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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Who's Going to Keep Their Nerve?

Just 45 days left of the football season, a little over 6 weeks and which team, and manager, will be better at keeping their nerve?

We are still in a dominant position, 9 points clear of Sheff. Utd and 11 clear of Wednesday and they don't even talk about us now as they battle among themselves for the second automatic spot. So are we worried or not? Well, that will depend as much on you as the team  so lets do our best to help you enjoy these last few weeks of a memorable season.

Everyone is calculating how many points we need to get the Championship/automatic promotion. Will we need 90, 95 or whatever? But the Number One priority is, of course, to stay above the third placed team, currently Wednesday although Huddersfield could equal their points total if they win their game in hand.

The good news when comparing the Addicks, the Blades and Wednesday is that we have all fallen below our best over the last 8 games. Over the whole season so far the Addicks have averaged 2.16 points per game, United 1.92 and Wednesday 1.87 whereas over the last 8 games, both ourselves and Wednesday have dropped to 1.75 and United are down to 1.37. So everyone is suffering from bad nerves with 4th placed Huddersfield also down to 1.62 points per game.

So we ask ourselves, will the next 8 games be any easier than the last 8  - well, probably not as the Play-off and relegation battles hot-up - so it would seem obvious to calculate how many points both Sheffield clubs would get if they continued at their current rate. That's easy - United would add  just 11 and Wednesday 14 to give them totals for the season of 84 for United and 85 for the mighty Wednesday compared to our current Addicks total of 82.

Now, you can see some daylight. At those averages the Addicks only need four more points to be certain of grabbing hold of the silverware. But I can see you're not convinced, you want it to be harder than that don't you?

OK, lets see how easy are the 8 games of our opponents to see whether or not they may improve on their current averages. United look to have an easy run-in and face the 3 bottom teams, Chesterfield, Rochdale and Exeter; 2 more involved in the Play-off race, MK Dons and Stevenage and 3 others in mid-table, Hartlepool, Bournemouth and Orient. OK, I hear you say - any team that puts 5 past Notts County could well win at least 6 of those games against such iffy opposition giving them at least 18 more points and a grand total of 91 even if they lost to the Dons and Stevenage, and that's 9 more than we currently have, so we would need at least 3 more wins plus whatever else they pick up.

OK, then lets look at Wednesday. They, on the other hand being in 3rd place, we only have to match game for game to keep them below us and what better than to play the same teams which is almost the case. No less than 6 of our own opponents - Huddersfield, Orient, Preston, Wycome, Carlisle and Oldham also play Wednesday. Annoying thing is we play 4 of them before they do so we won't know what their result would be.

So all in all then we're got no idea what going to happen and I'm sure Sir Chris is only planning on winning as many games as possible until he can relax - hopefully in about 4 games time.......

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Complete Run-In Guide

As I was saying only a couple of weeks ago, the Addicks are not usually very good at run-ins.

But we are still on top, eleven points clear of third placed Wednesday and need 19 more points to ensure automatic promotion. Of course we won't need all 19 as games become harder for everyone and not only for us as Sheff Utd found out on Tuesday. Looking at our last ten games, we can divide them neatly into 5 homes and 5 aways. Our away form is by far the best in the Division and would appear, if you believe Yann, to be where our players feel most at ease. 

But, sorry Yann, the 5 aways would appear to be much more tougher that the home games. They are in sequence: Scunthorpe, Huddersfield, Oldham, Carlisle and Preston, so lets have a closer look to see our chances.

Scunthorpe are the first this weekend. They are currently 18th, only 6 points from safely so need the points badly and they are showing a fighting spirit to avoid a second successive relegation as they demonstrated on Tuesday with a 90th minute equaliser at Yeovil . Their long trip to Yeovil may work to our advantage but they are still 9th in current form over the last 8 games with a record of W3 D3 L2. In contrast their seasons record at home is not good reading as they have a total of 7 home defeats and only Orient have won less home points although they are fighting as a record of W2 D1 L2 over the last 5 homes shows. On the bright side they are not renowned for their exploits against the top half and are 17th in those games with only 2 wins against the best in the League. However, they did drew 1-1 at the Valley and another draw as we dig our heels in after our two defeats does looks likely.

