Saturday, 17 December 2011

OPPORTUNITY LOST: And a few cracks.

Oldham put on a decent performance to ultimately frustrate the Addicks from getting what would have prob. been a justifiable 3 points. However, for all their effective hard work and late efforts, Oldham (who also played well last season) took the shine off their performance with some very boring time wasting.
The home side suffered from Kermit's head injury which meant he had to go off to get it bandaged up to (apparently)  stop it bleeding. The initial gargantuan bandage did not do the trick for long so he was sidelined a second time for another layer; much more and he would have begun to look like the invisible man (and there were a few comments going around about him being mummified!). It's reasonable to attribute his somewhat lack lustre display to these problems. Certainly, the side missed his overall effectiveness badly though he cannot be faulted for 200% effort.
Unfortunately it coincided with another off day for BWP. He was off colour last week at Walsall and it was the same story today plus a couple of missed opportunities, though one of them was not as bad as it looked, the goalkeeper doing well to just get a hand to the ball  and it rebound it off his legs for a goal kick. He looks like he could do with a spell off, but we have got no other strong option.
Elsewhere, Wiggins had another skillful  pulsating game, Hollands toiled away reliably again in midfield and apart from his goal Russell had a fair game. However, the midfield badly lacks the calming influence of Jackson and the creativeness of Stephen (when he was at his best). Hogan Ephraim had a reasonable game but does nor exactly set the place alight (maybe he is not yet fully fit).
Green continues to flatter to deceive and make the loyal pull their hair out. He is supposed to be in there to create chances and provide a regular supply of good crosses. He is not doing this at all at the moment. And he's too casual when in spitting distance of the opposition when they attack. This casualness and apparent laziness plus Solly's positioning played a major part on Oldhams goal when our right side was taken apart with some neat passing. On that occasion, the ball was fired away for the equaliser with confidence; had that confidence been shown a little earlier in a similar position we could have been embarrassed.
I find it difficult to see how Green is keeping his place, surely it is not just on the basis of the possibility he might eventually fire in a good shot, or because he can throw the ball some distance.
Mpost could see that problems were emerging from down their left wing midway through the second half, and it's disappointing that CP did not make one substitution to try to address this.
With only Jason Euell on the bench other than Wagstaffe, we had no real attacking options and certainly would have been in more trouble had Kermit retired early. However, a Hughes or even a Pritchard on with about 25 minutes to go might have plugged some of the holes down the right hand side. 
Other than that, Hamer did not really have a shot to save and Morrison and Taylor performed well in defence but their distribution was not great today, far too many hoofed clearances.
If Hayes and Hughes seem to be out of favour then some constructive surgery needs to be done in January.
We have a worrying sequence of fixtures coming up, including the two Sheffields and Brentofrd, and Orient will be no stroll. Some bad results in thse games will provide a New Year's present of unneeded pressure.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

JOB DONE: But Little Panache

This was always likely to be tough, and the 3 points represent mission accomplished, especially as all the other contenders came up trumps.
However, it was not convincing against a hard working, physical but mid table side. I overheard someone say that 'you won't get them tougher then thatg': well I reckon we probably will, at the end of the day they were a hard side but only really mid table.
We were well let off in the first half when our defence was split wide open only for a well placed shot to rebound out off a post. Then towards the end of the first half Brentford missed a sitter of a header that should have gone in but skirted around the left hand post.
In the end BWP came to the rescue with a typical poacher's goal, latching on to a good cross along the ground from Green faster than any of the defenders.
You cannot take anything away from the effort of the side today in securing the points. However, there was little craft on show and,. like against Wycombe and Sheffield United we could easily have come out with nothing are being broadly played off the park in the first half of each game.
As my fellow season ticket holder said, it was unconvincing for a side in our lofty position but they must be doing something right to continue getting the results. I agree, though in those three games alone we have also been happy to take the luck (or the "run of the ball") whichever way you look at it.
Don't get me wrong,  I'll gladly accept and congratulate the side if they get another 3 points (or even 1)  against Huddersfield. However, having said that it really would be great and be more satisfying to come away from a game having comprehensively outplayed the opposition with a bit of style.
At the end of this game,  it seemed to me that only Hamer, Morrision and to an extent BWP came out with flying colours or ven stood out above the crowd. The latter should have picked up another goal which went wide but generally persevered well throughout the game, with little support.
Jan C had another game like Wycombe where astonishingly he won few balls in the air (was that because he was playing good back four players? or did he just have a slightly off game). Irrespective of that, he gave 100% and more and was on the end of some pretty rough treatment throughout the game.
Whether our performance was badly impacted by the pitch was not good. It seemed to me to have been watered heavily and suggest that we do not like such a surface, so let's hope it's not repeated too many times.
Our first half performances in all three of these great victories suggests to me that if we play a really good side (if there is one) we may be taken apart. Let's hope that is not Huddersfield.
If ever there was an incentive to get out of this division it is Brentford and Stevenage. They seem like nice little friendly clubs (Brentford not the force thet were 40-50 years ago) but the grounds are depressingly small, scruffy and bordering on the unsafe in the case of Brentford (I wonder if Health and Safety get around there much?)

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Caution Yes: But Let's Not Go Over The Top!

I trust that CP will think long and hard before picking too weak a side.I'm in favour of resting key players, though not to the extent that we risk an embarrassing defeat in front of the TV audiences.
You can bet your life that Halifax are up for it, and that there will be small, if any, reference in the commentary to our weakened side if Halifax take the game by the scruff of the neck. An embarrassing defeat would certainly set the cause back, plus any prospect of progressing further to a mouth watering 3rd round tie that could be good for morale and the bank balance.
That having been said, the game provides the opportunity to test Alonso: is he eventually going to be a serious contender for a place; if not then why did we sign him?
I would also give Evine a chance, but perhaps not at left back, he appears to have more attacking than defending skills.
I am not too sure that a pairing of Benson and Hayes will bother a side even at this level.
If we are taking along Jan C for part of a game I would favour starting with our strongest line up available on the day and making substitutions when, hopefully, we have built up a lead and some breathing space.
I can never understand adopting the opposite strategy and having to stage a desperate last 20 minutes to comeback from a potential defeat having given the other side the momentum due to a weakened selection. Jan C put the fear up most defences with his strength and Ariel power; let's have it for the first 60 minutes and give a substitute forward at least a half hour in the second half run-in.  At that point, we could also give Bover some rein to test him out in the most suitable position.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

ANOTHER TEST PASSED: But 'Continuous Improvement' still required

A good professional performance in front of, once again, a really impressive away set of fans (and it was good to bump into Ketts yet again!).
For those who went by car, it must have mitigated the frustration of getting out of the home side’s car park. I managed to get a local street spot but they were limited and only possible due to my very early arrival, which made it a long day.
After failing the test against little Stevenage, (with a few more to come) the side put on an impressive display to get the three points (though not without some late, all too typical, jitters). I cannot work out what the answer is to this problem, can it bee that the side are either not fit enough, or over trained and just plain knackered in the last 20 minutes?
It's should also be pointed out that the total number of shots on target at the end of the game bore no resemblance to the early domination.
The two front men are displaying potency in front of goal and are getting better at reading each other’s game. Unlike the last few games where Jan K won, unbelievably, almost every ball in the air, he surprisingly scored pretty lowly in this respect this time around. I guess that he played a really excellent man marker on this occasion. However, that did not mar another pretty good display. For a big man (he may not be that tall but he is certainly solid, which is what we need) he is pretty mobile. Staying on for 90 minutes will do his fitness no harm. A great overhead effort hat hit the bar was tidied up neatly by BWP slotting it home. He then added a superbly taken goal from an exquisite through ball from Hollands, who otherwise had a solid but forgettable game.
If there is one failing with the current side, as noted by one of the comments on CAFCPICKS, we do not seem to have anyone other than Wiggins who can genuinely round a defender with a burst of speed or trickery.
Green does not seem to be able to do this and all too often tries the spectacular instead of the obvious. Wagstaffes' less complicated approach seems more effective when he gets the opportunity, though he too can often not beat a defender and when he does his final ball / cross cannot be relied upon.
Maybe Stephens can return to form when he is next selected. He seemed capable of beating a man in his initial games but lost it just prior to his recent absence: perhaps the stress of his partner imminently giving birth was too much for him: let’s hope that was the reason.
Hughes was fairly steady, running around like a fitness freak, picking up the stray balls and breaking down the oppositions moves. However, he is prone to a serious lapse of concentration and often takes the easy option to clear a ball up field or to the wings instead of thinking and playing a more constructive pass. However, he has picked up since his calamitous Paint Trophy game and has begun to justify some of CP’s faith, if only as a utility squad man.
The back fours had a good game: and if one wanted to nit pick, Morrison and especially Taylor do not seem to clear the ball well enough but they are gradually becoming a strong partnership. Morrison performed one amazing goal line tackle the like I have not seen before, and which is impossible to describe unless you were there. The nearest I can recall for its uniqueness was when Paul Went many years ago trapped the ball intentionally with his arse, and on another occasion took Derek Possee 5 yards off the pitch with a perfectly fair but highly robust challenge that would probably have gotten a booking in the modern game.
Solly was Solly, pretty dependable in his defensive role but still needs to improve his distribution.
Wiggins continues to impress and looks like one of our best acquisitions after a slow start in the initial games.
BWP is on a great run which will continue to attract attention around the game.
However, I gather his contract is up next summer (2012). One of the reasons we managed to secure him was that we were prepared to take a risk on his apparently suspect leg injuries/ weaknesses. Our backroom staff seem to be doing an excellent job on this to to keep him in optimum fitness and form.
Come January and thereafter, we may be victim to an increasing circle of vultures in the shape of other higher clubs looking for a proven goal scorer. Having the name WP adds to any publicity surrounding his goalscoring exploits. The club’s resolve to keep him may be tested at some stage in the New Year, and maybe even as early as January?).
It could be ironic that the very same fitness concerns that we took a calculated gamble on, may be a factor that helps us to keep him, but certainly the offer of a good new contract and a personal genuine commitment from the player to the club would not hurt either (though I am not sure whether the latter is a charactersitic of today's game).

