danny Butterfield’s loan will end after next Sunday’s final game of the season.

Zheng Zhi had Charlton’s best chance, but his first half burst and shot was blocked by home keeper Bywater. Parky used his subs to boost his attacking options late on, but even with three at the back, after Scott Wagstaff came on for Darren Ward, little additional threat was offered.

The final game of the campaign will be at home versus Norwich, who will need to win to have any chance of staying in the Championship for another season unless they can pick up something in their penultimate game at home to Reading. If Barnsley then gain a solitary point at Plymouth, Norwich are down, so the Canaries could be in for a desperate day at The Valley.

The other end of the table does offer some interest for the neutral, with Birmingham’s loss to Preston adding considerable pressure to them, as they now need to win at Reading to gain automatic promotion; Sheffield United could leapfrog them with a win in Croydon, where Neil Warnock may help his old team by playing a bunch of youngsters. Should they both stumble, two wins for Reading this week could have catastrophic consequences for Norwich and Birmingham…and see the Royals back in the top tier.

Below us, we now know that we will not be playing Peterboro next year, who have gained promotion along with Leicester. I will look forward to confirmed third tier matches against Southend, Yeovil, Stockport, Colchester, Orient, Brentford (who have won league two) and hopefully Hartlepool, Brighton and Northampton if they can all stay up, and also either Gillingham, Rochdale, or Dagenham & Redbridge who will fight out a play off place with Bury. Overall, the number of games in the south of the country should be much greater than it has been for quite some time, and I could potentially get up to seven matches against clubs I have not seen Charlton play against away from home previously, and take my total into the nineties.

That fact is possibly the only bright thing to look forward to when the fixtures come out in June. By then, we may also have a better idea of who will be playing for the club come August, and who will be managing the team too.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

A Case of Pride

Charlton’s last away game of this season is against Derby County, at Pride Park. You would like to think that with a six-game unbeaten run on the go anticipation was high, but with Charlton firmly rooted to bottom spot in the Championship, even with Southampton’s ten-point deduction if they do get themselves out of the bottom three places, most of us just want the season to be over.

The fact that Charlton have led their last two games by two goals, coupled with that unbeaten sequence of results, just makes the league position even more galling; how we would have appreciated an unbeaten run of three, four, or five games around Xmas. But it is just too late – five draws and the solitary recent win have done nothing to improve Charlton’s Championship finishing place, and little in fact to the overall points total.

So a game against Derby, who are not in the best of form at present, could see a continuation of our recent results, if Phil Parkinson keeps his options within the confines of the current starting eleven.

Parky was as frustrated as anyone at The Valley on Tuesday night, as a winning advantage was tossed away for the second time in four days, and he did say that he will not play any of the youngsters at the club unless they are ready to take a full part. Tamer Tuna was one who did make a semi-breakthrough, getting into first the squad, and then a place on the bench which allowed him fifteen minutes or so of game time. Chris Solly was, according to Parky a few weeks back, also very close to first team squad inclusion, and with our current right back only a loanee, I don’t really see why Parky is delaying playing him. If Solly had been given a chance to make his debut on Tuesday, and been found wanting by a very professional Cardiff team, then he would easily have been forgiven. The problem now is that he could play against Derby, and face up to one of the better right sided players in this league – Kris Commons. With Gary Teale likely to play on the opposite flank, Solly could have a tough afternoon.

So should Parky play him, or continue with Danny Butterfield? To me, he must give Solly a go, as to debut him in the last game of the season against Norwich -where they will almost certainly require a win to stay up – could be seen as opting for a weakened team by the League.

Elsewhere, I cannot see too many changes; Rob Elliott made a couple of excellent first half saves on Tuesday, and the rest of the defence seemed to cope pretty well until late in the game during both recent home matches. The midfield five are pretty consistent and getting better as a unit with every game they play together, and Jonjo Shelvey is being protected by being used in the more forward role until late in games. That just leaves a choice between our non-strikers for the forwards berth.

Tresor Kandol was obviously Parky’s preferred choice until his illness on Saturday, and with Deon Burton scoring in that game, Parky gave him another go for an hour against Cardiff. Kandol is way ahead of Chris Dickson, Svetislav Todorov, and Tamer Tuna so I would expect him to regain his starting place this weekend.

Personally, I see very little chance of Parky switching to a possibly more attacking 4-4-2 formation, as this would mean pushing Shelvey either deeper or to the bench, which is unlikely. It’s also unlikely that any of those recently out injured (Semedo, Ambrose) will make any sort of appearance.

This is how I hope Parky will send them out –

Rob Elliott
Chris Solly
Darren Ward
Mark Hudson
Kelly Youga
Therry Racon
Zheng Zhi
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Jonjo Shelvey
Tresor Kandol

Subs from Randolph, Weaver, Butterfield, Moutaouakil, Basey, Holland, Spring, Wagstaff, Tuna, Dickson, Burton, Todorov.

Derby are in a similar position to that of Blackpool whom we played last Saturday; they are almost clear of the possibility of relegation, but not certain. They have a few good players but need to work as a unit to win games. One player that Charlton will hope has another useless game against them is Luke Varney, anti-hero to Addicks, and who was pretty atrocious when he played in the Derby team that drew at The Valley back in December. Varney has got recent form though, and did have a successful loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday that only ended last week. Let’s all hope he plays like he did for most of his time with Charlton, then we’ll be fine…

Pedro45 is hoping that some sort of results continuation is maintained over the final two games, and I predict a 1-1 draw at Pride Park. The problem of conceding late goals – as we did well into injury time in the return fixture, as well as the last two matches – must be addressed, whether that is to protect a lead, or hold a draw, or to save from further defeat. The way to address this is on the training pitch, and though the management don’t have much time between games at this stage of the season, they must come up with some sort of angle to solve the issue. This was the main reason why the crowd were so upset on Tuesday; to throw away one two-goal lead is stupid, to throw away two two-goal leads is criminal! Deal with it Parky and co, while you have a chance please!

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be another of our midfield players; I seem to be cycling between them at present, but most have come up with the goods when picked out! Therry Racon (left) is the pick this time, and he will again be crucial in keeping the midfield tight, making tackles, taking the simple passing option when necessary, and pushing the team forwards at every opportunity. If Therry gets space, he can control the match, and with ZiZi, Bailey, Shelvey and Sam all playing well he could be the match-winner for the Addicks again.

In a perverse sort of way, if Charlton finish the season strongly with a couple of wins, and if Southampton do too, then the points deduction of the south coast team could see Charlton finish in 23rd position, rather than the expected 24th and bottom. The alternative is that one of the other teams that are relegated, and therefore one of our main competitors for promotion next year, will be starting the season ten points shy of everyone else. Maybe that should be why we want a Forest win tomorrow? It doesn’t matter that much though, and hopefully Charlton will elongate that unbeaten streak…

Up the Addicks!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lightning Strikes Twice in Same Place Shock Horror!

