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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Carlisle Preview

So was it a point gained or two lost? Parky seems to be happy with a point at Gillingham in what was a difficult away derby game with bad weather and a bumpy pitch to boot. But the stats on our recent goalscoring abilities continue to disappoint and now its 15 League One teams that have outscored us over the last eight games. And with only 2 wins and a massive 5 draws in those last eight our current form puts us down in 12th place, with a top six of Colchester, Southampton, Leeds, MK, Millwall and Norwich.

For Gods sake, Nels, give us some positives, you're souring me cafe. OK, if you need reassurance that things are simply going as planned, then it should be pointed out that, 5 of those 8 were against teams in the top nine and the others contained two draws with Pardews Saints plus a difficult away derby at Priestfield.

And to further set your mind at rest, after a mere 14 games out of 46, we've already played at 4 of the current six best home teams in the League ( Colchester, Leeds, Gillingham and Norwich) and now have a break of 4 months before we have to face another team in the current top nine home bankers with an unfortunate and horrendous four match sequence of visits to unbeaten at home Millwall and Huddersfield on March 13th and 27th, MK Dons on April 3rd and Southampton on April 10th.

In fact, Parky, I'm sorry to have to point out that that end of season away run coupled with successive closing season home games against Colchester, Norwich and Leeds all looks pretty tough to me so it seems even more vital that we press on and get some points now. And perhaps that was just Parky thinking behind his decision to go for an attacking 4-4-2 last weekend.

Anyway, we now face a gruelling away trip to 18th placed Carlisle, but with the comforting thought that despite last weekends win they are still 2nd to bottom over the last eight with only Wycombe behind them, with only 1 win during that run.

Full-time manager, at long last, for Carlisle is Greg Abbott, our third successive new boy, in charge since November last year at Brunton Park after two spells as caretaker manager. They eventually finished 20th last season in the last surviving place in the League One table but started the last day two points behind Northampton in 21st and needed a win over Millwall to have any chance of escaping relegation while their rivals, the Cobblers, faced a difficult away trip to Elland Rd.

The win was achieved 2-0 to move them to 50 points and leapfrog Northampton by a single point who meanwhile were losing 3-0 at Leeds.


And there seems more of the same this season because before Saturday Carlisle were on a disastrous run of 7 games without a win and were the worst home team in League One and Abbott's job was reportedly on the line. That changed with an inspired 2-1 win last weekend over Southend and they also climbed three places in the table and are now in 18th spot with 14 points and with a home record of 2 wins, 1 draw and 4 defeats. But there's still only one point that separates Carlisle from the drop zone and they are still in desperate straits.

Their only other home win was a 3-0 against hapless Tranmere back at the beginning of September that handed Tranmere their 5th straight defeat and all without scoring and it wasn't long before John Barnes paid the price. So what's the rest of their home record? Both Brentford 1-3 and Exeter 0-1 enjoyed early season wins at Brunton Park, as did Brighton 0-2 and Norwich 0-1 whilst Southampton could only draw 1-1 with a 96 minute equaliser from Jaidi.


The only living connection I can find with the Addicks is the 32 year old Irishman, Ian Harte. OK, he never actually played for us but he was "On Trial" during the autumn of 2008 but wasn't offered a job. Not surprising with Kelly making such a good job of left-back so Harte, who spent 3 eventful years at Spanish La Liga club Levante with whom he was relegated and promoted again before being sent packing by Abel Resino, the man making such a mess of managing Atletico Madrid at the moment, and joined Carlisle - must be something in the water. Meanwhile, by the time you read this, Resino will probably be out of a job, bringing a smile, perhaps to Harte's lips. Sorry, he's gone already, sacked last week.

The Opposition
There's 28 year old defender, number 6 Peter Murphy from Dublin who won one Irish cap for a first half performance against Bolivia in 2007. But since Staunton ended his brief 18 month spell as Irish manager he's not been asked again and is now sitting on Carlisle's bench. And another one with Irish caps, and also with Premiership games for Middlesbro' under his belt, is the experienced 35 year old Graham Kavanagh.

There's a couple of ex-Chelski teenagers that had to go elsewhere to get work experience and we've meet goalie number 40, Lenny Pidgeley, before when he came on as a late sub for Chelski against us in the last away game at Stamford Bridge in May 2005 when a late disputed penalty gave them a 1-0 win. The other one is the exotically named 19 year old Tom Taiwo, a midfielder.

Then there's the much travelled Vincent Péricard a striker from Cameroon who has played Champions League football (once) for Juventus and who started his career at St. Etienne in France. He's also played Premier football for Stoke and Portsmouth and was signed two weeks ago.

And one of the clashes of the day will see old mates (!) Kelly Youga up against winger Kevan Hurst. Two years ago they both played for Scunthorpe while Kelly was on his 6 month loan and we'll see how much Kelly has learnt from his northern experience.

Who's The Dangerman
Harte it is that takes all the penalties and, surprisingly
for a team that are the 21st top scorers in League One, he's got no less than 4 so far but out in front, at far as scoring is concerned, is the Scottish international with 6 caps, number nine Scott Dobie with 6 goals in total. Once a premiership player with West Brom - in one of the many seasons that they were relegated - he's returned to square one and Carlisle where he started as an apprentice in 1995.

