Monday, May 17, 2010

Last Chance Saloon

Just one goal behind, Charlton meet Swindon in the second leg of their League One play-off semi-final tonight, with the knowledge that the winners of this tie will be extending their season for another couple of weeks. That final game at Wembley is a tantalising carrot at the end of this season’s stick, and it will probably transpire that the team that wants it most will be the one to get the prize.

Friday nights game was, as they say, a game of two halves – the first a tactical and negative fair, with Swindon carving out but not taking chances against a lacklustre Charlton side, and the second much more open, with goals, both sides hitting the woodwork, and more chances going begging. 2-1 is not much of a lead, but a lead it is, and Swindon will be doing their utmost to first protect, then extend that lead tonight.

I’m sure that Danny Wilson will set Swindon up to play in much the same manner, particularly if his top scorer, Paynter, is still out injured. That tactic, of playing neat passes out wide and then getting good early ball into the box certainly caused Charlton’s rearguard some worries, and it is something that Phil Parkinson will be keen to combat. With Austin pulling away onto the full back as he awaited the cross, he was always going to win most aerial stuff, and Gary Borrowdale and Frazer Richardson need to be aware that this is what he is trying to do.

Parky, now at home, will have to change things up, and common consensus is that two areas need addressing. The first is that nobody can go into this game with any injury doubts hanging over them; Sam Sodje’s knee-knack has been getting worse and worse, and though he put in a fine effort on Friday, his lack of pace caused major concern, and I would therefore expect him to be replaced tonight by Miguel Llera. The second area of concern is another one that is well known, and that is the lack of goal threat. Of the team that turned out for the Addicks on Friday night, only Nicky Bailey and Deon Burton came anywhere near the Swindon goal, and in order to offer at least some hope of getting to Wembley I think that Kyel Reid and Nicky Forster have to start the match. This would mean sacrificing Therry Racon, though he has hardly been very influential over recent months, and also Dave Mooney, who has looked a better option as a late sub than when starting recently. Other than that, there is not a lot that Parky can do even with the plethora of available bodies he has currently at his disposal.

This is the team I expect Parky to pick to win the match -

Darren Randolph
Frazer Richardson
Miguel Llera
Christian Dailly
Gary Borrowdale
Jose Semedo
Nicky Bailey
Kyel Reid
Lloyd Sam
Deon Burton
Nicky Forster

Subs from – Elliot, Warner, Solly, Sam Sodje, Mambo, Fry, Spring, Stavrinou, Wagstaff, Racon, Mooney, Akpo Sodje, Fleetwood, Dickson, Tuna.

Pedro45 is a realist, and I do think that anything could happen tonight. If any one side takes charge, then the final score could be three or four nil, but then again it could turn out to be a negative and cagey goalless draw. If Parky picks an attacking side from the start, I think we have a chance, as Swindon wobbled under pressure on Friday, and they do have problems at full back that we didn’t exploit that night. However, my score forecast is a 1-1 draw, and misery for Addicks fans. I hope I am wrong, and in many ways it would not surprise me to see me beaming with smiles come 9.45 tonight, but I just don’t know. I do expect Swindon to score, but isn’t it about time Charlton hit the back of the net more than in other recent games? Yes, I think so too!
My one-to-watch in this match is no one player, but the whole Charlton team, as tonight is going to be a team effort, from the management to the players and then right through to the fans too! While one or two players can have mediocre games, the rest cannot, and they must all pull in the right positive direction. We need Darren Randolph to be at his best; the defence to use their experience to protect our goalie and provide impetus to the midfield and attack; we need the central players to dictate and dominate, for the wide men to attack and create; and for the strikers to stick that bloody little round thing in the back of the net! But that’s not all, we need the crowd, all of the Addicks supporting fans, to get behind the team AND STAY THERE! We need at least two goals – If Swindon score one it makes little difference - so let’s hang in there and keep on shouting for OUR boys, not against them.

In Charlton’s final home game of the previous two seasons, four goals have been scored by the Addicks, and it would be great to finish the season in SE7 with another four-goal haul. For that to happen, someone has to stand up and be counted, just like Deon Burton did last May; it may have been unexpected, but how we loved his hat-trick. Tonight, whatever the score, may well be the last game that some of these players have in a Charlton shirt at The Valley. Fourteen are out of contract next month, and the finances dictate that many will move on; for Lloyd Sam, Deon Burton, Christian Dailly, Therry Racon, and Darren Randolph amongst others, it could be their last chance to be Valley heroes. Our on-loan players – Dave Mooney, Nicky Forster, Akpo Sodje, Gary Borrowdale, and Kyel Reid - have the chance to be remembered or forgotten, depending what happens in the match tonight. Good performances could earn them the offer of a Charlton contract, and even the chance to play in the Championship, while a bad one will see them subbed and trudging back whence they came. Also, unless we win our next two games, the likelihood is that maybe Nicky Bailey and Frazer Richardson will need to be sold? It could be their farewell too, sadly. So a lot depends on tonight’s outcome; we cannot afford to leave anything in the dressing room!

I hate the play-offs, but I am willing to put up with one more game if the club insists!

In finishing, I include a small ditty that I remember singing way back in the seventies at several games, and on the train journeys to and from them; I don’t know who came up with the words, or why it never caught on, but I’ve never forgotten it, and tonight maybe it should be our mantra –

It’s Charlton for me,
It’s Charlton for me.
They play good football
They play it so cool,
They play it spot on,
And this year you’ll see
They’ll win promotion!

It’s pro-motion, promotion!
That we’re aiming for,
So come along Charlton
And give them a roar.
Supporters are here
To give you a cheer
So come on you Charlton
This year is your year!

Come on you Reds!

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