Friday, May 07, 2010

Two, Four or Six?

I guess it’s fitting that Charlton’s last league game of the season comes at a venue with cricket connotations in its name – Boundary Park. In May, we are well and truly into the leather and willow season, and I’ve been up to this ground for the final season rites once before, some years back. That game, if not the result (a 1-0 defeat), brings back happy memories, as stepping off our luxurious coach, two Oldham fans wandered across the car park and handed me and another fan spare season tickets to use, knowing that we would cause no trouble sat in the main stand with home fans for company. A lovely gesture and much appreciated.

Oldham have made another nice gesture this season, though for financial reasons, in offering Charlton pretty much as many seats in the ground as they thought they could sell. As it is, just over a thousand Addicks supporters will make the journey north hoping that other results go our way. Just for the record, if Leeds lose to Bristol Rovers, and Millwall and Swindon draw their game together, and if Charlton win, then it is the Addicks who will be promoted; all three results must happen like that otherwise someone else will go up.

The important thing then from Charlton’s perspective is that they try to win this game, as for us to not win, and then to see the other results fall our way would be heartbreaking. Manager Phil Parkinson will be trying to keep the players minds focussed on the task at hand, leaving the crowd to worry about scores from elsewhere. And the fans can help in this scenario as even if Leeds do take the lead, it is important that a negative vibe from the terraces doesn’t permeate the mood and transfer to the players; it is still important that Charlton win, in order to secure home advantage in the second game of any play-off tie.

Parky will be putting out pretty much the same side, I suspect, in order to secure that advantage unless there are any injuries to worry about. He would like to be able to rest one or two key players, I am sure, but with the greatest prize still available, he cannot do that.

Darren Randolph (top) will start in goal, with Rob Elliot as back-up on the bench. Randolph is on top form, and has made a couple of very good saves in both of the last two games. When we consider that he has conceded just five goals in seven and a half games since coming into the side (when Elliot was injured versus Gillingham), it shows what an astonishing record he has when compared to what went on in the few games prior to that.

The settled defence obviously helps the goals against record too, and I do think that with both full backs now fit and delivering in both attack and defence, we look a very good team once more. Centrally, Christian Dailly, Sam Sodje, and, when required, Miguel Llera have all used their vast experience to very good effect, and the incumbent two have a very solid partnership at present. The only doubt is in Sam Sodje’s combative nature, plus the fact that his knee-knack could give way at any time. We can deal with injuries but what the club does not need is to suffer any suspensions at this stage, and anyone who does get sent off only has themselves to blame. Sodje the centre back must be a bit careful where he places his feet when jumping, as for the last two weeks he has seen his leading foot trail down the back of the forward in front of him. While he got away with it at Exeter (with a foul that saw the end of Corr’s participation in the match), he was lucky against Leeds that his first foul wasn’t seen properly and that his second merely got a yellow card – it could have been red.

Up front, Nicky Forster and Deon Burton also have a stack of experience, and goals, from their combined 38 years in the professional game. Neither is that quick, and the partnership hasn’t really clicked yet, but the threat they both pose is there, and with able and willing reserves, they do work hard leaving the dregs to the younger legs later on.

The midfield is also pretty experienced, and with Jose Semedo at his imposing best and Lloyd Sam once more starting to terrorise defenders into mistakes, the team is strong in all the right places. Nicky Bailey hasn’t scored for some time, and I for one would prefer to see him start in central midfield (with Kyel Reid on the left wing) where he has more chance to get forward, but I suspect that our captain will find himself out of position (at least at the start of this game) with Therry Racon given another game in which to make a mark. Racon has, for several weeks now, seen most games pass over his head, as the frenetic nature of matches at this time of the season sees defenders hoof the ball as high and as far as they can, bypassing the midfield. Given time and space, Racon has been able to show what a good player he can be, but one goal all season is just not enough, and that is why I would prefer the greater goal threat of Reid.

This is the side I expect Parky to send out in the last League game of the season –

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

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

The Oldham players have nothing much to play for other than pride, and the possibility of a contract for next year. Safe from relegation after a solid run of results either side of Easter, the Club’s board have now sacked Dave Penney as manager, with Martin Gray taking over on a temporary basis. Gray’s first game was a 3-0 reverse at Yeovil last week, amid talk of it being difficult to motivate players this close to the season’s end. I’m sure that he will be hoping for a reaction after that loss, but it could be that if Charlton get ahead, an easy victory could be gained. Let’s hope so. Players to watch are Oldham’s player of the season Sean Gregan, who did so much to stop Charlton scoring at The Valley in the reverse fixture, and striker Pawel Abbott, who has 13 goals this season.

Pedro45 thinks that the sequence of results required for automatic promotion (and second place) is just not going to happen, sadly; and that leaves the club knowing that a win will get fourth place, while a draw or defeat could well mean sixth place in the final league table. I am concerned that the team will know, from the crowd, that other teams are winning, and that may have an effect on our performance, leaving the club with a 1-1 draw. This may mean sixth place, but that’s better than seventh!

My one-to-watch in this last away league game is going to be Charlton’s player of the season, Christian Dailly. The Scotsman has been simply outstanding over recent matches, and his will to win is undeniable. What he lacks in pace he more than makes up with experience, and he should have enough to shackle the Oldham forwards in this match. Dailly scored Charlton’s first goal of the league season, and it would not surprise me to see him score the last either.

The last league game of the previous two seasons has seen big wins for the Addicks (4-1, and 4-2); although I want Charlton with this game easily, I would prefer our four goal salvo to come at Wembley, should we get there. We all know what happened last time we played in that borough!

Come on you reds!

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