Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Spirites and Dons

It's been two matches since my last update. Some extra work thrown my way has kept me busier than I'd hoped and unfortunately the things I enjoy had to take a back seat in favour of the things that earn money. Anyway I'm posting about both games so if you don't want to read about the Chesterfield game, scroll down for MK Dons report.

Addicks v Chesterfield

Watching your team win is (almost) always a pleasure and when it's coupled with spending time with people that you might not normally, it makes it extra special. I was sat in the East Stand with my brother on Saturday, a first for us as we both support different teams and it's sometimes hard to find motivation to go and watch a team that you have no affinity for. So I want to start by thanking Tom for coming along, it was a great day out.

The game itself was decent enough and it was nice to see Chesterfield playing a proper game of football. There are teams of higher reputation who play more direct or more physical, but their style obviously worked for them in League Two. I am one of the crowd who believes that playing attractive and expansive football will stand you in good stead in this division, so I will be surprised if they don't manage to survive this year.

Our three goals were all pretty good. Paul Hayes flick for the first looked fancy, Jackson's goal was courtesy of a free-kick which has obviously been practiced in training, and finally Bradley Wright-Phillips completed the scoring with a diving header from a pin-point cross. Chesterfield created little, and Leon Clarke looked like he had an off day and it was no surprise that when they did score it came from a penalty, as they didn't threaten with much from open play.

MK Dons v Addicks

I listened to last night's match via the internet. Clearly it was a game of missed chances rather than of goals scored. Dons had the best of the first half scoring once through a Shaun Williams penalty after Matt Taylor brought down Dean Lewington in the box. The game could have already been at 2-2 by this point. Both sides had some good chances early on yet neither could find a breakthrough. The Dons continued to pile on the pressure and Ben Hamer produced a couple of good saves to keep the Addicks in the match.

At half time the Dons were the happier side having not only grabbing themselves a goal, but they also gave us a lesson in how to play football at times. Powell's team talk however seemed to breathe a bit of life into the Addicks and the side looked much improved after the break. Both team again had some good opportunities and should really have done better.

The equaliser eventually came with 15 minutes left on the clock. Kermorgant and Green were brought on in place of Hayes and Wagstaff and it was the two substitutes that combined for the goal. Green managed to find some space on the wing and sent in a cross for the waiting Yann Kermorgant who headed his first goal for the Addicks. An important one too.

It was a well earned point in the end and I guess most fans were happy (relieved?) to have walked away with a point. I'm not a particular fan of MK Dons in general (the franchise thing sticks in my throat) so losing to them would have been particularly disappointing for me. But, it was more points on the board and we still sit pretty at the top of the table with a few points to spare.

Preston North End have somehow crept into second position. I haven't really paid them much attention to be honest, but they have quietly gone about their business and are now capable of taking top spot if they win their game in hand.

Another tough match awaits us on Saturday. Sheffield United have gone off the boil a bit of late; losing two of their last three games. I expect a hard game and would be happy with another point from the match.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Remember the last time Chesterfield came to The Valley?

We have to go all the way back to 1980 to find a league fixture between Charlton and Chesterfield at The Valley. Charlton ran out one nil winners on the day, but it was during a time where the club went through four managers in a two and half year period before Lennie Lawrence was finally brought in to steady the ship.

Charlton achieved promotion in the 1980-81 season by finishing third in the division under manager Mike Bailey, with legend Derek Hales scoring 41 goals. No play-offs were required as those were the days when it was three up, three down. Bailey quit the club soon after when he was offered the Brighton job.

More recently the two clubs met in a League Cup clash at Saltergate (the Spirites former home). The game was level at 3-3 after extra time with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (2) and Darren Bent (1) grabbing the goals. Charlton won the resulting penalty shoot-out with Hermann Hreidarsson netting the winning spot kick.

History lesson over, and although the information is interesting it probably has no bearing on where both teams are at this point in time. Chesterfield are unbeaten in their last four games and in fact have won their last three on the bounce. After winning League Two last season the Spirites have stuck to their game of playing some nice passing football and it seems to be paying off for them.

Leon Clarke, will be Chesterfields main threat and man to watch. Clarke signed on a three month loan deal from Swindon after he spectacularly fell out with Swindon boss and former Addick, Paolo Di Canio. Since his switch however Clarke has scored five goals in three games, including a hat-trick against Carlisle last weekend.