Charlton Athletic 2 Cardiff City 2

It is just so frustrating when exactly the same thing happens twice, especially when you would hope to learn from previous experiences…Such, Charlton threw away another two-goal home game lead, conceding the equaliser in injury time once more. Hence the boo’s as the team left the pitch. It’s not that we played badly, but the frustration of fans certainly boiled over at that point, especially as you could see that it would happen from the sidelines, and yet the management failed to do anything to prevent it.

Going into the game with the same team that started on Saturday, Charlton started the game under quite intense pressure from Cardiff. As suggested, they were the team that needed the result, and who apparently wanted to win more. Always first to the ball, Cardiff closed down the Addicks midfield, and simply gave Zheng Zhi, Therry Racon, and Jonjo Shelvey no time on the ball. The wide players also found it hard to get involved, and Cardiff had plenty of possession in that opening twenty minutes. Then Charlton, bouyed in the knowledge that they had defended the high balls up to ex-Addick Jay Bothroyd well, and dealt with the second balls bouncing around too, started to find more space. Racon started to get his pass off; ZiZi had time to look up; Shelvey made runs and was given the ball; and Lloyd Sam finally got some service and weaved his way down the line a few times.

This better play actually paid off, too! Sam’s long cross getting to the far post where Shelvey (left, celebrating) stole in and poked home just after the half hour mark. It was Charlton’s first real effort on goal, and made Rob Elliott’s two first half saves – one from a Chopra break and good shot before Charlton scored, and another from Ledley which he turned onto the bar to keep Charlton in front – all the more important.

At half-time, you knew that Cardiff would up their game, and it was always going to be a case of if Charlton could hang on. To their credit, Charlton continued to play quite well as the second half progressed; the visitors continued to bombard the Charlton box with high balls, hoping to seize on any knock-downs. Any Addicks attacks became less frequent, as Shelvey dropped deeper in an effort to find the ball, and Deon Burton became over-powered by the Cardiff centre backs. Bothroyd did get the ball in the net, but the linesman correctly flagged for a high boot, which had deflected the ball past Elliott initially.

Tresor Kandol, now well again after illness ruled him out on Saturday, came on for the tiring Burton to see if he could hold the ball any better. He did OK, but generally struggled to hold the ball long enough for team-mates to arrive, such was the depths to which Charlton had retreated.

With ten minutes remaining, Charlton did get some relief, and a rare corner was won on the left. Shelvey, who by now was playing on the right with ZiZi pushed farther forward after Matt Spring had come on for Sam, swung the ball over, and the weak clearance fell between two Cardiff players for Nicky Bailey to smash home on the half volley (top pic, and left).

Two nil, and under ten minutes left – surely Charlton could hang on now? Almost immediately, Burke broke free from midfield and hit a rasping drive into the corner of Eliott’s net to bring the scores closer. Now it was nail-biting time. Cardiff threw everything forward, sacrificing a centre back, and lumping it up as quickly as they could. They were helped by the concession of many free kicks as desperate red shirted players sought to stop the surging forward runs of the visitors – ZiZi, Danny Butterfield, and Bailey all received cautions – which merely increased the pressure on the home defence.

It did seem that the team had no idea how to relief the pressure that would eventually tell; should a second forward be introduced so that Charlton’s attacks bore more threat and took more time, or should Parky bring on another defence minded player, and hope to ride out the siege?

Matt Holland came on, and that was the end of any attacking Charlton might do for the day; it was now backs to the wall and hope to survive.

Three minutes of injury time were indicated, and deep into that added period, another corner was conceded, and this one was flicked on to the back post. Whereas Charlton had dealt with second ball fairly well most of the match, this time, Hungarian centre half Gyepes was allowed to control and turn – less than eight yards from goal! – and fire into the corner past Elliott. It was heart wrenching.

With a minute still to go, Cardiff settled for a point, surprisingly, and another centre back came on to balance the team once more. Then came the final whistle, and the boo’s.
Just a thought on the Cardiff support (about 1600 or so), or vocal lack of - why do some visiting teams so abjectly fail to sing for their own team and only try to rile the home fans? The Blues supporters did not once sing for Cardiff, but only told Addicks fans what they already know - we are gong down; we aren't very good; and our stadium is too big for us... The only light relief from this was when a call for the cleaner went out twice and this was followed by "Where's the cleaner gone" and "You're getting sacked in the morning"...Sad.

Charlton actually played quite well for periods in this game, and the midfield certainly made their mark and showed yet another side with Premiership ambitions how ordinary they could be made to look. If only some pressure could have been relieved then maybe the Addicks defence could have survived? This is an area that has hurt Charlton all season (Burnley, Derby, Blackpool, and now Cardiff to name but four…) and the number of points squandered in the last few minutes of matches is scandalous. The coaching staff must look at themselves to blame for this continuing problem, even though six games without defeat is pretty good.

Two more matches to go, and still Charlton’s search for a winning style goes on.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

After the Lord Mayor's Show

Now that the season is over, from a positional sense anyway, Charlton can at least relax a little, and put their minds to performing in these last three matches to the best of their ability. Whether that brings any results, or even an improvement in performance, we shall have to wait and see.

The last gasp equaliser on Saturday that confirmed relegation, and finishing bottom of the Championship, will have hurt, but it merely confirmed what we the fans, plus the players and management, have known for weeks – we have not been good enough over the last eight months. Therefore, those players who have played significant parts in a season of under-performing will do well to up their game a little if they wish to be part of the Addicks attempt to bounce back next season or, more likely for a few, if they wish to play at Championship level or above for other teams. What football club manager is going to buy a player who has failed miserably at a certain level and play him in his own team at that same level? And don’t forget, we have been paying pretty decent salaries to those failures too! They may not be so lucky in their next employ…

Phil Parkinson has the job of finishing the season off at The Valley, and his tenure does look like it will see him looking to the future, even if he is not in charge for much longer. Various reviews are planned, and with that of the playing staff has to be one of the management team; Richard Murray said at the Club’s AGM that Parky’s career in management will be judged by his efforts in the second half of this season, and that may well be the case. He may stay on, or he may be asked to leave, or he may even feel that he should go for his own benefit – we shall see.

What is clear is that Parky is doing what he should with respect to bringing on Charlton's younger players who may have important roles to play at the club next season and beyond; it was great to see Tamer Tuna make his debut on Saturday, even if he didn’t have much chance to shine while on the pitch. Tonight, I expect it to be another youngster – Chris Solly – who gets the first team shirt, and if it isn’t as a starter, then he must be given enough game time for it to count.

Rob Elliott should carry on in goal – as the only Charlton custodian to have a contract for next season, other options are limited. What would be the point of playing either Nicky Weaver (who will not be offered a new contract) or Darren Randolph (who will be) ahead of the club’s undoubted number one ‘keeper?

With Solly brought in at right back (in place of loanee Darren Butterfield), the rest of the defence is likely to remain the same as has become usual – Mark Hudson and Darren Ward in the centre, with Kelly Youga at left back. I suppose there is a chance that Grant Basey (or even new professional Jack Clark?) will be given a run out in place of Youga, but somehow I doubt it.

