Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Between the Lines

Charlton Athletic 2 Reading 1

I finally got to see my beloved boys in a game this season, and was rewarded with a battling victory on my birthday. It’s funny that while everyone was remarking on how many new players we had in the squad this season, by my reckoning some seven made their full debuts last night. Ben Hamer came into the goalkeepers slot, while Yado Mambo finally started a match at centre half, with Cedric Evina at left back. Danny Green played wide right, and Ruben Bover wide left, with Bradley Pritchard and Andy Hughes in centre midfield. Add to these the first full game for Jason Euell since he rejoined Charlton and it was an astonishing eleven to kick off with.

Suffice to say, the start was incredible, and with 200 seconds, I thought both teams could have scored three times each! Paul Benson was put through by Green’s long throw (which said something about Reading’s pre-match knowledge about him…) but blasted over, then Reading saw two very dangerous crosses turned away for corners, before Euell and Green both broke free but saw their shots blocked. Reading then saw a header cleared off the line, so it was pretty amazing that the scores remained deadlocked.

Charlton bossed midfield, with Pritchard and Bover full of running and Hughes all bustle and involvement but with two opposition wingers to manage, Simon Francis and Evina had their hands full and Francis did get beaten all too easily on occasions.

The first goal finally came when Benson nipped in on a loose ball, and poked toward goal, only for the ‘keeper to half save it and then see the ball trickle slowly over the line.

Well worth the lead, Charlton played some delightful stuff, with everyone seemingly keen on pushing for a first eleven starting place this Saturday.

Benson went off very early in the second half, with what looked like a dislocated finger, and Scott Wagstaff came on to play a striker support role. Green was hugely influential and came close to scoring, as did Wagstaff himself, and the two linked well down the right.

It was from that side that the second goal came, as Waggy and Green linked with Francis who put in a great cross for Euell to nod home amid much delight. It was Jason’s first goal since his return to the Addicks a couple of weeks ago.

More goals threatened, but would not come, and being Charlton, it was Reading who took advantage and reduced the arrears. Gary Doherty, whose lack of pace had been overcome as the game progressed, went off with a slight ankle problem, but his replacement - Michael Morrison – did not have time to settle before a corner was swung over and the ball was stabbed home high into the net off (I think) Hughes. This Charlton team do seem to have set-play issues, and further pressure came as the corner count increased. Church missed with one close range header when he should have scored, and Hamer had to be alert several times to keep his goal intact.

Bover ran himself into the ground and went off with five minutes left, and Chris Solly, his replacement allowed some easing of the pressure through cool play. The referee took some stick as he made some strange decisions and Chris Powell had to return to the dug out in order to save himself from punishment as he swore at the fourth official (for which he immediately apologised it has to be said) as the game climaxed. Charlton hung on, and now meet Preston next Tuesday.

I was very impressed with the overall fitness of the team, especially Pritchard and Bover who I did not think would have that strength yet. Mambo won many good headers against a very strong forward line, and Green played many delightful balls until he faded in the last ten minutes or so (when he seemed to be trying for the killer ball rather than just retaining possession). As for Euell, well, it just didn’t seem as if he’d ever been away!


Friday, August 19, 2011

The T in Charlton

Three out of three and another, on paper, winnable game for Charlton tomorrow, in what is turning out to be an excellent start to the new season. The midweek victory over Colchester was comfortable, after a superb first half display from the Addicks. Bradley Wright-Phillips weighed in with both goals, the first (left) after a quick break and an exchange of passes with Scott Wagstaff,. And the second turning in Johnnie Jackson’s cross after Paul Hayes flicked it on. Despite his best efforts, and he had a few, BWP couldn’t quite get that third goal he craved, but at least he is off the mark for the season now.

The defence was called into work for the second half, much as they were at Notts County, and we should, I suppose, expect some teams to come looking to kick us if we continue with a smart passing game. While previous Charlton teams may have shyed at such a physical confrontation, this team has much more resolve it seems, and stood successfully up once more to a minor battering.

Maybe that is the difference this year - we have a team, and not just a bunch of individuals?

Scunthorpe arrive at The Valley after a poor start to the season, with just two points from their three games so far, and do not look like they have the same bounce-backability that they had when last in this league. They will be hard to defeat, and may relish the chance to play someone whom they are not expected to beat – this will be no roll-over I suggest.

