Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Six More at Home

Charlton Athletic 4 Bristol Rovers 2

Six more goals at The Valley, and another resounding victory for the Addicks as forwards Dave Mooney, Deon Burton and Akpo Sodje all scored on a blustery night. At least the weather wasn’t as bad as in the previous two games, but the swirling wind did get up in the second half and make passing accuracy difficult.

The highlight though was not one of the players or goals, but the amazing fourth official, who certainly raised chuckles from the stands and ridicule from the benches of both clubs. More later…

Charlton made two changes to the team that started in Somerset on Saturday, with Miguel Llera replacing the suspended Sam Sodje as expected, but less expected was the involvement from the start of Jonjo Shelvey for Therry Racon. Shelvey took station on the left wing, and involved himself as much as possible without really stamping any authority on his position.

The first goal came quickly, after just four minutes; Lloyd Sam hassled his full back and won the ball and made it to the byeline where his pull back found Burton ten yards out. Burton had time and space to control and turn and fire in a shot across goal that the ‘keeper parried out, and Mooney gleefully stroked in the rebound (top pic).

Soon Sam was being hacked to the ground but he still gave the full back a torrid time. A quarter of an hour into the game and Charlton won a corner. Before it was taken, the referee warned the defenders on holding as Llera fell, but they obviously didn’t learn as when Grant Basey swung over the dead ball Llera again clashed and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. There was confusion over who was booked for the foul at this point, and the scoreboard failed to indicate which player had got the yellow card. Burton stroked home the penalty kick with aplomb (below pic), and at two-nil, Charlton were cruising, but as so often happens, chances were missed, and the away team came into the game more.

Sadly, Kelly Youga injured himself when clearing a ball, and he had to go off with Elliot Omozusi filling in at right back.

It didn’t go all Charlton’s way though, and after that period of control, the referee evened things up a bit when he penalised Christian Dailly as a cross sailed into the box, and Rovers had their own penalty. Much as at Carlisle, the ref seemed to want to give one a side. Carl Ikeme had saved that one at Brunton Park (although the rebound was scored) but he couldn’t get near this kick from Hughes and five minutes before half-time it was 2-1.

It was no real surprise when Charlton conceded the equaliser ten minutes into the second half; Rovers had started the half very confidently, and with Shelvey and the forwards were struggling to hold the ball for any length of time. The passing from the back was long, in the main, and this simply allowed the wind to carry the ball to their ‘keeper and gift possession back to the away team. Lines headed in a corner to bring the teams level, and you did wonder if the two-nil lead would end in a 3-2 defeat. Omozusi had to make a couple of excellent blocks near the goal-line to keep the Addicks on level terms, and slowly the game turned and the concern subsided. Shelvey then had a goal-bound half-volley from close range unfortunately blocked by Mooney's body, and you did wonder if Charlton could respond and get back in the lead.

Thankfully, this Charlton team are built of resilient stuff, and with Akpo Sodje waiting to come on, a great move involving man-of-the-match Sam, led to his cross being flicked on by Burton to Mooney, and his header hitting the bar before Nicky Bailey bundled home the rebound to give Charlton the lead once more. Shelvey did then make way for Scott Wagstaff, and Sodje came on for the tireless Mooney. Soon, the younger Sodje was celebrating his first Valley goal (left) after he turned home from close range. With just fifteen minutes left, there was no way back for Rovers now. More chances were spurned, but Charlton comfortably saw the game home.

The most controversial moment though saw the referee make several bookings in the second half, including a yellow card for number four Lines. When he was penalised again for pulling back Bailey and the referee reached for his pocket, the player looked like he was seeing red, but for some reason he got what seemed like another yellow card and no following red. The crowd, Bailey, and the Charlton dug-out all tried to remonstrate with the referee, especially as it could lead to a punishment for him from the authorities if it is found he did give a player two cards and not send him off, but he was adamant that he was right.

The fourth official obviously at this point checked his notebook; he had written every little thing that happened in the game down in this book, and was constantly checking the watches he wore on both wrists. Most fourth officials stay seated, and only get up if something untoward is happening with the team officials. Not this one, he stood the whole game, checking both ways like he was about to cross a road, and regularly found himself in the team box talking to one side or another (we think he may have wanted to be a manager he spent so much time there!). When a substitution was made, he not only checked the players boots, but asked them to lift there shirts and amazingly their shorts too in case they were hiding anything! If a goal went in, he ran to the box to keep the officials off the pitch, not that anyone looked like they may encroach, but just because he wanted to be wanted I guess? When a late foul went against Rovers, their manager went mad and had words directed at the referee, a record of which went straight into the notebook of this man, so it may well be that Trollope gets reported for what he said. God help us when this guy takes charge of a match…

Lennie Lawrence received a nice ovation when he made his way along the touchline before the game, but for some reason he had to sit on the naughty step all through the game. He sat quietly most of the match, celebrating the equaliser, and then the final touch was that the fourth official spoke to him about what Trollope said, as if reporting him to his elder brother. Smirks all round!

So another home win for Charlton without too much trouble, bar Youga’s injury. The key now is to start winning away games too.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It’s A Gas

Charlton will be hoping to maintain the recent positive momentum in tonight’s fixture versus Bristol Rovers at The Valley; a thumping of MK Dons in the last home match was replicated in effort if not the result on Saturday in Somerset, where, but for Sam Sodje’s sending off, three points would surely have been won.

Phil Parkinson will need to make at least one change to his side, due to Sodje’s sending off, but may make others after the exertions on the soggy Yeovil pitch, while a man short, which could have left some struggling for fitness.

Carl Ikeme did what he needed to on Saturday in goal, making one decent first half save, kicked like a mule (only to see the ball travel short distances) and then watched the second half from afar as the wind kept the ball away from him for prolonged periods. He is sure to retain his place, with Darren Randolph on the bench as understudy.

The mini-experiment of playing Kelly Youga at right back worked reasonably well on Saturday; Youga’s defending was as good as ever, and he did get forward at every opportunity – especially in the second half when a man down – but his inclination to dribble on that pitch wasn’t suited and the fact that he wanted to bring the ball onto his left foot in order to cross seemed to slow things down a little. On a better pitch, the ability to cut inside may suit Youga, so I would persevere with him at right back tonight. The only option is to play Elliot Omozusi from the start, but I believe that Grant Basey on the left offers a better all round option than Omozusi, so would keep him on the opposite side to Youga. Basey had a good game at Yeovil, defending well, and offering surging runs forward in the second half when Charlton attacked at will. Basey also possesses a great left peg and his corner taking was good, and importantly he learnt from each kick and ended up hitting the bar courtesy of the wind.

