Monday, August 10, 2009

Bullfight in the Shires

Whatever you think about the League Cup (I refuse to name it after the sponsor…), we are in it every year, and it remains a competition that we would love to win (or even just get to Wembley?). However, with Charlton having to start this years effort in round one, the likelihood of that happening this season is remote and then some!

Having painfully dropped out of the Championship, we now have to fight our way past lower league opposition just to get a chance to play a team we played in the league last year; not until the third round do we play a possible Premiership club, and with our record in this competition being awful, that hope can probably be crossed off the wants list right now.

The draw has not been kind (or maybe it has?) as we have an away tie against Hereford, who are in league two. This is a significant journey for the team and for any fans who are able to make the trip, and it will start a busy week that also takes in a journey way up north to Hartlepool. Hopefully, the players will fly to that game otherwise it could be about 20 hours in the back of the coach for them in just a few days.

Hereford started the season with a 2-2 away draw at Morecombe, with new signing Marc Pugh scoring both goals. In fact, only four players remain from last season when Hereford were relegated to the bottom tier, but they hope to bounce back this season and challenge for promotion. They have few players that may be known to Charlton fans, with old stagers Kenny Lunt and Leon Constantine (once of Millwall) perhaps the best known. The home team will certainly be hoping for a good result, as they have actually lost their last seven home games, and they have never beaten Charlton!

Phil Parkinson has a few problems knowing who to pick for the Addicks, as a number of the team that started Saturday’s league fixture against Wycombe have pulled up with injuries. All three new defenders are out – Fraser Richardson with a hip problem, Christian Dailly with a dicky knee, and Miguel Llera has 13 stitches in his head wound – while Lloyd Sam and Jonjo Shelvey have knee and heel problems respectively. That will leave the manager with a few headaches of his own as he tries to maintain the winning start to the season.

In goal, Parky has a straight choice between his number one ‘keeper Rob Elliot, or he may wish to give a game to reserve Darren Randolph who had a spell on loan at Edgar Street last season. That loan spell ended in acrimony, and if Randolph does play then he can expect plenty of stick from home fans, but that in turn could be good experience, and if it was my call, I’d throw him in.

The only realistic option Parky has at right back seems to be Chris Solly, with Yassin Moutaouakil out of favour, so I expect this youngster to play (If Moots does get a game or a bench place, he’ll have to be given a squad number, which Parky may not like doing?). Without both central defensive starters from Saturday, Parky will have to seriously consider whether to give another youngster, Yado Mambo a game, or if he will go with the more experienced Kelly Youga and Jose Semedo, neither of whom has played much time in the middle of the defence over recent seasons. Another option is Grant Basey, but I expect him to play at left back, with Youga moving to the middle, whether alongside Semedo or Mambo.

The midfield options, so over-flowing recently are now more limited with Shelvey and Sam out. I therefore expect Parky to play with two up front and just four in the middle, with Wade Small, signed today on a non-contract basis, debuting on the left; with Matt Spring and Nicky Bailey falling into the centre, giving Therry Racon a rest; and with Scott Wagstaff lining up on the right. Up front, I think Deon Burton may get to sit this one out with Saturday’s second half substitutes Andy Gray and Izale McLeod getting starting time. Chris Dickson is away with the Ghana squad, who also wanted to pick Sam for the first time but couldn’t due to his injury.

This is the team I think Parky may elect to start in his first Charlton League cup game –

Darren Randolph
Chris Solly
Kelly Youga
Jose Semedo
Grant Basey
Scott Wagstaff
Matt Spring
Nicky Bailey
Wade Small
Izale McLeod
Andy Gray

Subs from Elliot, Moutaouakil, Mambo, Clark, Stavrinou, Davisson, Racon, Burton, Tuna, Fleetwood.

This is very much a second string Charlton team therefore, but it could act as a spur to those players currently on the fringes of selection (Spring, Small, Basey, plus the forwards) and push them further into contention for league games. There are enough pl;ayers available for the side to be balanced and have plenty of experience, albeit not much playing time together.

Pedro45 hopes that Charlton have enough for victory this game, and if confidence is still high after the win at the weekend, then on paper we do have enough to win the game in 90 minutes. But football is a funny old game (Copyright - some bald bloke…), and if the defence shows signs of weakness, then the home team would like nothing better than to embarrass a team who they will consider fallen giants. We fans know that we are so much weaker than we were just three years ago, and we do have a habit of losing to lower league sides in this competition. Most of those results have come when pressure is on at home, and so without that strain Pedro45 predicts a 2-0 victory.

My one-to-watch should be Darren Randolph, but I’m not sure he is going to play; I do think Andy Gray will start though, so he is my pick for this game. Gray (left) had a terrible time last season as we all know, both on and off the pitch, but he has it in him to be a good player once more, and I fancy him to get off the mark for the season in this fixture. He did look a bit rusty at the weekend, during his twenty minute cameo appearance, but even then he was just a whisker away from scoring. Against a side that may be low on confidence, and have as many problems with players getting to know each other as Charlton do, he should be too good for Hereford’s defence.

It might not sound like much to get to the second round of the league cup, and Pedro45 won’t be too unhappy if the team are beaten, but it is important to try to maintain confidence and win every game we play. That is the message Parky will be trying to get across, and I fancy he’ll do just that.

Up the Addicks!

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