Two Charlton players will be coming up against former team-mates – Andy Hughes, who came on as sub on Tuesday making his debut, and Paul Hayes – and they will both want to play well I’m sure. Hughes time with The Iron was short, but Hayes made his name at the club, and provided a constant stream of goal-scoring opportunities for players like Martin Paterson without getting many plaudits. Hopefully Hayes can continue in that vein and provide BWP with more goals while stepping up and knocking a few in himself.

Charlton are likely to be unchanged once more, provided there are no injuries from the midweek game or from training, with Danny Green again on the bench, alongside Jason Euell, Gary Doherty, Hughes, and a sub ‘keeper.

The goalkeeper situation is the only one that may vary, as Newcastle have finally made known their offer to the Addicks for Robbie Elliot. Elliot may well therefore be playing his final game at The Valley for a while, and it will be great for him to play, and jump out of the tunnel after a victory, one last time. If he does go prior to the game, or if Chris Powell thinks that it may not be right to play him, then Ben Hamer could come in after injury, or John Sullivan may step up. Personally, I think if Elliot is around, then he should play – he is after all a Charlton fan, and he will want to do his best if it is to be his last game for the Addicks.

With just over a week to go during this transfer window, Powell has hinted that there could be quite a lot more movement, with Paul Benson and Simon Francis possibly surplus to requirements, and another striker to come in if Benson does go.

Pedro45 will once more be working and not able to attend the game, unless it rains like it did yesterday that is. It would be great to go into Tuesday’s Carling Cup game, and the first I will be able to see, unbeaten and on an extended winning run. Let’s hope so!

Come on you Reds!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

County Show

Two hurdles succesfully negotiated for Chris Powell (left) and his new squad, but another tough away fixture tonight at Colchester will test the team to the limits.

The win at Notts County on Saturday, which keeps the Addicks top of the table, was hard-fought, but once more Charlton played with style, and hit the home team on the break whenever they could. Scott Wagstaff opened the scoring after being put through down the right hand channel by Paul Hayes, and Hayes himself extended the lead just before half-time after Bradley Wright-Phillips crossed low for him to tap in. It was Hayes first goal for Charlton.

The team could have, and really should have, scored more but, despite County pulling one back from a set play, this Charlton held firm, and made it through to the end. In fact, so well did they defend the lead that the home side had to resort to rough house tactics, but still Charlton held. Powell has certainly changed things a bit from last season!

I was forced, once more, into looking at Twitter updates on the match, and as I was busier this Saturday than last, I had to keep checks to a minimum during my own match. Luckily tea coincides with half-time, so I was glued to Tweets during that period.

Tonight the team is away at Colchester, another game I am unable to attend, but hopefuly they will bring home all thee points once more. This will not be easy though, and it was only two years ago that Colchester burst the Addicks winning start to the season in emphatic fashion at the same venue. That night, Odejayi and Wordsworth were the brawn and brains behind the 3-0 win, and those same players will be trying for something similar tonight. Last season, the game was pretty much end-to-end with both sides coming close to winning the 3-3 draw. In fact, Paul Benson did score what looked like a fantastic winner only to have it strangely ruled out before getting himself sent off in injury time. He may not even feature tonight as Jason Euell looks like being the preferred substitute striker (how do you best balance having only five sub options?)

Without any news of injuries, we must presume that Charlton will remian unchanged again, even with Danny Green fit and raring to go after suspension. Keeping him out of the team so far has been goalscoring winger Scott Wagstaff, and Waggy has even said he might need to score in every game this season in order to retain his place. That would be fine with us fans, and even, I'm sure, with Ralph Allen and Derek Hales who currently hold the best goals in a season records for the Addicks.

A tough game then, but this is what the start ot the season was always going to be about. The season will have pitfalls, but let's hope they are not too deep and the Addicks spririt, guile and passion is enough to bring another win in Essex.

Come on you reds!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bourne Supremacy

Writing an update following Saturday's Charlton victory over Bournemouth has taken me some time, but that's no surprise when we see what else has been going on, all around the club. The riots, looting, wanton vandalism and sheer stupidness of the last few days is a sorry picture, and has somewhat taken the gloss off a fine display by the Addicks at the weekend. The obvious result of the madness was the postponement of the Carling Cup tie versus Reading, which would have been my first opportunity to see the team play this season. Sadly, that vision will have to wait a while longer, though at least I wasn't one of those that had planned flights so I could be at that game. Maybe if these numpties causing the trouble realised the waste that their actions caused, they might think again, but then what can you do with only two brain cells anyway? As somebody has said - It's easy to destroy something, but what have any of them created? What indeed!