Christian Dailly used his experience to the full effect in Somerset and, up against young Spurs guns on loan, he did well. Miguel Llera also played well after coming on once Sodje was sent off, and Llera should keep his place while Sodje serves his suspension tonight. Llera also has a sweet left foot, and he is a dangerous option from free kicks, when Nicky Bailey allows him to shoot that is!

Providing Bailey is fit, I expect the midfield to be unchanged this evening, with Jose Semedo anchoring the three creative players that are Bailey, Therry Racon, and Lloyd Sam. Racon was sacrificed at half-time as Parky sent on an extra forward on Saturday, so he should be fit enough to run on a pitch that he doesn’t get bogged down on. Bailey got his usual whack that went unpunished by the referee in that game, but hopefully it’s just another bruise on top of his other bruises. Sam has showed glimpses of a return to form recently, and he put in an excellent second half showing in Somerset, so a continuation of that would be good. If anyone is unfit, Matt Spring and Scott Wagstaff will be ready to jump at the chance of a starting slot.

Parky’s biggest decision is going to be who plays up front; Leon McKenzie, Akpo Sodje, Deon Burton, and Dave Mooney have all scored inside the last three games, but only two can start tonight. Add to that the fact that Izale MacLeod has now served his three-game ban, and Tamer Tuna scored a hat-trick for the youth team last week and Parky has plenty off options. With still no news of Burton having his hernia operation, and the fact that Parky has said it takes him a few days to recover from a game due to this problem, I think Burton may be rested tonight, and he may well have now gone under the knife with no game to come on Saturday. That would leave Akpo Sodje to carry on where he left off on Saturday, and also bring Dave Mooney back (after he was sacrificed for Llera after Sam Sodje’s sending off). McKenzie didn’t make the subs bench on Saturday, rather surprisingly, so I hope he isn’t injured again, but if he is, and Burton has had his op, then McLeod could make a quick return to the squad but not the starting eleven.

This is the side I think Parky may send out tonight –

Carl Ikeme
Kelly Youga
Christian Dailly
Miguel Llera
Grant Basey
Jose Semedo
Nicky Bailey
Therry Racon
Lloyd Sam
Dave Mooney
Akpo Sodje

Subs from Randolph, Omozusi, Mambo, Jenkinson, Spring, Stavrinou, Wagstaff, Burton, McKenzie, McLeod, Tuna.

Our opponents, Bristol Rovers are having an up-and-down season. They started well and sat just behind us in third place in the table back in September, but have since slipped down again (losing all five league games in October), before returning to positive results over recent weeks with two homes wins. They have a goalkeeper on loan from Reading – as Yeovil did on Saturday! – and also our own Chris Dickson, though he isn’t allowed to play. The dangerman is the diminutive Jo Kuffour, who has six goals so far this season. They will be hoping to win again, but will settle for a point if offered I’m sure. One thing is obvious from their results - they concede goals (not having a clean sheet since mid-September), so the Addicks strikers could profit tonight?

Pedro45 has to be confident going into tonights game, based on the last two games, and predicts a 3-1 victory. With the power and goalscoring threat up front we now have coupled with a strength in midfield, and some (only some) fresh legs, we could have too much for Rovers to handle once more, provided we can keep eleven players on the park.

My one-to-watch tonight is going to be Dave Mooney. Our Reading striker will be one of the fresh ones, after playing just half an hour on Saturday. He broke his Charlton duck in the last home game with a crisp finish, and has got better as his fitness improved over recent weeks. With possibly a new partner to start with tonight (if Burton is not played from the start), I can see him forging a potent attacking force with Akpo Sodje that may be to hot to handle – I hope so!

With Rovers porous defence, and Charlton finding their goal-range recently, we could see a few hitting the back of the net tonight. We mustn’t be over-confident, but we should win games like this at The Valley.

I will leave with a thought for the man pictured at the top and returning to SE7 this evening; a man who led the club through all the dark days of the 1980’s – Lennie Lawrence. What Lennie did for Charlton should never be forgotten, even if his autobiography is (or has); the man is a star and should get a standing ovation as he arrives for his kind are few and far between. We may have had Kinsella, Parker, Di Canio, Bent, Rufus, Brown, and Robinson in recent times, but without Lennie, there may well have been no Charlton, and none of those players playing for the Addicks. Give it up for Lennie!

Come on you reds!

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Glove’s Off

Yeovil Town 1 Charlton Athletic 1

When you think back at this game, it was an incredible match. Ten-man Charlton fought back from being a man and a goal behind at half-time and won a single point that could oh-so-nearly have been all three; it was a Herculean effort.

As predicted, the weather in Somerset was pretty foul; a howling wind that blew straight down the ground and heavy rain for most of the match made conditions appalling. Very early on I was concerned that the game may not finish and, but for the rain relenting at some times the referee may have had a hard call to make.

Ultimately, I think the result depended once more on the fact that Charlton handled the wind much better than the opposition, and as with last week’s thumping of MK Dons, a second half performance with the gale at their backs was much better than the opponents efforts on the first 45 minutes.

Playing into the wind in the first half, Charlton merely tried to slow things down, keep the ball as low as possible, and soak up the pressure coming into their faces. It was all going fine, but for a few kicks from Carl Ikeme that failed to reach anywhere near the half-way line. Then, after half an hour, the linesman working in front of the seated Charlton fans made his mark. Mason looked several yards offside out on the right wing, just in front of the lino, and chased onto the ball over the top with the inept official chasing him with flag down. Sam Sodje, coming across to cover was beaten to the ball and not helped by the conditions which meant he clattered into the Yeovil forward; the referee was left with little option but to send him off (top pic), despite his protestations that it was his first offence. Even then, the linesman failed to signal where the foul actually happened and the resulting free kick was taken a good ten yards infield from where the clash occurred - much to Nicky Bailey's annoyance - leading to a much easier shooting chance.

An hour to play and down to ten players, it really looked bleak for the Addicks, and a few minutes pressure came upon them courtesy of the West Country side rather than the weather while Phil Parkinson re-organised. On came Miguel Llera to fill Sodje’s gap, with willing runner Dave Mooney sacrificed for the extra defender. It did seem that Charlton might make it to half-time level, but just before the break, with the rain starting to lash down again, the linesman again gave any benefit to Yeovil when a ball over the top of Christian Dailly saw Obika run through to slot past Ikeme. It was a very tight call, and after the obvious offside missed when Sodje was sent off, the linesman got plenty of booing as the half ended.

