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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