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Had to Happen: But it was the Manner of defeat

We got out of jail from two very poor first halves at MKDONS and Sheffield United and were nearly found out at home against Tranmere. Added to that the Paint Trophy debacle against Brentford, and we are not exactly in a rich vein of form.

In view of that, I feared the worse for this banana skin of a game as per my last post, and though we lost to an unlucky deflected shot, the manner in which we played and surrendered the ball and the midfield was the worse thing about the defeat.
The signs have been there to see, the midfield misfiring with Stephens and Hollands not dominating as they had in earlier games, and the opposition sussing out our style of play and closing us down.
It’s all very well playing it on the ground, as many fans demand, but you have got to have players who can command the game doing that naturally; and can beat a man.
Once again, we had few examples of anyone (inc. down both flanks) taking the ball around a man. Passing persistently square and finishing off with a hopeful punt is predictable now to most opposing sides, who have clearly being doing their homework before the games.
Stevenage did not dominate as physically as I had anticipated, but they probably had the upper hand for most of the game other than the usual last 10-15 minutes pressure that kicks in regularly out of desperation when we have gone behind on occasions.
Stevenage scored a freakish deflected goal but on balance probably deserved it, though our ineptitude on the day made them look better than they are.
Added to our lack lustre performance was the eccentric selection at the back with Solly dropped, Cort in the middle and Morrison switching to right full back.
Hughes did a lot of timed running in the pre-game warm up. My nephew speculated that it may have been a fitness test and when he failed it they selected Morrison at full back. Not sure about that, but it 's one explanation. I had speculated that Cort was in to defend in the air against their big forwards, and Solly was out because of a poorish game in the last home match and because CP was concerned he would be up against some classy, or big, opposing player.
In the event, Stevenage did not seem to have much talent going down the left and Morrison was not tested that much. Most of their attacking flair came from a deep right sided midfielder. Probably just as well, as many would have been criticising Powell for playing a centre half at right back (as he did with Mambo when Francis went off at home). The fact that our right back options are Francis (currently out of favour) and Hughes (who does not give great confidence and had a poor last home game) puts onto doubt the strength of the squad ion key positions.
CP took too long to try and change things around in the second half, taking off Green (another poor game) and bringing on Wagstaffe very late in the second half.
Others criticised bringing on Evina late on, as he is considered to be a left full back.
I was more in sympathy, as he has speed and can beat a man, and could have been usefully deployed down the left flank instead of Stephens, largely anonymous, or even Jackson who was once again out of the game for too much of the time.
It’s easy to be critical of Yann Kermorgant and BWP. The former won many balls in the air again, but others do not seem to read that so they are largely wasted. BWP came close a couple of times near the end (but did not do a much else). However, the patchy midfield performance and Green’s duff game did not provide either of them with a decent ball at their feet for long periods.
This poor performance was against a side who won the Conference a few seasons back with virtually the same team fielded today, bar two useful additional signings the club has made. That kind of puts this lacklustre performance into context.
The other results today went broadly for us, and I guess a draw between the two Sheffields tomorrow would be just about right.
We need to sort out the defence and get some creative attacking imagination back into the side ASAP, in order to avoid a gradual decline, as has been commonplace in previous seasons after such a good start,
(This disappointing display was once again soured for many by the selfish standing of a small minority. One half of the stand was seated for most of the game and made a hell of a lot of noise. The small minority made others stand after they had spent their hard earnt cash on a seat that they wanted. Sorry, but there are many loyal fans who have no need to 'stand up if you love CAFC'. They have demonstrated that over good and bad seasons over many seasons.
There was no such problem at Sheffield United, from a crowd really up for it,  and without the need for a repetitive drum roll!). 

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

A DIFFERENT (Threatening) TEST ON THE HORIZON

This week sees an away game just 7 miles from where I have lived for the last 20 + years, a game I always saw as a  potential banbana skin.  It's now my closest league game.
Stevenage's march up the tables has propelled them above Luton and Barnet (and who knows, maybe one day above Watford).

I have only been to the ground a couple of times, one was a best forgotten frozen, brass monkeys New Year's game seated in their tiny draft stand. The ground has seen some considerable improvement since then and some expansion. However, it will be a new type of test with an atmosphere more in common with Welling than Sheffield United.
The crowd will be within breathing distance of the players with no doubt a rich mixture of barracking and abuse straight into their ears. However, there is a real possibility that CAFC fans will mitigate this as they may outnumber the home side's fans if there are available tickets on the day: but I’m not encouraging that, just stating the obvious.
I’m told there is a local fair in Stevenage this week and the field used for football parking opposite the ground may either be unavailable or pretty packed. The station is a 15-20 minute walk and may be the best bet, as it’s only about a half hour up from Kings Cross.
Stevenage have had a good start, not least their thrashing of Samedo's Sheffield Wednesday (to add to Newcastle's scalp in a previous cup game a few seasons back). A mid table position looks a possibility (a few weeks back, a real challenge for the play offs looked on).
Their style is said to be non-compromising and I fully expect them to have been briefed that "the posers from London don't like it 'up 'em". Nobody does: but I hope they come with the right attitude to overcome it.  
I suspect they will throw everything at us, rather like at MKDons and Sheffield United in the first half, but in a more physical and bruising way. We withstood (just!!) the onslaught in those 2 games but this may be a sterner test.
We need to keep calm and not be provoked, we do not want any unnecessary bookings or red cards. Hollands is a “100 per center” but needs to stand back if got at, and Wagstaffe’s petulance needs to be reigned in.
The real test will be for our two central defenders who must withstand any storm and be sure to really clear the box with powerful headers.
I was dismayed to hear that we were considering loaning Doherty out to Luton. He was not my favourite player last season but has played well both pre season and ion the games I have seen him appear in (though I gather he had a bit of a stinker ion the cup). Nevertheless, much as Mambo has real prospects, it would leave leaves us pretty thin if it were only him and Cort (whose heading was abysmal when he came on as a sub’ when I saw him).
It could be a really tough game. I would settle for a draw to keep our unbeaten record. Given my mediocre performance in CAFCPICKS this season maybe we’ll just breeze it 3-1! (hope so).

