Friday, 30 September 2011

The Big Match(es)

It's going to be an interesting day at the top of League One tomorrow.  Not only do we come up against Sheffield United, in what is both our biggest test of the season so far and a near impossible fixture to predict a result for, but all of the early season pace setters play each other in what should be one of the most exciting and influential weekends of this season.

Brentford (7th) play Huddersfield (9th), Early surprise package Hartlepool (4th) who along with us and Huddersfield are the only other team with an unbeaten record still intact entertain Sheffield Wednesday (8th) and Milton Keynes (5th) play Notts County (6th).

Preston North End, who don't have a game, will be watching with interest.  After this weekend they will be sitting with two games in hand over most of their rivals.

I'm sure the game will have more of a feel of a Championship encounter, both sides like to try and play flowing football and there should be a very good crowd and atmosphere at the game.

The Blades have had a pretty solid start to the season, but do seem perhaps to have a habit of slipping up on occasion, after being thrashed 3-0 at home by fellow Yorkshire side Huddersfield and beaten away at struggling Wycombe

Providing we keep our concentration, and Sir Chris has come up with a game plan, I think we do have the potential to pick up a point at Bramell Lane.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

What a difference a year makes!

After the Sheffield game we will virtually be a quarter of the way through this season.  I thought as we go into October it might be worth taking a comparative look at where we were at this time last season (after 10 games played).

We were six places off of Brighton in 8th place, also six points off of the leaders who were on 21 points.(Brighton had lost one and drawn three of their games by this stage).  By this time last season we had failed to win 60% of our games. Drawing 3 times and losing 3 times.

Brighton had scored 14 goals with a goal difference of +7 we had 12 goals with a rather ineffective goal difference of plus one!

Obviously as things stand this season we are top of the league currently. On 24 points, 9 more than we had yielded last season at this point. Still unbeaten, having only failed to win in three of our ten games played, having drawn against Sheffield Wednesday, Scunthorpe and Milton Keynes.

We've scored 21 goals, 50% more than Brighton had and nearly double than we'd managed previously. Our goal difference is +12 as opposed the eventual promotion winners +7.

Over the course of the entire 2010-2011 season the two automatically promoted teams both failed to win 39% of their games, Brighton averaging 2.06 points per game and Southampton 2. We are averaging 2.6 points per game.

Regardless of what happens up at Brammell Lane on Saturday I think this all makes encouraging and refreshing reading.

I appreciate there will be the odd wobble and shock along the way, but looking at the stats and consistency of play on the pitch I'm really beginning to believe this year it's all going to come good. Not like the 'blagged' great start we had in 2009-2010 (this season unlike then incidentally we are on more points and have also scored more goals) but through the merit of good management, disciplined and confident players, and a board willing to give the club decent backing.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Green and Kermorgant get their point across...

Milton Keynes 1 Charlton Athletic 1

I can only comment from what I listened to on the streaming Radio Kent commentary last night.  As suspected, Milton Keynes set themselves up to make it difficult for us to play our natural game, and from the sounds of it we were second best throughout the first half, with MK Dons going in 1-0 up at half time (all be it through the aid of a spot kick).

However, once again, the 'patient approach' that Sir Chris keeps mentioning paid dividends. (Coupled with I would guess a good half time team talk).

With Green coming on for Wagstaff in the 67th minute and Kermorgant for Hayes a few minutes later, listening, it seemed Charlton were over the course of the half getting more and more back into the match and creating problems for Milton Keynes in their final third. In fact it was only four minutes after the introduction of Kermorant that we found the net with Green delivering the cross that gave the Frenchman his first goal for the Addicks.

All in all a good nights work against one of the better teams in the division.

I always feel that as you enter October you begin to get a better picture of how the table is going to pan out come the end of the season.  I'm sure most other Charlton supporters would agree that to be going into October top of the table AND unbeaten is both fantastic and something that was not anticipated.

Just the little matter of Bramell Lane to negotiate next.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Can the reds go marching on?

Another tough test awaits the addick's up the M1 in Milton Keynes this evening.

Milton Keynes home form has been pretty erratic this season so far. Draws against Hartlepool and Huddersfield (both doing very well so far, Hartlepool in third place being one of the early surprise packages), a one nil sneaked win in the 'localish' derby against Stevenage and a 6-2 drubbing of Chesterfield.  They've not failed to score at least once at home.