The midfield has a very settled look about it, which is to the detriment of Matthew Spring; Spring has been on the matchday squad edge ever since making way for Zheng Zhi, and could have got a run out from the subs bench on Saturday, but didn’t. If he is to start tonight, it could be in place of ZiZi (whose awful pass started the rot on Saturday), or Therry Racon, but I do think that he may just have to wait for his chance once more. With limited options on the wings, Lloyd Sam should continue his improved form, and Nicky Bailey will put in another performance from a wider position than he would like.

That leaves the attacking options, which is possibly where Parky will need to use his skills in order to get the right personnel on the pitch. Tresor Kandol is usually the preferred pick, but he was ill on Saturday, and Deon Burton, starting in his place, scored his first for Charlton from open play. Chris Dickson, meanwhile, was not even on the bench, with Tuna preferred. Does Parky bring back Kandol, and if he does, who drops off the subs bench for Burton? If Scott Wagstaff isn’t a sub, then wide options (should Sam have one of his less impressive games…) are very limited, as Darren Ambrose is injured. Jonjo Shelvey is certain to start alongside, or just behind, whoever plays, so this will be an interesting pick.

Here’s my guess at the starting eleven and subs that Parky will pick –

Rob Elliott
Chris Solly
Mark Hudson
Darren Ward
Kelly Youga
Therry Racon
Zheng Zhi
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Jonjo Shelvey
Tresor Kandol

Subs from Randolph, Weaver, Butterfield, Holland, Moutaouakil, Basey, Spring, Wagstaff, Tuna, Dickson, Burton, Todorov.

Cardiff come to The Valley with everything still to play for; it is very unlikely that they can now gain automatic promotion to the Premiership, unless Preston stuff Birmingham on Saturday and the Brummies bottle it on Sunday week, but a win tonight, and maybe even a draw, will confirm that they are play-off bound. They also have a matter of bouncing back after suffering a complete thrashing at Preston on Saturday – 6-0! They are normally a decent, solid, outfit, so that result was a bit of a surprise, and I’m sure any defensive frailties will be dealt with quickly. They have dangerous forwards – Chopra, Johnson, Ledley, McCormack, and ex-Addick Jay Bothroyd - but injury concerns in defence. They are also set for changes after Saturday’s result it seems?

Pedro45 wants Charlton to finish the season strongly, but I do feel that Cardiff may want and need the result more than the Addicks tonight; I therefore predict a 2-0 defeat. I hope I’m wrong, and that the Welshman play as if they think just turning up will be enough to get a result (as they did on Saturday apparently).

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Nicky Bailey. Playing wide on the left obviously doesn’t suit combative Bailey, but he is playing for his team and doing what is asked. He is doing OK, and has the ability to beat the full back and get crosses in; with more bodies now making it into the penalty area when the ball arrives, Bailey’s delivery is a key element to Charlton’s scoring efforts now. He also hasn’t lost his own goal-scoring knack, and with buckets more goals than the next highest Addicks scorer this season, another couple in the remaining three games would be nice!

Come on you Reds!

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Down But Not Out

Charlton Athletic 2 Blackpool 2

My wife was anxious on Saturday evening if I was alright about Charlton being relegated earlier that afternoon, the direct result of conceding an equalising goal deep into injury time? Of course I said, as far as I and most supporters were concerned, we had been relegated about a month previously, and the result on Saturday merely confirmed that fact mathematically.

In fact, as confirmation of the dreaded drop had taken much longer than many people had predicted, with sometime in March being the overly pessimistic, signs were that an improvement in performance and results could lead to an element of optimism for next year.

Saturday saw the same starting eleven bar Deon Burton for Tresor Kandol, but the introduction of both Tamer Tuna and Scott Wagstaff to the subs bench.

The off-field entertainment was provided by Blackpool fans; my friend noted before the game "that just has to be a bloke!?!" as a figure dressed in blonde wig, orange top, white ra-ra skirt, and with pom-poms on his/her wrist pranced around. Sure enough, the exhibition of him (for it was) lifting up his skirt and showing off the lower part of his orange leotard confirmed his masculinity, and soon he was joined by five other similarly clad transexual fans sitting in the front row behind the goal.

On the field, the first half was an entertaining game, bereft of goals. Jonjo Shelvey, never shy to shoot, was off target a couple of times, and Burton showed skill with a neat turn but shot over, but the best chance fell to Lloyd Sam after a goal mouth scramble, and his firm shot was blocked short of the line with the keeper beaten.

It was noticeable that Sam was getting involved much more than has been usual, and he made several darts well into the six yard box when Nicky Bailey was in possession in the hope of getting onto one of his crosses. One problem Charlton have had is lack of bodies in the penalty area when attacking – with Shelvey or Zheng Zhi often involved out wide – so this was good to see. Blackpool also had a couple of headers go close, but at half time, neither keeper had needed to make a save of any sort.

Early in the second half, after good work by ZiZi, a Sam cross was headed over ex-Addick Rachubka and into the net by Burton; one report I read said that there wasn’t much of a cheer – this may have been shock at a Charlton forward scoring but more likely that it was a surprise for fans at the far end of the ground (like myself) to see the ball go in so easily.

About a minute later, another excellent passing move saw ZiZi given time, and he chipped a lovely ball across the area for Shelvey to latch onto and shoot in for number two. Sadly, apart from an audacious Shelvey shot from fifty yards that had Rachubka beaten but the bar too, Charlton created little else, often trying to over-elaborate passing moves, and often conceding possession when well placed. Blackpool saw more of the ball, and with forwards supplemented and changed, started to come into the game more, without really threatening. It was horrible therefore, when a wayward ZiZi pass on the halfway line gifted possession to the Tangerines, and the breakaway ended with Mark Hudson giving away a sure fire penalty. Hudson was always struggling to catch Campbell but with Elliott well placed, the foul really shouldn’t have been conceded. At 2-1, with the penalty converted, Charlton tried to up their game once more, and did so briefly, but the desperate away team wanted it more, apparently. Tuna was called upon, but whereas last weekend Parkinson switched to 4-4-2 and offered his defence relief as the game became more open, this time Burton was withdrawn (possibly with cramp?) and Tuna ploughed a lone furrough. He tried his best, but often the ball was given away before it came anywhere near him.

As time ticked down, the pressure told, and sub Lee Hughes, once a guest of Her Majesty’s Prison Service, scored and showed he still knew how to run away after the event. This time though, it wasn’t 36-hours until he was caught, as the pom-pom crew had leapt the barriers and submerged him along with team-mates. Oh, and nobody died this time...

For Charlton, that goal well into the three minutes of added time meant certain relegation, whatever any of the other teams above them did. I was glad, personally, that the consequences came as a direct result of the Addicks performance, and not though other teams snatching points to put us down.

Thoughts now turn to the final three games, and with Tuna, Wagstaff, and Chris Solly all in the squad recently, I expect them all to see game time before the season curtain comes down in early May.