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Sheffield United : Resilence: and a Touch of Class

Well, this game demonstrated some of the weaknesses and, ultimately, the strengths of this new CAFC side.
For those who had laboured up a congested and "incident" afflicted M1 the game and the sunshine eventually provided a real reward, not the least 3 points. The Blades ground has also come on a lot and ranks alongside the Valley as one of the better venues.
The lengthy drive and jams on the M1 must have raised a few doubts for our Canadian (please note not American!) fan Bob Miller and his wife Rosemary as they sat in slow crawling traffic up the M1 after a 7am start in Blackheath.  A pint of Marstons and a Stake and Ale pie cholesterol blockbuster in the peaks may have restored spirits before the game but this was tempered by an anti climax of a first half.
The first half seemed like a bit of a rerun of MKDONS, with the home side putting together all the good moves and football and coming really close on two occasions to opening the breach, but for some desperate goal line clearances.
We seemed overwhelmed by the pressure and could not really put together a decent move for long periods, though Morrison had a good chance to score but hit wide. The midfield did not get going and was largely anonymous. Hayes was putting in an effort but getting little up front, Wagsaffe was trying hard but being as frustrating as he can be at times.
On the really bright side, Hamer had an excellent game making some great saves, coming out when required and generally showing us that this young keeper is grabbing the great opportunity we have given him with both hands.
At the back, I thought that Wiggins had his most impressive game to date (and removed much of the doubt many have had about him). Solly was poor in the first half in his distribution but he gave more than most in terms of telling tackle as and timely interceptions and stuck to his task admirably.
I said to Bob, honestly and not just as a 'cheer him up' throw away comment that our best was probably to come, especially if we brought on Kermorgant sooner than later.
After my enthusiasm for him in my last post, he did not let me down. On he ran as an inspired (but obvious) substitution) to nod bravely and firmly into the net from a corner with his first touch (much in the same style as at MKDONS). He then went on to exhibit the same control, laying off and grit in 50/50 tackles that he did in the first game. They say that he is not fit yet and that is why he is not in the initial eleven. I go along with the strategy for away games, but I would like to see him on from KO at home games and let him run himself out to be replaced by Hayes later on if necessary. That's certainly a way to help him get match fit and to maybe insure we go ahead in games rather than run the risk of falling behind.
A great result which rewarded the real core of Valley faithfuls at the game (Dr Kish et all). They were great in numbers and voice and the fact that they did not need constant repetitive drumming to demonstrate that said it all for me.
Many were monitoring Preston's surprising demise at Orient which made it all the better (but perhaps overlooking perhaps MKDONS' and Sheffield Wednesday's continuing march).
So, the challenge now is to keep it up to Xmas and not waste it in the New Year, as we have been apt to do in the past.
After such a performance, it was interesting to see CP get the players together for 3-4 minutes animated talk in the centre of the pitch at full time; oh to have been a fly on the wall during that!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Could be THE telling signing

A great performance, though limited to a late substitution, from our new French striker.
He looked class as soon as he came on. Not only did the Frenchman hold the ball up well, he got two great headers in straight away, threaded a sublime through ball and even showed some real old fashioned muscle and shoulder; like a centre forward of old.
He looks like being a real snip and will become a favourite with the fans if he keeps it up. One is tempted to say; "what's the catch'? how come we have managed to secure him? For the time being, I'll credit CP with the coup.
Otherwise, the again was of two halves; MKD dominated the first half when were really poor, like many performance last season. They could have been 3 or 4 goals up by the interval with Hollands showing all the signs of sleepless nights on the domestic front, Stephens reverting to his anonymous role and Wagsatffe succeeding again in not being able to cross the ball.
We sharpened up in the second half and harried their midfield to greater effect. We had a couple of concerted pressure period, during which our new striker scored a great goal and came close with two other efforts.However, even then we did not look the class act of recent games, probably due to the fact that MKD looked like a side who will stay the course and be there amongst us at the end of the season.
With the skills of Green to provide pin point crosses, the new striker can yet be the hero of the season. However, there is a need to work out how to cover Solly when he is providing an attacking force, as that is not a quality that Green seems to possess, other than giving unnecessary free kicks away in dangerous positions.
Once again. some of our headed clearances were not deep enough in the first half but the back four otherwise held up reasonably well though Solly had a shaky first half.

Our new goalkeeper made a number of good saves, in particular one in the second half from a  long range shot that he saw very late . He seems to be proving himself as a sound replacement and shot stopper, and a probable improvement on Elliot and with his height he also provides a real force in cutting out crosses.
Pity that Preston are hitting form as a draw was a good result (with us even let off the hook to an extent)which would have meant that a draw at Sheff United would see us retain top spot. However, Preston are at home so things may be different.
We are hoping that our Canadian visitors (Bob Miller and his wife) a regular CAFCPICKS contributor, will bring us  some Maple Leaf luck at United

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Just Testing

In haste, I left out some player comments in my last post that should be resolved (did you spot the dliberate errors!!!??).
As per my pre-season Aldershot post I was really impressed with Ruben Bover Isquierdo. I had omitted him as he had only figured in the Reading game and whilst he had a fair game he did not stand oput as much as he did at Aldershot. However, I still see him as a great find and his less impressive appearance against Reading seemed to me to be because he was playing wide on the left and I saw him as a central midfielder. I may be right, but have not seen enough of him yet. However, this real find must certainly figure in our team building plans but I'm not surfer whether he will break through this season or not: it would be good if he does Davisson at Woking. He again must be one for the future but he may not have enough to make his mark this seaosn but I hope he continues to develop.
I omitted Jackson, (how could I doi that) probably because for him he had a relatively anonymous game against Sheff' Wed. However, he is a more experienced pro than most and I'm sure he will continue to be a force in midfield. If there is a problem it's positioning as he plays well down the left but we cannot expect him to be a flying winger as he does not have the speed (the same applies to left back where a fast winger will catch him out). Perhaps a more central role would be more effective, but it's a getting a little crowded in midfield with all this talent, but a few yellow cards and (hopefully not) can a least be covered by what seems to be a promising band of players. Whether they will be permitted to play the passing game that CP and the crowd seem to want now that opposing teams have cottoned on to how we ant to play remains to be seen.
And what happened to Honore who impressed briefly at Woking. I thought he looked useful but I do not know whether we have given him a chance to hang around to further assess or not?
Yet to see Leon Cort but just seeing him in a warm up before the game last night was impressive enough in respect of his physical attributes. Looked like solid muscle to me, in the same style as Mambo. Perhaps with his experience at higher levels, he is the man who may remove any doubts I have about our central back four pairing?

Time to Ponder

I have stood back from posting of late as others have provided excellent asessments and time has been tight (and it was good to have the opportunity to assess these new players over a longer sequence of games). Here are a few views to date:

Defence:
Hamer: not sure as yet: not doing too bad a job. Sullivan should not be forgotten and should challenge for a spot. (Pity Randolph is not still around);
Solly: still a reasonably solid player and developing; but others’ fears about sides identifying him as a weak link in the air seem to be materialising.
Hughes: not the answer to challenge for full back; lacks speed. Seems to be a general purpose utility man cover. Francis should be challenging. I assume that we want to move him on (transfer or loan) because he is too expensive (rather than any falling out with the management??). Pity, he could add something to the side based on recent form;
Wiggins: skilful player / footballer but distribution patchy, and too lightweight. Will be found out once the pitches get heavier, and against better sides than we have played to date.
Evina; good acquisition but prob. has more attacking virtues than defensive capabilities (like Wiggins), one for the future.
Middle of Back Four: Still not sure about current pairing; Taylor and Morrison don’t clear the ball properly or are dominant in the air. Who is the better of the two?; any slips to date seem to have come from Morrison.
We are wrong to set aside Mambo for the future alone; he could be bloodied sooner than later.
Doherty: though statuesque on the ground, is certainly more dominant in the air (both in defence and at corners, where our new pairing have not threatened).

Midfield:
Hollands: key player; aggressive / combative but also has vision. Will turn in the more consistent performances in terms of breaking up attacks and creative play;
Stephens: highly talented creative player, but on the evidence of the Sheff Wed game may be bludgeoned out of games by hard tackling midfielders who have been briefed to snub him out as a major threat. Remains a key player but do not expect continuous runs of good form;
Green: should be a key player leaving Wagstaff, who still cannot deliver consistently a final ball or cross, to fulfil a “super sub” role of some sort;
Pritchard: could be a real find, a Keith Jones look-alike in appearance and style.
Alonso: have not seen; cannot comment; Harriott; an interesting one for the future, but may not make it this year?

