Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pooling Resources

It is interesting to consider how important the next three home games for Charlton actually are? Some say they are vital, and that the nine points on offer will determine whether Charlton get promoted through an automatic position or have to fight it out in the play-offs; others say that calling them vital just adds pressure, and that although important, a place in the top two can still be won even if points are dropped. Then some other fans just see the first of these games – tonight, versus Hartlepool – as another game to be won, and on which just three points are at stake, with other forthcoming matches to also be taken one at a time. Whatever your position, it is vital, important, and key that Charlton make progress in these games, and what better way to start than to beat the Monkey Hangers tonight.

Hartlepool come into this match on the back of a 5-0 home thrashing by MK Dons, and plagued by defensive problems resulting from injury and suspension. If Charlton fail to take advantage of this then they only have themselves to blame. The ‘Pools will welcome back striker Behan, but will be considerably below full strength, especially at the back, where Hartley and Collins are likely to be missing. Prior to their home defeat on Saturday, ‘Pools beat Oldham early in the new year, but you have to go back to a 3-0 home win against Millwall at the start of December for their previous victory. They may well come with a very defensive outlook, hoping to scrape a result, but quite frankly, who can blame them?

Charlton, meanwhile, have benefited from the winter break by getting a couple of key players fit once more, and will go into tonights game with a strong squad. Frazer Richardson is now fit once more, and I expect him to play tonight at right back after his half hour cameo on Saturday at Wycombe where he looked back near his best. Christian Dailly also returned in that game after illness, and their experience will be crucial over coming months as the team look to keep clean sheets. With Deon Burton having served his suspension, and the loan situation (with Dave Mooney in and Izale McLeod out, plus Chris Dickson back) now settled for a while, things are looking good.

The issues that manager Phil Parkinson will have to deal with are the minor injuries picked up on Saturday that could influence his team selection tonight. Goalkeeper Rob Elliot was limping near the end of Saturdays match, and Grant Basey was named as having a groin issue (is this still a result of him being kicked there at Stockport over a month ago?), so they could both be doubtful. Nicky Bailey also received treatment on the field on Saturday, but that happens nearly every match and it does seem that it would take quite a lot for our skipper to miss a match.

If Basey is out, then the left back slot is open bearing in mind that Kelly Youga is still some way from fitness; with Jack Clark out on loan, I would not be surprised to see Elliot Omozusi switched to the left side, and Richardson brought in, with Chris Solly acting as cover from the bench. Darren Randolph will cover the goalkeeping position if need be.

Then it is just a choice of tactics to decide on, and that in itself is something Parky will reflect on I think. On Saturday, he chose to mirror Wycombe’s own diamond midfield formation by playing Jonjo Shelvey centrally, with Lloyd Sam, to be fair, and Bailey tucked in. This worked to some degree (as Shelvey scored the opening goal) but did leave Basey horribly exposed for the first twenty minutes while responsibility was agreed on who should mark the right back when he came forward. Once Bailey took this on, the team looked much better, but Parky still chose to switch back to a more orthodox 4-4-2 at half-time. Tonight, it will be interesting to see how Parky lines them up – will Shelvey retain his place over Scott Wagstaff, who offers more width? Will the diamond be back with Shelvey playing behind the front two, or will we see that 4-4-2 again? I would not be surprised to see the team experiment (a little) with Shelvey pushed right forwards, and with Sam, Bailey and Semedo controlling the middle of the park. I also think that if the match isn’t going to plan, then we may well see Semedo sacrificed at some stage to offer more attacking threat.

This is the side I expect Parky to pick to start tonight’s game –

Rob Elliot
Frazer Richardson
Miguel Llera
Christian Dailly
Elliot Omozusi
Jose Semedo
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Jonjo Shelvey
Dave Mooney
Deon Burton

Subs from – Randolph, Solly, Basey, Mambo, Spring, Sinclair, Racon, Wagstaff, Dickson, McKenzie, Tuna.

Pedro45 is confident that the teams 10-game unbeaten run will continue tonight, and is forecasting a 2-0 win, but he does wish that we had the where-with-all and firepower to win games at a canter rather than apparently scrape home by the odd goal in every match. It would be lovely to see the board go up indicating the amount of injury time to be played not worrying that if the other team score then it will be points dropped. Hopefully, we will be in that position tonight.

My one-to-watch tonight is going to be Dave Mooney. The on-loan striker has his critics, but I have to say I am a fan. He runs all day, and Charlton lack any other channel runner that offers us something different. While he is not going to be the consistent goal-scorer that some crave, he does create a load of chances for others simply because of his work ethic and the fact that he offers an outlet when things are tight. When he gets the ball, he brings others into the game, and it is from them that the direct shots on goal or crosses generally come. His pace is good, and will get better as he recovers from his knee injury, and I fancy him to get back onto the score sheet tonight.

Is it key, important or vital that Charlton win tonight? Only time will tell, but if they do, and I expect them to, then that can only take some pressure off the Addicks for the next two games yet switch that pressure over to Norwich (who we could be level with tonight), and Leeds, who we could (dream on) conceivably overtake by Monday.

Come on you Reds!

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