We knew many weeks back that we would go down to tier three, now with that fact confirmed, we must start the long haul to bring us back up again.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dark Days

It has come to this then – the official site hoping for Charlton to win all four remaining games, and for two of the four other teams directly above Charlton in the table to not get anything in their games left! Well, that ain’t gonna happen, is it?

Charlton fans everywhere, and blogs like this, have long since recognised that Charlton are doomed to relegation to the third tier; it was just a matter of when, rather than if. And the when will probably happen this Saturday, at The Valley, during, or more probably after, the game against Blackpool.

I’ve attended two other games at The Valley that resulted in Charlton’s relegation – other seasons where we faced the drop came well before season’s end, and/or away from the Valley - and both left me with watery eyes but not really crying. The first relegation I witnessed was way back in the dark days of 1972, it was a final home defeat to Millwall that saw us drop between similar divisions. On that day, a massive crowd turned up for the floodlight game, and the gates were closed early in Valley Grove, such was the crowd numbers. Luckily, a turnstile door sprang open (possibly with the help of a hefty boot or two?), and I followed two guys quickly through, with the second only being let in by the policeman the other side as he said he had a kid (me) behind him… I doubt it will be that busy this coming Saturday, or will I have any trouble gaining access to the ground! Then in 1999, a last day home defeat to Southampton saw our initial Premiership season die at the very death; we clapped the players as they paraded around the ground afterwards, safe in the knowledge that they were quite capable of bouncing back. And that’s what they duly did, winning the Championship the following season.

And next season, in the third division, or league one, or whatever it will be called when we arrive there, we must hope that we can replicate that team of 2000, and bounce back by winning the league. We won’t have all the players that Phil Parkinson (left) has at his disposal this weekend, and we may not even have Parky in charge of picking the team, but the only contemplation at this stage is that Charlton are going to bounce back, are capable of getting back up into the Championship, and will in fact have a very good year after a few poor seasons. We must think like that!

It is way too early to contemplate what sort of team may turn out for Charlton week in, week out, in 2009/10, but safe to say that it could be very different to that we have been used to. I’m sure we’ll have a crop of youngsters – Shelvey (hopefully), Wright, Solly, Yussuff, Clark, Stavrinou, and probably other homegrown talent like Basey, Wagstaff, Dickson, and Elliott. Along with that, there will be some more experienced players, maybe Youga, Fortune, Sam, Bailey, Racon, Spring and Semedo? Then we might sign the odd decent player on a free transfer (maybe Murty?), or even cough up a few quid if the right man comes along and is available (Rooney?); this will be coupled, no doubt, with various loan signings – probably not as many as we have seen this season, but a few will be required to fill gaps when and where we cannot sign anyone permanently. We have to expect and recognise this. This is our lot next year; we are where we are, and only the players and finances (which are directly connected) can change this fact.

I read two great pieces written about our fantastic club this week – the first was a piece on Doctor Kish’s mad-cap website and the other was on the Charlton Life forum.

Both articles put into words (much better than I can) what we feel for our club, Charlton, and ask what we can do for it; others very publicly go out of their way to support our team, financially, putting in long hours, publicising the good things, and making us all proud. Other so-called fans though, are just putting the boot in when the club is down; I’ve supported Charlton for over 40 years, seen those relegations mentioned and others, plus wondrous promotions – this club is a roller-coaster and has good weeks and bad. It hurts just as much to lose against Arsenal as it does Millwall; a win against Liverpool brings as much joy as one against Tranmere – think about it. It does. Three points are three points, and a win on a Saturday sends us all to work with a smile on Monday morning.

I’ll be there this weekend, supporting my team. It will hurt terribly when relegation is confirmed, but I will still come to the remaining games, still shout for my team, and still hope that next year will bring success.

This Saturday, I expect Parky will pick the same team again –

Rob Elliott
Danny Butterfield
Darren Ward
Mark Hudson
Kelly Youga
Therry Racon
Zheng Zhi
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Jonjo Shelvey
Tresor Kandol

Subs from Randolph, Weaver, Moutaouakil, Solly, Holland, Basey, Spring, Ambrose, Dickson, Todorov, Burton, Tuna.

The reason I don’t expect it to change is because it is the best Charlton team of this moment. Parky is obliged to play his best team for the fans who paid out for season tickets this year, and it has the best chance of winning, and helping boost season ticket sales for next year. Once we are relegated, that thinking may change, but not by very much.

Blackpool travel to The Valley knowing that they are pretty safe from being dragged into the dog-fight that is taking shape above the Addicks in the league table. They are five points clear of trouble, with three games left for them. They have also suffered only one defeat in seven games, and have a forward in goal-scoring form (a rarity at The Valley these days!) in the shape of DJ Campbell.

Pedro45 thinks that the Blackpool rock will break on Valley shores, and that the Addicks will continue to be hard to beat, and predicts a 2-1 winning score-line. We have been unlucky over the last few games when hitting the woodwork, and all three recent goal-less draws could have resulted in wins with a little more luck and composure. If we can get in front, we are capable of hitting our opponents at pace, and simply ripping them apart.

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Jonjo Shelvey. Our youngster is the key to success at the moment, and we all want him to stay at the club for many years to come. That will only happen if we are successful, and success will come if Shelvey (left) stays – it’s a double edged (Valiant) sword. Shelvey is playing just behind, and sometimes alongside and in front of – Kandol at the moment, allowing ZiZi to manage the middle of the park with Racon. He can run all day, and has a good shot in both feet; I think he could really cause some damage to a fragile Blackpool defence.

We have three games left at The Valley this season - these three games could be our last chance to see Zheng Zhi play in the flesh for Charlton; our last chance to see Nicky Bailey in the red Addicks shirt; the time when you can say you saw Jonjo Shelvey win games for Charlton. Let’s make the most of it.

Come on you Reds!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Blank Holiday

Coventry City 0 Charlton Athletic 0

So no goals over Easter at all, either for or against, and with that goes all hope (if there was any) that Charlton could pull off the miracle and save themselves from relegation.

With an unchanged team, Charlton played quite well again, but just didn’t get the breakthrough required; after Rob Elliott made one good point blank save in the first half, Tresor Kandol had a goal disallowed for offside. Some reports say it was Jonjo Shelvey’s effort but it looked like Kandol to me…In the second period, an effort from Nicky Bailey was deflected onto the post (after Sam's effort hit the bar on Saturday, we haven't been helped by the woodwork recently!), and a Coventry break saw the ball roll just wide.

With other teams fighting relegation picking up positive results, Charlton are now 12 points from safety, with four games left. Even if all those four games were won, it would take a miracle of results to enable the Addicks to survive, especially as Forest have yet to play Southampton…

It does seem that the management have acknowledged this, and though the last rites in this awful season will be written on Saturday at The Valley, I still expect Phil Parkinson to put out his best team, rather than muddle about with the players. Once any calculators can be put away, we may then see some changes with next year in mind – Chris Solly will probably get a game at right back either against Cardiff or more likely Derby, and Scott Wagstaff could be preferred on the bench to Darren Ambrose. Tamer Tuna made the squad over Easter, but not the bench, and if he continues his good recent form over the next couple of weeks, he could force his way ahead of other strikers into the final sixteen. I’m not sure we will see any other surprises, as other options - Josh Wright, Rashid Yussoff - are out on loan, gaining experience elsewhere, while Harry Arter appears not to have made the grade.