Upfront:
Is Benson staying? odds seem on him moving, though if Green delivers he could yet surprise a few if he stays with just what he can do. Assuming he does go out on loan:
Hayes: I was lukewarm pre-season but came around to him over recent games but was ineffective last night. Most frustratingly of all, fits into the mould of strikers we have had over the years who, even if they have height, cannot get their feet off the ground to win headers or at least challenge for the ball (even though he did score the other week from a close range header). Apart from good runs at Scunthorpe has never been a prolific goal scorer.
Euell: another who makes limited effort to get off the ground (albeit he also scored from a close range header) and spends too much time backing into the opposition (as he did when he last played for us). I have a feeling he could fulfil a role slightly behind the front two, but others doubt whether he has the legs for it. Should not be relied upon as an alternative target man.
BWP; an undoubted scorer, if we can keep him fit. I have questioned to what extent he can contribute if the rest of the team is not playing well and he is not scoring (maybe that needs yet to be fully tested). However, I have revised my view as he has improved in his running, distribution and laying off. A vital payer, but dangerous to pin all hopes on him alone.
Conclusions: We have not yet been that tested, more difficult fixtures are in the pipeline (Sheff’ United, Hartlepool, Rochdale and Stevenage away in the short term) when the credentials of our defence and forward line in particular will be tested.
We need a good quality striker in on loan (can one be found?),;Francis restored and another full back, perhaps a more conventional tough tackling variety (in the mode of Young, Bonds, Warman, Brown of old or CP himslef).
Of course anything else the management can come up with without rocking the boat and team morale would be gladly accepted.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Satisfactory Start / Decent Foundation

It was just that. A generally competent start to the season with some reasonable football at times and considerable effort by all in the side.
Punctuated by an excellent goal from Stephens following a good sequence of passing with Chris Solly on a good overlap and a cool cross,
Stephens was the surprise package. He had sprayed the ball around in the pre-season games I watched but was guilty of wasting the ball at times. On this occasion he did not really set a foot wrong, apart from a stupendous shot across goal trying to crown his imperious performance with glory with a ’goal of the season’ screamer volley, when something simpler was the order of the day. However, he can be forgiven (on this occasion) as he brought a breath of fresh air to the midfield and was easily the best player on the pitch. He still reminds me of Curbs in his appearance and movement, though potentially a better player.
I have voiced criticism of Waggy in the past but he was much more effective today. A few misplaced passes when he momentarily lost the plot as usual but, in general, a hard working effective performance, including some good defensive covering and an excellent volley after being set up by Stephens.
Wiggins’ game picked up after a nervous start that seemed to be the result of constant barracking from the Bournemouth contingent. Solly was caught out a few times in the air but otherwise snapped away at the opposition throughout the game in a way that must really irritate them but was good for us. However, it was obvious that they were playing ball out to his wing constantly to test his height shortcomings and after Francis good form in the pre-season games it’s difficult to see who has the strongest claim for right back (discounting all the uncertainty about Francis’ position at the club)..
Morrison and Taylor performed generally well, but I still have doubts about total reliance on them in the months ahead. Especially on the ground against fast ball-playing forward. We had that problem with Lierra and Doherty but on balance I think we will need Doherty (now that Daily has gone) to bring some solidity and experience, even though he is also suspect on the ground. I have yet to make my mind up who is the better of the two.
Apart from Stephens and Wagstaffe, Hollands had a steady reliable game. However, my initial thoughts that he is a little too one paced seemed to be borne out, though I am still hoping he will add a cutting edge over 10 yards to his game as he gets fitter. To an extent I had envisaged that he and Bover were going to be the starlets in midfield so Stephens’ emergence and Hollands’ slowish non-dominant start was a bit of a surprise. But, if Stephens can turn the same heat on regularly then, as my mate Keith said, Holland can perform a role as an effective foil.
Jackson did not stand out but had a steady game and did not really put a foot wrong, and I’m sure he will go open to have better games as the weeks pass.
BWP tried hard to get into the game but only really managed to have an impact towards the end with a rasping 25 yard shot that was just wide, and a determined run towards goal out of nothing that won us the penalty. Without those two contributions he was relatively anonymous but that is his game and if he can score or win us a goal a game then he will continue to be a valuable match winner for us.
I had been disappointed with Hayes’ input to the pre-season games that I saw, but I saw an improvement today. Not a stunning game, but he showed he had a decent touch at times and a couple of neat passing movements nearly came off. However, he has got to get stuck in a bit more in the air on the long clearances and hold the ball up more consistently. The feeling is that we still need another option in the same moulld which we do not seem to have at the moment, though I liked the look of our French centre forward at Woking, but probably too early for him yet.
So, a satisfactory start but no reason to sit on our laurels. There will be better teams with faster and bigger forwards to play over the coming months and though the scoreline was impressive, any watching opposition rep's would not have been scared out of their skins from this performance.
However, it's a good foundation for the team and CP which will be tested at the “top of the table clash” next week at Notts County.
Pritchard, Benson and Doherty had short cameo appearances, and the former showed a few nice touches (and was a dead ringer for Keith Jones).
Will be interesting to see how CP juggles the selection with Green and Waggy no doubt feeling they deserve a chance. I would go for Green with the option of deploying Waggy for 20 minutes at the end anywhere in midfield if desperate measures are called upon to score, or hold on!
One word for Bournemouth. Given what a small club they are and their known financial constraints you have to give it to them for doing so well last season. Also, given the outflow of their players (including our own raids) they still played some good footba and looked a fair side, albeit with no punch upfront. There was certainly nothing to suggest that their star forward whom we are supposed to be trailing was worth anything near the rumoured £1M asking price. However, I wish this game little club the best, though I think they will struggle this season.
Hartlepool might emulate Bournemouth this season as the little club who ‘done well’!
( I see that Racon could only manage the sibs bench for Millwall today)

Thursday, 4 August 2011

“Start Me Up”: not “The Last Time”



We all hope that the right Rolling Stones number for this season will be “Start Me Up”: we don’t want it to be “The Last Time” for Chris Powell’s promotion experiences.

Chris Powell had his share of the promotion glory in the Year 2000, as shown in this picture of our heroes of the 1999/2000 season. 91 points, 12 consecutive league wins after Boxing Day and a centre forward (Andy Hunt) who netted 3 hat tricks and 24 league goals. The picture also shows solid stalwarts with a physical presence like Steve Brown goal scoring opportunists like Clive Mendonca and Shaun Newton.
Optimism is the name of the game at the moment amongst the CAFC faithful; just look at CAFCPICKS for what is being predicted. (Of course, only ‘The Funder” has gone not only for an undefeated season but all wins!! (Courtesy of poetic licence on the part of the Editor!).
I fancy a successful outcome, though the magnitude of achieving should not underestimated. However, I would not be totally surprised to see a slow start whilst out new set of players synchronise. We may need a comparable Boxing Day + run this season and the hope is that the first part of the season is reasonable enough to avoid untold pressure on CP’s shoulders.
The strength of the side seems to be in midfield where,  unlike last season,  we have a vast array of choice. The players available include the quality of Hollands, Stephens, Green & Jackson and, possibly Alonso, for starters. I hope that the opportunity arises for Ruben Bover to impress, as he looks like one of the most exciting midfield talents we have had for a few years.
Upfront, BWP should have the instincts if fit, to emulate Andy Hunt. However, whether or not we have the right supporting act in Hayes, Benson remains to be seen and the general feeling is we need another experienced foil, who can also score goals himself. There is a hint that we may be recruiting another Pole, Rasiak, (hopefully a little more effective than Abbot, though he may have been underrated). The most likely addition may be Jason Euell. I was not that great a fan first time around but my feeling having seen him briefly at Woking is that he is still fit and up for it, and he could be a surprise package, not least to opposing defences.
I am still uneasy to rely on Morrison and Taylor alongside each other at the back and unless we have a suitable addition (Hughes??) my feeling is that we are going to see Doherty (or even Dailly??) play an important role.
It's good to see Mambo hanging on in there and surely he will come through in the medium term, and can a fellow CAFCPICKER be right when he said another youth back four player was alongside him at Carshalton and was even bigger!
Difficult to predict what is going on in respect of a goalkeeper, though all the signs are that Elliot may move on. If that happens, we have seen too little of Hamer to say he should get the nod, but Sullivan to me seems a reasonable replacement. However, as a colleague said, he needs to play a good game as well as talk one.
At the end of the day, a solid goalkeeper who can not only save but come out for crosses and instil confidence in our new defence is critical: let’s hope the club get it right. We didn’t when we let Elliots competitor go to Scotland, who is apparently now being courted by other leading clubs.
Oh for a “Successful Dawn of Honest Endeavour” with greater emphasis on commitment, skill and courage than coloured designer plastic boots: would be nice to think austerity may rule those out.
It's almost time: "Onwards We Go, Boldly Going, (we hope), into the Unknown, or where our Year 2000 team went before us".
Lest hope the start is better than I expect, so the CAFCPICKS can cross the Atlantic in September with untold optimism and expectation and leave his lumberjacking behind him.




