Sunday, August 16, 2009
Hartlepool United 0 Charlton Athletic 2
An excellent away result for the Addicks, which maintains the clubs 100% start to this new season, and gives Charlton three league wins on the bounce for the first time since 2007.
Two goals midway through the first half were enough to take out the home team - the first a lob over the 'keeper by Deon Burton (left) after some poor defending, and the second, a far post header by captain Nicky Bailey (below pic) after a great cross by Therry Racon.
Phil Parkinson was able to pick the same starting eleven that won against Wycombe, thus allaying fears that some of the injuries picked up by a quintet of players in that match were more than just minor knocks. Charlton slowly gained the midfield, and once the goals went in, remained on top throughout the match until a last ditch effort brought Rob Elliot some late action.
The win takes Charlton to second place in the initial League One table, sandwiched between the two other double-winners from the first two games, Colchester and Leeds. There is still a very long way to go this season, so a better picture should emerge after around ten games as to Charlton's longer term prospects this season. By this time (the end of September), the Addicks will have played a number of sides fancied to do well this year (Norwich, Southampton, and Brentford), plus an away game against current leaders Colchester. If Charlton are still in or around second place at that time, then I would hope to see a successful season with the club pushing for automatic promotion. .
By then, the transfer window will have closed (except for emergency loan signings), and hopefully Charlton will have had a chance to strengthen the areas were there are obvious weaknesses. Any activity though, does seem dependent on what happens with any takeover discussions; should a bid be accepted, then there will be some player movement, both in and out (Gray, McLeod, Stuart Fleetwood, and Chris Dickson all being subject to bids from other clubs). But if no acceptable offer is tabled in the next week or so, the current board do have some responsibility to help out the manager and fill the gaps with either cheap permanent or loan signings.
With another game coming up on Tuesday night, the one area of concern left to manager Parkinson is the head injury being carried by Llera. Following a clash of heads in the first half of the Wycombe game, the Spaniard received eleven stitches in his scalp wound; the injury was then supplemented by another couple of stitches after the game. A week later at Hartlepool, and it was blatantly obvious how bad the cut was when it started to seep blood again (left), and eventually forced the big centre half from the pitch in the last few minutes of the game. With options limited in the middle of defence, it will be a crucial decision whether to play Llera at Brisbane Road or if Youga, Semedo, or even Yado Mambo is asked to fill in while the Spaniard recovers.
Backed by around 3000 Charlton fans at Orient on Tuesday, the level of expectation will be very high; the players and management need to manage that expectation, and keep the club heading in the right direction. So far so good, but this season is a very long road...