I also do not expect to see any of the loan players at the club sent back early, as there is still a requirement for Darren Ward, as we have no centre back cover bar Matt Holland, and no other forward who works as hard as Tresor Kandol (which is saying a lot!). If anyone is cut from the payroll early, it will be Danny Butterfield, as Solly needs to be given a break, and alternatives are available if necessary in Yassin Moutaouakil, Jose Semedo, and even Matt Holland.

We do still have three home games to play, so the team are going to be able to play with some attacking freedom, and not worry too much if we do fall behind or lose. Certainly the games against Blackpool and Norwich are winnable, as is the match at Derby if we play well; Cardiff next Tuesday may be another matter, as they are desperate for the points, and may be just too strong.

With the current four game unbeaten streak being the best of the season, I hope the players try to carry it on; if we could make it eight games, at least that run will follow us all through the summer and hopefully give us some sort of impetus next August.

Saturday's match against Blackpool will be a game for diehard fans; we know we are going down, having accepted that fact some time ago, but if the team play well, whatever the ultimate outcome, we should cheer them as much as we have down over previous seasons.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

The Sky’s the Limit

This second game in an Easter weekend could see Charlton relegated; the inevitable is not a surprise, but if we do get another decent result, the dreaded drop could yet be delayed by another game. I hope so...

And why shouldn’t we breath a sigh until the next game? Two factors: Firstly, Charlton are actually playing quite well! Last weekends first away victory since September at Southampton was very welcome, and probably a little more comprehensive than the 3-2 score line suggests, and this was followed up on Saturday with a getting-better-all-the-time match against promotion hopefuls Birmingham. Then we have to factor in Coventry’s form, which allowed them to succumb to a 4-0 half-time drubbing against an average Plymouth side on Saturday. Sure, they could bounce back, but do they have anything left to play for?

Another reason why I am overly optimistic is that Charlton still have a large squad from which to choose, whereas Coventry do not, unless they throw in some raw youngsters. Phil Parkinson would normally have options to replace pretty much anyone had the Brummie game been tough, but it does seem that on the face of it nobody picked up any sort of injury, and nobody had a ‘mare that would see them dropped.

In goal, Rob Elliott was called on to make a couple of smart saves on Saturday but was not required to be at full stretch; unless he has a concentration issue that may prevent him playing again so quickly, I fully expect him to start once more in goal.

Danny Butterfield had, by consensus, his best game for Charlton against the blue-shirts; he didn’t get forward very often, but patrolled the right back area well, and snuffed out any danger when it did arrive. With little other option, he will be the right back today. On the left, Kelly Youga also had a reasonable game, dealing with first Hameur Boooo-azza, and then James McFadden, albeit with help from Nicky Bailey. Grant Basey is standing by to step in and play against a team he scored against last season, but I suspect Youga will get the nod once more.

The central defence is also unlikely to change, though this time it’s due to not having any choice! Both Mark Hudson and Darren Ward had solid games on Saturday, and Ward has played pretty well and better than his team-mate over recent weeks. Matt Holland is the willing deputy, but unless either centre-back has a knock, Matt will have to wait his chance.

The midfield is where we might see some change, even if it is unforced. It is tough for the supporter to tell exactly how far players do run in 90 minutes, and the recovery time necessary may mean that one or two players here are not quite ready for another half-marathon quite yet…Matt Spring is sitting on the sidelines waiting his chance, and he even took part in the pre-game warm up on Saturday, as he didn’t make the bench. Therry Racon may be the one to drop out, but it could also be Jonjo Shelvey (if his seventeen year old legs are a bit tired?), or even Zheng Zhi if these two close games have come too soon after his foot injury. I’m sure it won’t be Bailey, who does seem capable of running and running, and is doing a decent job completely out of position on the left wing.

Lloyd Sam just got better and better on Saturday, as he found more and more space; it’s possible that Parky will start Darren Ambrose, simply to aim for fresh legs, but this would be harsh on Sam if he is still fit and able. Ambrose has played a couple of cameos in recent weeks after injury, and does still look a little off the pace…

Up front, Tresor Kandol had a very indifferent game on Saturday, much as he did at Southampton (where he won and missed a penalty); one thing cannot be doubted, and that is his commitment to the shirt. He does put himself about, try hard in every match, and do his best for the club. Whether Parky thinks he is OK to start again is open, and with Deon Burton not used on Saturday, I suspect that up front is where we may be most likely to see a change. Burton will get the nod whether Parky opts to stay at 4-5-1, with Shelvey (or ZiZi) in the hole, or if he switches to 4-4-2 from the beginning. Chris Dickson will be hoping for the latter as that gets him the best option of a longer stint on the pitch.

This is my total guess on the team Parky will send out today –

Rob Elliott
Danny Butterfield
Darren Ward
Mark Hudson
Kelly Youga
Zheng Zhi
Therry Racon
Nicky Bailey
Darren Ambrose
Jonjo Shelvey
Deon Burton

Subs from Randolph, Weaver, Moutaouakil, Basey, Holland, Spring, Wagstaff, Sam, Kandol, Dickson, Todorov, Tuna.

Pedro45 is really hoping that the team can continue their recent form, and is predicting a 3-1 victory. If we can survive the first ten minutes, when Coventry will have a flea in their ear about Saturday, but then get in front, I do think the game is there to be won, and won quite easily. With the midfield we have, and with Spring and Holland backing that up, we are right up there with the best in the division if given space, and the home team may just do that today. The goals Coventry conceded on Saturday seemed to be poor, and most came from crosses into the box; if Shelvey, Sam and/or Ambrose can knock in crosses to dangerous positions, the Addicks should be able to capitalise, and secure three more points.

My one-to-watch in this game is going to be Nicky Bailey. Quite frankly, he has been a great player in this dismal season at The Valley. I'll b amazed if he is not voted player of the season... He may make the odd-mistake, but his goals record does speak volumes for his effort and passion. Playing on the left side is so obviously not where he wants to be but he does his job every week nowadays (keeping his whingeing for the referee!) and helps the team in that way. His confidence is high, which is a big Bailey factor in whether he plays well, and I expect him to pull some strings today and cause Coventry plenty of problems.

Sometimes in football, the winner comes down to which team wants it more; I suspect that it will be the away team today. The Sky Blues have nothing to play for, yet Charlton, playing in a very relaxed style, do still have something to prove, even if ultimately it will end in relegation. I just don’t think that the fat lady is going to be singing tonight…

Up the Addicks!

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Stinging The Blues

Charlton Athletic 0 Birmingham City 0

No goals but plenty of action at The Valley, in a thoroughly entertaining match which either side could have won. In the end, the goalkeepers kept the score-line empty, with saves being made right up to the final whistle.