Sunday, 24 July 2011


Well, these away friendly games are becoming a nice sojourn.
No generous bacon rolls at Woking, but a pleasant walk through the park, a civilised bar, no queuing and a decent pint, fair priced  'London Pride' to boot.
These games are also provide an interesting glimpse of some of the new acquired players and the up and coming youngsters.
I’ll spare you from the detailed Aldershot analysis and focus on some of the lasting highlights /impressions:

Francis: Had a good solid game, few errors, good in the air and actually got in the majority of any decent crosses that were going around. A renaissance?- Prob. Not if you read the various rumours about his imminent departure. However, with seemingly just Solly ensconced in the right back slot, a return to form would provide a good backup option (or on this form, genuine competition);
Mambo: Not startling, but good, solid performance against a useful forward with no panics. Coming on well, the club should continue to nurture his talent with good coaching and management;
Stephens: Busy midfielder, sprayed the ball around well, reminded me very much in his general gait and style of a playing Curbs. Not sure whether he will be the initial first choice (with Jackson and Hollands competing) but he will be knocking on the door;
Davisson: Do not know much about this lad, but in the first half he was busy, prepared to take on players and used the ball well with some excellent passing. I'm glad I had the opportunity to see him.
Once again, reminded me of one of our early stalwarts who I saw in my early days for a couple of seasons; Fred Lucas. I was pretty ecstatic about our young Spanish player Ruben Bover Isquierdo at Woking; I reckon this kid could also be an excellent find for now or the future;
Honore: Another youngster: do not know much about him either, but he looked sharp, keen, prepared to take on players and get stuck in. Like the look of him, but he was on for a very short time: deserves a longer spell to see if he shines;
Euell: Too little time to make his mark. I was not his greatest fan in his previous spell, however he may have the guile, pro skills and the need (given his reported probnlems off the field|) to make him a major contributor, If he hit form, he could vie for a first team selection rather than just a last sub’ option;
For me, a a disappointment was Hayes who seemed very much in the vein of a Benson look-alike, but slower. He played a little bit like he did not feel comfortable playing for what appeared to be a ‘second 11’.

Cannot make Tuesday night so will be interested in any comments on my own remarks on this and Aldershot, and keen to hear appraisals of Tuesday night.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

A First Glimpse

I finally caught up with taking a look at the new signings last night at Aldershot.
As my CAFCPICKS mate Barry predicted, Aldershot turned out to be a welcoming club with modest, but more than adequate facilities (apart from no light in the gents loo). However, this was partially offset by the cafe’s predicted ability to serve the best bacon roles around, as confirmed by an Old Boys football club mate, Henry Stock, which made his trip worthwhile in itself.
Since moving out to the sticks and spending time regularly down in the south of France, Henry’s visits to see the side have been curtailed. He has a strong pedigree being brought up in the area and his late father being been a fan since the 1930’s, having attended the winning cup final but had little knowledge of the current side.
However, for this game the three of us watched pretty much on the same basis, as I had seen none of the new signings before, and Barry had only sampled them at Welling.
I had had the good fortune to watch the brief snapshot film on Youtube of the Welling game. I picked out a few players from that and had already formed a view that the two Danny’s were ones to watch.
I expected to see two sides in each half but instead of this we had one selected side with a few substitutions in the second half. I gather that some players, such as Alonso, may be being rested after a late finish to their season, though beyond that the selection had the feel of a CP first choice 11 about it.
Armed with a CAFCPICKS Squad status sheet, the immediate task was to recognise and name the players, as a late arrival in our seats meant we missed the PA system and no propgrammes were available.
We expected Aldershot to be a reasonable test of the new squad as they have just one promotion and were keen to impress. They seemed to have an abundance of players, making lost of substitutions during the game and playing a neat passing game, but with little punch up front (though this was mirrored by the visitors).
Anyhow, this is my initial take on the new ensemble, to be possibly further refined at Woking on Saturday.

Defence:

Elliot performed reasonably satisfactorily. Their goal was well struck but there were some who felt that he could have got close to it.
Solly had his usual sound, workmanlike performance. I was impressed with Wiggins who seemed solid in all respects (which was good as I felt that, budget permitting, Bessoine performed well last season and would have been a good signing).
The two central defenders (Taylor and Morrison) were fairly sound but were not really threatened to any extent, though on the occasions they were, there seemed a degree of panic clearances. It was good to see that they were both big lads and good in the air. I was a little surprised to find that they seemed to be football playing centre backs, prepared to take the ball out of defence and pass it (which may be good or bad!).
I came away with a strong feeling that the defence would look more solid with either a Doherty or a Dailly alongside one of them to hold the fort when the better sides take us by the throat. Without that I fear that the back four middle will not be as strong as that I had anticipated which is a slight disappointment.

Midfield

I came expecting to see Hollands impress and dominate. By his standards he probably had a quiet game but he does look like one who will be a key player in both his tackling and distribution and enthusiasm. He laid on a great through ball for BWP in the second half. He looked slightly one pace, and that may be his limitations but I think he will get away with that, and may in fact look sharper as the season proceeds.
Jackson had a fair game and looks more of a seasoned, experienced pro than many of the other new fledglings, a quality that will be good to have around. There does seem a bit of a problem of just where he is best suited, whether it is as a wide midfielder or positioned more upfront as a more outright winger, though whilst he does a good job there he might lack the speed to be permanently positioned out there..
Green had a couple of sizzling shots which did not take me by surprise based on previous reports, it was just a case of waiting for them. He looked a sound player (a bit of the Colin Powell’s about him, and going back further, a shot in the Mike Kenning mould. It looks like he has a degree of trying to do too much at times with his head down (a touch of the Kyel Reid’s, but only a touch which I think that time, and coaching will resolve). All in all a very promising addition, though I was slightly disappointed by his crossing of the ball.
To me the revelation was Ruben Bover Isquierdo (who I hope was out number 18 player on show). I had not seen him before but he looked young, desperate to run his socks off and impress, not afraid to go into a tackle and a good passer of the ball. He also had a blistering shot well blocked in the second half. He was substituted late in the second half, and I feel that was really a recognition of the fact that he never stopped running and was pretty exhausted as a result. He looks to be potentially out best signing if he is coached well and nurtured by CP and colleagues over the coming months. A kind of improvbed, more effective Racon.   A real find.
Freddie Warner came on and performed well but had too short a time to impress. Wagstaff came on for the final minutes, looked very fit and showed a lot of energy but not much else in the time available.

Forwards

BPW had a hard working game to little avail. He was presented with few opportunities though did look sharp on the rare occasion they materialised. Of course that his is game, and we can only hope that out midfield can set him up with the requisite number of chances this season. When the side is playing well he will make a major contribution but if we go through a bad patch he will be become anonymous.
Benson toiled for the whole game (as did all the side who seemed to sweat as much as you had heard they had in the heat of Spain, there was no lack of effort). He took a well taken headed goal that may add to this confidence. However, on this evidence this pairing is not going to set the world alight and it’s plain that we could also do with a powerful, physically strong (dare I say bruiser ) up front with the ability to take on players, wield a shot and lay the ball off. Trouble is that every club wants one of those. From reports, I gather that our other forward signings don’t’ match up to that requirement and there is little time to resolve that even if there is a will to do so.

Finale
So, in the end it was to an extent a reassuring experience to watch a side with a fair degree of talent on show, bags of enthusiasm but potentially a little short at the back and worryingly ineffective upfront. We manmaged few shots on goal, and of course with that missed penaly, should have come away in defeat.
It would be good to retrun after the Woking game with increased expectations.
At the moment it ooks like a play off challenge unless we have an inspired signing up front.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Crowborough on the Button (Revealed!)

FRIENDLY ADVICE FROM THE CAFCPICKS EDITOR INFORMED ME MY LAST POST WAS REAL CLOAK AND DAGGER STUFF: I.E. Black font revealed nothing to the casual onloooker.
Text now revealed for all to see!
On 'CAFCPICKS', Crowborough Addick (a regular inputter of astute stuff) refined the title of my last post, " New Dawn". 
His hope is that that this season's changes to our resources and less mercenary empahasis within the squad will preface a season that is a " A Dawn of Honest Endeavour". 
Nice thought, Crow', perhaps that should be this season's motto?


Sunday, 10 July 2011

A New Dawn: and some learning of names to do


I couldn't make the Welling game, but thanks to he/she who submitted a really useful video Youtube summary of the game.

