Bristol Rovers preview
Almost exactly 50km due north of Yeovil is Bristol, whose Rovers will be the visitors to The Valley on Tuesday night for the first midweek home Championship game of the season.
The battling draw in horrendous conditions on Saturday emphasized that Phil Parkinson’s side do not lack for team spirit.
However our red card nearly caused me to inadvertently fall out with my Dad. At around 10.30am (NY time) just as I was going about my morning chores, I received a strange text which upon first glance seemed to read, “SOD OFF”.
It was only upon a second look that I realised that far from ostracizing me from the family, he was simply letting me known our popular centre-half had been dismissed.
As is often the case however, it served to galvanise the Addicks and his brother Akpo restored family honour with a stunning second-half strike.
Despite losing top scorer Rickie Lambert to Southampton, Bristol Rovers continue to make steady progress under the impressive young stewardship of Paul Trollope, and with Charlton legend Lennie Lawrence serving as ‘Director of Football’.
As I’ve mentioned here before, Addicks fans with a keen sense of history recognize the invaluable role Lennie played in our mere survival and subsequent prosperity.
Looking back, his achievements of a promotion followed by four seasons of Division One football (all in the context of the departure from The Valley) were truly remarkable.
The team spirit he engendered and some of the characters he recruited and/or developed, laid the foundations for what we now term ‘the Charlton way’.
Although it took place at Eastville not The Valley, it is hard to discuss fixtures between these two clubs without mentioning the 5-5 draw on 18 Nov 1978.
It would have been even more remarkable if Charlton hadn’t gone one better in 1960, drawing 6-6 with Middlesbrough (a certain Brian Clough scoring a hat-trick).
The clubs were very regular opponents throughout the 1970s, but have not met in any competition since 1992/93 when the Addicks managed a home and away double.
One season earlier they suffered a 1-0 defeat at Twerton Park in Bath in a hot-tempered affair, which dashed Charlton’s surprise play-off hopes during Alan Curbishley and Steve Gritt’s inaugural season.
Unlike their somewhat more illustrious City neighbours, they have not tasted top flight football, but after a difficult decade in which they spent time in the League’s bottom tier, they are now firmly on the up and competing hard for a promotion spot.
They also now own the ramshackle Memorial Stadium in Bristol, which handily unlike the old Eastville doesn’t have a dog track separating fans from the action.
On-loan Chris Dickson will be unavailable on Tuesday night, but anyhow after an explosive start (scoring twice on his debut) he has faded somewhat and has been in and out of the side.
Only Leeds have won more away games than Bristol Rovers this season however, and they are League One’s joint second highest scorers on the road, averaging nearly two goals per game. However their more recent form has been decidedly worse than this implies.
Early-season wins at Stockport, Hartlepool, Brentford and Southampton saw them catapulted into a play-off spot, but five consecutive League One defeats during October sees them tucked back into 7th position with a negative goal difference.
The Valley has become something of a fortress, with Watford being the last team to leave with three points as far back as 7th March. The unbeaten home run now stretches to 13 matches.
The fixtures are now coming on thick and fast, the visit of the Pirates being the first of seven League One games between now and year-end, by which time the season will already be more than halfway through.
Reaching the turn of the year with 48 points seems a realistic target, and one that will set a useful foundation for the promotion push ahead.
Keen observers of the fixture list will spot that we will face fellow high-flyers Huddersfield, MK Dons, Colchester, Norwich and Leeds in the space of less than five vital weeks beginning in late-March. Expect the term ‘six pointer’ to be the most overused of the period.
This Bristol Rovers fixture will be the last as a New York-based Addick, and my brand consultants have yet to report on whether the name of the blog should change, or even if the blog should continue at all.
I’ll probably make my mind up depending how I feel after the Southend game, the first I’ll be attending on my return.
I think Parky will line them up as follows: Ikeme, Youga, Basey, Llera, Dailly, Bailey, Racon, Semedo, Sam, Burton, Sodje A. Subs: Randolph, Omozusi, Spring, Shelvey, Mooney, Wagstaff, McLeod.
NY Addick predicts: Charlton 2 (Sodje A, Bailey), Bristol Rovers 0. Att: 14,901.