Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Piles of Pressure

There are crucial games, and then there are crucial games; tonight we have one of those. It’s not a must-win match (thankfully), but can easily be construed as a six-pointer – one of those matches that can see a swing of six points with one team moving well clear of the other or one team almost catching their opponents.

Colchester come to The Valley six points behind Charlton, with five games remaining in the season. Should Charlton prevail, then Colchester, nine points behind them, would have little chance of overtaking the Addicks in the play-off race with just four games left. But if the visitors take the points, that would see them only three points shy of Charlton, and with some tough games to come (not least against leaders Norwich on Saturday), the Essex team would think to themselves that they can finish above Charlton and secure themselves a chance of a Wembley trip.

Of course, Phil Parkinson and his managerial team will know all of this, as will the opposition; how to combat the circumstance and overcome the pressure that it brings will be foremost in their minds. In my opinion, the biggest obstacle could be The Valley crowd, which will become increasingly nervous I suspect should the game not be going in the right direction. I thought the fans ere very patient during the last home game – a 1-0 win over mid-table Carlisle – but the benefit of Sam Sodje’s first half goal may well have calmed nerves significantly. The last thing the team needs at present is for anyone to be boo-ing at half-time; the Charlton side play better when the fans are behind them, both individually and collectively, and support from the off in this vital game is of paramount importance.

Supporters must realize tonight though that Charlton do not have to win; a draw will maintain that six-point gap, and though it will be pressured over the coming fixtures that should be enough for the Addicks.

Colchester have to win it seems, and I am sure that they will set their side up to win all three points and turn the home crowd as early as they can. They were of course the first side to beat Charlton this season - in a game that Manuel Llera will want to forget - where an own goal and a loss of concentration saw Charlton two nil down before half-time, while one-time Addicks prodigy Kevin Lisbie made a third to rub salt into old wounds late in the second half. It was a poor performance from Charlton, who were out-muscled, out-fought, and outplayed for long periods of the match. It is just the sort of performance that Colchester will want to repeat tonight. At least the tactics employed will be no shock to Parky and his tactical team; Aidy Boothroyd has always been a long-ball merchant, and he will play the biggest and tallest of his squad at front (Platt) and back (Batth and Okuonghae) as usual complimented by some runners in-between. Lisbie is small and quick but very good in the air (don’t forget about covering his runs to the near post on corners!), while Wordsworth poetically writes the verses from dead ball kicks. Prutton runs all day, as does another ex-Addick Kemal Izzet, picking up loose balls and feeding others. Given the chance, the ball will consistently be booted high out of defence where Platt will try to head it on to make use of Lisbie’s pace. Lisbie will win as many throw-ins and corners as he can, whereby the defenders will trundle forward and hope to score. It’s a normal game plan for Boothroyd, so should come as no surprise to Parky or the Charlton team (hopefully).

For Charlton, there are no apparent new injury concerns though Sam Sodje did go down with his knee problem once more at the weekend. Sodje does have this recurring knee issue but after a minute or so’s treatment seems able to get up and complete the game. If he is not fit then Llera will come in at centre back (bar a complete re-shuffle). Now Jose Semedo has passed the last date for suspension for ten bookings, he will not have to worry about getting carded any more this season, so he will play. Once more the main issue that faces Parky is one of tactics, and whether to play with one or two forwards. Nicky Forster has done a sterling job as lone front man in three recent matches, but he has had few opportunities for glory himself, and until later on in games, neither has anyone else. I suggest that Parky may stick with just one up front tonight, though a much more positive outlook would be to get in front then switch back rather than have to chase the game later if it is all going pear-shaped. Should Parky choose two strikers, either Akpo Sodje or more likely Dave Mooney would partner Forster, and the midfielder left out would probably be either Lloyd Sam or Kyel Reid, both of whom had ineffective games at the weekend. This would allow Nicky Bailey to play on the left side of midfield, and return the central midfield of Therry Racon and Semedo which has done quite well recently.

This is the side I think Parky will start with tonight, though it’s not my choice…-

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

Subs from – Warner, Elliott, Solly, Llera, Fry, Spring, Wagstaff, Mooney, Akpo Sodje, Tuna, Burton, McKenzie.

This is one of those nights when it can all be so good or so bloody horrible. Pedro45 would love to be overly confident and predict a fine win, but that just doesn’t seem to be Charlton’s way (for ever and a day…). Too many (nine) of the Addicks (19) games since Xmas have been close affairs, with just one goal separating the sides, and that is discounting the seven draws in that time too! With that in mind, I am forecasting a 1-1 draw, and plenty of bitten fingernails too!

My one-to-watch tonight is going to be Lloyd Sam, who really owes the team a performance tonight. Sam had another abject game at Southampton by all accounts, and simply failed to get suitably involved. Wingers always receive stick from the crowd, simply because they are often close to the fans, but much of it is unwarranted. Sam has his critics (who complain of him cutting inside to often; his not taking on his man (!); his laid back style; and his yellow boots!), but he has oodles of skill, pace to burn when he chooses to use it, great crossing ability and a fine shot. What Lloyd doesn’t always have is self-confidence, and with the crowd on his back, his head simply drops. If Lloyd can get his head up, beat his man regularly and threaten the goal more often than he has since the turn of the year (his last goal was back in November for crying out loud!), then we will be fine and the crowd will warm to him – when Sam plays well, Charlton play well. His contract is up at the end of the season, and some discussions have apparently taken place about what might happen next year; being so laid back, Lloyd appears to not be bothered, but he should be, because he will get hurt on the pocket if his performances do not pick up mighty soon, and that might mean one less jacket or one less pair of shoes can be afforded on future shopping trips!

Charlton always do things the hard way, so it would be no surprise to see the team struggle tonight and make a complete pigs-ear of confirming the play-off place. A win takes them up to fourth place with dreams still intact. A defeat has us all looking over our shoulders and worried about the weekend – come on Charlton, make us smile tonight!

Come on you Reds!

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