Charlton's away record so far this term is second to none.  And encouragingly we've not failed to score at least 2 goals per game on our travels. I have not seen any team news, but injuries aside anticipate another unchanged line up to Chesterfield.

All good things do come to an end, or at the very least stutter at some stage but if we go into this game playing the same way we did against Chesterfield I just can't see us losing.  The only potential banana skin I can see is if Robinson has done his home work and comes up with a tactic that will stifle us and stop our flowing football.

An early goal for Charlton and AT WORST a score draw, although all three points would not completely surprise.

I'll reel my neck back in now.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Charlton's quality proves too much for Chesterfield

It was certainly a game of two halves on Saturday.  A fluid and thoroughly enjoyable first half.  Much of which was bossed by Charlton, and but for the Spirite's goalkeeper we really could have gone in at half time with a handful of goals and the game well and truly put to bed.

The highlight for me was the text book training ground free kick that resulted in our second goal from Jackson.

The second half I can only assume the game plan had changed and the team were asked to drop back a bit deeper and defend the two goal lead that had been established.  It was much later, and after Chesterfield had pulled one back from a penalty, that we seemed to wake up and start having a go again.  It proved that attack is the best form of defence, as this enabled us to ride out the rest of the match more comfortable but also nick a last gasp goal to further improve our goal difference as we sit proudly top of the third division 3 points clear of Sheffield United with a game in hand.

The lowlight of the game on Saturday was another example of the awful match officials at this level.

To be fair the penalty given was definitely a penalty. In the second half, and I was in line with it, one of the worst offside decisions I’ve seen in a long time was given against us. And the booking of Taylor for simulation, when he was clearly tripped was quite simply laughable.

On to Milton Keynes tomorrow night. If we get the three points out of that one I really will start believing this is going to be our season.  At long last.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

John Sheridan, StAndrews, Peter Shirtliffe and all that...

Having just read how much Chesterfield's John Sheridan is relishing their visit to the Valley at the weekend, I nostalgically had a flash back to the other extraordinary play off final that Charlton took part in.

I'd attended the home leg at Selhurst, Charlton running out 1-0 winners courtesy of I think a Jimmy Melrose goal and had suffered the reverse scoreline in the game at Elland Road.  Being still in it's infancy, the play off system was not to be decided by penalties but by a third game at neutral ground StAndrews.

Although during this period of supporting Charlton I did attend a few away games, being a 'school' night meant I was not going to be able to make it up to Birmingham.

The game was being covered live on the radio and extended highlights were being shown on midweek sports special.  Desperate to enjoy watching the action I opted to wait to watch the TV coverage and hide in my room staying away from any knowledge of the score. (I remember how hard it was to curb my curiosity).

Once I knew it was safe, and the programme was about to start I took my place downstairs alongside my (poker faced) Dad, who had listened in on the radio to enjoy the roller coaster ride that the game turned out to be.

The match during  normal time was both nervy and pretty scrappy from memory.  My enduring memory was ex Charlton striker John Pearson copping a cheeky knee in the head from former Owls and Charlton team mate Peter Shirtliffe.

Extra time came and I was a very nervous teenager.  And on 99 minutes my nerves proved to be well founded as John Sheridan scored a cheeky quick chipped free kick against a sleeping Charlton defence and goalkeeper, and then, much to my annoyance celebrated like a mad man.

I was slumped in the living room chair, convinced that our short stay in England's top flight was over, with only minutes remaining on the clock.  Then Peter Shirtliffe popped up and scored an equaliser, prompting me to jump around the front room like a bit of a loon.  About three minutes later it was all I could do not to explode when from a very similar set piece he popped up again to scramble in the late winner.

I remember, once I'd regained my composure and full time had come, watching the exhausted players celebrating, whilst Steve Gritt did some really strange high knee slow celebratory jog up and down at the half way line in front of the Charlton supporters.

It's certainly never been dull being an Addick.  Mind you, I'd happily plump for the quiet life of a top two finish secured with a few games to spare this season than another play off thriller.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The most important win of the far

Many times over the years  have I seen Charlton go a couple of goals up only to lose their nerve and let the opposition back into the game to either draw or snatch the win.

What made yesterdays result so important in the development of the current Charlton side and manager was that despite letting Rochdale back into the game, we kept going and managed to keep heads up and grab the late winner.  How many times have we been on the receiving end of that type of result over the last 4 or 5 seasons?

