Friday, November 26, 2010

Luton Arrivals

Charlton’s 2nd Round FA Cup tie against Luton Town must be at some risk of postponement due to a frozen pitch, so we may find ourselves in the 3rd Round draw by default.

However notwithstanding the fact that I might secretly yearn for a replay as it would be a short 25min drive from my house, the tie undoubtedly represents a golden chance for a shot at possible 3rd Round glory. We could do with the money.

Speaking of money, Hatters boss Richard Money has continued where he left off last season, his free scoring side sitting just two points behind the Blue Square Premier leaders, with 41 goals from 20 games.

After managing 84 goals last season (including 24 in just four consecutive March/April home games), they represent a clear and present attacking threat, regardless of the level at which said goals were accumulated.

Luton has had two spells in the limelight, firstly in the 1950s (culminating in an FA Cup final appearance in 1959), and then in the 1980s under the stewardship initially of David Pleat.

Their achievements on the pitch during this latter spell were often overshadowed by ongoing debates about away fans and artificial pitches.

I actually attended the high point in the club’s history, their famous 3-2 win over Arsenal in the 1988 League Cup final.

2-1 down with just 8 minutes remaining, goals from Danny Wilson and Brian Stein secured the club’s only major trophy. Addicks assistant boss Tim Breacker wore the No.2 shirt that afternoon.

However within just a couple of decades, they would join the 1986 League Cup winners (Oxford United) in experiencing non-League football, although their fate was not helped by a harsh 30-point deduction in season 2008/9.

They are comfortably the best-supported club in non-League, average crowds of over 6,500 attending games at the uniquely awful Kenilworth Road stadium, about which little good can be said except for the fact it’s close to an international airport.

Talk of fantasy ideas like the indoor Kohlerdome are history, but the club continues to seek an alternative that would give them a genuine shot at long-term stability, conscious that in the meantime MK Dons have plonked themselves down in a brand new stadium just 20 miles up the road. Ground share anyone?

The clubs last met in the 2007/8 League Cup, a strong Charlton side (including Therry Racon) embarrassed 3-1 after extra time in Bedfordshire.

It was almost a similar story in the same competition in 2003/4 at The Valley, a storming 4-4 draw followed by the Addicks scraping through 8-7 on penalties. Jonathan Fortune played that night and will probably play tomorrow again.

The teams regularly did battle in the 1980s and 1990s, whilst the most painful memory of Luton for Addicks fans would be the 7-1 defeat at Kenilworth Road in September 1977.

As mentioned in my previous post, Charlton did not lack for endeavour on Tuesday night and demonstrated some real quality in patches too, but Parky will likely utilise the full squad with more important League One fixtures on the horizon.

I think we will line up as follows: Elliott, Francis, Fry, Llera, Fortune, Reid, Racon, McCormack, Wagstaff, Benson, Sodje.

For my charity bets, I am tempted by the possibility that an exciting game will transpire, resulting in a 2-2 draw, the worst-case scenario for the Addicks.

Meanwhile, 3 goals in his last 5 games suggests Therry Racon is too long at 6/1 to score anytime in a home game against non-League opposition.

NY Addick bets £5 on 2-2 correct score (at 16/1)
NY Addick bets £5 on Therry Racon to score anytime (at 6/1)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rovers Return

An energetic and lively performance by the Addicks was only good enough for a point last night. We have already played considerably worse this season and picked up wins.

Bristol Rovers were spirited and occasionally dangerous on the break, but by the time Paul Benson deservedly notched us level, the away side were almost defending in Blackheath so deep had we pushed them back.

Lee Martin was the outstanding player on show, although Therry Racon produced the type of performance that fans have been raving about in recent weeks, but I’d yet to see with my own eyes.

We surely would have earned our sixth win in a row if our crossing had been better than abysmal, the likes of Scott Wagstaff, Simon Francis and Martin regularly either failing to beat the first man or hitting uncontrolled crosses far too deep to be threatening.

The problem is not helped by the fact that the full-backs are seemingly instructed never to support the wide midfielders in the final third.

Even an overlapping full-back whose support isn’t used at least takes a defender away, and provides room for a better crossing position.

Jose Semedo limped off with an injury that the medical staff seemed to think could be resolved via some rigorous rubbing of his backside.

Even the most ardent fans of the Portuguese midfielder must acknowledge that his style often prevents us playing flowing football nearly as often as the opposition, and we noticeably improved in this regard when Alan McCormack entered the fray in his place.

Indeed I guess my biggest disappointment with Phil Parkinson’s side is how lacking in class our style remains, even though we do execute his unsophisticated approach rather well.

Everything is done at 100mph with the emphasis on moving forward as early as possible, winning the ‘second ball’ and then driving on again.