In such games, you tend to see one side capitulate after a negative impact like that, or bounce back and battle; with Parky making a very positive move in taking off Therry Racon (who was somewhat drowned out by conditions in the first half) and replacing him with the sent off man’s younger brother, Akpo Sodje, it was hard to tell how Charlton would fare. With the elements now helping the Addicks, and an excellent start made to the half, the visiting fans were once more berating the linesman when he made his third contentious decision of the day, and another in favour of the home team. A free-kick on the edge of the box saw Llera thump a shot toward goal; the shot was parried and fell to Akpo Sodje who gleefully smashed it high into the net only for the lino to stand with his flag raised for offside. Maybe the referee had reminded him of the rule at half-time, or maybe he just got it wrong again, as it didn’t look like Sodje the younger was offside when the original shot was hit.

Charlton kept the pressure on despite this, and corner after corner were won. Grant Basey was swinging them in from the penalty spot, only to see them go out of play on the far side, courtesy of that wind. He did learn from each kick though.

Soon, Charlton drew level, and what a goal it was. The young Sodje was again involved, picking up the ball about thirty yards out, and with no challenge made, he thumped a glorious strike past McCarthy and high into the net. The fans went mad and it did make up for his brother being sent to the stands.

It was all Charlton now, with Ikeme touching the ball just once in the first 30 minutes of the second half. A pass back to the home ‘keeper was heaved forwards, reaching well outside the penalty area, only to turn on the wind and go for a corner kick without bouncing. Bailey tried his hand at a corner kick and hit it low to the near post only for it to be sliced just wide by a defender, with Bailey thinking it was in the net. Sodje burst through again and was denied when his shot was deflected onto the post by the ‘keeper, then Basey took another corner kick, and having got his range, saw that swing on the wind to be tipped onto the bar by a desperate McCarthy. Bailey then took another free kick (to Llera’s annoyance) but hit the defensive wall, while Lloyd Sam and Deon Burton had efforts charged down.

The goal just wouldn’t come, and as the game entered the last five minutes, the heavens opened again, and with standing water on the pitch, I think Charlton ran out of steam a bit. Yeovil had a couple of late attacks, but the game finished even.

The drenched players came over to show support to the even more drenched fans who came along, and then disappeared into dry changing rooms.

It was a great performance from the Addicks players in appalling weather and pitch conditions, and but for the sending off, would have ended with all three points won I am sure.

The effort may take its toll on some players with another game on Tuesday, but at least Mooney and Racon will be fresh, and it was good for Llera to get an hour’s practice before his starting roll to replace the suspended Sodje. The experiment of playing Kelly Youga and Basey as full backs seemed to work OK, with neither unduly troubled defensively, while both pushed forwards whenever they could. Jose Semedo and Sam both had impressive second halves; with the onus being on work both saw plenty of ball and covered much ground.

At season’s end, this may look like two points dropped, but the effort and performance could not be faulted, and the players should be proud of the way they fought back with one-man short. Roll on Tuesday…

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Take the A Road, the A Road, it’s the Best…

Just a short note for any Charlton fans (or anyone) driving down to Yeovil tomorrow; you may be horrified to see signs telling you that the A303 is closed (at Mere) but don’t worry, this is only for midweek night-time roadworks and is clear during the day and at weekends.

Provided nobody hits the car in front (as two drivers did today – one in each direction between Stonehenge and Chicklade) and cause tailbacks, you should have decent run down and get to Yeovil about two hours (or two and a half if you keep your speed!) from joining the M25.

Enjoy the trip!

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The Sun Shines Out of Your Behind…

After such a resounding win last weekend in the first ever game against MK Dons, Charlton hope to keep on winning with a visit to Yeovil for the first time in their league history. The Glovers are a nice team, and one that many look out for results due to their famous FA Cup exploits in years gone by. Now they are a league team, and have done very well since joining the league a few years back. Yeovil are actually my wife’s parents nearest league club, though my in-laws love remains with other League One rivals Norwich.

Phil Parkinson will want to keep the momentum going, trying to create a gap between the Addicks in second place, and the chasing pack, which includes the Norfolk team, amongst others. Last weeks worry that a defeat would see Charlton drop a couple of places may have spurred the team on, and a loss this week could also see Charlton out of the top two for the first time this season. That will not be an option, hopefully, as Charlton do look like they may have too much for the Huish team.

Even without the injured Rob Elliot, Carl Ikeme and Darren Randolph are decent goalkeepers, although both have different attributes. Ikeme is much taller but for some reason looks vulnerable under the high ball, while Randolph is a great shot-stopper. Parky seems to be favouring the on-loan player, so I expect to see him in between the sticks once more, with Randolph on the bench.

Frazer Richardson tweaked his hamstring again last week, so he’s definitely out of this match; that leaves a straight choice between Elliot Omozusi and Grant Basey to replace him. If Basey, a second half sub for Richardson last week, comes in, then Kelly Youga will switch effortlessly across to the right back slot. For continuity, I would pick Basey, with Omozusi on the bench as cover.

Sam Sodje will look to continue his great form of late, and Christian Dailly will be along side him, completing the back four.

In midfield, last week’s "experiment" of moving Nicky Bailey back inside from the wing was a resounding success, so the central four of Jose Semedo, Bailey, Lloyd Sam and Therry Racon is likely to be unchanged.

In attack, a lot depends on whether Deon Burton has had his hernia operation yet; I was certainly hoping he had by now so that his three week recuperation covered the vacant cup weekend next Saturday and he was fit by the time that Dave Mooney goes back to Reading (if he does), but no news of this has leaked out so it may not have happened. Akpo Sodje is a ready made replacement for Burton when he does go under the knife, but Mooney will definitely play after opening his scoring for the club last Saturday.

This is the side I expect Parky to send out in Somerset –

Carl Ikeme
Kelly Youga
Sam Sodje
Christian Dailly
Grant Basey
Jose Semedo
Nicky Bailey
Therry Racon
Lloyd Sam
Dave Mooney
Deon Burton

Subs from Randolph, Omozusi, Llera, Spring, Stavrinou, Wagstaff, Holden, McKenzie, Tuna, Sodje A.

Yeovil themselves are on a nice roll at present, with just one defeat in their last eight games; their home record is average, and they have yet to play any of the major sides in this division at Huish yet, so Charlton must fancy their chances. Yeovil’s squad is bolstered by three Spurs youngsters who are all on loan, with striker Okobi the pick of the bunch. Ex-Ipswich youngster Dean Bowditch has just come back from injury and will also be a threat.