But the Dangerman for me this week is newly arrived number 16 Vincent Pericard signed from Stoke two weeks ago. He's already scored on his home debut against Southend and alongside Dobie will pose a threat.

Whats Their Secret?
A very cautious team they've only scored 5 times during the first half in their 14 League games. And strangely only two of those goals were in their 6 home games and as a comparison the Addicks have netted 6 in the same period in our 7 away games.
In fact they are more successful on their travels away from Brunton Park with more goals scored and only 2 defeats in 7 games and with credible draws at both Leeds and Millwall.

We have a strange history at Carlisle with only two wins in a 2-6 record over the years (with 6 draws ) but with the only two wins coming in our promotion years of 1982 and 1986. And you won't need much reminding that on both occasions it was the 3 points won there that secured us the promotion. And it was on the 3rd May 1986 that we made our last visit to Brunton Park in what was one of our old bosses, the late Bob Stokoe, last home game in charge. This was nearly twenty years after he was sacked by us in September 1967 and he couldn't prevent his old charges from a 3-2 win after we had gone two goals down. Sadly as a consequence Carlisle were relegated.
Overall its 8-6 to the Addicks with 12 draws.
What are They Saying?
Striker Vincent Pericard on signing for the Cumbrians, "The manager knows I came here to work, score goals and get my career back on track," he told BBC Radio Cumbria. "I'm happy to make an impact, helping the team and the manager."

The Team
As we know Parky used an attack minded 4-4-2 last weekend at the Gills when we were all screaming for a return to 4-5-1. And he's rather shot himself in the foot because after our failure to score yet again ( thanks for the og Mr. Nutter) in the 1-1 draw he now has the difficult decision to make regarding the long trip to Carlisle.

Because in the game against Carlisle, which we surely have to win to stay in the top two, he feels that he has to use a 4-4-2 but clearly not one that didn't work last weekend.

There's a bit of a consensus that we shouldn't be knocking McLeod for missing the odd one or two but thats exactly how we behaved towards little Varney and it still sticks in my throat how he repaid the kindness by celebrating madly as the Derby last minute equaliser went in.
And a look around us in the table sees a veritable multitude of strikers who have got more than Deon. Leeds, Huddersfield and Southampton each have two strikers with more than 5. MK have Easter on 10 while Colchester have Lisbie on 8. Then there's Barnard, Jackson, Holt, Baker, Harris all on more than 5. OK, there's a lot of them that have scored from penalties but you get the point, we don't have a feared striker.

Parky will point to the fact that we have 10 players that have scored in the League, while all of Leeds, Colchester and MK only have 8 but the fact remains that its now 6 games since Deon scored and perhaps his hernia is troubling him more than we're told.

So will Parky wait till Northwich to try Mooney with a starting berth or will he try it this weekend because Deon could do with a break. And while we're about it, I'd really shake it up by playing Wagstaff from the off because all this doubling up on Sam is cramping his style and an unusual lineup will cause Carlisle a last minute inconvenient re-think and we can then bring a fresh Sam on in the second half.

So its a 4-4-2 with;

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Sodje, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Bailey; McLeod, Mooney.

A long trip to a ground where, apart from our promotion years, we haven't done well and against a team, and a manager, fighting for their lives. This won't be an easy game and that guy Péricard has me worried and it all looks like another score draw. But we've fallen 4 points behind Leeds now and, although Colchester have an even more uncomfortable game at MK Dons, Parky will know that our record of late badly needs improving.
A 2-1 away win then would fire up our promotion hopes but will we do it? 'Cause we will - Mooney and McLeod to score and Izzy to be yellow carded, and banned, again.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gillingham Preview

Our eighth win of the season then, a number that equals our total for the whole of last season and put us back on top of the table, if only for a couple of days. But there's still only a two point gap back to that accursed Wimbledon reborn, MK Dons, still in third, and with that team we can't beat, Colchester, - now 8 games unbeaten and who have scored more and conceded less than we have - a further point behind.
And it could be that we'll need to see off both of them before the seasons end because steaming up fast are the Canaries, despite Mondays blip, now only 1 defeat in the last seven.

Its krbs v krbs this weekend in our first local derby against the Gills for 5 years although it'll be our first visit to the restyled KRBS Priestfield stadium. Its 14 years since the controversial Paul Scally bought the club in 1995 for the ridiculous sum of one pound and the Gills have enjoyed some success since then with a remodeled ground to boot. As for the management, they change pretty regularly down at Priestfield but manager at the moment is Mark Stimson who joined in November 2007 and like last weeks Lee Clarke, he's in charge of his first League club.
A local boy from Plaistow he succeeded in getting the Gills relegated from League One in his first season but somehow survived Scally's wrath ( ignoring the numerous caretakers, he's Scally's seventh full-time man in charge in 14 years) but got them back again at the first attempt ( its promotion or your head) via the Play-Off final. But it was a close run thing and just as sweat was becoming visible on Stimson's brow, a late minute headed goal from Simeon Jackson, from a Josh Wright corner, gave them a 1-0 victory over Shrewsbury.