Suffice to say that things were much quieter last night, in London at least, and various reasons are being put forward, one of which - that it's dificult to walk when you have two new right-footed trainers on - has some creedence. That, or the newly nicked TV or Playstation was taking time to set up...

Anyway, hopefully things will die down now and we can all get back to being normal Londoners and not have an embarassed look on our faces.

Back to the footie - Charlton won on Saturday courtesy of three goals: a first half finish from Dale Stephens after great work by Chris Solly; a classic 25-yard volley from Scott Wagstaff after Stephens set him up early in the second half; and a stroked penalty from Johnnie Jackson after Bradley Wright-Phillips was tripped.

Seven players made their debuts - Matt Taylor, Michael Morrison, Rhoy Wiggins, Stephens, Danny Hollands, Paul Hayes, and late substitute Bradley Pritchard - which equals the record I beleive. Possibly of more surprise was the inclusion of Robbie Elliot, but this may have been the result of a late injury to Ben Hamer rather than a change of heart by manager Chris Powell. I had to follow the match via Twitter due to being otherwise involved, but my heart was in the right place I can confirm, and I cheered every goal!

Tuesday's game would have seen Danny Green make his debut after suspension, and maybe given a chance to Andy Hughes, and some others too? With Jason Euell signing a new contract at the club today, the squad certainly has strength in depth. One of the five goalkeepers on the clubs books moved out on loan today - Nick Pope joining Harrow - and we can expect a few more departures, with Simon Francis, Conor Gough, and maybe Yado Mambo and Elliot possibly filing out of the car park before the end of August?

Saturday's game against Notts County has become a top-of-the-table clash, as they also won 3-0 on Saturday (at Carlisle), but it remains to be seen if they are any good or if it shows Carlisle to be particularly poor. I guess we'd be happy with a point though Paul Benson will no doubt want to prove something and bring home all three?

The early fixtures do look tough on paper, so we should not be surprised if any points are dropped, but the signs from the Bournemouth game are that we can be a force this year.

Up the Addicks!

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Up and At ‘Em

The squad rebuilt; fans optimism at a high; the players raring to go – don’t you just love the week before a new season starts!

But how will our Addicks fare this year? Is it back to the glory days, or more mid-table mediocrity waiting for the team to gel, or is it all doom and gloom and sack the manager time once more? Pedro45 gives his view on those teams Charlton will be coming up against…

It has to be an improvement this season, as the fans and owners will expect nothing less; Chris Powell just has to make it work, otherwise he can expect the same harsh boot that Phil Parkinson received last January.

Looking at the competition, and you can only do this on paper pre-season, Pedro45 thinks that there are six teams in with a viable shout for automatic promotion, and one of those is Charlton. With 15 new players signed, it might be that in some games the team look more comfortable than in others, but you would expect that. What we cannot have though, is all the excuses about the team taking time to gel, as that is what we had last year. Nobody expects a six-game winning streak at the start of a season, a fond memory from 2009/10, but neither do we want a repeat of a 13-game winless run as we had last year. A balanced start, with a strong finish is what would be nice, and I am confident that with the new players at his disposal, Powell is the man to lead the team to glory, even if they don’t quite make it up as Champions.

The other teams in with a promotion shout in my opinion are both Sheffield clubs – Wednesday and United, local rivals Huddersfield, plus Preston, and maybe surprisingly, MK Dons.

Sheffield Wednesday will be relying on Jose Semedo to do as great job in midfield for them as he did at The Valley for three seasons, and with David Prutton alongside, they will be strong in this area. They have an experienced manager – Gary Megson – but could suffer early anxiety if results don’t match that of near neighbours United in the early Autumn matches. Sheffield United will be hoping that their youngsters, who are pretty good if truth be told, can come to grips with the division; if they do, and can, then they might just about run away with the league, but if they can’t, and if the older hands brought in to help them struggle to adapt and gel (that word again..), then they may fade as Spring is sprung.

Huddersfield blew their best attempt at promotion when losing to Peterborough at Old Trafford in the play offs last May. They have retained the services of some of their better players (Jordan Rhodes for example) but have lost others, so a small amount of tinkering with their squad has been necessary. Lee Clark’s twitch may be more pronounced therefore as his side slip further away from the top of the table, but I still back them to make the play-offs, and they may be lucky in winning at Wembley this year.

MK Dons are a team that look pretty average, but if they had a genuine goal-threat, coupled with the usual solidity they have in midfield and defence, could make them strong. Sam Baldock has stayed with the club, but his problem is not talent, just fitness. If he plays 40-plus league games, then I think Dons will return to the play-offs, but otherwise, they may struggle to finish top half.