Pedro45 is confident that the 1500 travelling fans will have good reason to sing with their cider tomorrow, and is predicting a 2-0 victory. Yeovil will huff and puff but, in the weather we are having, should get blown down by Charlton’s better skill, greater experience, and solid teamwork.

My one-to-watch in this game is going to be Lloyd Sam. Lloyd looked like he was getting back near his best last week and it’s about time too. He has so much to offer but sometimes cannot translate that into match winning opportunities due to lack of decent ball, double-marking, or apparent lack of desire. When on form, he is simply a match-winner in this league, and I’m hoping that we see him taking on and beating people as we know he is very capable of. He really should be scoring plenty of goals at this level too, and last weeks clinical strike was an indication of how good and dangerous he can be.

I’m looking forward to a new ground to visit tomorrow and another Addicks win; last weeks 5-1 win must not be a flash in the pan and Parky needs to get the team in the same frame of mind once more. We should be beating teams like Yeovil, so let’s just get the job done and move on to Tuesday’s match.

Up the Addicks!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chance of a Lifetime

I love looking at stats when I’m bored, so I have checked out the latest odds on Charlton getting promoted this season. Not at a bookies though, but using the great Sportsclubstats

For all the doom merchants out there, especially those who have gone very quiet since Saturdays thumping of MK Dons, Charlton currently have a better than 50% chance of being automatically promoted come next May. It’s gets better though, for if Charlton maintain their points per game ratio (which is currently 0.667 per game) over the rest of the season and finish with 92 points, the odds on promotion are 99.5%! Anything above 96 points, and we are 100 per cent certain to go up!

In fact, only with a 50% points ratio over the final 30 matches (45 points from 12 wins, nine draws, and nine losses) will see any possibility of the Addicks falling out of the play-off places, and even then the likelihood is we will finish inside the top five. For Charlton to have a realistic chance of falling out of the play-off places, we would need to finish with under 71 points, so we are almost half-way there.

And for the really negative fans, the chances of us getting relegated only start if we lose about 16 of the remaining 30 games. Surely not many of you think it can get that bad?

Of course, being Charlton anything could happen, and probably will, so maybe that remaining 12% chance of winning the league should be backed?

There, that’s made you feel better hasn’t it!


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blown Away

Charlton Athletic 5
Milton Keynes Dons 1

Was it the weather, the referee favouring Charlton, or just an excellent home performance that blew MK Dons out of The Valley yesterday? Well, probably a bit of all three. Certainly Charlton handled the weather better than the visitors, going in at half-time in front having played against the viciously strong gusting wind. And yes, the ref did seem to miss a blatant handball by Christian Dailly in the penalty area that could have brought the Dons level before half-time, though I didn’t see too much else wrong with his performance on the day (but others may disagree?). And yes, Charlton did play with a confidence - especially in a second half period - that could have brought more than the three goals in eleven minutes and led to a complete rout in the visitors first visit to SE7 (No, I don’t class them as the ex-Wimbledon team we played in the eighties and nineties). Ultimately though, this result is more important than how we gained it, and it should provide the surge required to make a promotion push valid over the coming months.

It could have been all so different though, as Wilbrahims capitalised on Lloyd Sam’s lack of challenge resulting in Frazer Richardson’s poor header to volley past Carl Ikeme after less than ten minutes. The Dons almost made it two a couple of minutes later, when a cross found its way to the same player, but this time his crisp shot was blocked on the line (somehow) by Kelly Youga. If there was to be a turning point, it came here, as Charlton broke, won a free-kick, and Deon Burton nodded down for Dave Mooney to fire home his first goal in Addick’s colours.

The equaliser revived Charlton, and very soon we took the lead; Mooney was inactive as Sam burst down the right beating the offside trap, and his measured cross just eluded the arriving Burton but spun up to be headed home by the fast arriving Nicky Bailey (seen celebrating, top pic). The skipper, playing centrally with Therry Racon out on the left in this match, looked a new player, and certainly put his effort into the game, and plenty of tackles too.

Wilbrahims headed wide when well placed to score, then saw Ikeme make the save of the match to turn away his shot after Dailly had lost his man. With both teams attacking, and the visitors playing the ball along the ground much of the time, it was excellent fare. Bailey then almost scored from about 45 yards with a free-kick that was over-hit but dipped late in the wind and crashed back from the bar.

At half-time, Charlton had done well to be in front, and the Dons just complained to the referee. I didn’t think he had had a bad half, booking Davis for a crude challenge on the breaking Sam and Sam himself for a naive tackle a few minutes later, but on viewing the Dailly hand-ball incident on TV in Bartram's, you could see why they whinged so much.

With the wind at their backs Charlton looked a much better team, with Mooney and Burton being supported by Bailey, Sam, and Racon as they put pressure on the deep lying Dons defence. Darren Powell, once a Charlton triallist was slow, and Charlton capitalised on his lack of pace to get behind him, and soon the lead was extended. Burton set up Sam on the corner of the penalty box and Sam jinked past one defender before shooting right footed across goal and into the corner of the net (above pic). 3-1 soon became four, as Sam Sodje met a corner with another powerful unchallenged header (left), then moments later Sam headed back substitute Grant Basey’s cross-field ball into the path of Burton who side-foot volleyed past the stranded ‘keeper (bottom pic).

Charlton were looking like scoring on every attack at that point, but for valid reasons, Burton and Mooney then made way for Leon McKenzie and new loan signing and Sam’s brother Akpo Sodje (who has joined from Sheffield Wednesday). Basey had come on earlier in the half when Richardson had what looked like a recurrence of his thigh injury.

The last fifteen minutes didn’t have the same goal threat though McKenzie and the taller Sodje both looked lively up front. It was left to McKenzie to be the victim of the last Dons mugging, when he and Powell were booked after a ground-floor scuffle. They say that teams often mimic their manager in style, and the visitors certainly kicked anything that moved in the vein of Paul Ince; hence the four bookings they received.

It would be easy to forget some of Charlton’s failings in this game after such a resounding victory, but churlish to harp on about them. I found it sad that two of the three Addicks respondents to the League Football programme on BBC last night made negative comments after such a win! With winnable games to come over the next few weeks, the confidence should have returned. Richardson’s injury will be a concern, but with Omozusi available and with Youga also comfortable on the right with Basey an adequate reserve on the left, Manager Phil Parkinson has options. Bailey’s return to central midfield, some 9 months since he last played in that position, was very good, and Racon provided balance on the left if not the cutting edge of Sam on the opposite flank. The substitutes bench also looked strong (with Darren Randolph, Miguel Llera, Jonjo Shelvey, and Matt Spring not used), and many of those players will get their chance as the season progresses.