It was good to see Wiggins score, an event that will no doubt help his confidence going forward.  It's also really good to see Wagstaff continue to make the right wing his domain, keeping the talented Green out of the side.

With our promotion rivals picking up points yesterday it was really important we kept the momentum and pressure on those around us.  So to stay top with a game in hand over several of them is a great way to head into our next couple of games, home to Chesterfield on Saturday followed by the trip to Milton Keynes midweek.  If we can pick up all six points (and I believe we can) from those two games It's going to be looking pretty good as we go into October.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Preston to provide a good test for the second eleven

I didn't post following the hard fought two nil win against Exeter City's ten men at the weekend.  I was surprised by the general negative feedback being given some addick's.

Don't get me wrong, i'm not viewing Chris Powell and this season through any rose tinted spectacles, and am quite realistic about our chances.  I can see where the management and playing staff may have some short falls. But we shouldn't lose sight that this is a new squad in it's infancy, and we are still unbeaten and up there mixing it in what is looking to once again turn out to be a fiercely competitive division.

The bottom line is that against ten men we did not play too spectacularly, but did grind out the required result. (This is a familiar sound bite churned out about teams that tend to go on and  win things!)

I'm certainly not panicking, and still believe this will be our season, with Chris at the helm.  It was good to see that Stephens, despite a quiteish game, had not lost his nerve after his miss against Sheffield Wednesday and put the ball away from a similar distance this time to ensure the end of the game was not too much of a squeaky bum affair.

Onto tonight.  By the looks of it Powell is going to mix things up again, and I won't be surprised to see a similar line up to that which played so well against Reading.  I'm sure Preston, who now are going great guns, will take the opportunity to rest a few players as well.  I think we have enough quality in our squad to make a really good fist of things tonight, and fully expect progression to the next round.

I think that when you have a squad of our size and quality The League Cup actually presents a great opportunity to keep these players fresh and competitive.   I hope Pritchard gets another start, and Cort gets his debut.

The only trouble area is up front. With Benson struggling with an injury, I don't think it would be a great idea to risk BWP and Hayes, as our best two forwards with very little cover of high enough quality to cover injury.

Perhaps this is the opportunity for Powell to try and start with a different formation? To try and form the Plan B that we've lacked a bit in the early days of the season.  It will be interesting to see how we set up in attack.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Manager of the month miss spells a happy September for the Addicks

Great news (I hope) Sir Chris managed to swerve this Augusts manager of the month curse/award, the accolade/harbinger of doom going instead to the impressive young manager Karl Robinson of Milton Keynes.

With Milton Keynes playing away to what will be a rejuvenated and much more confident Sheffield Wednesday (following last Mondays result), Saturday could see us back into the top two spots.

Sheffield United travel away to Scunthorpe, whose season has started pretty badly, so second place at 4.45 on Saturday looks likely to me.

I have a bit of a soft spot for Exeter City, no particular reason, my brother attended university there, and I've taken my family to that part of Devon a few times on holiday. Oh, and not that I'm a fan but Wacko Michael Jackson was a supporter. (I always thought he'd be more at home as a West Ham supporter!).

As far as I know Danny Green is looking doubtful with a bug, which should see us field pretty much the same side as Monday night.  Paul Tisdale is another good young manager, but with the players already at his disposal combined with injuries to first teamer's I just can't see them providing too stern an opposition.  Sir Chris won't need a plan B on this occasion and we will secure the three points to put the disappointment of the last two home league games behind us.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Plan B missing?

Not too bad a result last night.  We remain unbeaten and got to see another wonder goal, this time courtesy of BWP.

The first half an hour we were rampant, passing fluidly and bypassing the physical presence and loaded midfield that Megson had opted with.  Seeing his 4-5-1 tactic was not working he made decisive changes and went 4-4-2, which was where the game changed.

Wednesday looked much more comfortable with this shape and worked their way back into the game.  Eventually having the better of possession in the second half via their physical approach.

Finally we succumbed to bloody Clinton Morrison of all people (I'm not a massive fan).  Wednesday looking well drilled at their set pieces.

It will be interesting to see, over the course of the season, how and if Sir Chris tactically adapts our formation and game plan to accommodate the opposition.  I think last night showed that playing 4-4-2 game in game out is not always going to work, despite our quality (which we have in abundance), not every other side will roll over for us.