Unchanged Charlton really had nothing to lose in this game, and as the first half began to be played out, they slowly came more and more into the match. City started the brighter, and more confident, and gave the Charlton midfield absolutely no time on the ball. Cameron Jerome made a complete nuisance of himself, and balls into the box from ex-loan Addick Hameur Bouazza were dangerous. However, Bouazza’s boo’s led to him having a fairly awful match overall and he was subbed in the second half.

Charlton were trying hard, but with Zheng Zhi playing a little deeper to counter any threat, and with possession at a premium, it was by no means easy for the home team. Jonjo Shelvey had a good game, and it was he who swung a foot to register Charlton’s first shot in anger. Lloyd Sam was working hard too, but he found the going difficult and not until the second half did he make decent use of any ball he received.

The first half showed just how good a side Birmingham could be; they were comfortable in possession, and organised to the extreme. The only thing they lacked was a creative midfielder who could open up a stubborn defence. The referee, Lee Probert, helped by some easily influenced linesman, seemed to give most decisions the way of the visitors, even when they were the most innocuous of fouls. Bouazza would swing the resulting ball into the Charlton area and Mark Hudson and Darren Ward all made good interceptions; Rob Elliott also made a couple of flying saves to punch out crosses. In some ways, it was a relief to get to half-time level, and if Charlton could up their game, they would still have a chance of all three points.

The blue-noses came out very early from the break, and were made to wait the full fifteen minutes by the Addicks. For the next fifteen minutes, Charlton continued to give as good as they received, with Sam finding a little more width, and Nicky Bailey coming more into the game from the wide left. Bailey had been booked in the first half for a soft challenge (left), but he rallied and played his role excellently as the game progressed, covering any danger that came the way of Kelly Youga. This was more important as Birmingham rung the changes – first Kevin Phillips, scourge of past Charlton teams came on for Larrson; then another ex-Addick Marcus Bent came on for the impressive Jerome (to the jeers of the Brummie fans…); and finally Scottish international and previous Addicks heartbreaker James McFadden replaced the inconsistent Bouazza to jeers this time from home fans. Bailey covered Youga excellently to snuff out most of the wide mans danger, although at times it was a close run thing.

As the half progressed, it became much more open, as Birmingham chased the one goal they thought they would need. Tresor Kandol was able to improve his poor start by holding the ball longer and bringing others into play, and Therry Racon started to find gaps for his passes and play in the wide men. Shelvey was also having a good match, and his runs off Kandol, plus his coverage when others went forward in his place was excellent.

Elliott was called on a couple of times, particularly on one occasion when he saved well from Murphy, and then Charlton had a goal disallowed when Ward got onto Kandol’s flick but was offside.

Phil Parkinson countered the more open game by bringing on Chris Dickson for Racon; this enabled Charlton to hold the ball up for longer and ease the pressure on the Addicks defence. Dickson made some runs down channels and did well in his first prolonged appearance for a few weeks.

The last fifteen minutes seemed to be a bit like a cup tie; Birmingham threw players forward at every opportunity, but the Charlton defence grew in confidence and held firm. Similarly, the Addicks two-man attack became more comfortable on the ball, and with the midfield storming forward now, chances started to come for the home team. Shelvey was at the heart of most, but the best fell to Zheng Zhi, who got on the end of a blocked Kandol shot, but with just a defender in the way, saw his effort blocked. Shelvey then nearly won the match at the death when his shot was deflected, but Taylor made a great save for the away team.

In the end, a draw was probably a fair result, even if Charlton had fashioned the best chances. Provided the team have no injuries, it will probably be the same squad, plus Matt Spring that goes to Coventry on Monday.

There is a chance that the team could be relegated on that day, but seeing as we know that this is just a matter of time it should be of little concern. Charlton showed in this game that they can compete with the best teams in the division, and the management and directors would do well to acknowledge this and try their utmost to keep as many of the current first team squad at The Valley for next season. Pedro45 knows that it will not be possible to keep everyone, what with contracts ending, and financial implications to consider, but when you do have players that other teams will covert as they are equal to the best on offer, then keeping what we have would be a rather good idea!

It’s just a shame that when the team play this well, compete with the top of the table teams, and show passion, skill, and effort, that we are in this dreadful position. Lessons should be learnt, and heeded in future.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Let's Feel The Love!

I went to see ABC at the Royal Albert Hall last night, and their performance of The Lexicon of Love album, with full (BBC Symphony) Orchestra was wonderful. This Saturday though, I doubt that such feelings will be on offer at The Valley, as Birmingham City bring their promotion chasing band-wagon to SE7.

Nothing less than three points will do for the Blue-noses, and their style of play offers less to the beautiful game than others who play more expansively. We can expect to see a combative type of play from the Blues, with Cameron Jerome bullying our central defence; with ex-Addict Lee Bowyer and Lee Carsley snarling and hassling our midfield; and with an uncompromising defence that includes the giant Tunisian Radhi Jaidi. No, there won’t be much love flying around with this lot in town. The danger man though may be an old Charlton nemesis – Kevin Phillips, who always seems to score against us…

Charlton do actually go in search of their first back-to-back wins for many a Valentine’s moon; last Saturday’s midfield inspired win at Southampton was most welcome, and I’m sure manager Phil Parkinson will be looking for much the same once more. The only bad thing to come out of that match was a number of bookings (four) plus Parky himself being sent off (top pic), which has led to an FA charge for him to answer. Of course, the two-goals conceded will bouy the opposition, if they need any help that is?

Althouugh, That Was Then But This Is Now, Parky is likely to send out much the same squad to try for a result in this game, and after explaining once again to the media that he has a preference for a five-man midfield due to the options at his disposal, I fully expect to see exactly the same starting eleven as that which played at St Mary’s.

The only changes may come on the bench, where Tamer Tuna has been added to the squad, although I think this will just be a good experience for him and it is unlikely that he will be given a seat in preference to either Svetislav Todorov, Deon Burton, or Chris Dickson. I’m sure that Parky will be hoping that his best players can get something in this match, and if they do, that the forward roll continues on Monday at Coventry. That is much more likely time to see changes to the squad and bench, as players who picked up injuries in this match fail to recover. Hopefully, no injury will be as bad - or look as worse - as that which Carsley inflicted on ex-Addick Chris Iwelumo on Monday, as Birmingham closed the gap on leaders Wolves, but I do expect City to give Charlton far less space in midfield than Southampton did last week, and where and when Charlton do have possession, we can expect swift firm tackles and plenty of SOS messages.

This is the team I expect Parkinson to name –

Rob Elliott
Danny Butterfield
Darren Ward
Mark Hudson
Kelly Youga
Therry Racon
Zheng Zhi
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Jonjo Shelvey
Tresor Kandol

Subs from Randolph, Weaver, Moutaouakil, Solly, Holland, Basey, Spring, Arter, Ambrose, Wagstaff, Todorov, Dickson, Tuna, Burton.