The wind blew strong at The Valley but did not contribute to any of the goals; if Charlton attack teams like they did here, we could be seeing plenty more scores to rival this over the next few months.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

MK Tax

Four away games, only a draw to show, and a lucky one at that – not the best form from the Addicks recently then…but now we are back at The Valley, and hopefully, hopefully, things will change.

Charlton will play their first ever game against MK Dons on Saturday, and if things had turned out differently, it could have been an MK Athletic team playing Wimbledon: Way back in the early seventies, it was rumoured that Charlton were looking to up sticks and move to the new town with concrete cows and lots of roundabouts themselves; luckily for us, it never happened. Wimbledon themselves followed Charlton into ground-sharing, and sadly for south London, they found it as unbearable as we did but left for pastures new instead of returning home. It is a moot point if the team now billed as MK Dons are in fact Wimbledon, or if that moniker still belongs with AFC Wimbledon, a team just two divisions below having worked their way upwards consistently over the last fifteen years or so. Whatever they are called, they are the next team we have to try to beat, so let’s move on.

Out of the cups, but still second in the league doesn’t look like a gloomy situation, but if you said we were out of the cups and 18th in the table (as we are form-wise) then not many would be happy. Charlton really do need to start to win again, and a victory against the team in third-place in the table would be a welcome boost.

At least manager Phil Parkinson has a pretty full squad to choose from, but this in itself will cause him headaches I’m sure as he looks for that winning combination.

His first problem is who to play in goal, with Rob Elliot still some weeks short of fitness. On-loan Carl Ikeme got the nod at Carlisle, saved a penalty but was beaten by a couple of long range thunderbolts; then Darren Randolph played in the FA Cup reverse at Northwich, made a couple of outstanding saves, but hesitated on the goal that separated the teams; Ikeme returned at Southampton but had a 40% success rate on crosses (one which he should have come for resulting in a goal) and let the second goal slip under his hand. A tough call this, but I hope that Parky reverts back to Randolph and gives him the opportunity for a run of games that he has craved for over the last few years.

At right back, we now know that we can rely on Kelly Youga to switch and do a good job if necessary, but the choice is likely to be between Frazer Richardson, who could be fit, and on-loan Elliot Omozusi; I do think if Richardson is fit he will play, and if Grant Basey is included as a substitute, then we have cover (with Youga switching) if Richardson cannot last the full match. If Richardson has to miss out again, then Omozusi will play.

Sam Sodje is available having turned down a chance to play (or more likely travel but be left out of the match day squad) for Nigeria so I expect him to start at The Valley, with Miguel Llera making the bench against his former club.

The rest of the team really depends on how Parky views the last couple of weeks, but I do suspect that Nicky Bailey and Therry Racon will return after their midweek rests, with Jose Semedo and Lloyd Sam also starting. Then we get to the million dollar question – do we start Jonjo Shelvey and play 4-5-1 or play with two attackers? I suspect that such is Shelvey’s form at present that he may well be left out once more, and we see Dave Mooney (who ran his heart out and put in a very good 90 minutes on Wednesday) and Deon Burton play from the beginning. With Leon McKenzie and Shelvey, plus maybe Tamer Tuna on the bench, we have options when either of these get tired or we need to bolster or reduce our forward line. Izale McLeod is of course banned for three games as a result of his elbow use last week, so the dilemma of whether to play him or not disappears.

This is the side I would like Parky to pick to start the match tomorrow –

Darren Randolph
Frazer Richardson
Sam Sodje
Christian Dailly
Kelly Youga
Jose Semedo
Therry Racon
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Dave Mooney
Deon Burton

Subs from Ikeme, Basey, Omuzusi, Llera, Stavrinou, Spring, Wagstaff, Holden, Tuna, McKenzie, Shelvey.

MK Dons have Jermaine Easter, scorer of the Wycombe goal that knocked Charlton out of the league cup quarter final four years ago, missing due to his involvement with Wales, and could also be without other key players due to injury. One time Charlton triallist Darren Powell could start in defence, and Charlton summer target Jason Puncheon is the obvious threat from the wing. Hopefully, having tried to sign him, Parky knows all about how he plays and how to counter him.

Pedro45 really hopes that Charlton have hit a low point, and can start to get back to playing some of their better football from now on. The confidence that the side exuded early in the season seems to have disappeared, and maybe some of that came from missed chances (by McLeod?) or mistakes at the back (by Omozusi and Ikeme?); by leaving out those three players and committing to Charlton registered players (bar Mooney), the team should be committed once more and work together. I think this may take time though, and against a good side, the best we can hope for is my prediction of a 1-1 draw.

My one-to-watch this week is going to be Nicky Bailey (left). Our skipper has had a bit of a torrid time recently and hasn’t scored for a while, so he is due. It is difficult for him to be playing out on the left wing, but he showed that he is more than capable during the early part of the season when he was taking on and beating full backs at will. When Sam had the ball, Bailey’s runs into the box to support Burton also had much goal-threat. Bailey needs to roll his sleeves up and find his form, and soon.

It has been all doom and gloom over the last few weeks, but the sun does always rise, and maybe it is Charlton’s turn to rise out of the November haze? The team need our support at this tough time, and they will get it if they show determination, team work, and skill; with that, we can get a positive result and hang on in there near the top of this league.

Come on you reds!

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Saints and Sinners

Southampton 2 Charlton Athletic 1

Well, that’s any dreams fans may have had of a trip to Wembley over for another season. A 2-1 score-line that may paper over some cracks, but for an hour, Charlton were abysmal yet again.

Phil Parkinson made plenty of changes, recalling on-loan Carl Ikeme in favour of Darren Randolph, switching Kelly Youga to right back to accommodate Grant Basey, resting Sam Sodje and Therry Racon in favour of Miguel Llera and Matt Spring, playing two wingers (Scott Wagstaff and Lloyd Sam), and finally starting with Dave Mooney alone up front.

The home team should have taken the lead in the first minute, when a free header went wide after Ikeme completely missed a corner. Southampton then put much pressure on Charlton and it was a good twenty minutes before the Addicks settled into the game. By then, Ikeme had fumbled another cross, and also let a shot slip under him that luckily hit the post and bounced out. The defence, marshalled by Christian Dailly, were so so busy again, with Jose Semedo having one of his worst games in a Charlton shirt and completely failing to protect the back four as the Saints surged forward.