Gillingham are currently slipping down the table and are in 16th with 14 points and if it wasn't for their home form they'd be in a bit of trouble with only one point away from home. So its at Priestfield where they are happiest and where they are ranked 5th best in League One home form with 4 wins, a draw and only a single defeat. And with fourteen goals scored at home means that only Norwich and Huddersfield have outscored them on their own patch. And whereas they have easily the worst away defence in League One conceding 18, three more than anybody else, at home its completely the opposite with only 4 conceded in 6 games.
So you wanna know who they beat. First was a celebration of their promotion from League Two with a 5-0 demolishing of Swindon on opening day which was followed by a sobering 1-0 defeat, their only League one at home so far, to away specialists Hartlepool. An easy 3-0 win over Exeter, a comfortable 2-0 over Millwall, an unlucky 1-1 with Norwich where the Canaries equalised in the 97th minute (what again!) and lastly a tough 3-2 win over Wycombe after the Wanderers had equalised twice.
So things are slowly getting tougher for the Gills and you can throw in there a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Norwich in the JPT just two weeks ago.
Goalie is, of course, our old boy, and he is now 38, Simon Royce. Playing most of his career at Southend before he came to the Valley, he spent his first one year stint with us in 1998/99 as understudy to Sasa Ilic. Eight of his nine appearances came in that season, his first being that memorable 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle, after we had been two goals down and heading for a depressing ninth straight defeat. Mark Bright and then a Martin Pringle poke in the last minute saved the day. He then played seven straight games which included our first victory over Liverpool for 40 years, the 1-0 at the Valley with a Keith Jones winner 20 minutes from time with Liverpool down to 10 men after Callagher had been ordered off for catching Pringle with his arm. He then returned in 2003/04 as reserve to Dean Kiely but only made one further appearance.
There's also the Gills club captain Barry Fuller who lead our reserves for a couple of years but failed to make the first team back in 2004/06 and they also have the "elegant" midfielder Rashid Yussuff, another recent recruit during the summer.

The Opposition
An eleven of completely non-household names, except for Fuller and Royce, of course, and there's nobody that springs to mind for analysis.
And to prove what I mean, Stimson's been out and about in the loan market mainly because leaky goals leads to desperate measures and he's found two new loan signings - Matt Fry, a 19 year old from West Ham in central defence ( now that's what I call desperate), and Scott Vernon, a striker from Colchester, both making their debuts last weekend at MK Dons although Vernon didn't last long, limping off with an ankle injury on 43 minutes and he's now been sent back to Colchester.

The Dangerman
Getting to double figures should be a strikers first aim of the season and there's already five of them in League One with more than 10 goals, including cup games. And while Deon is only halfway there on 5, over at Gillingham their number 10 is appropriately, already on 10 goals. He's the Jamaican, Simeon Jackson, who in this strange world, plays international football for Canada and has scored 7 League and 3 cup goals so far this season and follows his 21 last season. He may or may not have been on Parkys wish list during the summer but our own Chris Dickson definitely was on Stimsons. Dickson was the Gills top scorer for the season during his loan spell in 2007/08 and Stimson dreamed of having him alongside his Simeon but to no avail it seems.

Whats Their Secret?
After the bruising clash last weekend with Huddersfield it'll be a pleasant change to play Gillingham. The Terriers, you remember, are renowned for their fighting abilities and never say die spirit and there's still only three teams - Huddersfield, Bristol and Walsall - that have come from behind to win twice this season. Meanwhile the best thing to do against the Gills is to score first because they are one of only two teams in League One, along with Tranmere, that have won exactly nothing after going behind, even at home. Which is, of course, good news for the Addicks, as we have scored first 6 times in all.

Our only visit to the Priestfield in the last 28 years was an FA Cup 3rd Round tie in 2004 that saw the Gills score their biggest win over us, 3-2. Apart from that game all the others at Priestfield have been Third Division matches with most of them coming in the 1920's with us winning 4 of them against their 3 with 5 draws. We've won the last 3 League games at Priestfield and you have to go all the way back to 1929 to find the last time they beat us at their place.
Overall its a massive 12-3 to the Addicks but, perhaps due to the derby influence, there's been a huge number of drawn games, 9 in all.

Doing a Leicester?
After thirteen games Leicester had a record of 7 wins, 4 draws and 2 defeats (to Millwall and Brighton); and were therefore three points behind us on 25 points.

What Are They Saying
An ominous, though fruitless, talk from Paul Lambert over at Carrow Rd before visiting Leeds, "We'll go there to try and win. We're playing really, really well at the moment and if we go there and play like we have been, then we'll be right in the game. We'll defend strongly but when we have it we'll go and play our game. We'll have a terrific following up there so I'm not going to go up there and look for a draw, I'm going to go there to try and win." Perhaps you should have gone for the draw, Paul.

