Friday, April 09, 2010

Old Sores and Old Scores

The last six games of the season for Charlton are hardly going to be easy, and with five teams battling it out in the chase to be runners up (yes, Huddersfield could come through on the ropes should everyone else trip over themselves…and I think Colchester have blown it!) behind Norwich, anything could happen and probably will.

The first of these must-win games, is away at Southampton. Last season, a win in the sun in April was a real boost to Charlton’s ultimately tarnished hopes of staying in the Championship. Goals from Jonjo Shelvey, Therry Racon, and Nicky Bailey gave the traveling faithful plenty to sing and shout about, and a repeat (with the same scorers?) would be fine by me! Last years game saw manager Phil Parkinson in a contretemps with the then Saints boss, and this year the match has added oomph due to our ex-manager Alan Pardew now being in charge at St Mary’s. I doubt that Parky and big nose will come to blows off the pitch (if you look at the video he did back off from old man Wenger pretty quick when confronted a few years back…), but there is little love lost between the pair these days I suspect. Pardew was the first manager to take a point from Charlton this season, spoiling the 100% record with a 1-1 Valley draw back in September, and he will have that smug look on his face once more if he can prevent Charlton winning this match, thus hurting any promotion prospects.

Pardew has the most potent forward line in the league to call upon, having signed Ricky Lambert and Lee Barnard since the start of the season, and both have over twenty league goals to their name this season. Barnard scored most (16) of his for Southend before his move (seven goals since), while Lambert got one for Bristol Rovers before he was lured by the Pardew promise/pound. Lambert did score the best league one goal of the season a few weeks back, taking a punt by the ‘keeper on his chest before lashing a volley home from 45 yards. It was a fantastic goal in any league, and shows how much the player (with 25 league goals in total) needs to be respected. Valley scorer Adam Lalana also needs to be watched closely, and the Saints also have a brand new addition in central defence since we played them in Jose Fonte and in midfield where one time Addicks target Jason Puncheon pulls the strings. On paper, they look like a pretty good team…

Charlton have a pretty good team on paper too, but the issue Parky has is getting them to play well together; mind you, that was Pardew’s problem too! After two successive 1-0 wins, it is unlikely that Parky will make too many changes, and certainly Darren Randolph will continue in goal, while the defence will be Frazer Richardson, Christian Dailly, Sam Sodje, and Gary Borrowdale barring any injuries.

Where Parky may think about changing things is in midfield, and up front. The two games in three days over Easter saw him shuffle his forward pack, and the issue really is now whether he goes with 4-4-2 or 4-5-1. With the latter, Shelvey will support the lone striker (probably Nicky Forster), but if he decides to start with two strikers, then Dave Mooney will probably be chosen ahead of Akpo Sodje (or Deon Burton, if he is fit again) to partner Forster. Sodje looked like a bull in a china shop when he came on as sub last Monday, and he really does look like a player desperate for game time; we should remember that his contract for next season is dependant on minutes played in the latter part of this season, so it’s no surprise that he is keen to be playing from the start. Hopefully, this will lead to goals when he is on the pitch, as that is the only guarantee of more game time, with so many forward options now available.

In midfield, Racon returns to the scene of his sublime goal last April, and Jose Semedo to the scene of his first half sending off a couple of years back. Our Portu-geezer will have to be careful, as a tenth booking of the season in this game will see him incur a suspension (3-games?) and we don't want to lose him when he is doing so well. Then we have Parky’s conundrum – who to play on the wings? With captain Nicky Bailey fit again, should he come into the side, or should he start on the subs bench as he did in midweek? With Lloyd Sam and Kyel Reid both looking dangerous but without any end product, this is a tough call. I would like to suggest that if Parky plays 4-5-1, then the two wingers start, but I think if he goes 4-4-2, then Reid may be harshly benched and Bailey will start on the left. But that's my choice, and Parky may think differently...

This is the side I expect Parky to send out at St Mary’s –

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

Subs from – Warner, Solly, Llera, Fry, Spring, Bailey, Wagstaff, Akpo Sodje, Burton, Tuna.

Pedro45 is not making the journey to the south coast this year, and will be tuned into the radio hoping for a result. Sadly, I do think that the managers may cancel each other out, but I’m hoping that the upturn in recent form can see Charlton escape with a draw – I forecast a 1-1 result.

My one-to-watch in this game is, after all the recent tribulations and what happened here last season, manager Phil Parkinson. Parky was number two to Pardew for quite some time, and he has struggled to do well when returning to teams he has been associated in the past (think Colchester…). Here, his mentor will be his usual cocky self I’m sure, but not if Parky can get his team to play. From the depths of home defeats to Orient to assured clean sheets last weekend is a great improvement, and if that upward curve can be maintained, then another vital point (or three) can be won. What we mustn’t see is the chin lowered to his chest, and the collar getting higher, hiding his face as much as he can, because if we do, then that means we are losing, and his body language shows we won’t come back.

With six games to go, five teams will battle to be runners up to Norwich. It could be us you know…and Saturday’s game will go some way to telling us if it might be.

Up the Addicks!

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The team selection for tomorrow will be interesting. My guess is that if he is fit (and he looked it on Monday) Bailey will play, probably instead of Reid. Who might play upfront is more difficult. Forster and Mooney may be a good shout, but if Burton is fit Parky may be tempted to go with experience and pair him with Forster.
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Cheers mate
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