Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Staggering...

The season staggers onwards, with Charlton not knowing whether to look up or down. The league is very tight, still, even after 11 games, and a couple of wins would take the club right back to near the top of the table, while a couple of defeats would leave us perilously close to the relegation zone. Nearly every club seems capable of beating one another, with Hartlepool’s win over Peterborough being the latest in along line of results that you just wouldn’t expect. Recent bottom clubs Brentford, Dagenham, and Tranmere have all had decent results recently and are no push-overs in the way that tailed-off Stockport were last season.

The last few weeks have seen Charlton win some, lose some, and draw a couple too. Stuttering performances in the main, with some very good halves (like the second half at Plymouth) and also some very poor halves (like the first half at Brentford). It is strange that the team seem incapable of putting in a decent 90 minutes, but at least we are getting a bit of consistency over three-quarters of the game these days.

The latest issue seems to be conceding goals early in games, as we have done versus Brentford, MK Dons and Plymouth. Why this happens is anyone’s business, and you cannot account for some of the poor defending that we have seen in the early stages of these games. It doesn’t matter if it is the first corner (or long-throw) of the game, or one coming in the 89th minute - players have to be picked up and marked tightly, and training should ensure that every player knows his particular job at every set-piece coming into and throughout the game. Charlton’s defence, on paper, looks pretty good and solid, but too many times individual errors are creeping in to hurt the side, and this has got to stop.

At least the team has a more settled look to it these days, and Parky seems at last to know pretty much what his preferred starting eleven will be from week to week. A lot of the new players have had time to settle in now, and we can all see if they are “doing it” or not. In some ways, the injuries to Rob Elliot, Christian Dailly, Alan McCormack, Pawel Abbottt and Joe Anyinsah may have helped clarify matters a little as at least that has given others a run in their place, and we now know who can cut it and who is a weak link.

Ross Worner has proved an able deputy in goal during Elliot’s enforced lay-off, and what the loanee Luke Daniels thought of his signing and not playing is anyone’s guess! It has been great to see Jonathan Fortune (left) back in the side, and he does look very good most of the time. The old issues with his pace and concentration are still there, but less likely to be shown up in this league than in a Premiership game. Therry Racon has had a run in the team, and while he hasn’t let the side down, he hasn’t really been the hard-working but creative influence that the side needs. When the wingers are doing the business, this isn’t as much of an issue, but when they are closely marked, or not playing well, this does show up, and longer term needs addressing. The forward line has seen so many permutations this season it is hard to know if we have finally found the right partnership. We do now have a preferred pairing though, with Abbot and Paul Benson seeming to be the ones favoured. Some still think Abbott is a show-pony, but he is proven in this league, while Benson still seems to me to do little in the majority of the game, but at least he has poked in three goals in the last month. When it was Derek Hales wandering around, doing little but scoring we were all happy, so maybe I can offer Benson (top pic)some slack, but I still maintain that he isn’t pulling his weight, and when the side are playing most of the game with ten players, it is tough to create a goal for anyone let alone an eleventh man. If he gets 20-goals this season, we’ll be happy I’m sure, but anything less will be seen as a failure I think, simply as any less from forty games will not take us into the play-offs.

At least we have good spirit, and a squad in size that looks able to cope; most squads losing five players of the calibre shown above would struggle, so it’s no surprise to see Charlton failing to run away with games during the last few weeks, whoever the opposition.

Looking ahead, after a run of games against teams that you would have liked to think Charlton could all have beaten, we come to a run of games against teams that have started the season relatively well. Carlisle and Sheffield Wednesday await as do the inconsistent but dangerous Swindon, but this week it is table-toppers Brighton who come to The Valley.

I have a good friend who works for Brighton as a youth team coach, and many youngsters he has worked with and brought on over the last few years are now in and around the first team squad. He doesn’t get on all that well with manager Gus Poyet (whose own son plays for Charlton’s youth team funnily enough), but then I suppose in his role he would always prefer to see one of his lads playing in the team than money being spent on someone brought in from elsewhere. Poyet was good fun at The Valley last season (when Brighton won 2-1), but sadly I’ll miss this home game (and the Wednesday one too) as I feel it’s about time I was laying on a beach somewhere.

Brighton will arrive backed by a full to capacity Jimmy Seed stand, and full of confidence too I suspect. They haven’t scored that many goals this season (just fifteen goals in eleven games), but they don’t concede all that many either (only eight), and a tight, solid, hard-working and close-knit side seems to be their strength. They will come looking for three points I suggest, and hope to turn The Valley crowd against the home team by closing the game down, and looking to frustrate the Addicks. We need to maintain our vocal support all game here lads!

I’m sure Phil Parkinson knows all this, and it is up to him to try to come up with a plan to counter these tactics, something he’s not great at looking at recent form. One thing that Phil does that always gets my goat is to always build up the opposition, often into something they aren’t. You can understand him saying that Brighton are a good team, strong, and with good players, as that comes with the territory of being top of the league, but Parky seems to make out that every team we face in this league is a good side, and capable of hurting Charlton if we don’t play at our maximum. While understanding that bottom of the table Brentford, Dagenham, and Tranmere (as they all were when Charlton faced them recently) are capable of damaging Charlton’s chances if we play badly, you don’t have to worry and/or warn your own side that they can beat you if you play sensibly, to tactics, and to win.

I do hope that Parky stops doing other side team-talks for them soon!

One positive sign from this season is that we have actually won a couple of cup games, albeit in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. We did reach the same stage last year (the quarter final of the southern section), but that was after just one win; this season, we have had two (as we didn’t get a bye on the first round this season) so that is an improvement. In fact, last season in the three cup competitions, we only won one game (out of four), so two wins out of three so far this year is a fantastic achievement. A game away at Southend beckons, and as this match is unlikely to be televised (like the MK Dons one was) we may see a better Addicks following. Just four games from Wembley – getting excited yet? Then we’ll be into the first round of the FA Cup, so we could be on a cup roll…

I suppose Charlton will look to be happy with a point come late Saturday afternoon, though a win would congest this league table even more. Maybe the poor results against lower league teams will counter a run of good results against teams higher up the table? Last season, Charlton struggled to beat any of the other play-off bound sides, and if early season form is anything to go by, these are the teams that the next few games will bring in opposition. A tense few weeks therefore and one that will probably define our season’s expectations Pedro45 suggests.

Come on you reds!

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Comments:
Hi. Sorry for posting this here but I couldn't find any contact details.

Could you ping me a quick email to ian #at earlybath #dot co.uk when you get a minute.

Thanks v much.
 
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