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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