Preston have hard-man manager Phil Brown at their head, and keeping your team on the pitch at half-time at Deepdale on a cold Tuesday night is not much fun, so we can expect his team to be hard-working and strong. The have attacking talent (Hume, Mellor) and if they can stop shipping goals in the way they did while getting relegated last season and find some consistency they too may be right up with the top teams.

Of the rest, I don’t think relegated Scunthorpe have the attacking prowess that enabled them to bounce back to the Championship at the first time of asking two years ago, and last seasons other play off side Bournemouth have lost too many players to be much more than just above half-way this year.

Of the teams that had enjoyable seasons last year, Orient will be tough to crack if their team ethic is maintained, while Rochdale are like Bournemouth in that they have lost most of their management and better players in the summer. Both may flatter early on, but ultimately will fall short due to small squad strength.

Colchester look like a team in free-fall, now that the owner has not realised his required quick return from funding the new stadium, while Carlisle are too inconsistent, and Brentford’s bees have to fight over-expectation from having a former German international as manager, without sufficient resource.

Exeter and Yeovil may benefit in the short term from Plymouth and Bristol Rovers demise and pick up their better players, but they will have good days but average seasons I think.

Hartlepool and Notts County have both spoken about aiming for the top of the league, but only County have an outside chance, though with mad-dog Martin Allen in charge, anything is possible (including a poor season).

Oldham will hope Paul Dickov can unearth some team spirit and keep them up, while Tranmere and trainer/manager Les Parry will want to play a whole season like they did the second half of 2010/11 and not a whole season like they did in the first half of 2010/11! Walsall have changed much of their squad, and will be content to survive another year, if they can.

That just leaves the four promoted teams, and each have a chance to survive, but will struggle to get above half-way. Bury may find goalscoring a problem, Chesterfield will probably be the best footballing team of the four, while Stevenage and Wycombe will hope that their defences can keep enough clean sheets for them to win a few matches, though I think they are both in trouble.

This is how I think and hope to see the league table looking next May:

Sheffield Wednesday
Sheffield United
MK Dons
Notts County

Promotion party on hold then, but let’s keep our fingers crossed for a winning start to the year on Saturday!

Come on you Reds!


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Numbers Game

Not long after my blog about the Charlton squad last week, Chris Powell made two further signings – Ben Hamer, and Andy Hughes – and with the release of the squad numbers today, the first eleven seems ever clearer.

The full 2011/12 Charlton squad list:

1. Ben Hamer

2. Andy Hughes

3. Cedric Evina

4. Johnnie Jackson

5. Michael Morrison

6. Matt Taylor

7. Danny Green

8. Dale Stephens

9. Paul Hayes

10. Bradley Wright-Phillips

11. Scott Wagstaff

12. Gary Doherty

13. John Sullivan

14. Paul Benson

15. Yado Mambo

16. Rhoys Wiggins

18. Bradley Pritchard

19. Simon Francis

20. Chris Solly

21. Ruben Bover Izquierdo

22. Danny Hollands

23. Mikel Alonso

25. Ben Davisson

26. Tosan Popo

27. Freddie Warren

29. Conor Gough

30. Nick Pope

31. Jordan Cousins

32. Callum Harriott

33. Harry Osborne

44. Rob Elliot

Updating from last week, it now seems that Robbie Elliot is not going to be first choice ‘keeper, even though he has not given any personal inkling that he may be off to pastures new soon. With Hamer gaining his number 1 shirt though, maybe Robbie will ponder his options and the club will cash in on him. It will be a shame if he does leave, as it is always nice to have actual fans playing for the team (and when he kisses the shirt, you know he means it!). Similarly, with Hughes signed on a free transfer from Scunthorpe and given the number 2 shirt, we can expect him to usurp both Chris Solly and Simon Francis and make the right back slot his own. What Francis will do now I don’t know, but he surely cannot expect much game time having been ripped from his shirt number after turning down a move to Bournemouth.

My revised starting eleven for the match on Saturday, bearing in mind that Danny Green is suspended, is as follows:

Ben Hamer
Andy Hughes
Rhoys Wiggins
Michael Morrison
Matt Taylor
Scott Wagstaff
Dale Stephens
Danny Hollands
Johnnie Jackson
Paul Hayes
Bradley Wrght-Phillips

Subs – Sullivan, Evina, Doherty, Bover, Benson.

Come on you addicks!


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