The Team
The three points gained last weekend, using 4-4-2, will have pleased Parky although it was his defence winning all the plaudits and that may well cause him to return to his crowded midfield and his previous 4-5-1 for an away game that will be hotly contested.
And with Richardson, Dailly and Youga ever present is not hard to see that its our back four that are currently earning the points. Only 5 players have appeared at the back in our 13 League games and during that time only one of them, Llera, has been substituted.
Semedo is sure to be there in front of an unchanged defence while our reliable duo of Racon and Bailey are unlikely to have any doubts over their selection. While Racon has been subbed twice, late on at Leeds and against Exeter, skipper Bailey is the only midfielder/striker that has not been subbed in League games.
Wagstaff continues to threaten Sam but a starting berth will have to wait a while which leaves the only question mark this week over Shelvey, Burton and McLeod. The issue is one of formation. Does Parky continue with a shaky but attack orientated 4-4-2 or revert to his season long 4-5-1?

And while Parky clearly has no time for Pardews idea of strikers he also knows that there are no less than 13 League One teams that have outscored us over the last eight games and that's why, despite getting Mooney on loan, he's still running his eye over strikers. Another one, along with a midfielder, were included in a secret behind-closed-doors reserve friendly against a Glenn Hoddle team on Monday night. And it was one of the trialists - name unknown - who scored the first goal; "a visiting defender could only flick the ball into the path of one of the players on trial for Charlton, who raced clear to slot home." Sign him up, Parky.

So what's the team then? Will Parky listen to my advice that if we score first we'll win and use an attacking lineup with McLeod and Burton or will he see instead a grim, tight local derby where the rules are out the window and that could go either way.

For me its down to man management and he'll feel he owes something to Matt Spring for his first half performanace against Huddersfield and his acceptance at being subbed by Semedo while at the back of his mind will be the need to remind McLeod that removing your shirt and waving it to the crowd is liable to mean more time spent sitting down. Both these things will tempt Parky to include Spring in a 5 man midfield which would allow Bailey more time to attack.

So its;

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Sodje, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Spring, Bailey; Burton


It'll be a grim local derby with nothing in it. There's been draws a plenty between us and it could be down to a single goal but with our League record down there and with our away support driving us on, I'll go with a 2-0 away win.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Huddersfield Town Preview

After five games in 15 days, with Colchester steaming up behind, and issues over injuries and niggles all starting to surface leave Parky facing some difficult decisions this weekend. Another home game against Huddersfield gives him an opportunity to try new attacking options but will he use them?

This weeks visitor is Lee Clark, in his first managerial job since he joined the Terriers last December. He's still only 36, played at Newcastle for most of his career before he moved to then second division Sunderland in 1997. And, yes of course, you've recognised the year because he played in the side that reached the play-off final in May 1998 and we all know what happened next.

Condemned to play another year in the second it seems he wasn't a happy bunny because, despite being promoted to the Premiership in 1999 with a (then) league record of 105 points, he was spotted with some old mates among the Newcastle fans at the 1999 FA Cup Final shortly afterwards, wearing a t-shirt with the slogan "Sad Mackem Bastards". He was immediately dropped from the team, and never played for Sunderland again, moving to Fulham the same year.

His team Huddersfield are currently 8th, seven points behind the Addicks with only 1 win ( and 4 defeats) from their 6 away games. On opening day they drew with 2-2 at Southend coming back from 2 goals down, then after 3 home wins in a row (including the 7-1 over Brighton) they suffered their first defeat 1-0 at Bristol to an 84th minute goal. They then lost to Newcastle 4-3 in the League Cup after going 3-1 in front before winning 3-2 at MK Dons this time after being 2-1 down. They then lost 3-1 at Millwall but kept going and scored a consolation goal 5 minutes from time.
But, after a boring goalless draw at home to lowly Stockport, their away form really hit a bad run with three games away from home on the run and all were lost. They went down 2-1 at Walsall with the winner coming 3 minutes from time, then 1-0 to Colchester again with a late winner in the 80 minute. A JPT game at Chesterfield was next and after being 3-1 down they hit back with 2 goals in injury time only to lose on penalties.

The Opposition
They clearly don't suffer foreigners up there in Huddersfield for the Terriers are a completely English squad with no foreigners on their books, except for the obligatory 4 Irishmen.

I can't find the name for it but there's definitely a Clarke fixation at the Galpharm Healthcare Stadium (!). Apart from the manager there's another three of them, two in the middle of the defence. Captain is number 5 Peter Clarke, ex of Premiership Everton and its rumoured, was offered a deal by the Addicks during the summer but turned us down to move to Huddersfield, and the name for that is idiotic. Alongside him there's number 6 Terrier stalwart Nathan Clarke, at the Town for eight years. Then there's his brother Tom, sadly for Clarke fans, out of the team.

Number 10 Robbie Simpson is a new boy bought in the summer from Coventry for a rumoured 300K. He joined Coventry in 2007, bought by Iain Dowie from Cambridge for a song and was proclaimed "a future star" by Dowie - where have we heard that before, and, of course, he's failed to score, so far, for the Terriers.

Seems that Clark likes the rotation idea with two strikers Simpson and Robinson playing away at Colchester in a backs to the wall formation but with Rhodes and Novak being preferred at home last weekend against Exeter. Nineteen year old Jordan Rhodes certainly enjoyed his break scoring three headed goals in 8 minutes against Exeter in the 4-0 win and he heads their scoring table with 8 League goals and eleven in total while they have in reserve another youngster the number nine, twenty year old , Theo Robinson on 5.

