Thursday, January 14, 2010

Third Time Lucky...

It does seem that finally, two weeks into the new decade, Charlton will finally get to play a game in 2010; the snow is finally melting (for now), and all roads in and around Adams Park in High Wycombe seem accessible. The pitch is also in fine fettle it seems, thanks to under-soil heating, and the game is set to go ahead on Saturday! The onus now is to make it a winning start and try to head back up the league table and put pressure on those above us.

The reversal of the opening day of the season fixtures gives the Addicks the opportunity to do the double over Wycombe, as our season got off to a nervy 3-2 victory way back in sunny August. A repeat of the result, if not the score line would be a good thing, as Charlton have failed to win any over their last three games, albeit that they were all drawn. Pessimists could point to the fact that you have to go back to mid-December, a whole month ago, to find the last Charlton win in the record books (over Stockport, away), but that would be missing a whole series of games that swung one way and then the other. It would also miss out the fact that it was November when Charlton last tasted league defeat... Charlton’s last match, at Brentford, was one which looked like it could be won, but then the visitors fell behind and were saved, somewhat, by a penalty award midway through the second half. The team selected was shorn of several first team regulars, through injury, illness, and suspension, and I expect the side sent out in Buckinghamshire on Saturday to be quite different in nature. In fact, that last game was so long ago that any form or tactics used is pretty much null and void now, so long is it since the Addicks played a match!

In goal on Saturday, we can expect Rob Elliot to continue; Rob is undoubtedly one of the better and most consistent goalkeepers in this division, but that’s not to say he is complete or without weakness. Sometimes his decision making lets him down, but he is capable of making a game turning save just when you need it. Sadly, his consistency has placed a question mark over the Charlton career of back-up Darren Randolph, and he may well be heading for pastures new soon, simply for the reason that he cannot dislodge the current Charlton incumbent custodian. With only youngster Jack Binks as a further reserve, Phil Parkinson may well have to dip into the ever-growing pool of non-contract players and find an experienced reserve to sit on the Charlton bench for the remainder of this season (unless he thinks Binks is good enough?).

At Brentford, you could say that Charlton had their complete reserve defence on show; this was due to injuries and illness accounting for Frazer Richardson, Kelly Youga, and Christian Dailly, while Sam Sodje was suspended. Dailly will definitely be back on Saturday, but Youga is still out, and I doubt that Richardson is quite ready yet either. I therefore expect Elliot Omozusi (who’s loan has been extended until the end of January), Miguel Llera, and Grant Basey to continue to deputise.

The midfield area will be bolstered by the return of Jose Semedo, moved upfield after a brief return to the defence, and he will sit behind captain Nicky Bailey providing cover for him to forage forwards. Bailey is a revelation when he is in the mood, and I hope that nobody has started to turn his head in this transfer window, as Charlton can ill-afford to lose a player of his capability. Lloyd Sam is likely to play on the right wing, provided there is no foundation to rumours of him being wanted by Middlesbrough, while Scott Wagstaff may be unlucky if he does not continue on the left of midfield. Alternatives are Jonjo Shelvey, who did well as substitute at Brentford in place of an off-colour Wagstaff, and Therry Racon, who has expressed a disinclination to play out on the wing for Charlton. Matt Spring is also likely to miss out on a starting spot.

That leaves the strikers, and they will definitely be changed from the Brentford game. Top scorer Deon Burton is sure to return, and with Akpo Sodje now back at Sheffield Wednesday, it could well be that Chris Dickson retains his starting place. Although Dave Mooney has been taken on loan for the remainder of the season, I am unsure if he is yet fit enough to reclaim his own starting position, and that leaves (with Izale McLeod now out of the picture at Peterboro) just Leon McKenzie of the senior professionals as cover. With McKenzie’s own injury problems lurking, I suspect that Dickson will start, with McKenzie on the bench.

This is the side I expect Parky to send out to beat Wycombe –

Rob Elliot
Elliot Omozusi
Grant Basey
Miguel Llera
Christian Dailly
Jose Semedo
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Scott Wagstaff
Deon Burton
Chris Dickson

Subs from – Randolph, Binks, Richardson, Solly, Moutaouakil, Mambo, Spring, Racon, Shelvey, Sinclair, McKenzie, Mooney, Tuna, Perkins.

Wycombe come into the game having played twice in 2010 already, and they will complete a triumvirate of games this year against the top three sides in the league when the Addicks visit on Saturday. A close defeat to Norwich two weeks ago was followed by a fine draw at Elland Road last weekend in a game many thought they would get thrashed in. To concede just two goals in those two games shows that the defence is possibly the strongest area of the Wycombe team just now, so manager Gary Waddock has signed a striker (Alex Revell from Southend) in the hope of scoring a few at the other end. Jon-Paul Pittman, who scored the equaliser at Leeds last week, is the current top scorer (with 8 goals this season), while the lumbering Matt Harrold has seven. Whatever their form though, they are still in severe relegation trouble, and anything less than an Addicks win will be seen as a shock in most quarters.

Pedro45 has to forecast a win, and I’ll go by the score of 1-0 this week; the rest, if it can be called that, which the players have had should have done them some good, and if they can quickly get into their rhythm once more, then they should be too strong for the home team. It will not be easy, and I would love Charlton to win a game comfortably at some stage, as far too many games seem to be going down to the wire over recent weeks.

My one-to-watch this week is going to be Deon Burton (left). Sent off, stupidly, on his last appearance, he now owes Charlton (both fans and management) a good performance to make up for the two lost points he accounted for in his last match (against Swindon). We know he is fit (despite a hernia and recent dead leg), and the two weeks off should have helped his body quite a bit; hopefully their resurgence will return the winning goal!

Charlton have seen their position in the automatic promotion positions usurped by Norwich this year, and I’m sure everybody connected with the club would prefer us to be looking down on them rather than the other way around. With Norwich likely to have a tough game at fourth placed Colchester, and wanting to avenge their opening day 7-1 thrashing, this is a week when Charlton can take advantage. We just have to make sure that the support, tactics, personnel, and commitment are right and then we should be OK.

Up the Addicks!

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