Monday, September 28, 2009

Keep on Going!

Although Charlton’s unbeaten run to the 2009-10 season continued on Saturday, it was not without a few scares, and Exeter may have thought that they had enough chances (and a goal disallowed for a tight offside) that they deserved a point. I simply don’t buy into that line of thought; the Addicks, in my opinion, were well on top for most of the game, even if the away team had more possession in the second half. It seems to me that Charlton are, whether deliberately or not, coasting in some situations, and against some teams.

Where Charlton have needed to up their collective game – away at Orient, and Norwich, plus at home to Southampton – they have pretty much come up with the goods, and won points during tough times. At home against the Saints, the half-time deficit was quickly turned around, and only the linesman’s (incorrect) flagging denied Charlton all of the points on offer; similarly, the away game at Orient saw the team battle back to snatch a win; and the Norwich game, possibly one of the hardest Charlton will face this season, saw a terrific early display take Charlton two up, and then some resolute defending all but saw the game out (though not quite). The ability to turn up the heat is certainly there, and in the next two games, starting on Tuesday night at Colchester, that ability will be put to the test once more.

I suppose that the game can be looked at in a couple of ways – one, that Colchester are just another team to beat and we can hope that Leeds fail to win at home so that we go back to the top of the table (or at least maintain the pressure on them if they win), or you could say that Colchester are a good team so it is an opportunity to put even more daylight (and points) between the two clubs, thereby squashing their play-off ambitions while promoting our own. My own opinion is somewhere between the two barrels; sure, it is good to keep as close as possible to the top, and sure, it is good to see off other teams promotion ambitions. So why not satisfy everyone and just win this match?

Well, Colchester will have their own views on the game, and parties on each side are working against their former employers, so there is plenty of spice in store.

Obviously, Phil Parkinson is returning to the club where he had his first taste of success, managing United to promotion from this same division four years ago. If matters had gone the way that Charlton chairman Richard Murray had wanted at that time, Parky could have been in charge of the Addicks in the Premiership, and all that managerial history of Dowie (spit!), Reed, and Pardew would have been destroyed and replaced by something else – who knows what? History does recall that Parky was refused permission to talk to Charlton, and then went to Hull instead, where he failed. We know what happened at The Valley at this time, and in a weird twist, it is Parky leading us now that seems to have turned the club’s fortunes around.

Kevin Lisbie on the other hand, had a similar troubled time about four years ago, starting with a nasal problem, and ending with him not having his contract renewed by incoming Valley managers. When Lisbie faced Charlton two years ago, before his transfer from Colchester to Ipswich, he made an immediate mark, scoring with a trademark near-post header in the Essex fixture, and then doubling that feat when he returned to The Valley on New Year’s Day (a match that saw the second-placed Addicks stumble, and ultimately fall embarassingly down the table). Suffice to say that Lisbie will be keen on doing the same (or better) in this forthcoming match.

Colchester themselves have lost the manager they had at the start of the season (Paul Lambert, to Norwich) and he has been replaced by Watford’s ex-manager Aidy Boothroyd. They are slowly rebuilding after their strange start to the campaign, and are unbeaten since Boothroyd took over. The manager has brought in long-term prospect John-Joe O’Toole – a previous scorer against the Addicks - on loan from Watford, but the rest of the squad is pretty much as Lambert left it. O’Toole could be joined in midfield by another former prospect, and graduate of the famed Charlton academy, Kemi Izzet, who has now served a three game ban after being sent off.

Phil Parkinson will be hoping that everyone came through the game on Saturday without any further injuries or worries, and there were few occasions (if any) when the trainer was involved, so that may well be the case. With Jose Semedo apparently able and willing to resume his midfield berth alongside Therry Racon, Charlton could once more return to their best starting eleven, for the ninth time so far this season.

This is the side I think Parky will send out to win in Essex –

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

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

Pedro45 thinks that Charlton are in this for the long haul, and a win is a win, and is three points; it doesn’t matter if the game is dirty, or wide open, Charlton have the ability to play in any manner at this level. Parky will be itching to beat his old team, and the match being played under lights, with a large Charlton fan contingent, should be one with a great atmosphere. I am predicting a 2-1 victory that keeps the pressure on Leeds prior to the top two meeting on Saturday.

My one-to-watch this week is going to be defender Christian Dailly. A bit of an unsung hero so far this year, as the goals go in at the other end, Dailly was not my cup of tea in previous incarnations, but he has certainly used his experience and brain in this league for Charlton. He was key in maintaining a point late on at Carrow Road, and also did well on Saturday when Exeter were threatening to get back into the game. Dailly snuffed out any of those thoughts, and he will need to be on his toes once more to deal with a potent Colchester attack. If Lisbie plays out wide right, as he has been, Dailly will need to provide cover for Kelly Youga, and if Lisbie plays centrally, then he will need to be prepared to match Lisbie’s pace (especially when attacking corners at the near post!!!). Provided Charlton have the majority of possession, then Dailly has time to recover from the bursts of energy he expends; that could be key in the winning of all three points in this game.

After this match, the tenth of the season, Charlton will find themselves in the top two of the league. This stage is always a good pointer to how a season will progress, and to me, there is no reason why the club cannot go on and maintain or improve on this lofty perch. While it is true that the Addicks have played few of the current top half of the table, the simple fact is that some of those we have played would have been in the top half had they not lost to Charlton! We are not going to go through the season unbeaten, but I am quietly confident that Phil Parkinson will take that record up to Yorkshire on Saturday, in what is already being bigged up as the game of the last two unbeaten sides in English league football.

Up the Addicks!

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