Sunday, January 24, 2010

Give the Nails a Chance!

It makes me wonder what would happen if Charlton actually played well in a game? I mean, we’ve had the odd half (MK Dons), or twenty minutes (many) where we have been awesome this season, but that hasn’t actually carried over a complete match yet. If we did play well for 90 minutes then we might actually see Charlton match some of the comprehensive victories that some of our promotion rivals seem to have on a more regular basis. In fact, I wouldn’t even mind a good first 45 minutes if it meant coasting the second half, as long as the victory was clear and we didn’t have to bite out fingernails during added on time for once!

That wish has a chance to come true on Monday night, as Charlton play the middle of three consecutive home matches against teams in the lower half of this league. Hartlepool were beaten 2-1 last Tuesday, in a match that should have been a lot more comfortable for the Addicks than it actually was, and Orient cross the river to visit The Valley tomorrow; then on Saturday, we play the early season whipping boys of Tranmere.

It’s not as if the team is doing badly – you cannot complain too loudly when you have lost just two league games all season and we are now at the back end of January! – but I worry that the spirit and commitment that the team is showing may not be enough to get them through every match this season (as it is in this current unbeaten run...), and at some stage, if we don’t start to play better, then points will be dropped.

So how can Phil Parkinson get the lads playing in a confident, tactically superior, and winning-a-match in an easier way? That’s not an easy question to answer! The personnel cannot be changed much, simply because we don’t have that many bodies available. With Sam Sodje missing the fourth and last game of his ban, and with Kelly Youga still out with his knee injury, the defence is as strong as we can get it. The central midfield of Nicky Bailey and Jose Semedo is also the strongest possible, though it does lack a little creativity. Out wide, Lloyd Sam, to be fair, is still a danger to every other team in this division even when they double up the marking on him. In attack, Deon Burton has been better than anyone expected this season (including to perhaps Deon himself!) and Dave Mooney has run his socks off in every game he has played on loan from Reading, and chipped in with three valuable goals too. The one position that is open for grabs and where nobody has yet said that they want to be a fixture in the side playing there so far is on the left side of midfield.

Charlton started the season with Bailey on the left, but although he did very well there – altering his playing style to suit the position rather than the other way around – it left us with a below-par captain, who has looked much more like his old goal-scoring, hard-tackling, all-action self in the middle of the park. Therry Racon briefly swapped with Bailey, during games and for one whole match, but Racon was apparently quite vocal that this wasn’t where he wanted to play, and he would bide his time waiting to return to central midfield. Jonjo Shelvey was tried there, then dropped, but now is back in the side and when he isn’t playing at the head of a diamond, this is where we are most likely to find him, though he too has struggled to make an impact from this position and had a pretty indifferent game against Hartlepool. Scott Wagstaff played a few games wide left and did quite well in my opinion even though you know he would prefer the right side; I was quite surprised to see him dropped for the Wycombe game, but then again it had been three weeks since the previous Charlton match so that could have been due to a niggle or training ground form? Then there is Leon McKenzie, who has come on a couple of times as substitute and been asked to play in an attacking wide left role, usually when we need a goal. Leon has suffered from injuries in a very stop-start season so far, but could he be the missing link that finally makes this Addicks team click? We will see…

What I do know is that barring any injuries we don’t know about, the Charlton team will be pretty easy for Parky to pick apart from this wide left position.

This is my guess at who Parky will send out to play the O’s in front of the night-Sky cameras on Monday –

Rob Elliot
Frazer Richardson
Christian Dailly
Miguel Llera
Grant Basey
Jose Semedo
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Leon McKenzie
Deon Burton
Dave Mooney

Subs from – Randolph, Solly, Omozusi, Mambo, Spring, Wagstaff, Shelvey, Racon, Dickson, Tuna.

Orient will travel through the Blackwall Tunnel hoping to extend their 100% unbeaten record in 2010 which covers the single game they have played this decade, a 2-0 home victory against Yeovil last week. They have been bolstered by the arrival of three new players recently - Nicky Adams (on loan from Leicester), Matthew Briggs (on loan from Fulham) and Frenchman Jonathan Téhoué (Kasımpaşaspor) – and along with veterans Chambers, Thornton, and ex-Addick Scott McGleish, will be confident of getting something from the game. They will be well disciplined, and look to play the game in a tight way tactically, trying to get their strikers in on goal or to win corners from which Mkandawire is dangerous.

Pedro45 thinks that it is just a matter of time before McKenzie gets a starting role, and with options from the bench (Shelvey, Wagstaff), should playing him wide left not work or for when Leon gets tired, then now may be the time to make that switch. Whatever side Parky picks, one of these sides will lose its 100% win record in 2010 and I forecast a comfortable 3-0 victory for Charlton, simply because it is about time we had one!

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Lloyd Sam. To be fair, Lloyd had a reasonable game last time out against Hartlepool, but too many times the players doubling up on him stop his momentum in its tracks, and he has to look elsewhere for outlets rather than try to get to the bye-line. With Richardson back at full back, the over-lapping options that were missing when he was injured should be back, and I expect Sam to make the most of the space that Richardson creates and provide the ammunition from which Mooney, Bailey and Burton can capitalise. The pressure is mounting on Sam these days, as he is seen as the key player in Charlton’s attack and game plan; if Sam plays well then Charlton play well. It won’t have gone unnoticed that his replacement scored within minutes of coming onto the field last week, and young Wagstaff has more goals this season than Sam does in considerably less time spent on the pitch. Expect a reaction against his former club where he will be desperate to do well…

Sometimes, in years gone by, Charlton have really turned on the style in televised games (think the 4-0 versus Bradford City in 1998, or the Arsenal 4-2 away game…), but sometimes it all goes pear-shaped on TV. I don’t think that this will be one of those occasions and I am confident that Charlton will go joint top of the table following victory in this game and send us all home happy for a change, giving the fingernails a week off!

Come on you Reds!

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