I have been quietly absorbing, and trying to keep up, with the close seasons merry go round.
I decided to keep my postings back until I had anything substantive to add to the host of useful summer posts for the other Blogs. However, this posting breaks that rule, as I have yet to see the new influx and am not able to add any thought, let alone recognise most of them. However, you can be sure I'll add my thoughts to the simmering pot in weeks to come (post Aldershot).
Leaving aside all speculation about the 'Funder' and his/ her/ or their motivations, the end product has been impressive in terms of transfer expenditure (not forgetting the £1M so far from Jenkinson) and number and range of signings. I have suggested several times in the build up to the close season that we may have a rerun of Lennie Lawrences' successful close season, promotion inducing transfer activity some years ago. However, this season's haul has far surpassed that and the challenge now is to weld the best pick of the signings into a cohesive winning side ASAP.
It was quite a challenge to Lennie, but Chris Powell has a mountain to climb.
Judging by the various reports and the brief glimpse on YOUTUBE it doesn't look to be out of the question. Indeed, many other clubs are reported to be looking with great envy at our current situation.
It's still going to be far from easy to get out of this division but at least we have some new found momentum behind us and enough interest to generate some good early gates, the challenge being to then keep them.
A considerable challenge will be for the 'floating' fans to keep their expectations on a realistic level and keep with the side whenever a hiccup occurs (as it inevitably will!).

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Close Season Stimulous

I have previously conveyed my views on thoughts about players contracts and renewals.
Not that much has been set in concrete as yet.

Of what I have picked up, I am pleased about Mambo(and it looks like he will get a chance to back my faith), disappointed about Anyinsah whom I felt was a good player but perhaps a safety first policy in respect of his injury problems is justified?
Reid I am not sorry to see go, and my previous post suggested others whom I would not lose sleep if they left. I'll be sorry if Dailly leaves as I think he still has a role to play, and alongside Mambo might have been interesting.
Unlike my old mate Keith, I would be happy to see Samedo stay but there seem to be strong rumblings to the contrary. I am less concerned about Racon though I think he could perform a role, hopefully not alongside McCormack. Indeed, I still am far from certain that Stewart is the answer and hope that CP can come up with someone else, though a fit Jackson would help out a lot.
Finally, I have to say I was disappointed to learn that Drinking During the Game has 15 years on the right side of me. I had already found that Chicago Addick has a good few years to the benefit against me. At least there is Major Ken on CAFCPICKS who is of similar vintage,
I cannot boast a new Samsung like DDTG either.
My GP read the riot act on my weight following a surge in blood pressure (prob. heightened by attendance at the Valley last season. Nevertheless, I have been on a strict diet and have lost a stone and have a least seen the BP react positively to that (and all the associated pain).
My reward for a month of a Spartan diet is to 'celebrate' with my bespoke Steak, wine and mushroom pie, as per pic, which was extracted from the freezer. That and a bottle or red wine or a genuine Czech Budweiser may just bring me back to normality, and help me get over Blackpool's plight.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Final Game Typifies Season

A pretty dull draw and difficult to prise many positives from this game.
Perhaps the biggest positive was that a surprising proportion of the fans stayed to clap (not quite a strong as "applaud") the side on a 'lap of honour' and I detected no booing or disrespectful chants.
Much of the 'applause' was probably a "goodbye courtesy gesture" to some for the team's performance this year. We managed a few more efforts on goal than usual hitting the crossbar a couple of times (to their one similar effort), Bessone's effort was a real piledriver and crowned a reasonably solid game for him. Once again the opposition were nothing to shout about; though their fans put on a good show in their fancy dress in the Jimmy Seed stand, and at London Bridge.
Harriot managed a full game and whilst he was not utterly convincing and had an average game he did show a lot of promise from such a young player, with a welcome tendency to try and beat his man and shoot (even though he failed to beat his man fairly regularly). He looks like persevering with and may be one for the future.
Even his detractors were prepared to say that Samedo had his best game for a very long time, getting stuck in as usual and spraying a lot of long passes to good effect: was he trying to impress someone?
Stuart was neat and tidy but not a lot more than that. No doubt, he would look better in a better side on a winning streak but whether we can pin too much on his shoulders to achieve that is in doubt; certainly not if a much inflated deal is required.Liera was give a chance to show what he could do and had a fair game spraying a lot of good ball around like Samedo. However, though strong in the air there were times when he looked to be in trouble on the ground with his pace which is why he has detractors and may not secure a contract.Jon Fortune seemed to do himself quite a serious injury after falling badly. It did not look like the kind of injury that would would overcome by a combination of the wet sponge and acupuncture. Therefore, if he is to be out of action for a while, one assumes that this will not help his case for a contract; whether it might help Liera is another matter.
Racon was demoted to the bench and given very little chance to impress following a late substitution for Harriot. You get the feeling that CP has made up his mind and that this may have been a cameo farewell performance.
I was more impressed today with BWP. He has an undoubted scoring pedigree but I have doubted his overall application and ability to control the long balls and bring others into play. Today, he impressed on all fronts and looked the part on all fronts; now we need an effective midfield and convincing wingers to open up the defences next season. I still have little confidence in Wagstaff's ability to do that; he is certainly not a winger or attacking midfielder/winger and if the club is convinced in his ability and intend to play him regularly then they must find out his best position: I cannot offer any clues.
I had hopes for Benson when he first signed but like Wagstaff he simply drifts out of the game and goes hiding. On top of that he always wants to lay the ball off and the thought of turning and taking on the opposition never seems to occur to him and his total lack of dominance in the air just about completes a sorry picture at the moment. I woul;d be the first to admit that he has received little decent service this season but he does not seem to be the kind of player to shrug that off and make it happen himself.
We have had a terrible run after CP's initial run, for which luck played a fair part.
He must now grasp the challenge and very quickly get on to building a side by bringing several good players ASAP, and not leave team building so late that a bad start is on the cards though players' lack of familiarity with their teammates. This is going to depend on good scouting, player assessment and of course the courage and ability of the board to find the resources top invest in the squad. In these troubled times that will not be easy.
Unless we can do all of this and make it click quickly (like Lennie Lawrence did to assure promotion to the old Division 1) then we could be struggling to keep in touch as early as October. If that is the case CP may also find himself under pressure that will be difficult to keep at bay

Sunday, 1 May 2011

All on the Last Game (plus thoughts on next season)

  As my previous post suggested, it has gone to the wire as to which 'London' club finishes in the lowest position this season (excluding D & G and Barnet; relative newcomers to 'Greater London').
Huddersfield have Brentford at home and to avoid the ignominy of finishing bottom I suppose we should be shouting for them. However, by common consent it would be better to see Southampton gain automatic promotion and Huddersfield win the play-offs to get them both out of the division for next year. 
Southampton are obviously the better side, but both have money to invest next season which could dwarf our own resources (?).
We still have the task of beating Hartlepool at the Valley (no small feat at present).

Looking ahead: if rumours are to believed, we will not see Liera next season. I was not a great fan due to his frailty on the ground  but he is domineering in the air and has put his heart into going 100% (and wishing to stay at the Valley). I wish him well and feel confident he will get fixed up somewhere (and probably come back to haunt us by scoring from a corner).
Stories persist about both Racon and Samedo leaving. I will be sorry to see both leave (especially Samedo who gives 100%) , as although they have underperformed, the presence of another gutsy midfielder along side them (a La Bailey) would have brought the best out of them.
We still need a player of that sort, but I do not see him around at present. Parrett is a promising but lightweight option, and I have seen little to convince me that Stuart can fulfil that role, despite adulations from others around the web. Always like to be proven wrong but……
Unlike other,I feel that Dailly can be an important skipper and providing we have adequate cover for when he is unavailable he can remain important (but it is liely that will not come from Liera and probably Fortune
It’s kind of nice over the last few games that it’s been possible to relax and not remain glued to results to see if we can survive. Let’s hope for better next season!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Lost Opportunity- Little Improvement in Key Areas

An opportunity to defeat a misfiring Huddersfield side was lost for the usual reasons of lack of creativity, ineffective wing play and little ability to beat a man. 
Reid came on and was totally ineffective, though it has to be said it was late in the game and he got very few passes. However, this may have been his last chance to impress, and he didn't.
Many have expressed hope that Stewart is the Messiah. I have yet to witness anything that suggests that's the case. Sure he likes to make a lot of noise but otherwise he contributed little.  Perhaps it was lack of match fitness, but whether he can do it at this level after failing to do do it at a higher level (a La Martin) remains in question.. However, unless substantial funds become available, he may be the best that we can afford, which does not auger well.
The goalkeeper looks a potential valuable find, my suspicion is he was unsighted for yesterday's goal.
Wagstaffe had a better second half, but he had to after the first. Racon was poor today, but his chances are not enhanced by playing him out of position on the wide left.
BWP did not do a lot (unless he scores he adds precious little); however, he seems to be trying hard to improve his first touch and distribution. However, he had one moment of near magic; perhaps that's all he needs to add value.
Where we start building for next year is a real challenge. Some want a complete clear out, but this is unrealistic. The optimum solution would be 4-5 good players with something to prove (as per Lennie Lawrence) who are prepared to put in some elbow grease and cast off the coloured plastic boots.
As to who remains? Most have highly different views. I have suggested my own preferences previously, though I guess I will probably refine those by the end of the season. No doubt so will others.
If we give CP the benefit of the doubt, we could attribute the poor run to experimentation and using the games to assess existing players. Alternatively, if he really was trying to get a winning side together then he has failed and you could take the view that Parkinson would probably have ground out a significant number of extra points over the same games.
It will be interesting to find out how the senior directors view the outcome of the season and CP's tenure.