Pedro45 does fear that Tears Are Not Enough for Charlton to get anything in this match, and predicts a 1-0 defeat; I just feel that the Blues may want it slightly more at this stage of the season. Of course, if the confidence gained last week continues, and if Shelvey, Racon, Bailey and ZiZi continue to dominate in central midfield, then we do have a slight chance. My concern is that our defence is not capable of holding what Birmingham can throw at us, whether that Poison Arrow comes from Jerome, or Phillips, or even another ex-Addick Hameur Bouazza; it does seem a long time again that he was actually playing on the left wing for Charlton, and the terms of his departure just a few months ago in January will mean he will not be expecting a warm welcome back to The Valley by Addicks fans.

My one-to-watch in this game is going to be Zheng Zhi; while others spent last week celebrating their goals, ZiZi (left) had his excellent second half shot saved, and was subbed with twenty minutes left to leave him goal-less in this match, even though he was playing well. I expect him to bounce back in this game, and show a potential Premiership side that he is their equal, in the hope that other top clubs are watching and will come with The Look of Love and a new contract offer that shows him How to Be a Millionaire.

I did pretty well last week, getting the team, subs and result forecast correct, and with my one-to-watch scoring - hopefully that will continue, but with the correct result!

My love affair with Charlton means that they do have All of My Heart (well, nearly all if Mrs Pedro45 is watching!); the chance to finish this appalling season on a high is still in the players and managements hands – another win coupled with other results (not least off the field concerning Southampton!) could have one or two people getting excited, even though most of us do accept that this season is one bound for the drop.

The love-in continues - Come on you reds!

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Men in Black Colour Away Win

Southampton 2 Charlton Athletic 3

It was a shame that some of the off-field events marred this good win by Charlton; financial troubles of both clubs aside, the disturbances outside the ground after the match (and prior to at a local station I hear) cast a slur on the name of the club. It was worrying to see 20 or so black clad men, hooded and capped (possibly fresh from G20 Summit duties?), goading home fans during the first half, and after the break, this group moved to another area of the away end and continued to abuse and antagonise the nearest Saints fans. Police and stewards did what they could but seemed powerless to evict all of the culprits. I am sure that this group brokered the trouble at the away exit afterwards, and at that stage, with plenty of other home fans now close by, police struggled to control the melees that ensued. One 50-ish man was not lucky, and he was laid out looking very ill with little in the way of medical help at hand due to the situation that was almost out of control. I left the ground but with more fans seeming intent on joining in, I just hope nobody was seriously hurt.

I know that every club has their rogue element, but this was the first time I have seen this particular group at a Charlton match, and looking so threatening. It was against Southampton some years back that a group of supposed Charlton fans organised a clash at Westcombe Park station that turned into men against boys, so perhaps this was a legacy of that day? Most of those involved then were jailed, but perhaps they are now out again?

Sadly, this did impinge of a good day out: I had travelled to the ground through Wiltshire and Hampshire without delay or mishap. The walk to the stadium was quicker than I remembered, and I even had the pleasure of a steward going outside of the ground to get me a programme as I hadn't seen any sellers on the way in. This sort of excellent service is a credit to Southampton and their stewards.

Charlton lined up as predicted, and Jonjo Shelvey did push forward most of the game, and attempt to get alongside and in front of Tresor Kandol whenever he could. It was a simple goal that Charlton scored to take the lead within the first six minutes; Rob Elliott kicked long and the ball was flicked on by Kandol – who won plenty in the air all match – for Shelvey to beat the last man (Chris Perry?) and cooly slot home past Davis in goal. Charlton were in front early, but could they hang on?

The answer was no, as too much faffing around led to an easy equaliser just over ten minutes later. Hudson should have cleared, but didn't and played a tight ball to Nicky Bailey on the left. Bailey was unable to turn and subsequently tackled, and danger man McGoldrick strode onwards and shot across Elliott and in.

At least Charlton didn't buckle at this point, and with Zheng Zhi and Therry Racon seemingly always available for a pass in midfield, and with Lloyd Sam finding space on the wing, the Addicks continued to be the brighter. A ball into Kandol by ZiZi saw him being hauled to the ground, and the otherwise excellent referee correctly pointed to the penalty spot. Sometimes, it is best if the player fouled for a penalty doesn't take the spot kick himself, and sometimes it makes no difference whatsoever. This time, Kandol lazily stroked too close to Davis who flopped on the ball to save (left). Oh dear! Immediately, Mark Hudson gave away a foul on the edge of the Charlton area and you wondered if the Addicks would be punished immediately but thankfully the shot was blocked and eventually cleared.

Elliott was really only called into action again once in this half, when a long cross (after Kelly Youga had again gifted the opposition the ball) was headed back across goal and goal-wards at the far post; Elliott flung himself at the ball and turned it around the post for a corner.

Youga provided some entertainment when he strode forward to a deflected half-clearance on the edge of the area and steadied himself for the shot; sadly for Kelly, the spin took the ball away from him and he was left swinging at fresh Hampshire air. Luckily, as he strolled back with an embarrassed look, the Southampton break-away came to nothing.

At half-time, you felt that the Addicks had been the better team, and if they continued, they would still have a chance. That is if they chose to play more than just 45 minutes, as they only sadly have in some games this season. The weather was lovely though, and I think this is the first time I can remember a lineman wearing a cap for the whole game, in order to keep the sun out of his eyes as he looked across the pitch. It was a black cap, and I wonder if it was Football League or anarchist issue?

The second half news was good; Charlton started equally brightly, and the midfield, provided players didn't linger on the ball too long, was being won. Kandol continued to make a complete nuisance of himself, and after an hour laid the ball back to the arriving Racon, who curled a lovely shot over Davis and into the far corner. The celebrations in front of the travelling fans was quite good too (left). Back in front, this time it was crucial that Charlton didn't concede an equaliser.

The Saints tried hard, and did make Elliott work, but too often, any shots they got away were too close to the Charlton keeper or went well wide. Ex-Addick Jason Euell showed he still has an excellent second touch, and also that his first touch is just as awful as it always was! As the game progressed, it became more open. Matt Holland replaced the excellent Zheng Zhi (for no apparent reason), and very soon, Charlton broke once more, this time down the left. Bailey, who had an indifferent game overall, beat his man and when expected to pull the ball back, toe-poked the ball past Davis and into the far corner; this was the first time Charlton had scored three goals in a game since last August!

Southampton made some substitutions, in a desperate attempt to get back into the game, and Charlton really should have wrapped things up when countless breaks saw them three on two, or two versus one. Deon Burton came on for Kandol, as he had incurred the wrath of the referee and the crowd by first kicking the ball away after a foul to earn a booking, and then by showing dissent after another foul. Burton was involved in the next break, as he and Shelvey plus Bailey went clear with just one defender back. Sadly, Burton messed it all up by not seeing the totally free team-mates square of him, and when he did, failing to even get a pass away.