Charlton could be missing Danny Hollands from the line-up after his wife gave birth to three baby girls this week, so congratulations to him, but we might miss his contribution if he isn't available. It's likely that Andy Hughes will be brought in to deputise, but there was also disappointment for another midfielder - Bradley Pritchard who picked up a metatarsal injury which could keep him out for up to six weeks.

As I've mentioned in previous entries our home performances have been lacking when compared to our away form. That said we have had the trickier games at home, but this is a tie that we should win on paper, though Chesterfield will have their tails up and will be looking to make life difficult for us.

The club has generously offered all tickets for this weekends game for a fiver, so I'm hoping for a large crowd and a good atmosphere. I've managed to rope my brother into coming along (a West Ham fan) and it will be the first time we've ever been to a football match together, and with both of us now being in our forties and football mad for our entire lives, it's long overdue.

In last seasons 'Football for a Fiver' fixture we played Exeter City. There were some 24, 000 fans in the stadium that saw us lose 3-1. Let's hope there isn't a repeat tomorrow.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Fans sweat again!

The Addicks seem to be in a habit of giving the fans some moments of anxiety. Once again we sailed off to a confident lead only to throw away a two goal advantage. Luckily this time we managed to pull it back again, but Charlton fans all over the country must have stubs for fingernails, I know I certainly do.

I was expecting a win, but I didn't think that we would make such hard work of it, particularly after going into half time with a 2-0 lead. The two goals came from new signings Danny Hollands and Rhoys Wiggins who both opened their Charlton accounts. Hollands getting a head to a Johnnie Jackson cross whilst Wiggins had time to pick his spot after the ball fortunately fell for him inside the Dale box.

Rochdale hit back in the second half when Ashley Grimes got up and put a looping header past Ben Hamer. Three minutes later the scores were level after some poor defending allowed David Ball to get a shot away which flew past the Charlton keeper.

At 2-2 the nerves were starting to get the better of me and I wasn't even at the game, relying only on some dodgy commentating via CAFC Player. Danny Hollands finally put the game safe with 10 minutes to go, heading the winner from a corner.

We really need to stop throwing away leads like we have. Better opposition might have punished us for it, and we have some tricky fixtures looming, so we need to tidy things up a bit.

Chesterfield are up next, and with our home performances being far from our best this season it's a potential banana skin. The Spirites have notched up three wins from their last three games and have scored 8 goals in the process so confidence will be high.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Rochdale Away

Having missed the last two games, I'm looking forward to Saturday's fixture against Rochdale. A break with the family meant I was unable to follow the games and unfortunately my wife banned me from bringing my laptop and therefore blog updates were impossible. Thanks to the wonders of twitter however I was able to stay up to date with the major issues during the games.

The Exeter win left a lot of fans with mixed views. I was personally happy to grab the three points albeit with a bit of help from the officials. Seems that their goal probably crossed the line but wasn't given, and although I don't know exactly what Nardiello said to the officials, a red card seemed harsh. Much has been said about how we took our time to break Exeter down, but in my view these things can take a fair bit of patience. We got the goals required to win the game however which is what is important to me.

Rochdale are having a decent enough run of form at the moment and will be looking to notch up a third win on the bounce having beaten Bury and Scunthorpe in their last two matches. Dale haven't done too bad against 'better' oppostion so far this season. I mentioned their victory over newly relegated Scunthorpe, they also grabbed a point from Huddersfield and dumped QPR out of the cup so we definitely need to be properly prepared.

Chris Powell will no doubt make sweeping changes from the team that lost against Preston on Tuesday. By all accounts the performance was average at best and nobody really took the opportunity to make a case for a starting spot, so it's likely he Powell will go with the same team that defeated Exeter last weekend.

The two clubs haven't played too often in recent times, last season in fact was the first meetings between the two sides since the 70's. Rochdale were worthy winners in this fixture back in March when we were going through our long winless streak. There are only four players left at Charlton that played in the 2-0 defeat, and things have changed Rochdale too with Keith Hill leaving Spotland to move to Championship club Barnsley.

I back us to walk away with the three points if we can continue our fine run of away form. We still have a 100% record on our travels, let's hope it stays intact as we have two tricky away ties ahead in the shape of MK Dons and Sheffield United. With Chesterfield up next we have a great opportunity to ensure we are still top of the table when we make the trip to Stadium MK.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Poor performance but still unbeaten

Charlton failed to capitalise on a good start against Sheffield Wednesday and had to be satisfied with a 1-1 draw at The Valley tonight. Despite going a goal up inside 4 minutes with Bradley Wright-Phillips grabbing his fourth of the season, the Addicks once again squandered the lead in a home match. Wednesday found their equaliser from a corner when an unmarked Clinton Morrison, a substitute for the injured Ryan Lowe, headed the ball home.

