Thursday, September 24, 2009

Back to Basics

I suppose in other seasons, a two game winless streak would have Charlton fans nervously looking over their collective shoulders, but in these heady times, that would be a disservice to Phil Parkinson’s (left) unbeaten Addicks. Eight games into the season, and still yet to taste defeat, the club sits in second place in the table, and could go back to the top if Leeds fail to win at the weekend.

Standing in the way of the loftiest perch are Exeter City, newly promoted and coming to terms with life in League One. City are the third of the promoted clubs to visit Charlton this season, and with Wycombe dispatched on the opening day, and with last years Champions Brentford comprehensively outplayed a month back, Charlton will be very confident of beating the third best team in League Two last season.

Exeter have started this season with two wins and three draws from their opening eight matches, and have a very good young manager in Paul Tisdale. Tisdale was suggested in some quarters as a possible replacement for Phil Parkinson during the dark days of the summer, though not many would be so vociferous now in voicing that switch.

The Grecians have few players that will be easily recognised by Addicks fans; the on-loan Stuart Fleetwood is not being allowed to play, so old hand Marcus Stewart, once of Ipswich, will probably lead the line once more. Craig Noone, a winger on loan from Plymouth may be the player to watch closely though, as he has scored once, had an assist, and had seven shots in his two matches played so far.

Exeter have already used 23 players in their league games so far this season, and that is in stark contrast to Charlton, who have so far been unchanged in all eight of their own matches; Charlton have also used six substitutes, so 17 players have been utilised. That statistic may well have to change this weekend though, as Parky has a few injury concerns to consider.

A few players have had injuries reported prior to games recently, but all have (miraculously) been able to take their place in the starting eleven come game time. One or two players may have been playing when slightly under par, and it is possible that those knocks are now coming back to hurt them. Fraser Richardson has a groin problem, which may not get better in the week’s rest he has had; Chris Solly will stand by to replace him if need be. Deon Burton broke his nose in last week’s game against Norwich, but it has been reset, and he is thought to be likely to play again this week. League One player of the month Lloyd Sam has a tight hamstring which has prevented him taking part in full training; with two important away games coming up, I would not be surprised to see Sam rested to the bench for this match, or altogether, with Scott Wagstaff given a starting place, especially if it will make a difference to Sam being fit for the next games. Midfielders Nicky Bailey and Jose Semedo also took knocks in last weeks game, but it sounds like they should both be fit enough to play and continue their important roles this week. With Christian Dailly still nursing sore ribs, and Miguel Llera protecting his cut head, the treatment room has been busy this week! In addition, it is unlikely that Leon McKenzie will make the subs bench, as he also has a bad hamstring.

This is the team that I think Parky may put out on Saturday, his first changes to the starting eleven this season –

Rob Elliot
Fraser Richardson
Kelly Youga
Christian Dailly
Miguel Llera
Jose Semedo
Terry Racon
Nicky Bailey
Scott Wagstaff
Jonjo Shelvey
Deon Burton

Subs from Randolph, Solly, Basey, Sodje, Spring, Stavrinou, Holden, Sam, Tuna, McLeod.

Exeter are one of those teams that make up the staple diet of opposition in League One; they fall into a group along with Walsall, Carlisle, Stockport, Oldham, and Hartlepool (among others). They are a team that Charlton should aspire to beat, and beat quite easily, if they want to be amongst the pace-setters for the league. I doubt that Exeter will play an expansive game, and they will be hoping to hit Charlton on a break, and then protect the lead and soak up any pressure. It is up to the Addicks to ensure that they do not fall behind, they themselves score early, and can then relax into the game in the knowledge that Exeter will pose a lot less threat than either of the last two teams Charlton have played, or the next two due to face the Addicks.

Pedro45 is going to predict a comfortable 3-0 win at The Valley on Saturday. It may be up to one or two fringe players – Solly, Wagstaff, Spring, McLeod for instance – to come up with the goods if they are required, and considering the longer term aspects of this season, it is important for each of them to make their own mark now. If each or any of them can get on the score sheet, or do a good job in the midfield or defence, then the likelihood is that when further reinforcements arrive in the January transfer window (or on loan beforehand), then they will not find their own bench positions under threat.

My one-to-watch in this game is going to be Nicky Bailey (left). The Charlton captain has been below par over the last few games, which may be down to the bad back he has been playing with. On the (excellent) Charlton Life player ratings for the season, assessed by fans at games, he only beats Llera (who has also had a couple of dodgy games recently) and Kelly Youga. Bailey started the season with a bang, and three goals in the first four games, but since he has looked quite subdued out on the left wing, and certainly not his vibrant energetic self. Bailey was possibly the cause of the half-time tunnel fracas at Carrow Road, and he does seem to lose a bit when riled. I’m hoping that with others possibly missing, Bailey steps up to the plate and re-asserts himself as the leader of the team, getting himself back on the score sheet and playing a full part in the match.

The last home game was always going to be tough, and to get a point at Norwich will look like a good result come next May; sure it was disappointing to concede in injury time, but these things do even themselves out (mostly) I think – after all, the Addicks goal against Southampton was not dissimilar to that scored by Holt…

If the two game winless streak is extended, then the following two away games will appear daunting, and we don’t want that to happen. With luck, Charlton could regain the top spot in this league on Saturday, and then try to hold onto it in Essex next week, and in Yorkshire next Saturday. The win is there for the taking, but it has to be fought for; anything less could see some red faces, and not the happy kind. The fans want a return to winning ways, and I think they might just get that wish.

Finally, I cannot go without mentioning the funds made available by the Board once more, that confirm that no players will need to be sold this season, and that the club is sound financially for the next few months at least. With Richard Murray (left) back as Chairman of the PLC (and Football Club) in a re-structured (and reduced) board, we have a leader back who can be related to, and one not afraid to speak his mind and put his money where his mouth is. Murray may not be Chairman for as long this time as he has been in the past, but it feels right to have him as our foremost representative once more.

Pedro45 says a big thank you to all of the new board of directors.

Come on you Reds!

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