Whats Their Secret?
With only 1 win in their last 5 away games - and 4 defeats - they'll come to defend. But beware, only three teams have come from behind to win this season in the League One; Bristol, Walsall and Huddersfield, and the Terriers did it in their only away win, at MK Dons, winning 3-2 after going a goal behind. And they have also come from two goals behind at Southend and Chesterfield to get draws.
And Huddersfield are also the League One second highest scorers with 23 goals only one less than Norwich on 24.

What They Saying?
First there's a lone voice from the town supporting his manager while others are calling for his head. Oh and he doesn't appear to see the weekends game as "winnable".
And Clark himself wasn't too pleased with Towns' recent performance against Chesterfield in the JPT last week. "The cup tie went to penalties because we defended absolutely abysmally for their second and third goals. We can't be coming and dominating proceedings, certainly like we did in the early part of the game, and then giving goals away like we have - it's not conducive to winning football matches." Well, at least his spelling is spot on.
Meanwhile, while we comfortably used Plan B to beat Barnet in the JPT in the night's biggest win, Mr Grayson was not so happy up there in Leeds. He made 6 changes for the side that played us and although they managed to beat rock bottom Darlington 2-1 he seems far from pleased.
And as a warning of what's to come, Colchester manager Boothroyd, after Colchester's 1-0 win in Huddersfield's last League away game, "They came to spoil, played with a back five, and tried to counterattack. We overcame it and it wasn't a particularly good spectacle".

Its been 9 eventful years since we played Huddersfield in the same Division back in our Championship winning year 1999/2000 when in our usual Curbishley fashion we were limping towards the title - they won that game in April 1-0. And along with Norwich, Huddersfield are the team we've played the most, 35 seasons worth including our most memorial win the 7-6 in December '57.

Overall in the League its 31-25 to the Addicks with 14 draws with an impressive 21-9 with 5 draws at the Valley.

The Team
There's a number of tricky selection decisions to be made by Parky this weekend and at the back of his mind is the worrying statistic that he hasn't scored for three games, League that is. In defence he has to decide between the returning bravery of Sammy Sodje and the scoring threat of Miguel LLera. Against a team that are likely to have learnt from Oldham's example, if they needed any encouragement after their display at Colchester, and will come to defend, perhaps we should look towards scoring goals rather than defending.
Then there's the reported return from injury of Jose Semedo. He was instrumental in our first 6 wins and will surely replace the hard-working Spring.

Then there's the question mark being constantly raised over Jonjo? Should he be rested or given another go to impress while in front of him Burton has failed to add to his total over the last three games, as has McLeod, so is it time to try the different approach of our now fit number nine Leon McKenzie?

But no, I don't think so, too many changes could be throwing out the baby with the bath water so Parky will stick to two; Semedo and Sodje to return and the rest as is.

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Sonje, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Bailey; Burton

It'll be Oldham all over again with another team determined to get away with a point and they may play 5 at the back as they did against Colchester. We've conceded 5 of our 10 goals in the last 5 minutes of each half which suggests that our concentration drifts a bit which could be fatal against this lot who show true Yorkshire grit and keep going till the end and its worth remembering that everything seems to happen at the end of Huddersfield games as it did in 1957.
Meanwhile our record against the top half teams is pretty bad, 16th out of 24 with no wins in 4 games against Leeds, Colchester, Oldham and Norwich. This needs to be put right soon but the Terriers won't make it easy although they are also shit against the cream; only winning once at MK Dons whilst losing at Bristol, Colchester and Millwall.
So assuming that luck won't desert us a second week running ( conveniently forgetting Richardson's penalty area trip) and with our 21-9 home record against them its a home banker for me. 2-1 to the Addicks.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Oldham Athletic Preview

After last weeks nervous few days when we had began to think that our season was beginning to turn a tad sour with only one win in 5 games and a thumping defeat at Colchester we can now begin to relax with a win under our belts at last, albeit only over League Two Barnet.
And after harbouring a few doubts perhaps we should be suitably contrite and give credit where its due. Yes, its time to give a bit of applause to our man Parky who is gaining respect by the game. Four goals scored on Tuesday, for the second time this season, after going behind, was the tonic we all needed and comes in a game where Plan B was definitely used with 8 Academy players used in the 90 minutes as well as the first game this season when 2 of our out and out strikers have scored in one game.
It all goes to build everyones confidence in Parky and follows the point earned at Leeds where we clearly played football that could have won us the game and was obsolutely the correct response after the disappointing 3-0 defeat at Colchester and all at a time when injuries are starting to bite into the squad.

So on to this weeks villain. You may not have heard of him but take my word for it Oldham manager Dave Penney is extremely experienced. He's only been at Boundary Park since June joining from Darlington, where he's spent the last three years and his influence at Darlington should not be ignored as since he's left they have slumped big time and are currently rock bottom of League Two with just two points.
As for his best times they were when he was in charge at Doncaster, building them from a midtable Conference team into League One members because, like our last visitor, Exeter manager Paul Tisdale, he took them, with successive promotions, from the Conference to League One in 2 seasons, 2002/04 and all on astute dealings in the transfer market with little cash to throw around.