The game entered an exciting climax as streams of Saints fans trundled out of the ground. Wright-Phillips volleyed over Elliott at the second attempt, from distance, and you did wonder if Charlton would throw the win away as they have done before? Thankfully, they did OK, and could have scored more themselves in the last few minutes. As Southampton became desperate, their players seemed to throw themselves to the ground every time they entered the penalty area, and if a Charlton defender was close. The referee ignored these claims each time, and finally the home Manager snapped and started to have a go at him. Charlton manager Phil Parkinson got involved (not for the first time this season!) and stood up for the man in black a little too forcibly. The result was that both Wotte and Parky were sent off to the stands. Parky will probably get a touchline ban for this altercation, but I hope it’s not too long as it was just the heat of the moment stuff and did bring a smile!

After four minutes injury time was played out and the final whistle went to visiting supporters cheers, the players and manager came across to show their appreciation for the support given. Racon and Shelvey threw their shirts to the crowd (via a steward), with Racon showing an impressive tattoo that covered his whole back (much like Nigel Benn I thought), and Elliott’s gloves ended high up the seating too.

Three points won away for the first time since September; I know it is too little too late, but we have to take what we can at present, and say “Well done lads – can we have some more please?”

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

It’s some time since the last Charlton game, and I always find it difficult to get back into the blogging swing of things and do a match preview, but here goes.

Charlton travel to play a Southampton team whose "future is in jeopardy" according to the BBC website, and could be liquidated and drop out of the Football League if a new owner is not found by the start of next season. This would normally be expected to have a significant effect on the Addicks opponents, but as both teams, the bottom two in the Championship, are in similar straits, who knows what influence it might have on the match this weekend?

Charlton have moved to shore up finances by offering the freeholds of land for sale to current directors, and along with a loan from the Chairman, will be able to raise £2 million to help ease the financial pain over coming weeks. Season ticket prices have also been announced, and have been denounced by many waverers amongst the Valley faithful; Pedro45 will be buying his tickets next year without complaint, just as he has done every season for god knows how long – Charlton is for life in this household! I know it seems expensive, but that’s the name of the game. Rather than blame the directors (who would certainly be getting it in the ear if they didn’t try to generate enough income for the club…) we should all move on (if you buy, great, if not, that's fine too...) and try to ignore the blame game (Curbishley, Murray, Parker, Murphy, Dowie (spit!), Pardew, etc etc ad infinitum…) that is hurting the club so much these days.

On Phil Parkinson’s mind will be which players to pick: Charlton do have a mathematical chance of staying up, although nobody including your correspondent believes that it is a real option.

In goal, providing he has recovered from the back injury he had prior to the Preston game, Rob Elliott should continue. The defence is very likely to be unchanged, with on loan Danny Butterfield at right back, the also on loan Darren Ward at centre back, alongside Mark Hudson, and with Kelly Youga at left back. There are rumours that youngster Chris Solly is close to making a first team appearance, but I cannot imagine that being tried in this still important match.

In midfield, I fully expect to see Therry Racon, Zheng Zhi and Nicky Bailey carry on their recent good work, which on paper sees them as potentially one of the best midfields in the division(!). Tresor Kandol should continue to lead the line up front, and that leaves just two positions for Parky to make a judgment on.

This decision needs to be based on what formation he wishes to play; bearing in mind that he recently stated that Charlton were most likely to score with a 4-5-1 formation, I fully expect Deon Burton and Chris Dickson to get bench duties once more. That means that Lloyd Sam, Darren Ambrose and Jonjo Shelvey are fighting for two positions. Shelvey played the full match for the first time in a while in the last league game, and you would normally expect him to start again here, but he has been away for a week with England’s under-17’s in Germany, and played two matches. The issue is if he is fit enough after the trip? If he is, I expect Shelvey to start with Darren Ambrose as substitute for when he tires (as he normally does), and Lloyd Sam on the right wing. Sam was by far the busier and better player in the match versus Preston, where he played the second half after Ambrose gave a lacklustre performance during the first period. This unacceptable show was down we are told to a hamstring injury, so we must expect Ambrose to have recovered if he is to take his place in the squad.

This is the side I think Parky will send out at St Mary’s –

Rob Elliott
Darren Butterfield
Darren Ward
Mark Hudson
Kelly Youga
Therry Racon
Zheng Zhi
Lloyd Sam
Nicky Bailey
Jonjo Shelvey
Tresor Kandol

Subs from Randolph, Weaver, Moutaouakil, Solly, Basey, Holland, Spring, Ambrose, Dickson, Todorov, Burton.

Southampton have had injury concerns themselves to go with their off-field problems. They do expect Jason Euell to be fit to face his former club though, and line up alongside another ex-Addick Chris Perry. Their danger-man though is likely to be David McGoldrick, who has a decent scoring record this season, even playing for a poor team – it will be up to Ward and Hudson to contain this threat.

Pedro45 will be making his way down to the Solent, via a circuitous route, to watch the game, and has to be positive about the result; I predict that – as so often happens – just when it is too late, results will start to pick up, and I forecast a 2-1 win. If Charlton get on top, the crowd will turn and home heads will drop. I’m hoping that the Addicks can take full advantage and force their way to a second three-points on their travels this season. It won’t make any difference, we will still be relegated come the end of season, but a win will at least delay the inevitable by a few days or weeks…

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Therry Racon. This game is one that he should relish – full of tussles and small battles with plenty of tackles offered and balls to be won. If Racon gets involved as he did when he first broke back into the team, his partnership with ZiZi can flourish and win points for the Addicks.

It will be strange to visit a team with possibly more headaches off the field than Charlton, and I do hope that our nice-guy image doesn’t prevent Charlton taking full advantage. Three points and a show that we can still win matches this season is really important now that the season ticket prices for next season have been announced. As long as the players and management realise this, then I am confident we can win.

Up the Addicks!

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Hot on the heels of the club announcing the loss of up to 25 staff, in an effort to save on next season's revenue drop, the Shareholders were today told of the plan to sell the Club's training ground, plus other land belonging to Charlton.

This might sound awful, but on reflection, this is not as bad as first might seem.

This is because buyers are in place, and they happen to be current Charlton directors (or their own company's). The club stands to make £1.5m from the sales of these freeholds, and has also received another half a million from Chairman Derek Chappell to help with working capital.

The training ground, plus the former Charlton Park Rugby Ground, is up for sale to Richard Murray and Sir Maurice Hatter for a total of £1m, and Pippenhall Sports Ground (which I don't know) and the two houses in Lansdowne Mews which are owned by the Club are being offered to Bob Whitehand for £500,000. All land is being leased back to Charlton for a minium of 25 years at preferential rates it seems.

It is Pedro45's view that this benefits the club not only from releasing otherwise tied up funds, but could also help in any future eventuality should the club go into administration. This move seems to protect Charlton from having to find another training ground should an administrator wish to sell that currently owned (which would be one sure way an administrator would hope to realise assets).

This move also continues the directors strategy of protecting thier own investments into Charlton, and follows on from the bond issue of last summer which raised £15m. In another good move by the Board, any interest due on the corporate bond issue for this year has been deferred by the directors.

The drop in turnover is going to have a massive impact on everything that Charlton do from now on, with little propect of avoiding relegation finally acknowledged in the shareholders letter. The Board have acted responsibly by proposing these sales, which will be voted on at a shareholders meeting in two weeks time.


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