Monday, August 17, 2009

Go East Young Men!

Blimey, so much positive activity surrounding Charlton these days! Fabulous isn’t it! Two league wins out of two, and sitting a comfortable second in the early league table makes for happy Addicks. Now it can only get harder…

Tuesday’s third league game of the season is at Leyton Orient, a little team who are another who would love to knock the big boys from down the road off their lofty perch. Orient’s ground capacity is under 10,000, and with all 3,000 tickets offered to Charlton now sold, it will be a hefty away following that makes its way down the Central line after work tomorrow night. Some may even turn up without a ticket, pay on the gate, and mingle in with the home supporters; knowing a few O’s fans over the years, I’m sure this will be OK, as long as the police and stewards don’t over-react.

Orient have had an indifferent start to the season, maintaining the course of their previous season’s form – winning away and losing at home. They are a hard team to predict, but seem to have a few friends which suggest that they play reasonably attractive football. I suppose being a London side, some of their players are better known locally than those of, say, Hartlepool, though that does not necessarily make them any better. Tamika Nkandawire is a defender whose name has been talked about in higher circles than league one; Sean Thornton was a starlet at Sunderland only a few years back; Veteran James Scowcroft has history and was a player linked with Charlton in the summer before he opted to join Orient; and Scott McGleish will relish the chance to play against his first league club quite a few years after leaving the Valley. However, the danger man may be John Melligan, a right winger with an eye for goal, who has scored in two games already this season (and he is an unknown to me).

Charlton themselves have a player who has scored twice this season – captain Nicky Bailey. Our ginger armband wearer has been on the end of crosses following two right wing surges, and it is looking like the thirteen goals he scored last season could be eclipsed by Xmas barring injury, transfer, or a complete loss of form. Bailey is being played out of position due to Charlton’s current midfield strength; with Jose Semedo and Therry Racon controlling long spells of matches from the middle, and with the creative pair of Jonjo Shelvey and Lloyd Sam settling in to have good seasons too.

In fact, the side is looking good with the clean sheet gained up at Hartlepool, and goals coming from all over the pitch (now that a forward has finally scored…).

Goalkeeper Rob Elliot will be happy with that clean sheet, and he has made pretty good saves at crucial times in all three matches he has played so far this month. He is a fairly formidable presence in that orange kit of his, and if he can just learn when to come off his line for crosses and when to stay back, he could become a real star in the making.

Fraser Richardson settled back into his right back duties on Saturday, and had a comfortable afternoon by all accounts; he should be fit (after his hip problem of last week) to take his place once more. Christian Dailly is another with a minor knock that he has to play through, this time to his rib cartilage. Again, without having to worry about a distance to travel, he should be able to retain his place in the team. The one injury worry is undoubtedly Miguel Llera at centre half; the bad cut he picked up on opening day against Wycombe failed to heal enough for it not to bleed again a week later. Hopefully, the red stains on the bandage made it look worse than it really was and he can be patched up and wrapped in cloth once more, and this time complete the 90 minutes without bloodshed. Kelly Youga is holding down the left back position, and I doubt that Grant Basey is too close to challenging for that spot yet this season.

Up front is where there may be a possible change though, after Deon Burton ran his heart out for the club on Saturday. I wonder if now is the right time to give Burton a rest, and start Andy Gray as the lone ranger? This may not be too popular with some fans, but Burton is no spring chicken, and it is a very long season. He won’t be tired, but games do add up, so I think he might actually benefit from a night on the bench. Also, if Gray is to be sold in the next couple of weeks, maybe we should get one last match out of him now and opt to save Deon for the weekend home game? The other striker options are all much of a much-ness, and unless there is a switch to 4-4-2 from kick off, none of Izale McLeod, Chris Dickson (who got game-time on this pitch last week for Ghana), nor Stuart Fleetwood is likely to feature.

This is the team I think Parky might select –

Rob Elliot
Fraser Richardson
Miguel Llera
Christian Dailly
Kelly Youga
Jose Semedo
Therry Racon
Lloyd Sam
Nicky Bailey
Jonjo Shelvey
Andy Gray

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

This is another tough fixture for the Addicks, as they find their feet in this division, and one that the home team will relish the prospect of. Home chairman Barry Hearn may be rooting for his boys, but his protégé and pay-check provider Steve Davis may be supporting his boyhood team (I certainly hope so!); no doubt they will have money on the outcome (I think Chairman are allowed to bet on football matches?) and what better way for it to finish all square with all faces saved. Pedro45 predicts a 1-1 result.

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Jonjo Shelvey. Our young seventeen-year-old has had a quiet start to this season by his own lofty standards. No goals yet, and a couple of games where he has flitted in and out of the action; he has made two goals though, and with the closer marking he can expect now he is a bit of a “star”, we may see his assist numbers rise while his goals scored numbers lower. What Jonjo will know, and what we should understand, is that it is no good him burning himself out in August when he is still going to be required to play in April and May next year. Provided he can link the play between midfield and forwards, and bring the wide players into the action as well, then he is doing just fine. This is going to be his first full season in the first team after all…

Much of the doom and gloom amongst Addicks has been lifted by this start to the season, and manager Phil Parkinson must take a good deal of credit for this. While we, the fans, wondered if he would keep his job all summer I’m sure he did too, but he got on with his role, worked on bringing in those players that were imperative (for no transfer outlay at all!), and kept hold of all the clubs prized assets (so far) through luck. His style may not suit all followers, but he knows what he wants, fits players to the system that he thinks is best suited to winning games, and lets the guys go out and do what they should. We can all quibble about when is the right time to make substitutions, and if we should switch a formation when we are winning (God, we moaned enough about Alan Curbishley in his time when he did that sort of thing too…), but we generally do this from hindsight. If Gray had slid home the fourth goal in the Wycombe game - which he came very close to doing - then it is quite possible we could have gone on to score five or six, and maybe we could even have been top of the league on goals scored by now. What the club needs in these trying times, whether there is a take-over or not, is solidarity and a one-ness that winning games brings. We aren’t going to win the Premiership in the near future, but then again, nor are at least 88 other league clubs (and maybe 90 of them…!). Let us settle in to our lot, and keep the faith, with Parky as leader until we want, need, and can have, other options.

Up the Addicks!

Good post, makes me even more annoyed I can't make the game! I'm going for a 2-1 win, c'mon you Reds!!!
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