When Charlton did settle, Wagstaff had a shot blocked, but that was about it until the first goal; a corner was missed by a couple of players and Youga stood still as Thomas walked past him to tap into the net. Ikeme may have done better if he had tried to claim this ball, but maybe he would have dropped that one too?

Having just about made it to half-time one goal down, it was once more left to Parky to read the riot act, and at least there was a marked improvement early in the second half. Mooney started to find balls played up to him rather than over his head, and Sam and Wagstaff out wide had help as Youga and Basey pushed on. Spring had a shot go wide, but then Parky chose to switch things around a bit, bringing on Luke Holden for his debut in place of Sam. Almost immediately, the lead was increased as Lambert’s snap shot flew under Ikeme’s outstretched hand and, without the luck of the post this time, another poor defensive goal. This led to a complete change of tactics as forwards Leon McKenzie and Deon Burton entered the fray, with Wagstaff and Semedo trooping off. Holden switched to the right to accommodate McKenzie, but this really didn’t look like it helped him as he continually lost the ball when trying to bring it back on his left foot.

The game was drifting to a wet and forgone conclusion when Youga got lucky with an offside flag, played the ball back to Holden who had time to hit a sweet left foot cross which McKenzie turned home from six yards - his first goal for the Addicks. Sadly, there were just two of the three minutes injury time left and Charlton could not mount another attack in the time left.

This has been a disastrous week for Charlton, culminating in three consecutive losses and crashing out of two cup competitions. The management have tried to switch things around, play the whole squad, and try out different tactics, but it has all looked so disjointed, and the team do not seem to believe any more. Saturday’s home game is a chance to bounce back in the league, and it is a chance that they have to take if the wrath of Addicks fans is not to befall the squad and hierarchy.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Marching In

The FA Cup loss to Northwich Victoria has left a bad taste in many Charlton fans mouths and, hopefully, that foulness can be taken away with a bounce back win tonight in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Charlton visit Southampton with it all to prove. It is highly unlikely that the same eleven players who performed so poorly on Sunday will start the game, but many will, due to the rules of this competition. I just hope that they realise that anything less than 100% is not acceptable if they wish to continue wearing a Charlton shirt.

Phil Parkinson, as any manager should, rightly shouldered the blame for the defeat to the non-league side, as he picks the players for every match. He will have gone into that game knowing that Charlton had three games in six days, and had already said that he would need to use his full squad. Maybe that accounted for some of the lack-lustre, as players knew that they had other strength sapping matches to come; it was totally wrong if they did.

Parky has to abide by the rules of the competition, which require six of the players with most league and cup appearances this season to play from the start. To this end, it is easier to predict who will have to play rather than who might not, so here goes…

We have three ‘keepers, and Rob Elliot played in the last round; he’s injured now, so as Darren Randolph has been substitute in every game up till Sunday (where he played), and Carl Ikeme has only played once, it has to be Randolph in goal for me.

The defence may be shaken up, but unless Kelly Youga is moved to the right back slot, I expect Elliot Omozusi to carry on at right back. I do think that Grant Basey will get a game, so Youga’s action may depend on others availability. I also think that Miguel Llera will play, and that means that one of Sam Sodje and Christian Dailly will be left out, probably our Nigerian.

If we play Llera, Dailly, Youga, and Randolph, then we are obliged to only involve two more of the regular players, though I suspect that more may start. Nicky Bailey is almost certain to be one of these, and Jose Semedo will probably also start. I think that Matt Spring will get a game too, so that means playing Bailey out on the left once more. Lloyd Sam looks in need of a rest, so I expect Scott Wagstaff to get another 90 minutes, especially after he did so well in the last round.

That leaves two places for strikers, and Parky really has to make the call between 4-4-3 and 4-5-1. After much recent experimentation, he must agree with fans and realise that the only time we can and should play 4-5-1 is when Jonjo Shelvey fills that behind-the-striker role. Tamer Tuna is the only other player to have made a decent go of it, and it took him over 20 minutes to get settled in the Barnet game. For that reason, unless Shelvey is given a start, and he might be, then I would play two up front and hope that the Bailey-Spring-Semedo midfield can cope.

Dave Mooney must be chomping on the bit to get a start for the Addicks, having been used solely as a sub since he arrived on loan. I would give him that time tonight, and play either Leon McKenzie or Izale McLeod alongside him. Deon Burton was only a sub on Sunday playing the last half hour, and we know that he struggles to recover from his hernia problem from week to week; I therefore think it doubtful he will play from the start this evening. With Tuna dropping back down to play for the Youth team recently, it looks like Parky is content he has enough other options up front.

This is my guess at Charlton’s starting line up for this cup game –

Darren Randolph

Elliot Omozusi

Miguel Llera

Christian Dailly

Grant Basey

Jose Semedo

Matt Spring

Nicky Bailey

Scott Wagstaff

Izale McLeod

Dave Mooney

Subs from Ikeme, Richardson, Youga, Mambo, Stavrinou, Racon, Sam, Burton, Shelvey, Tuna, McKenzie.

Picking a Southampton team is just as difficult, but as they have been on a roll of late, I expect them to be extremely tough opponents. They have been fairly free scoring recently and with Rickie Lambert and David Connolly have two forwards who know where the goal is.

Pedro45 has been very down over our loss on Sunday and the recent poor form of the team generally. Sadly, I can see no option for an upturn tonight and think that they may have to call the dogs off when it gets nasty – I predict a 4-0 loss, and more angst among fans.

My one-to-watch for tonight is going to be Scott Wagstaff (left), scorer of a terrific goal against Barnet in the last round of this competition (top pic). With Sam out of form, we should be seeing more of Waggy on the wing, and tonight may be his chance to shine and put pressure on Sam to put up or shut up.

It’s been a bad week for Addicks fans so far, and things may get even worse tonight, unless Charlton can get an unexpected win. That could turn everything around of course, and keep the club on track for Wembley, which is some fans dream. I’m just not of that opinion, but will be happy to see it come true.

Up the Addicks!

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Is Vic There?

Northwich Victoria 1
Charlton Athletic 0

I doubt this will be a long blog, as I’m sure that I am as upset and angry as many other Charlton fans must be feeling after the Addicks first ever defeat to a non-league club in the FA Cup. Suffice to say that the Addicks simply failed to come to terms with the match against very limited opposition who relied ever so heavily on set-plays to create chances. Such was the home teams ineptitude, that they never looked like scoring from open play until they actually did! And that just goes to show how badly Charlton must have performed…

With Darren Randolph in goal, manager Phil Parkinson chose to start with Jonjo Shelvey and Izale McLeod in attack, and the rest of the side as per expected. The pitch, often a leveller in games such as these, was like a billiard table, but for some strange reason, Charlton always seemed to want that extra touch on the ball, and that allowed Northwich to close them down and disrupt and passing movement.