And if you've got a minute of two there's an in-depth look at Penney's career in an article by Hugo Steckelmacher which, although written in 2008, is still very interesting and will well give you cause to doubt the three points and it also includes a paragraph comparing the skills of Penney with our young upstart Parky.

Current Form
The Latics are currently 8th with 16 points. As for their away games, they've played five, 2 wins, 1 draw and 2 defeats.
They won 2-1 at Orient, lost at Millwall 0-2, drew with Brentford 1-1, lost to Bristol 0-1, won at Southend 1-0. Not a bad record but only three teams ( the spanners among them with a single away goal) have scored less goals away from home.
But they are on a bit of a run and since that last minute 1-0 defeat away to Bristol Rovers on 12th Sept they haven't lost for 4 games, only conceding one goal in the process, in a run that has seen them inflict on Southend their first home defeat, something that even Leeds couldn't do.

We've had very little contacts with the northern Athletic and somehow it therefore seems appropriate that the only connection that turns up between us is the name of Iain Dowie. Monica managed them for just one year back in 2002/03 and somehow got them into the Division Two Play-Offs before heading south for the Palarse. Perhaps he should have stayed where he was for everyones sake.

The Opposition
Twenty-seven miles is all that separates Oldham from Leeds and perhaps last weekends fixture was good preparation for the game ahead. A settled back four, two of whom played previously with Leeds, with Lomax, Hazell, captain Gregan and Sheehan all having played the last four games. Now an aging 35 - the same as Christian Daily - Gregan is ex West Brom for whom he played in the Premiership in 2002/03 (he played at the Valley where he lost 1-0) and Sheehan is on loan from Leeds.

In fact, Parky won't have his work cut out figuring out their team as its been the same for the last 4 games with the exception of Lomax's migraine at half-time last week. He was replaced and if it was the first time he's had it I can sympathize. The first attack I had made me dash off to the docs straight away thinking I was having a brain hemorrhage, at which point the doctor coolly reached into his desk drawer, drew out a piece of paper and asked me "Is it like this ?" Yes, it was a jagged question mark.
Anyway, Penney's love is a classic 4-4-2 with Abbott and Parker up front with Shelvey look-alike Whitaker, 21 year old Furman who thinks he's going to the World Cup, 19 year old Alex Marrow, on loan from Blackburn, and, 10 goals last season, winger Chris Taylor in midfield.

Clearly a favorite with manager Penney, who paid Swansea 100k for him while he was manager at Darlington, is Pawel Abbott. Current top scorer, number nine Abbott is a Polish U-21 international thanks to his mum, and is on 4 goals, although it must be said, Pav, that two were from the penalty spot. Penney said after signing Abbott for the second time in June, "I'm delighted to get this deal done as we have ourselves a proven goalscorer - Pawel's goal ratio is excellent."

Whats Their Secret?

Ignoring Southampton, as we all can this season, only the bottom two point scorers, Wycombe and Tranmere, have scored fewer goals and as befits the third lowest scorers with 10, Oldham's away games are always tight with few goals, with only nine goals scored by both teams in the 5 games ( one goal every 50 minutes), only Leeds with a mean 8 and Millwall with seven are lower. So while Norwich home fans can experience a host of goals - 29 in 5 games - Oldham are the opposition nobody wants because only two teams have a better defence than them with their five away goals let in. But they do appear to have a weak spot too. Four of their 11 League goals conceded have come in the last 5 minutes including injury time and they also lost in the League Cup at Carlisle in the 89th minute.

Doing A Leicester?
Its neck and neck with 11 games played and Leicester had exactly the same points as the Addicks from exactly the same record, 7 wins, 3 draws, 1 defeat and had scored exactly the same number of goals.

What are They Saying?
Bristol Rovers manager Trollope was clearly impressed by the opposition after his 1-0 last minute win and said of Oldham, "The way they pressed the ball, their organisation and the work ethic was exceptional."
I know we shouldn't be doing it, but needs must. Pardew, after signing the exotic Papa Waigo from Florentina, still wants more and is after another loan striker. And he's suddenly become upset that about money, "It's disappointing that my phone hasn't been ringing. Maybe their efforts in the reserves or on the training ground need to improve. There are four or five who need to go out, either on loan or permanently. I don't want to see players sitting around earning money but not contributing."
As we learned last season searching among the other tables apart from the points gained one helps at times, and if I were Pardew I'd be more concerned about my defence because it must have passed his notice that looking at a points-lost table for League One Southampton are also rock bottom, having given away 4 victories while leading.


Twenty years spent together and we lead the Latics by an impressive 17-8 with 15 draws. But being Addicks it must be pointed out that there is a potiential banana skin as Oldham are one of 5 teams in League One that have never win at the Valley ( or Sainsburys for that matter). The record at home is 13 wins and 7 draws with a 1-0 win in Sept 1996 in our last game together when David Whyte, Whyte, Whyte scored with just 4 minutes left.

The Team

A couple of weeks ago we were the Divisions top scorers but after two goalless games both Norwich (on 23) and Colchester (21) have overtaken us and somehow I can't see the resolute Oldham allowing us a goalfest to catch up.