Monday, 11 April 2011

The Run-In

I knew there could be some reason for excitement in the run-in apart from guessing who wins the annual prizes at CAFCPICKS.
The race that we should try to win is the one to avoid being London’s bottom club in the Football League.
If, quite rightly, you eliminate the outer fringe location teams that were never historically part of London (I.E. Barnet, D & R, Southend, and even Gillingham from deepest Kent) then we have a real risk this season of finishing bottom. The prize always used to be won regularly by others,  including Millwall.
The challenge is to move above Brentford and Leyton Orient.
Years ago it would have been shameful to consider that we could finish below both of these teams.
The outstanding fixtures are as follows (thanks to Dick Shepherd):

Brentford:
15:00 Rochdale v Brentford
15:00 Brentford v Colchester United
15:00 Notts County v Brentford
15:00 Brentford v Southampton
15:00 Huddersfield Town v Brentford

Leyton Orient:
19:45 Leyton Orient v Carlisle United
15:00 Exeter City v Leyton Orient
15:00 Leyton Orient v Peterborough United
15:00 Carlisle United v Leyton Orient
15:00 Leyton Orient v Tranmere Rovers
15:00 Plymouth Argyle v Leyton Orient

“Heroes”:
15:00 Charlton Athletic v Huddersfield Town
15:00 Bristol Rovers v Charlton Athletic
15:00 Charlton Athletic v Rochdale
15:00 Walsall v Charlton Athletic
15:00 Charlton Athletic v Hartlepool United

What’s the betting?
There is a fair chance that we will avoid the ignominy of bottom place by pipping Brentford on goal difference, though it would be nice to think it will not depend on that.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Phew! - 3 points (after a few breaks) relieve the pressure

Well, the 3 points are likely to have laid to rest the prospect of a last minute relegation battle and a tense away game at Walsall even though it was achieved with a fair share of luck with BWP's goal, the solidity of our woodwork and a disallowed 'goal'.

Nevertheless, a victory was deserved after a solid second half performance.
Regrettably, Wagstaffe lost his way again in the first half though he but picked up somewhat in the second half. You can understand how Ecclestone, and even Reid must get very frustrated in being let out. Perhaps, Powell does not see them figuring next season and is persevering with home grown resources, though I think Wagstaffe does not merit a place in the side at the moment. He is not a winger (rarely beats his man) and his crossing is poor. Other than his supposed athleticism, it is difficult to pinpoint his perceived current contribution to the side. Perhaps, Powell can see he can develop further with perseverance?
Racon was the only one who could beat his man in the first half and look to create something; after the break added two great shots that were deflected wide. It was good to see Samedo crown a good display with a rare goal and the emotional response that followed: I'm sure it was largely relief but I feel that this man really wants to play for the club. Bessone has added a footballing dimension at the back, and hopefully can ensure us in the coming weeks that he can stay injury free.
The new boys played well (Parrett after a shaky first half). Stewart looked to have the talent to fulfil his earlier career promise and provide that missing link in midfield. With Jackson due to return selection will be an interesting exercise in the remaining games.
Benson did not cause much of a threat but it was encouraging to see his 100% commitment.
The imperious Dailly and Liera could provide the core backbone at the back, perhaps with Doherty being on hand to cover. However, Liera returned to his old ways of making crucial errors that could have lost us the game so I am not 100% confident he can command a regular place next season. I still have faith in Mambo coming through though others shed doubt because he does not seem to have shone in loan spells and they question why he has not yet come through (??).
Whether the future is bright seems to depend on whether Powell can find a middle road between his apparent commitment to a passing game, without the necessary talent to fully deliver, and adopting a more direct game which this division demands (plus the availability of some funds to bring new talent in, though we should not assume megabucks are in store).

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Food For Thought: from A previous Diabolical Season

The point gained with a fair stroke of luck at Bournemouth may prove crucial in the run-in, providing we can secure a few more points beforehand. Given the fixture list, the remaining  home games are key to our survival in this division, starting with the home game against Leyton Orient which I feel has now become a crucial fixture. They have been on a good run but we need to raise our game as against Southampton and get a vital 3 point as I cannot see points easy to come by in the remaining away fixtures and the home games against Rochdale and Hartlepool.
In any 'normal' season those teams should provide adequate cannon fodder to secure our future. However, this is no 'normal'season and the collapse in recent games has been as bad and frustrating as many of our New Year collapses in recent years. As we all know, being a CAFC supporter can be a roller coaster experience, the likes of which no other supporters seemed to be 'blooded' on.
If history is to be avoided, we need to win the next two home games as I can recall a nail biting night sitting by the radio in May1964 when we needed to win at Walsall in the last game of the season to avoid relegation.
We were only in with a chance in the final game because the late Cliff Durandt had fired in an 89th minute winner to beat Southampton at home in the penultimate game. I remember seeing him fire in the long rage shot that was going over until it inexplicably dipped at the last minute.
It was a most uncharacteristic performance for CAFC in that the reports stated that we went out there on raw meat and immediately set about delivering crunching tackles, much in the style of Harry Cripps' Millwall sides. By the eight minute Walsall were reduced to 10 men with another hobbling along without making much of a contribution.A winning goal from Mike Kenning in the 63rd minute kept us up and sent Walsall down.
I hope we do not require the same outcome away to Walsall this season. In those days, we had players like Kenning (a bit of a softie but with a thunderbolt shot) and those with true grit such as Sewell, Hewie, Tocknell, Lucas, Kenning and Kinsey: not sure where they are now.
Keith Peacock was also I the side and gine the thought may have crossed his mind about the Walsall fixture.

I would not place bets on many 100% tackles other than from a minority of our current players or managing a draw at Walsall without an uncharacterstic 'superhuman' performance; let’s hope we secure the required points beforehand as my blood pressure is unlikely to hold out as well as if did in 1964 second time around!.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Run-In

Like many, but unfortunately not all, existing season ticket holders, I will be buying one for next season before April 4.
Michael Slater assures us in his most recent letter that all the management and directors are aware that the side needs strengthening and that 'significant investment' will be made in due course to achieve that.
A reasonable point is made that the club wished to avoid 'panic buying' in January. Certainly, inflated fees and contractual demands are to the fore at that time. However, many will nevertheless rue that fact that more was not done (assuming sufficient money may have been available, and it's possible that it wasn't) to make a push for promotion.
Michael Slater has said that "It is not a viable business in this division". That again raises the question he was not asked at the recent Valley Q/A love-in when those who attended gave the presenters an easy time : I.E. how long will the current board provide funds to support the club if we do not win promotion to the Championship?
Until I looked at the fixture list the other night I was confident that at least we can safely wrap up a mid table position and focus close season on next year's campaign. I am now far from sure as I cannot see where the next win is coming from (hope they prove me wrong tonight).
We have to see a major improvement with all the club and its players charged with getting a run together to secure the required points. Recent quotations attributed to those at the top (rightly or wrongly) that most players will not be offered contracts next season is hardly likely to evoke the "Dunkirk Spirit" from the squad in the remaining games.
If "It is not a viable business in this division", then what would the Board plan in the event of relegation, God Forbid!
(Incidently, I ommitted Bessone from my last post: the jury must be out on him. He looked promising but I expressed concerns before he came about his fitness and injury record which have not be neagted since he came. Quite apart from his merits on the park, a realistic  assessment of his fitness is rquired before any decisions can be made).