It quickly became apparent that the main thrust of any home attacks would come from either the long throws into the area aiming at the six foot seven inch centre back Bailey, or from corners also aimed in that direction. Sam Sodje, Christian Dailly, Jose Semedo and Kelly Youga all had trouble dealing with the plentiful balls into the box, but did enough to prevent any near misses. When one ball did come to Bailey, his header was saved well by Darren Randolph in goal at the expense of a corner.

Charlton had little to show in attack, with Lloyd Sam crowded out, McLeod lonely and with no service, and Shelvey, Nicky Bailey and Therry Racon only visible in defence. Even though the home side kept giving the ball back to Charlton, the Addicks often simply ran the ball out of play when nobody was near to challenge, resulting in another heave into the penalty box and more pressure. One throw led to an almighty goalmouth scramble with five shots being blocked on or around the line before Randolph fell on the ball, Charlton surviving on level terms thanks to Dailly's positioning. Just before half-time, Bailey headed on another long throw and this time a Northwich player was able to connect with a header on target, but Randolph pulled off a tremendous save.

You hoped that the half-time talk from Parky might have livened things up a bit, and it was true that their was more fight from Charlton early in the second half, not least from McLeod who’s use of his elbow may yet see him banned for a game or two. The pattern continued, with Charlton conceding throw-ins,, the resultant heave headed up in the air and clear, then being presented back to Northwich for the cycle to start over. Even the substitution of Deon Burton, still yet to have his hernia operation, and Leon McKenzie (for Shelvey and McLeod) did little to change things, though Burton did have a shot blocked.

It was left to the home side to break the deadlock, when a punt from the ‘keeper was headed out by Sodje, then headed back past him for the substitute Riley to chased through and poke past the hesitant Randolph. Scott Wagstaff came on as a last throw of the dice, and did give one of the best 10-yard passes by a Charlton player all day (it may also have been the only accurate one?), but sadly it was in his own half and the home ‘keeper will not have had an easier afternoon. He simply did not have one single shot to save all match, showing how rubbish Charlton were.

Credit for Northwich; their fans were great and they celebrated like they should after their famous victory. They now have another home tie against league opposition - Lincoln - and I hope that they win that game too.

Where to go from here then? Parky has it all to do now in my opinion; the confidence that was so prevalent at the start of the season seems to have vanished into thin air. Maybe it was the disallowed goals versus Southampton, and/or maybe it was Holt’s injury-time goal at Carrow Road, but since those games, the confidence has slowly leaked like a punctured tyre and is now completely flat.

The management now have a midweek cup game of far less importance (but also on TV) to try to turn things around, though that will not be easy. Too many players are not on-form, and the style and tactics seem to have been forgotten. Failure on Wednesday, and in next weekend’s crucial league game could see the tide turn against the man at the helm once more, as fans will refuse to see a repeat of the mistakes of two years ago made when a similar start to the season went wasted by missed opportunities and lack of direction.

History was made by Charlton today, but it was not the kind that we wanted.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Victorian Values

It’s been one of those weeks; Charlton lose a game and the World is coming to an end! Sure, the result at Carlisle was poor, and the Addicks do currently sit in 18th place in the League One form table, but we aren’t going to get relegated (famous last words!) and we will finish near the top of the table. The defeat at Brunton Park was just the second Charlton have had all season in the league, and all of us fans would have been happy to be where we are if we had been given this option back in July. It was obvious, after the first half a dozen games, that a dip in form would arrive at some point in the season, simply because you cannot expect to go through the whole season unbeaten. As this blog has said before this season, we will lose some games as we progress, but the simple thing is not to panic when we do…

But enough of that; we now have two cup games to play and thoughts of league form can disappear for a week or so.

First up on the Cup calendar is Sunday’s FA Cup tie at Northwich Victoria. Charlton have, of course, never lost to a non-league club in the FA Cup, so a little bit of history is on the line here. I don’t sit with the suggestion that we should play a weak team in this competition (so we can concentrate on the league) but I fully expect to see at least some changes in the Addicks starting eleven. The line-up is further complicated by the situation with loan players (of which we currently have three) and injuries (of which we also have a few!).

Phil Parkinson will have weighed up his options, and the first thing he will have decided, with little alternative, is that Darren Randolph will get his first start of the season in goal. As Rob Elliot is injured, and loanee Carl Ikeme is unable to be cup-tied, Charlton have just two goalies to call upon, and Randolph, even though he has been told he can leave Charlton if not holding down a regular first team place come January, will get the nod over youngster Jack Binks.

The second of the new loanees, Elliot Omozusi, should be able to play; his situation is that although his registration is held by Fulham, he has signed a contract at Charlton, so technically it isn’t a loan. Unless Frazer Richardson has recovered from his thigh injury (which I doubt), then Omozusi should start at right back for the second week running. He will also have benefited from an extra weeks training, and hopefully can last the 90 minutes this week.

The third loanee is Dave Mooney, here from Reading until the start of December. I do not know if Reading will allow him to play, and it will be a shame if they don’t, because he may well have started this game from the off. It has been well over a month since news of Deon Burton’s hernia problem leaked out, and his performances since then have been full of effort, but little skill. I really hope that the club took the opportunity to get Deon’s operation done earlier this week, so that Mooney can at least begin a few games before Deon return’s from injury. Should Burton be out, and Mooney unable to play, then the attack will focus more on Izale McLeod, who hasn’t had much decent press recently. I think it fair to say that McLeod will never be a favourite with Addicks fans, probably in much the same way that Kevin Lisbie, Kim Grant, and Martin Pringle weren’t. All had pace to burn, but were profligate in front of goal, and to supporters brought up with clinical finishing (by the likes of Derek Hales, Darren Bent, and Clive Mendonca) simply will not accept missed chances. McLeod does at least get into those scoring positions, which is more than some recent Charlton forwards have, and if he scores on a regular basis (about every third game in this league), I am happy to see him start games.

The rest of the team will probably be the pick of those that need a game, need confidence, or replace those needing a rest. I doubt that Parky will want to make wholesale changes that might unbalance the side, but he will need to beware the underdog and put enough talent on show to enforce the win.

