Friday, August 21, 2009

Walsall preview

My third and final Charlton fixture of this trip sees the visit of Walsall, a team we have not lost to in a League fixture since 1973/74.

By way of a further good omen, we did the double over them in 1999/2000 during our Division One winning season, the last time we competed at the same level.

The Saddlers have enjoyed two recent brief spells in the second-tier of English football, most recently relegated in 2003/4, but are back in League One after a round trip that included a single season in League Two which they exited as Champions in 2007.

Like our opponents on Tuesday night, Walsall are one of those inoffensive teams, overshadowed by far larger and better followed neighbours, but plugging away and enjoying occasional relative success. Unlike Leyton Orient however, they have not even managed a single season in the top flight.

There are no Charlton links in their present squad, but Addicks legend Mark Kinsella took on various roles at the Bescot Stadium, including player, coach and even caretaker manager.

Creditable 12th and 13th place finishes in the past two seasons suggests a degree of stability.

Under Chris Hutchings (usually the perennial no.2 to Paul Jewell), they also have a manager who has found his appropriate level, after a brief failed Premiership spell at Wigan following Jewell’s departure.

Walsall’s four points this season could easily have been more, having led in all of their opening trio of fixtures, most recently at home to high-flying Leeds.

Given how we struggled to put away newly promoted Wycombe on the opening day, one can reasonably expect that an improved performance will be required to secure a fourth consecutive victory.

There is very little new to say about the Addicks since Tuesday night. Fans are rightly encouraged by what they have witnessed so far, the quality of the football and seven goals scored doing much to draw attention away from concerns over the depth of the squad, and three sloppy goals conceded.

It is clear already that the eleven players who have so far monopolised the shirt so far this season, can very much compete and perhaps even excel over the majority of teams in League One this season. The entire midfield five for example could all play at least one level higher.

However it is difficult to make an intelligent case that any squad player not currently in that first eleven, would improve it in any way and therein lies the concern.

Just a single injury or suspension will weaken the team somewhat, and several concurrently would weaken it materially.

Meanwhile we look somewhat vulnerable to pace at the back, whilst Rob Elliot needs to add greater command of the penalty area, to his obvious shot-stopping abilities.

In the three games so far, the 4-5-1 formation would appear to suit us beautifully, but well-organised teams may nullify the threat, and the brief dalliance with 4-4-2 on the opening day was not encouraging. Plan A looks terrific, but is there a Plan B?

Until any pending takeover is confirmed, one can assume resources to add to the squad will be extremely limited. Thus we must watch our matches with fingers crossed, whilst enjoying the surprisingly impressive stuff being served up for now.

It is thus clearly much too premature to be even thinking about promotion, but when recent wins have been as rare as runs from England’s middle order, you’ll forgive us enjoying the moment.

With Colchester facing a tricky away game at MK Dons, and our goal difference already superior to Leeds (at home to Tranmere), the top of the table potentially awaits but let's not get carried away.

I can thus confidently predict Parkinson will line them up as follows: Elliot, Richardson, Youga, Llera, Dailly, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Bailey, Sam, Burton. Subs: Randolph, Solly, Spring, Wagstaff, Gray, Fleetwood, McLeod.

NY Addick predicts: Charlton 3 (Burton, Bailey, Gray), Walsall 1 (Parkin). Att: 16,239.


At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gray may struggle to score in this game...


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