Huddersfield are the next away game. Lying 4th but only 11th in current form with a record of W2 D5 L1 they lie 3 points behind Wednesday.They only have 2 home defeats and might want revenge for their record breaking defeat at the Valley. They also lie 3rd in getting points against the top 12 teams with 7 wins. Another draw....

Oldham are next. 14th in the table and currently 8 points from safety. 15th on current form with 4 defeats in the last 8 games and another team with 7 home defeats.They also have the same home record as Scunthorpe over the last 5 with W2 D1 L2. Their record against the top half is also bad with only 3 wins recorded. A Win surely.

Six games from now in Game 43, and Carlisle await us on April 14th. Currently 7th and only 1 point off the Play-Offs they are fighting for the 6th place with Notts County and Stevenage. Eighth on current form with 4 wins in the last 8 games and with only 3 home defeats all season and one of the 6 teams to record more than 10 home wins. Also with 4 home victories in the last 5 home games and a record of 5 wins against the best in the League. But we have a good record against Carlisle with 7 wins in the last 9 games and have already beaten them twice this season at the Valley scoring 6 and conceding none. Draw

And lastly there's Preston North End. Slowly sliding down the League and currently in 15th but are 22nd on current form with only 1 win in the last 8 games. Six home defeats and a record of W1 D3 L1 in their last 5 at home add to a sense that the Addicks can get the three points. But, like Carlisle, they do have a good record of 5 wins against the best in the League. Trouble is by the time we play them they may need the points desperately so a Draw.

The five home games are against Yeovil, Orient, Walsall, Wycombe and Hartlepool. An easier set of teams you couldn't imagine surely in 13th, 17th, 20th, 22nd and 11th place respectively and a record of 39 away defeats among them. Nobody going for promotion but there are three teams looking to avoid the drop.

The first to arrive for the expected slaughter in just 5 days time are Yeovil Town. As we said they are currently 13th with a total of 7 away defeats, but as is common among the bottom teams at this time of the season they are fighting for survival and are currently 2nd in the form table with a record of W5 D1 L2 over the last 8.  More to the point perhaps is that they have won 3 of their last 5 away games at Oldham, MK Dons and Wycombe. And they know how to score goals at the Valley with 5 in their 4 visits. They beat us 1-0 in a league cup game in August 2008 in their first ever visit to us and had a 2-3 loss in Novenber 2010 when they twice came back to equalise goals from JJ and Racon before JJ got his second goal from the penalty spot 5 minutes from time. So expect a fight. A Draw.

After Yeovil come Leyton Orient. Currently lying a worrying 19th, 6 points above Exeter and safety. They are also 19th in current form with a record of W2 D2 L4 so are not showing much of a fight to stay in League One. But this is a derby and their away form shows 2 wins in their last 5 games at Bournemouth and Preston and a good total of 4 wins against the top half although we have the question of revenge for over 1-0 defeat in December. A Win

Game 42, just 5 to go, is at home to Walsall. Currently lying 20th, one place above Exeter and just 3 points from safety. But again with a record of W3 D3 L2 over the last 8, including a 3-2 win over Sheff. Utd, they too are fighting the drop and have only lost one game in their last 5 away. We play them in 5 games time on Easter Monday but they play 6 games before then so their fate could be a lot clearer as they have to play both Chesterfield and Rochdale. Moreover, they have a good record against the Addicks with 2 wins and 2 draws in the last 4 games and even won 1-0  at the Valley in December 2010.  Their complete record at the Valley is good with 5 wins and 2 draws in the 14 games. On the plus side they only have 3 wins against teams in the top half this season. A Draw.

With just 3 games to go Wycombe Wanderers arrive at the Valley. Currently a fighting 14th on current form with 3 wins in the last 8, they are still languishing in 22nd spot, four points away from Walsall in the coveted 20th position. And its their away form which is letting them down with 12 away defeats and 5 in their last 5 aways. A Win..

As we all know, the last game of the season is against Hartlepool on May 5th. Currently stuck in a midtable 11th, 10 points off the Play-offs and an enormous 12 above the drop zone they will be happy to look forward to another League One season. An end of season Win then unless the trophy is already won in which case we'll probably lost. 

So forecast for the Away games - 1 Win and 4 draws, 7 points
                             Home games - 3 wins and 2 draws, 11 points

A grand total of 96 points, enough for the Championship?.....

