Friday, August 14, 2009

Getting the Confidence Monkey Off Our back

Charlton travel to Hartlepool on Saturday, for their first away game in League One this season; the victory over Wycombe last weekend will have worked wonders for confidence, but the defeat to Hereford, albeit with mostly a reserve team, will have quashed any thoughts of Charlton being far too strong for this division.

There were signs, in both previous matches, that Charlton’s passing game is in pretty good shape, with long periods of both matches dominated by our midfield. This strength has created chances, but, as Phil Parkinson rightly points out, Charlton really must start to put away the plethora of chances they are creating to allow the rest of the team, and in particular the new defence, to play with any confidence. Against Wycombe, goals were scored in the middle of a forty minute master class by Therry Racon, Jose Semedo, Nicky Bailey, and Lloyd Sam; sadly, Sam himself then missed a gilt edged chance, and circumstances led to the away team pulling a goal back, and ultimately a frantic finish to the match. At Hereford, a largely changed team still took change, but rustiness seems to have prevented Andy Gray and Izale Mcleod from making more of the headed chances that they had to score from. With substitutes Deon Burton and Stuart Fleetwood also failing when opportunities arose late in the game, a blank scoreline ensued and defeat naturally follows.

Hopefully, the management have been working on this cumulative mental block and with Chris Dickson back in contention after an international appearance for Ghana, striking options abound.

The defence has also been of some concern in the last seven days, though form has only been a slight part of this discussion; all three new defensive signings came out of last weeks game with injuries, but Christian Dailly, Fraser Richardson, and Miguel Llera should all be back to play some part this Saturday. Dailly hurt his rib cartilage in the friendly game at Bournemouth, and he is having injections in order to play; how long this will continue is a mute point, but in cricketing terms, this type of injury can take a couple of months to heal to any degree. Richardson has a bad hip, but has trained, and Llera had a total of thirteen stitches in his clash-of-heads wound, and provided the cut can be protected (and we see all sorts of head-gear these days that allow play with similar injuries…), he should be OK.

The other midweek injuries have had a lot less discussion, and expectation is that Sam and Jonjo Shelvey will be fit to travel and play; I do wonder if this is the case when the management have not mentioned either player this week, bar Sam not being able to join up with Ghana for the first time?

The onus is therefore very much on the midfield and forwards to start scoring, as that will take much pressure off the new defence, and allow them time to bed in, and hopefully all recover from their injuries in less stressful match situations.

This is the side I think Phil Parkinson will pick –

Rob Elliott
Fraser Richardson
Miguel Llera
Christian Dailly
Kelly Youga
Wade Small
Jose Semedo
Therry Racon
Nicky Bailey
Jonjo Shelvey
Deon Burton

Subs from Randolph, Solly, Mambo, Basey, Clark, Wagstaff, Spring, Stavrinou, Sam, Gray, McLeod, Dickson, Fleetwood, Tuna.

Hartlepool have had a good start to the season, and are unbeaten and yet to concede a goal after two matches. They had a creditable draw at MK Dons on the opening day, and followed that up with a 1-0 win at Coventry in the League Cup. They will be looking for another scalp on their first home game too no doubt, so we can expect a tough game. As with Wycombe, there are few players who will be recognised by Addicks faitfull, and the best known player (Ritchie Humphreys) is injured. This makes Hartlepool ever more dangerous in my own eyes, and raises expectation levels amongst fans to unrealistic levels. Adam Boyd scored the goal at the Ricoh in midweek, so he needs to be watched. Hopefully, the extra time required by Hartlepool may have taken more out of them on Wednesday than it did from those Charlton players who played on Tuesday. This is a still very tough game, and we should all recognise that.

Pedro45 is concerned that the injuries recorded in that first match may not have all healed properly; the creative element is reduced if Lloyd Sam is not available, so I really hope his knee injury is not too serious and he plays. If Shelvey is out too with his heel problem, then it is possible that Parky will switch back to a 4-4-2 formation, and play another striker alongside Burton (or Gray). Whatever formation is chosen, the team must try to relieve the undoubted pressure that third tier teams will put on Charlton at every opportunity, and the best way to do this is by scoring three times. Pedro45 is going out on a limb a bit here, but is going to forecast an unexpected 3-1 victory.

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be new centre-half Miguel Angel Llera; the Spaniard (bandaged, left) made a decent start to his Charlton career last weekend, and scored what proved to be the decisive third (and winning) goal. His main duties though are in defence, and he did a good job and nullified the Wycombe attack up until he received his head injury after 40 minutes. He was just about to return to the pitch when Charlton conceded the first goal, and a good pass (and possible offside decision) went against him for the second goal. He will need to put his head into some danger positions this weekend, something he apparently failed to do when bandaged up last weekend (although who can blame him?), and it is key that he forms a good partnership with Christian Dailly until further central defensive recruits are brought in as cover.

Charlton must try to build on last week league win, and if they can go into next Tuesday’s London derby with Orient sitting close to the top of the table, the 3000 travelling fans could have something very nice to sing about; defeat though will bring questions that the club may not yet have answers for, so let’s not dwell on that. Charlton need to fight for their collective lives at Hartlepool, and if they do, and do it well, I think we’ll be OK. Success brings confidence, and confidence brings success.

Up the Addicks!

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