This is the team I think he might start with but I could be very wrong –

Darren Randolph
Elliot Omozusi
Miguel Llera
Christian Dailly
Kelly Youga
Jose Semedo
Matt Spring
Nicky Bailey
Scott Wagstaff
Izale McLeod
Dave Mooney
(or Jonjo Shelvey)

Subs from Binks, Basey, Sodje, Clark, Stavrinou, Racon, Sam, Shelvey, Tuna, McKenzie.

I will stand corrected, but I think that you only get five substitutes in FA Cup this season?

As an aside, and knowing that our next game is the Johnstone’s paint Trophy cup game at Southampton on Wednesday, I would not be at all surprised to see both Llera and McLeod booked in this game so that their suspensions fall for the JPT game and not any following league game.

As for our hosts, Northwich Victoria, they are a club with financial worries and the fact that this game is being shown on TV will be a huge boost to their finances. Sadly, with the game moved to a Sunday lunchtime kick-off, the travelling support from London will be much reduced, with maybe less than five hundred Addicks in attendance. Also missing will be two of the better Vics players – Danks and captain Grand - who are both suspended. Of the rest of the team, striker Newby played well over a hundred games for Bury, full-back Brown played 40 times for Port Vale, and winger Elam has played for many successful Conference teams. Charlton will also need to beware of Matt Bailey, Northwich’s six foot seven inch defender, at set-pieces. The Northwich supporters really seem to have got excited over this game, and who can blame them! It will provide a welcome financial boost to them, and their rivalry with Witton has had many fans laughing on the Charlton Life forum site.

Pedro45 is well aware that cup games can and do provide upsets, but I think that Charlton will have just a little too much, whatever side starts, for the home team to handle. I am predicting a 2-0 victory for the Addicks, and a relatively comfortable game on a good pitch. With two of Vics key players out, McLeod and Llera should have easier games (if they start) and provided that nobody drops any clangers, we should see the Addicks safely through to the second round at 3.15 on Sunday.

My one-to-watch in this game has to be the only player that I am confident will start – Darren Randolph. With it likely that he can cement himself into the team for the JPT game too with a good showing, Randolph will be keen not to make any faux-pas like he did on his home debut against Southampton about 18 months ago. Not as big as Elliot (or Ikeme) it will be important for him to take control of his penalty area and deal with crosses coming into the box. If he can do that, and clear his lines quickly, then the shot-stopper should have a good afternoon.

I am confident that Charlton's record of never having lost to a non-league team will be maintained on Sunday, and even have a (small) hope that the game is drawn so that Northwich get some additional revenue from a replay. Other than that, we should be simply too strong and have too much skill and desire.

Up the Addicks!

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Out of Lucker

Carlisle United 3 Charlton Athletic 1

Another poor game from Charlton resulting in the second defeat of the season for Phil Parkinson’s side. It always seems to be the way that when a manager gets a new contract, or a loan player signs permanently, that performances dip; Parky extended his managers deal for another year on Friday which gives him security and the club stability, but possibly at the expense of this result.

The manager did at least try to earn his corn, having to make two enforced changes after injuries last week to Rob Elliot and Frazer Richardson. Two players arrived on loan as replacements – Carl Ikeme, a goalkeeper from Wolves, and Elliot Owuzusi, a young right-back from Fulham – and both made reasonable debuts at Brunton Park.

Charlton made a slow-ish start, as they seem to do in most games these days, while Carlisle merely sat back and waited to see if Charlton were as good as they had been built up to be and that their lofty league position suggested. Eventually, the game burst into life in a mad five minute spell just before half-time.

First, Christian Dailly was beaten for pace and fouled Dobie, earning himself a yellow card that could easily have been red. Ex-Charlton triallist Harte then crashed the resulting free-kick against the post, with Ikeme beaten. The ball was cleared for a corner, and when that came in, Sam Sodje appeared to be climbing all over a Carlisle player in an attempt to get to the ball. Penalty appeals were waved away as the ball went out for another corner, but when this came swinging over, a mere nudge by Deon Burton warranted a spot-kick award according to the inept referee. This was the first penalty - either for or against - in a Charlton match this season.

Ikeme (or Carly Keyma as the radio commentator seemed to like calling him) guessed right and dived left to save Harte’s penalty but, unfortunately for him and the 550 Addicks supporters who had made the trip, Harte was on hand to scramble home the rebound. The manager, Parkinson, was then sent to the stands for complaining about the initial decision, and having viewed it and the previous claim, you have to say that two wrongs (for that is what they were…) do not make a right!

Almost immediately, Charlton bounced back when a passing move led to Burton bursting into the Carlisle penalty area and he was tripped; Charlton therefore had their own first penalty of the season. Like buses, when you wait ages for one, two come along together! Burton confidently despatched the kick and Charlton made it to half-time on level terms. It was Burton’s 100th league goal, and one he has been seeking for quite some time.

The game was really calling out for Charlton to take control, but for some reason (which I am sure Parky will look deeply into) possession was easily relinquished on numerous occasions, and few chances seemed forthcoming. Just after the hour mark, veteran Kavanagh seized on an Owuzusi clearance and with nobody coming out to close him down, thundered in a shot from 25 yards to give Carlisle back the lead.

This led to Parky making three on-field changes, with a tiring Owuzusi, a disappointing Izale McLeod, and Jose Semedo sacrificed for Jonjo Shelvey, Dave Mooney, and Grant Basey. Kelly Youga switched to right-back to accommodate Basey, and the Welshman seemed to have most passion driving forward and getting in several dangerous crosses. Dailly then came close to being sent off when he fouled again, before Therry Racon forced a good save. It was all Charlton pressure now, but a break would not come as Mooney headed wide, Shelvey had a free-kick saved, then Mooney had another header saved.

The game was settled when, eight minutes from time, Kavanagh strode forward again and, once more unchallenged, stroked the ball into the top corner of the Charlton net to make it 3-1.

For Charlton to take just one point from their last two away games is not good enough, and the real danger now is that all the good work over the opening weeks of the season is going to waste. It seems obvious to many that Deon Burton (despite his penalty goal yesterday) is a shadow of his former self and that delaying his hernia operation (as Charlton have) is doing the side more harm than good. With Clinton McKenzie close to fitness, and with Mooney chomping to get a start, Parky has enough options to accommodate the loss of our top scorer for three weeks, especially as one game during that time is the cup tie at Northwich Victoria next weekend. The break from league action at least gives Charlton the chance to recover and take stock, while the next two games (in the FA Cup and Johnstone's Paint Trophy) should be used to give the various options a try, and to bed in the new players if possible.

Not a good week for the manager, even after putting pen to paper, and not a good week for Charlton (or Zoe Lucker!).

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