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Tinkering or Major Surgery?

With all hopes of progress gone for this season (and with a few wins hopefully we will not drop further down the leagues) the time is approaching when plans for next season need to be made. Some may think it's a little early to go on this tack, but here goes nevertheless. Hopefully, it's already well under way within the club.
Certain players are on longer term contracts (e.g. Francis, Doherty and McCormack). They could sit time out unless the club and they feel sufficiently strongly that they should move on. Of these, Francis and McCormack are the most currently vilified by the fans.
Doherty has his critics but at this level has not done badly. Francis has had a terrible run but did not make a bad start at the club so maybe he is capable of returning to form, though some have lost their patience. I have lost my patience with McCormack and hope he moves on.
Summarising my, on the spur of the moment, frustrated thoughts;  RED (keep), BLUE (best to move on); GREEN Undecided
Keeper:
Elliot: injury prone and has had an inconsistent season with his handling and crosses. His poor form has had a chain reaction in a lack of confidence in the back four. He’s a 100% CAFC lad and has not cost us any major fee so he can perform a task for us, but probably as a squad / reserve keep for the immediate future.
Worner: really trying hard and was not bad at all in the last home game but does not seem to have the stature to hold down a place
Back Four:
Jenkinson: It’s early days, but he seems great prospect. But Arsenal's interest rumour are true then they or someone else “may do a Shelvey” on us: I would like to think we can hold on to him for a couple of seasons before cashing in if that becomes unavoidable;
Solly: I worry about his lack of height but he has yet to let us down. Home grown and a prospect for the future; either to fight it out for a right back spot, or perhaps to switch to left back where he has not performed badly w
Dailly: unlike others, I feel he has another season in him, if he wants it; he may do better elsewhere;
Mambo: one for the future; I hope he gets a chance;
Fortune: great respect for his past endeavours in the shirt, but he just seems to have lost his fitness and I cannot see him recovering;
Fry: has served us well but surely he will return to West Ham (especially if they drop) or command a fee elsewhere;
Doherty: Not sure whether we need him for cover when the going gets tough. undecided, but may depend on contractual situation;
Francis: Undecided;
Liera: currently our in form back four man and eager to stay. Great in the air but frail on the ground. On balance, he deserves to stay providing he has a side kick with some speed (Mambo?);
Youga: the best of the bunch if he is fit, and a key loss this season. Would like to think he can return but for most of the season I have assumed he will not. If he's fit, no doubt that he should stay;Midfield:
Jackson: Has done well, on occasions our only attacking option;
Racon: an enigma; has the skill but seems to have lost the art of applying it. When his contract ends he may have unrealistically high demands;
Samedo: Has his detractors (Keith!) and has no creative capability or firepower. But if only we could find the elusive creative midfielder could perform a a needed ‘holding’ role;
Wagstaff: an athlete with limited football capabilities; young and has very prospect of a career, but probably not at CAFC as he does not have the capability to beat a man or provide the required creativity;
Reid: Has played some great games (especially when away) coming on late as a sub. But his crossing is poor and when he has played a full game has disappointed;
Stavinrue: too small, if the club can afford to wait for him to develop fine, if not he would be best to move on;
Forwards:
BWP: Assumed to be on a good contract and therefore will command a place, assuming his leg holds out. Largely ineffective with little contribution if we cannot provide ‘poacher’ opportunities near the goal, which depends on sorting out the wingers and midfield. (I would have spent the money on a good midfielder and kept Sodje if we could had not been able to finance two significant signings). Must contribute more when the chances are not forthcoming;
Benson: Disappointing; I had hopes but it has not worked out; not sure about contract situation;
Anyinsah: providing he can steer clear of injury has been an asset who I think could improve further with a big man alongside him;
Ecclestone and Nouble are loanees and may not be available. Leaving them aside, that sums up to:
Retain: 10
Move on: 6
Not sure: 5

If 50% , say 3, of the "Not sures" were to move we would retain 12, and move out 9.
Not sure how realistic that is in terms of being able to find adequate replacements and mould a cohesive unit close season to make a realistic challenge?
Perhaps Nouble might be available and if he were I think like Anyisah he could improve and maybe become a Leaburn type figure. But if West Ham drop then they may decide he could perform a role there.
I am discounting the young hopefuls coming through as I have not seen enough of them. However, Tumar does not seem physically ready and I’m not certain he will make it, though it would be good if he does.
There are grounds to regret moving on Randolph, Spring and Akpo Sodje, and Grant Basey seems to have got fit and is doing well with Peterborough who may be promoted (last laugh for him).
I wonder whether Lisbie could do us a turn next season???!!!!.
A vital additional factor to take into account is the need for some continuity. If we have a major exodus close season then we will start the season with a team which will probably take 2 months to gel and find ourselves on the back foot straight away.
Lennie Lawrence had the ideal solution when he made five magnificent buys that took us back to the top division: Shirtliff, Reid, Pearson, Pender and Shipley. All were players not carrying a big reputation and fee. That’s a credit to Lennie; it’s a pity he went over to the Palace as I’m sure he could perform a Peacock type role for us (“Been there and done it!”).
Given that promotion has been missed and no doubt our finances will be struggling again next year, there is a need for messrs Slater and co to be prepared to dig into their pockets as Richard Murray and colleagues did to keep us afloat. I hope we can be confident of that.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Poor Performance: But when your'e down

After a bright start, once again the side gradually descended into another poor performance. Having said that, as is always the case when you are up against it the run of the ball just does not go for you: with a crossbar and and goal line clearance stifling our progress. 

Once again the biggest shortcoming remains in midfield. If we has bolstered it some time ago with a good quality creative midfielder then Samedo and Racon could have performed a role, though there is little mileage in Wagstaffe and certainly not McCormack, who after yesterday's game I have added "cannot tackle" to his dubious credentials.

Committing to the purchase of BLP without sorting out a good midfield player was misguided. A "poacher" will not score goals unless you have a creative midfield and wingers who can beat a man and put in a decent cross, neither of which we have. Therefore, BLP is unlikely to make a worthwhile contribution, as has been the case. Unless we can provide him with the opportunity to score from close range then he may become a luxury passenger we cannot afford to play: as all our players must make a positive contribution.

Nouble may make a decent contribution once fit (dare one say in the Leaburn mould), though a return to fitness for Anyinsah (and Jackson) is more important right now.

I am have been a long term fan of Solly but am unsure as to whether he will be exposed in defending due to his lack of height. However, with Jenkinson we have the option of perhaps trying them both out in the same side as full backs (assuming Jenkinson's injury is not serious), especially if Fry is likely to return to West Ham (?).

Fortune has made a major contribution over the years and is repported to be an excellent guy aroiund the team. However, it's obvious he seems unable to return to his fitness levels and speed of past years so Mambo should be given the chance to continue his education in the remaining first team matches if Dailly's injury means an absence for a few games or if he can be brought on as a late substitute.
 
Have not done the calculations to determine whether we should be realstically worried about a relegation fight, though I guess that some of the experimentations (e.g. Jenkinson, Solly & Mambo) might have to be delayed until we are certain of our safety.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Slide Accelerates: Mid Table Fight Looks On

We are now fast becoming at best a mid table team, and even worse unless we strike some form.
Leyton Orient have now moved above us on their limited resources. I suggested previously that getting rid of Matt Spring may have been a mistake (laughed at by some). He was a talented player, passed the ball around well and was not afraid to get stuck in. He did not fit into the task we set him at the Valley, which may say more for our coaching, selection ands style than his potential.

He has since blossomed at the O's, and that includes dominating the midfield when he returned to the Valley with them.
I have been awaiting in vain the collapse of MK Dons that has not happened. They are now probably not reachable by us and with their catchment area and super ground potential they could be one for the future.
The other sides in the top 6 are all striding away and I wouldn't fancy any of them in a play-off heat scenario, let alone a Wembley final.
It looks like it is all back to the drawing board at the end of the season for what will be a real challenge next year as we are likely to start off with a new side unfamiliar with each other and prob. comprising a similar bunch to many of those at present, unless there really is some money behind the current owners.
At least we have the likes of Mambo, Jenkinson, Solly and a few other youngsters coming through and I would not write off Dailly for another season.
I'm not sure if I really want Palace to come down to join  us as even against their current side I would not fancy stealing many points off them.
What Chris Powell makes of it at the moment is anyone's guess. Quite apart from his own capabilities he must have now fallen in on the paucity of the current squad. Eddie Howe prob. did also, (as maybe Billy Davies did before him?)