Injuries are also starting to appear amongst our ever-presents with Richardson and Burton joining Sam Lloyd and Jose Semedo on the treatment table. Scott Wagstaff was one of the stars on Tuesday and would appear to have pressed his claim for a place on the right wing if Sam remains unfit while behind him Chris Solly could also deputise for Frazier R at right-back.
One definitely missing is Sam Sodje away in Nigeria for their vital World Cup game against Mozambique, so Miguel Llera will return to defence alongside Dailly, as long as he's recovered from his virus, with Kelly Youga at left-back. It remains to be seem if the added pressure of Sodje behind him will improve Miguels game or not.

Semedo's continued absence with his pelvic injury is starting to look a bit ominous so expect Matt Spring to continue in midfield with Racon and Bailey.
Another issue concerns the attack. With Deon recovering from his broken nose and two strikers used on Tuesday will Parky be tempted to line up with 4-4-2 to counter Penney? Can't see it really and with Burton rested and Jonjo only getting 30 minutes on Tuesday we should see our usual 4-5-1.

Its a team that have forgotten how to score - in the League anyway - against an away team that thinks that goals are for sissies. The 3rd highest scorers against the 3rd lowest. A team that have never won at the Valley against a team that haven't lost there since March.
One goal could win it, if we can score it, with a repeat of David Whyte 86th minute goal in their vulnerable last 5 minutes but they'll come looking for a goalless draw so expect some serious tedium with that one goal every 50 minutes stat. An added worry is that high flying Frankie V forecast a draw back in the summer and that was before Penney's new "resolve" arrived at the club. A third game goalless for the Addicks?
No, to hell with stats; a 2-1 win.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Leeds United Preview

So we've beaten at last, concede more than we have previously this season and all without scoring. Three records broken on one night that illustrate we still have a long way to go, and add to that the news that Bristol's win at Southampton leaves them just a single point behind us.
So not a very good night but the omens were there to excuse us. We've never won in Colchester in the League and we've never beaten one of Boothroyd's physical teams but unfortunately for everyone the next game is probably the most difficult of any fixture, away at Leeds.
Parky's response to Tuesday was that it wasn't a 3-0 defeat. Well, we can all remember a 3-0 scoreline that wasn't fair on the play ( a 0-3 defeat to another bogey team, the spanners, at Sainburys in 1988 stands out) but judging from the fans reports on the game we looked jaded and couldn't response to the two quick goal first half goals. Parky has already said that all our mistakes came in one night and "we have to be careful not to overreact" but with only three centre-halfs and one off on international duty next week while another is clearly hesitant on 4 yellows, perhaps a change should be made in the middle of defence - especially as Sammy Sodje knows a little about the strengths of Leeds after his loan period there last season culminating in the Play-Off semi.

So on to Leeds and after more news about their controversial ownership in yesterdays guardian it seems that Ken Bates lied about his situation, doesn't own any shares and they are in fact owned by a Cayman Islands registered Fund with 10,000 shares and may possibly have never been properly ratified by the Football League. All adding to the thought that if you ever needed an example of football mismanagement, look no further than Leeds United.

After the glory years in the sixties under Revie when they changed their kit to all white to copy Madrid, they dreamed of more of the same in the new millenium. After 4 years under David O'Leary, never finishing outside the top 5 and a European Cup semi-final in 2001, the following season it all started to fall apart. Under Peter Ridsdale they had taken out loans totalling 60 million in anticipation of further Champions League income but in 2001/02 they only finished 5th and failed to qualify for the Champions League and O'Leary was sacked that summer as players were sold to pay back the debts. They dropped to 15th in 2002/03 under Terry Venables and then Peter Reid but the inevitable happened the following season.

So fast forward to today, and this is Leeds' third year in Tier Three and it looks like being the last. Dennis Wise was in charge during their relegation to Tier Three for the first time in their history in 2006/07 and then left for Newcastle the following January leaving Gary McAllister in charge for the remainder of 2007/08. He managed to get them into the Play-Off final despite the 15 point penalty but lost 1-0 to Doncaster. But the following season, a run of 5 defeats in a row, culminating in a 3-1 reverse at MK Dons and a slip to 9th place saw McAllister sacked and Grayson took over in December 2008 but he in turn failed again against Millwall in the Play-Off semi's.

Simon Grayson's second home game in charge back in January was his first defeat at Leeds, a 2-0 defeat to Carlisle, but they haven't lost since, in the league anyway, although a 1-1 draw in the Play-offs with Millwall and a 1-0 League Cup defeat to Liverpool do spoil the record. Grayson is yet another youngster - he's 39, although he does look older - learning his trade in Tier Three and it was him that got Blackpool back into Tier Two in 2007 and took them to their highest position for 36 years the following season before Leeds enticed him away in December 2008.

So 1st v 2nd should see the biggest crowd that the Addicks have played in front of this season. Capacity at Elland Rd is over 39,000 but strangely for a club doing so well their biggest gate, of 27,000, has been for the opening game against Exeter City. Since then gates have dropped and the average is only 23,000, down from last season.