I was desperate for us to get off to a good start tonight, and things couldn't have gone any better. Bradley Wright-Phillips opened the scoring with a low drive that unsighted Wednesday keeper Richard O'Donnell. Charlton looked in control and were playing some decent football. Dale Stephens had a chance to make it 2-0 after the ball was played back to him inside the box but he put it over from 8 yards.

Wednesday had a miserable first half. Gary Megson played it safe by starting with a 4-5-1 formation which had Gary Madine playing the lone striker role. Clearly it wasn't working, Charlton were carving the Owls open with relative ease and Wednesday were struggling to retain the ball and create anything of note themselves.

After 20 minutes, Megson decided to make a change bringing on Ryan Lowe to replace the largely ineffective Chris Sedgwick and switching to a 4-4-2 formation. The new shape clearly suited the Owls and they started to work their way back into the game, although they still failed to create a single shot on goal in the opening 45 minutes.

Ryan Lowe had to go off just after the break after a clash of heads ruined his night, and Clinton Morrison made his ominous appearance. As soon as he stripped off I had this feeling he would find the back of the net at some point, particularly as he came on to the field to a chorus of boos. Why does everyone we boo score against us?

Anyway, three minutes after coming on he grabbed the equaliser. It was more or less their first chance of the game and no surprise it came from a set-piece because in open play, they hardly got near our goal. The ball was floated in and Morrison headed on to the underside of the bar and the ball bounced down and into the goal.

After their goal Wednesday started to add a bit more pressure, but in all honesty they didn't look too threatening except with their set pieces. Charlton's game had also deteriorated into a lot of long balls looking for the run of Wright-Phillips or Wagstaff. When we got into more advanced positions instead of playing our probing passing game we were hitting crosses into the box which towering Wednesday defender Rob Jones was clearing away with little effort.

We looked a bit bereft of ideas towards the end and I thought we needed to bring on a couple of players to try to change things a bit to maybe give us more impetus. Unfortunately Powell only introduced Euell in a straight swap for Paul Hayes which did nothing at all to improve us. The closest we came to a winner was when Matt Taylor headed on to a post, but their keeper was quickly there to claim.

Overall I was disappointed with the game. Both sides were pretty average, and although I think we had the better of the chances, we certainly didn't do enough to win the game. We really need to pick up our performances at home. Although it's great that we are still unbeaten, our home form hasn't been the best. Hopefully we can put that right with the visit of Exeter on Saturday.

Tough Test

Charlton get the opportunity to pit their wits against another promotion favourite tonight when Gary Megson's Sheffield Wednesday visit The Valley. Wednesday have been very ordinary on their travels and Charlton are unbeaten at home so it could be an interesting contest.

Chris Powell may be without Bradley Wright-Phillips who also missed the Bury clash but otherwise has the pick of his squad with Paul Benson likely recovering from his hand injury. Benson may be brought in to deputise for BWP though Powell could opt to start Wagstaff alonside Hayes once again.

Megson will have new boy (and Bury's goalscorer against Charlton) Ryan Lowe ready for action. Lowe signed for the Owls on transfer deadline day which drew a very mixed reaction from the Wednesday fans. Jose Semedo makes a return to The Valley after joining Wednesday in the summer. No doubt the Addicks faithful will give him an exceptionally warm welcome. I'm sure Jose will want to do well tonight, but I'm hoping our new look midfield are a bit much for him to handle.

With the game being live on Sky I will not be making the 200 mile trip to The Valley and and get the opportunity to see my third home game of the season. Of course there's nothing like being there, and in particular I'm a huge fan of evening kick offs. The atmosphere is always electric on a cold night at The Valle,. and once I hear the crowd start singing tonight there will be more than a little tinge of jealousy aimed at those that are able to make it.

Both teams will be desperate to win this game as we are probably the two largest Clubs in the division and both have a point to prove. It should be a very tight game and I don't expect there to be too many chances. Recent clashes between the sides have the stats level. In the last 6 meetings there have been two wins, two draws and two losses for each side.

I don't want the call the game tonight. I'm hoping for a win to keep pace on the leaders, but it's going to be a real test for us. On paper I believe we have the better squad, but we have to perform to our maximum potential. We showed against Scunthorpe that we have some defensive frailties and Wednesday will be looking to capitalise on this. If we keep it tight defensively we will create opportunities, let's just hope we make the most of those opportunities when they come.