Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ex Marks the Spot

Much has been made of forthcoming fixtures, and recent results, but as far as this blog is concerned, Charlton are now in the end-of-season play-offs. Mathematically, the Addicks still require at least one point to ensure participation in the five-game lottery, but that has to pre-suppose that the chasing pack will win all of their games. While Southampton might do that, I don't think Colchester will, and even if they did, I doubt that Charlton, even Charlton, could conspire to lose their last three games. So that means we all have some extra footie to watch this May.

Mind you, should Charlton win their last three games then we may not in fact have those additional two games at least; nine more points from this topsy-turvy season could just be enough to usurp both Millwall and Leeds (not to mention Swindon) into second place, though being a realist, I doubt very much that will happen either. I think it much more likely that Charlton will go unbeaten, but not win all their games, and therefore have to play those dreaded extra games where the whole season’s fate is decided by individual mistakes, nerves, and dodgy referees.

That’s for the future though, as this weekend, Charlton take the scenic route down the A303 all the way to Exeter. I quite like the A303, as my father now lives just off it near Mere, and my in-laws live about 25 miles (and minutes) further on in Somerset. That makes it handy when sorting out Xmas and visits at other times of the year, though this time I’ll be on the train to Devon, and missing out on seeing the various relatives (not least because my dad is in Uzbekistan!).

Exeter are one of those nice clubs that you have a soft spot for, probably because you never saw them as a threat. Sure, we came up against them in the FA Cup a few years back, but that was (supposed) giants against minnows; now we are in the same division, and they have as much chance of beating us as we do them.

I’ve been to St James Park, the Exeter version, a couple of times; in 1986 we played them in a pre-season friendly (won 2-0), but the last league game was in 1980, when a Tony Kellow hat-trick saw Charlton off in a 4-3 defeat. I have vague recollections about the day – meeting some members of my cricket team, one of whom was at college in the city, and then walking around the ground at half-time to get a view from behind the goal at one end – but I do remember the last goal, scored right near the end which ended the Addicks resistance. Charlton ended up that season being promoted, so maybe that’s an omen? The game at Then Valley this season saw Charlton coast to a 2-1 victory, even though another late goal was conceded.

Exeter need the points as they are sitting rather too uncomfortably near the bottom four relegation places, so they should be up for it, but they will be without Dunne (suspended), Stansfield (injured), and Fleetwood (loan arrangement), so will be below strength. Ex-England international Marcus Stewart is possibly the only current player well known outside the lower leagues but he also went off at half-time last week, though that may have been tactical following Dunne’s red card.

Manager Phil Parkinson would love to be able to pick the same side that performed well last weekend against league leaders Norwich, despite the result, but that may not prove possible. Akpo Sodje didn’t last until half-time, but despite suggestions that his hamstring injury is not as bad as expected, I doubt he will make the starting line up. Nicky Bailey also went off injured during the second half, and he is another who is apparently desperate to play, but I wonder if he may be held back (possibly as a substitute?) in order to ensure he is fit for the bigger games against Leeds the following week and the eventual play-offs.

Sam Sodje came through the game last week despite his being doubtful, and on quite a few occasions Parky has talked about players not being fit enough on a Wednesday but they still turn out and perform (or not as may be) on the weekend. Maybe the chat about injuries to the Sodje’s and Bailey is tactical?

So if we presume that the goalkeeper (Darren Randolph) and defence (Frazer Richardson, Sam Sodje, Christian Dailly, and Gary Borrowdale) will be unchanged, and that Jose Semedo and Therry Racon will provide the engine room of the team in midfield, and that Lloyd Sam will continue to play as we know he can, and that Nicky Forster is guaranteed a starting spot, who will come in if Bailey and Akpo are out?

The decision over the striker is possibly quite straight-forward; Deon Burton, just back from injury himself, replaced the younger brother last Saturday, and after a full week’s training, he should be OK to start. His bench spot will go to Dave Mooney, who must have felt pretty sick to have been left out completely against his former team last week.

If Bailey fails to recover from his shoulder problem, then the choice is between left winger Kyel Reid, wide man Scott Wagstaff, or maverick Jonjo Shelvey. Bearing in mind that playing either Wagstaff or Shelvey wide left this season hasn’t always worked, I suspect that Reid will be brought in, with options on the bench should he have one of his quieter games or more defensive duty be required.

This is the side I expect Parky to put out in Devon –

Darren Randolph
Frazer Richardson
Sam Sodje
Christian Dailly
Gary Borrowdale
Jose Semedo
Therry Racon
Lloyd Sam
Kyel Reid
Deon Burton
Nicky Forster

Subs from – Elliot, Warner, Solly, Llera, Spring, Wagstaff, Shelvey, Mooney, Bailey, Akpo Sodje, McKenzie, Tuna.

Pedro45 wants Charlton to win this game, but as with the last match, I would not be surprised to see them struggle, knowing that a less than favourable result will not matter too much before seasons end. A win would keep the pressure on the other teams around us, but the likelihood of other results falling as nicely as they did last week (when Charlton failed to take advantage) is remote. I forecast a 1-1 draw that will satisfy both teams, but do little without other performances before seasons end.

My one-to-watch in this game is going to be Therry Racon (left). Our Guadeloupe international has been a little on the periphery over recent weeks, and he really needs to start showing his class if Charlton are to have any chance of getting out of this league this season. One goal is a very poor return from any midfielder over the course of a season, but the consolation strike in Bristol is all that Racon has to his name. The biggest mark Racon has made this season is visible in the home dug-out at The Valley, courtesy of his boot after being substituted. He has made goals, but it is a while since we saw him twist and dummy his way to the bye-line and put over a telling cross that could be converted. Now is the time for Therry to re-discover his form and make a telling contribution; if he cannot, then he might as well go to the Caribbean and play for his island nation (as requested) rather than waste Addicks time in the play-offs.

Knowing Charlton, as we all do, there are more twists and turns to this season yet to come; they may turn up in the remaining league games, or those twists may wait until the play-offs. What all Charlton fans want is effort, commitment, skill and passion – we can take defeat (like last week). With that from the players, and backed by over a thousand Addickted, I doubt Charlton can lose this game, but then again, what do I know?

Up the Addicks!

Labels: , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Enter your email address below to subscribe to Charlton Athletic Online!

powered by Bloglet
Sports Business Directory - BTS Local
Custom Search