Friday, October 09, 2009

Backing One 'Tic

Charlton return to league action at The Valley on Saturday, with the first of two consecutive home games – Oldham Athletic being the initial opposition. Hopefully, the midweek win in the JPT will have set Charlton back on the right path, though with injuries very much to the fore this week, this game may be quite tough.

When you win your first six league games of the season, what comes next is bound to be a little disappointing, unless of course you win the next six games too! This author is far too realistic to expect Charlton to go through a season or, in most cases, a month winning every game, so the draws and single defeat recently experienced were not wholly unexpected or surprising. Taking a point from games against recent Premiership foe can only be good, and if looked at closely, the loss at Colchester did have an element of farce about it, with two ridiculous goals conceded. When mixed in with home wins in the last two matches (one of which was this midweek, and very comprehensive), there really isn’t too much wrong with Phil Parkinson’s team this season.

Parky’s problem seems to be simply down to having enough bodies to play, and fitting those players into a system that works. In that respect, the preferred starting eleven have done a great job working in the 4-5-1 formation, and on Tuesday we were able to see a lesser eleven use Plan B and win a game playing 4-4-2. That’s not to say that the players are only comfortable playing one way or the other, as Parky rightly said that he tried to get Tamer Tuna to replicate the Jonjo Shelvey role, and for Izale McLeod to try to hold the ball longer when it was played up to him, as per Deon Burton; but everyone could see it was still 4-4-2 and not 4-5-1.

The wholesale changes made way back in August for the Hereford League Cup tie worried a lot of people into thinking that our reserves were not up to the task; I agree that if we had to play nine of them, as we did that night, then they may not be winning too many league points, but the fact is that you would never (unless injuries and suspensions really hit home) have to play that many at any one time. When individually fed into the system, as we have had to do with Matt Spring, Chris Solly, Grant Basey, Scott Wagstaff, and others, they are all good players, and quite capable of maintaining Charlton’s push near the top of the league.

And this week, we may need a few more of the reserves than we have had to use previously, due to some worrying injuries.

Frazer Richardson is doubtful we are told and, with rib and hamstring injuries, less than a 50/50 chance to play; I seem to remember something similar being said about Jose Semedo just before he missed his first game, so I do not think our right back will be in show this weekend. With Sam Sodje away with Nigeria, Miguel Llera is certain to return, but will Parky go for a like-for-like replacement for Richardson in Solly, or will he veer toward experience and switch Kelly Youga to the right, and bring in Basey?

With Semedo only now returning to training after his pelvic problem, I doubt he will be risked, so the midfield is likely to be the usual triumvirate of a resurgent Nicky Bailey, Spring, and Therry Racon. Lloyd Sam went off at half-time last Saturday, and I do wonder if he will be fit after his groin tweak? These injuries can usually take around three weeks to heal, so I would not be at all surprised to see Tuesday goal-scorer Wagstaff come in for his first league start of the season in Sam’s place.

In attack, Parky has a simple choice really, albeit with three options: he could and probably will bring back Burton with Shelvey playing just behind him; or he could stick with Tuesday’s fresh legged combo of McLeod and Tuna; or he could play a combination of Burton and McLeod?

This is the team I think Parky will start on Saturday, though I would not be surprised to see the subs used a lot earlier than normal if the game is tight –

Rob Elliot
Chris Solly
Christian Dailly
Miguel Llera
Kelly Youga
Matt Spring
Therry Racon
Nicky Bailey
Scott Wagstaff
Jonjo Shelvey
Deon Burton

Subs from Randolph, Basey, Mambo, Clark, Semedo, Stavrinou, Holden, Sam, McKenzie, McLeod, Tuna.

Oldham come to The Valley on the back of a small unbeaten run of four games. They sit in eighth place, just outside the play-off zone, so should not be taken lightly. They have a successful fresh young manager, and a few players who are more than comfortable at this level, so Charlton need to be watchful. The little-and-large combination of Parker and Abbott up front has goals in it, and the tall winger Chris Taylor may give Solly (if he plays) problems in the air. Few of Oldham’s players will be well-known to Charlton fans, even those on loan from Blackburn (Alex Marrow, Nick Blackman) and Leeds (Alan Sheehan) are not well known outside this league. What we should expect though, is that they are organised, and play open attractive football, in much the same way that Exeter did.

Pedro45 is hoping that Charlton can get back to normal league service and is confident that this will happen; I am predicting a 2-0 victory. If we are at all struggling up front, then I can see the Tuna and McLeod partnership being given a run out again, as they do compliment each other so well. Shelvey knows now that he has competition for his place, in the form of both of the other players, and with Clinton McKenzie also now back in training and looking to get involved, competition is hotting up amongst the strikers. After his rest, Llera should be able to compete with Abbott in the air, and the midfield should have too much nous, skill, and ball retention for Oldham to pose too much of a threat.

My one-to-watch in this game is going to be Jonjo Shelvey; certain to return to the starting line up in my opinion, Shelvey showed during his cameo appearance on Tuesday how good a player he is when given time and space. The goal he almost scored was impudent, and full of youthful exuberance - if that flailing arm hadn’t kept it out we would have been gushing about that goal rather than Wagstaff and Bailey’s efforts! Jonjo has yet to score at The Valley this season, so now would be a pretty good time to open his home account.

I really hope that I am not being too over-confident about this game, especially when a few players have injury worries. I do not see Oldham as any more of a threat than Brentford or others were, and we played well enough and had enough possession in those games to win all but one (which we would have won but for a blind linesman…). This game should see opportunities for Wagstaff, maybe Solly, McLeod, possibly Tuna, and maybe Basey, to really put their mark on their position in the Charlton squad, and a good performance here by any or all of them will comfort us all that, when we do have further injuries, we can cope admirably.

Come on you Reds!

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