Friday, October 16, 2009

Huddersfield preview

The two most overused words in football are probably ‘important game’, but tomorrow’s fixture against Huddersfield is definitely an important game for the Addicks.

Despite three games without a goal, and just one win in our last six, we will nonetheless go back to the top of League One with a victory over the 8th placed Terriers.

By way of a timely reminder that it’s vital to check the club website before writing a preview, the club has signed striker David Mooney from Reading on an ‘emergency loan’.

Somehow the term ‘emergency’ conjures images of the player arriving at the training ground in a police convoy with sirens blazing. It can’t do much for Izale McLeod’s fragile confidence either when the mere thought that he might start a League match is considered cause for an emergency.

Following an excellent start to the season which saw Lee Clark’s men firmly installed as an early candidate for a promotion push, Huddersfield have fallen away somewhat in recent weeks.

Four wins and a draw from their opening six games (including a 7-1 thumping of Brighton), have been followed by a lackluster spell similar to Charlton’s, also managing just one win in their most recent six.

Despite averaging just a goal a game during their most recent half-dozen matches, they remain second highest scorers in the division with 23 goals, five more than Leeds.

Somewhat surprisingly they are second highest-scorers behind Norwich City who lead the way thanks to 21 goals in just their last 9 games, and 24 overall.

Bookmakers have woken up to the form of the Canaries, installing them as clear fourth favourites to win promotion; I wonder how many punters backed them after their opening day 7-1 defeat?

Over a third of those Huddersfield’s goals this season have been scored by teenage starlet Jordan Rhodes. The powerful striker joined from Ipswich after a successful loan spell at Brentford, and his eight-minute hat-trick against Exeter last weekend (all headers) has doubtless already assured him cult status in Yorkshire.

Just like last weekend’s visitors Oldham, I have only made a single trip to Huddersfield and it also coincided with an unhappy opening day fixture, this time a 2-0 defeat in August 1996.

Keen historians will be aware of Huddersfield’s proud early history, winners of three consecutive League titles from 1924-26, initially under the stewardship of Herbert Chapman before he departed for Arsenal and led the Gunners to 1930s domestic football domination.

Five more top three finishes followed either side of the Second World War, but in a way not dissimilar to Charlton, they began to decline in the early 1950s and since relegation to Division Two in 1956, they have spent just two seasons back in the top flight (1970-72).

Three relegations in just four seasons immediately followed, and despite two subsequent spells back in the second-tier, they have spent the majority of the past four decades in the bottom two divisions.

Things began looking up in 1994 however when their fabulous new stadium opened, a oft-forgotten lesson therein for dozens of clubs who did not appreciate that new stadia can be both modern and interesting.

We will not visit again until late-March, but in the meantime Phil Parkinson must find a way to win matches again after a spectacular start.

Some unfortunate injuries notwithstanding, it was inevitable that teams would begin to formulate a game plan to neutralize the dynamic 4-4-1-1 formation which garnered those six early wins.

This is partly because for all but the most organized League One clubs, the scouting file labeled ‘Charlton Athletic’ will have been understandably empty during those early fixtures. We are less of a surprise package now.

Fans including me have spoken of the need for a ‘Plan B’. So far this season Parkinson has only opted for a 4-4-2 formation for example in the latter stages of matches.

The Oldham manager spoke of their deliberate attempt to mark Jonjo Shelvey out of the game, and indeed despite the youngster’s talent, I’ve long felt that he may need to be the player sacrificed in any such ‘Plan B’.

After all there’s no point having a player in a ‘free role’ if the opposition have him shackled. He does not yet appear to have the discipline to play a central midfield role in a traditional midfield quartet.

Losing the vital Jose Semedo has clearly unbalanced the side, both for his role in shielding the defence as well as his willingness to let the likes of Therry Racon, Nicky Bailey and Shelvey pull the creative midfield strings.

If the Portuguese remains absent, it may be preferable to move Bailey inside to firm things up in central midfield alongside Racon or Matt Spring, whilst using Grant Basey’s natural left foot and defensive discipline to provide width.

Perhaps using McLeod’s pace from the start alongside Deon Burton or the 6ft+ Mooney will force the Huddersfield defence onto the back foot, and provide gaps for the late arriving likes of Bailey and Racon to exploit.

In this way, rather than the introduction of McLeod from the bench being the preferred alternative attacking threat to tiring defensive legs, instead the unpredictability of Shelvey would offer a late-game option if required.

Having said all of that, I expect them to line up as follows: Elliot, Richardson, Youga, Llera, Dailly, Spring, Racon, Bailey, Sam, Shelvey, Burton. Subs: Randolph, Semedo, Solly, Basey, Tuna, Mooney, McLeod.

NY Addick predicts: Charlton 1 (Bailey), Huddersfield 1 (Rhodes). Att: 16,881.


At 1:15 AM, Blogger Kings Hill Addick said...

I don't normally like to blow myown trumpet, and, in fact I don't own a trumpet, but I predicted Norwich would be challengers for a top two spot after they lost to Colchester and befor they picked up their current momentium.

Having said that I predicted that we would finish top six in Tier 2 last season so it may well have been nothing more luck that I got it right this season.


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