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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