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Final Countdown

Season run-ins have not been a Addicks speciality in recent years. Apart from the epic Lennie escape act in 1987 and the Curbs-lead charges in both 1998 and 2000 its all been pretty desperate stuff. And everyone can remember the fear that seemed to affect everyone during the Curbishley years as soon as March arrived.   

But this is 2012 and with March dawning we can't let the current situation go un-noticed or uncelebrated, even if there are still 13 games left to play. We are top of the Division with 75 points from 33 games, an average of 2.27 per game. There's a gap of 13 massive points before second placed Sheffield United appear on the horizon while the team in 3rd, Wednesday, are 15 points behind us. We have an enormous goal difference of plus 40 (forty), 11 more than the next best, Huddersfield. We have scored the most goals, 63, and conceded the least with 23. We have the most wins, 22 and the fewest defeats, 2, in the Division.

We have the most clean sheets with 14 out of 33 games and the fewest no-score games with just 2. While we have easily the best away record with our Addicks record equalling 12 wins, we don't have the best Home Record on points with both Sheffield clubs winning more games at home than we have, and with United winning more home points but both have lost twice at home whereas, of course, we haven't, so I personally prefer our record to theirs.

But are we chanting victory too early? There's still 13 games and 39 points to play for and who knows? They may talk of Champions Elect but this is the Addicks we are talking about and we will always fear the worst. So lets try to reassure ourselves a bit. Automatic promotion is clearly the number one target for everyone. Let's get out of this poxy place, three years is quite long enough. Huddersfield Town are currently our nearest challengers that can deny us that goal. They are currently 4th but have a game in hand on Wednesday in 3rd and are only 1 point behind them so their maximum points haul is greater than the Massives. Huddersfield currently have 59 points from 32 games, 16 points behind us.

Looking at the current form table over the last 8 games, they are notching an average of 1.87 points per game.  But new manager Simon Grayson has had a win and a draw in his two games in charge so is currently achieving 2 points per game. So what exactly am I getting at? Well, if Huddersfield continue on 2 points per game over their remaining 14 games they will reach the heady total of 87 points for the season. So for me that's our target, just 12 more points, 4 more wins to ensure the goal of Automatic Promotion.

The month of March brings us: Bournemouth (A),  Colchester (H), Notts County (H), Scunthorpe (A), Yeovil (H), Huddersfield (A) and Orient (H). Of course, we still can't celebrate even when we reach 87 points because its just possible that Huddersfield, or even Wednesday, could go berserk and win every game they have left. After their game against the Addicks, Huddersfield have only 8 games remaining so even then, on March 24th, we would need a gap of 24 points to be certain of an automatic spot.

So maybe that should really be our aim - forget the 87 points total but increase the gap over Huddersfield in the next 5 games from 16 to 24 and a trip to Huddersfield to win the point that would ensure promotion on the ground of our nearest challengers. But that's a tough call for even if we win all 5, 15 points, Huddersfield would need to get only 7 for us to be 24 in front come March 24th. And Huddersfield's next 5 games all look winnable with home games against Hartlepool and Rochdale and away against Bury, Colchester and Chesterfield especially when you see their recent record of only 1 defeat in their last 12. One thing working against the Terriers can be understood when you look at one of the few tables that we are not top of; the score first table. Only Huddersfield have scored first in games more times than we have, their 24 to our 23 but a more damning statistic could not be brought up in front of Lee Clark for whereas the Addicks have won no less than 20 of our 23 games having scored first, the Terriers have only won 14 and drawn 10.

So all in all we may have to win at the Galpharm to force the issue and reach that 24 point gap and here we come to another happy statistic. Not only have we already beaten Huddersfield 2-0 at the valley, ending their record breaking run, but the Addicks are currently the best, the very best, in games against the top half of the table in League One. An amazing 13 wins in 16 games, an astonishing 41 points against the cream, with 30 goals scored and only 5 conceded and the only blot being that defeat at Stevenage on October 15th.

And if we can win all the next 5 and Huddersfield kept to their 2 points per game we'll be 21points in front when we play them and a win there on March 24th will move us to the magic 24 with them only having 8 games left and leave Promotion almost assured.
Ah, but wait a minute - you clearly haven't noticed ( points out my brother, Hardy ) that only 2 of our next 5 opponents are in the top half of the table.........

Once an Addick, always an Addick.......