Unbeaten at home in the League since Doomsday, its the meanest defence against the most prolific attack in League One, although we are now equal with Colchester. Their home results have been; Exeter 2-1 on opening day, Tranmere 3-0, Stockport 2-0, Gillingham 4-1 and a 1-1 draw to their nemesis Carlisle, the last team to win in the League at Elland Rd. In the last three games, before Carlisle, they had 2-0 half-time leads while they lead Exeter and Carlisle 1-0 at half-time. They have also beaten Watford at Elland Rd in the League Cup although they had to win in extra time after Watford equalised with 3 minutes left.

And although they are currently on a run of 13 League games without defeat with eleven wins and two draws in that run, they have now failed to win either of their last two games at Elland Rd against Liverpool and Carlisle and according to Grayson didn't play very well at MK Dons last weekend.

The only ex around this weekend for the opponents is Tresor Kandol who has returned to Leeds after loan spells last season at Millwall and the Addicks. But we are unlikely to see as he hasn't played at all this season and he's unlikely to even make the bench especially as Grayson apparently has trouble counting to seven.

Who Are Yeh?
The goalie responsible for the lack of goals and the unbeaten record is 32 year old Shane Peter Higgs. He saved a penalty in the 0-0 draw at Southend to preserve the draw. But the number one is Danish Casper Ankergren, twice winner of the Danish league with Brøndby and he could continue in goal as Higgs has a injury from the MK Dons game.

The lack of goals conceded has been down to a settled defence of Crowe, Kisnorbo, Bromby and Hughes and clearly Grayson knows his stuff because three of them, and the goalkeeper, are new men recruited during the summer.

Right-Back is ex-Arse and Palarse Jason Crowe whose move from Northampton caused Frazer Richardson to look for a new challenge. Another new boy is Aussie Patrick Kisnorbo bought from Leicester in June and yet another new signing is defender Leigh Bromby from the Blades. But both Crowe and Higgs were missing on Tuesday with a hamstring strain and thigh strain respectively and then they lost Bromby, off injured on 37 minutes against Carlisle, so there's a few question marks about the Leeds defence for this weekend.
Another summer signing is experienced Irish midfielder Michael Doyle bought from Coventry, the oldest, at 28, in a young midfield.

For while Grayson has gone for an experienced rearguard with an average age of 30, Leeds have a young midfield with Snodgrass, Howson and Johnson all in their early twenties with local Leeds boy Howson, aged 21, being the biggest influence, the youngest in the team and has been the captain until Naylor's return to the defence from injury on Tuesday.

The Dangerman
No surprises here for its obvious that Leeds' main man is their number nine from Ealing Jermaine Beckford. Another ex-Chelski starlet, he was released in 2003 without playing a game and moved to Wealdstone where 54 goals in 82 appearances took everyones attention, even from the Addicks.
Snapped up by Leeds in 2006 for a palty 35k and despite all that transfer talk he's still popular with the fans, and has been their Player of the Year for the last two years probably because of his goals, 34 all told last season. And he's got six already this season.
Whats Their Secret?
Like the boring old Leeds of the 60's, defence comes first and they have the meanest back four this side of the Premiership. The most clean sheets, five, in League One and only 7 goals conceded in 13 games, including cup games against Watford and Liverpool, and they take it to obsessive limits with not a single goal conceded in the first half of any game so far. Having bored the other team into a coma they then go for the jugular and have scored 6 of their 17 League goals in the last 10 minutes.

After 19 seasons together its a not very bright 21-11 to the Yorkshire lot with just 4 wins and 4 draws in our 19 games at Elland Rd. But since that dramatic Play-Off win we've been there 6 times and only lost twice with 3 draws and a win in 2002. Our last game was a 3-3 draw on the 8th May 2004 and in fact they have a bit of a soft spot for us as that was Leeds' last home game in the Premiership in a year in which they finished 2nd to bottom on 33 points with a massive goal difference of Minus 39. Hence the back to basics approach, I suppose.

And that was the year, just 5 years ago, when the Addicks finished highest ever in the Premier, 7th, the gooners went unbeaten and manure suffered nine defeats. How times change.

The Team
We have our very own ex this week with Frazer Richardson returning to Elland Rd after joining the Addicks during the summer. Born in Rotherham, he spent his youth at Leeds and had 9 years there and played for them in that very last Premier game in May 2004 against us. And we've already mentioned Sodje's time there last season and Parky, we'd like to see him start.

There is no news on the fitness of Jose Semedo but his holding role appears key to our team and we can only hope that he's fit in time. Parky's one for stability and will, in view of his comments, field his usual side with the only additional question mark being Llera.

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Sodje, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Bailey; Burton.

It would be nice to puncture their neat and tidy pristine first half stats with a goal and with their late surge usually producing goals we may have to. They too were upset on Tuesday, not only by injuries, but by one of their bogey teams, Carlisle, who have only lost 3 of their last 8 games at Elland Rd.
Carlisle used a five man midfield for most of the game to defend in numbers before bringing on an extra striker 20 minutes from the end which got them the point.
A draw looks the best we will be able to manage but I do remember a shock 2-0 win at Sheffield United back in March 2008 after conceding three at Blackpool in a 3-5 defeat the previous weekend. The truth is we won't rate it as a miracle even though 31 out of the 37 pundits on cafcpicks see a defeat.