I can’t help thinking we’d be a better side if we were a little more patient at times. Better to provide just a handful of outstanding crosses with defenders out of position than a dozen hit more in hope than expectation.

However the draw extends our unbeaten run, whilst Brighton’s draw with Southampton was the ideal result from our standpoint too.

The attendance was predictably disappointing. The unnecessary self-imposed constraint which the club included in its season ticket pricing (dictating the minimum total cost of 23 comparable matchday tickets) is coming home to roost. I’ll write more about this in due course.

Here are my match ratings:

Elliot 6 – had little to do, and was probably unsighted for the goal

Francis 5 – untroubled defensively but guilty of conceding possession on several occasions
Fry 6 – typically enthusiastic; unclear why Parky concludes that Jackson offers more attacking impetus from full-back when an attacking substitution is required

Doherty 6 – was limping by the end, but still looked reasonably comfortable

Fortune 7 – was rarely noticed which is a good sign for a defender; won most headers

Jackson 5 – unimaginably slow but comfortable on the ball; we looked livelier when Reid moved into his midfield role

Wagstaff 6 – had plenty of first half possession but output was poor

Racon 8 – always involved in our better passages of play, and a terrific run for the equaliser

Semedo 6 – as noted above, his robust approach is not without a hidden cost

Martin 8 – full of energy despite an early kick to the head; just needs to do more with the excellent possession he carves out for himself

Benson 6 – forced to compete for too many unintelligent balls which he is not designed for; poachers goal highlighted his importance though
McCormack 8 – noticeably lifted the team when he came on; several important interventions in both boxes

Sodje 8 – a real handful and unlucky with a diving header; forced Rovers to defend ten yards deeper creating space for others

Reid 6 – a bag of tricks but always forced to take on two defenders due to Jackson’s inability to support; a fortunate assist for the goal

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rovers preview

Charlton finally won a home game by a scoreline other than 1-0, although like those previous victories it was a close-run thing again.

The Addicks have secured four victories in the final five minutes of matches this season (Yeovil, MK Dons, Notts County, Carlisle), whilst also securing a useful point at Plymouth.

They’ve also given up three late points (Exeter, Dagenham & Redbridge), but the net six points gained as matches enter their closing stage are not only vital, but hopefully indicative of both excellent fitness as well as resilience.

It is remarkable what has happened since that sorry 4-0 defeat to Brighton, and not only to Charlton.

For example we were behind Notts County on goal difference that evening, yet we are now 15 points and 18 places ahead of them (and to think some of us were calling for Paul Ince as manager!).

Charlton’s goals have been coming from all directions, with Johnnie Jackson somewhat bizarrely now the top scorer with 7 goals, including 6 in his past 5 League games.

Parky has somewhat belatedly recognised that Jackson lacks the athleticism to play full-back, a role far better filled by Matt Fry. Very few of us had him down as a finisher though.

Southampton however have quietly got their act together under Nigel Adkins (funny that), and four wins from five has ensured they have generally kept pace with the Addicks, a fact not unnoticed by the bookies who have them as very firm second favourites behind the Seagulls.

Indeed with the South Coast pair meeting in a tasty looking derby tomorrow night, we may know more about which of the two we should fear the most.

Parky will be forced into an unwelcome change with Christian Dailly forced to serve a four-game ban, which will render him unavailable until at least the Brentford game in the JPT. His options are varied, with Jon Fortune the obvious selection, but Miguel Llera and Matt Fry offering an alternative.

Joe Anyinsah may be fit to return, but with Lee Martin having provided solid support for Paul Benson in the past two wins, there seems little point rushing him back.

In order to even up matters, Paul Trollope’s Bristol Rovers side also face a suspension-generated headache, with both first and second choice right-backs Carl Regan and ever-present Byron Anthony ruled out.

Dominic Blizzard is unlikely to feature, fortunately for him perhaps given memories of his shocking tackle on Grant Basey the last time these teams met.

The Pirates arrive at The Valley without a win in five, although self-respect would have been boosted to some degree by a battling point at Brighton on Saturday for which we were also most grateful.

Trollope is now managing team affairs without the insights of Lennie Lawrence, but it is obviously too early to suggest their lowly League position is somehow related.

Rovers have won only twice on the road (against Huddersfield and Dagenham & Redbridge), but have notched an impressive 13 goals in total, nearly twice as many as they’ve managed at home. Given that Charlton claim a similar home/away scoring record this season, we should certainly be on the guard for complacency.

Interestingly this fixture took place on the exact same week last season (on 24 Nov 2009), and similar entertainment would be most welcome, the Addicks eventually winning 4-2. Interestingly of the eleven that started that match, it is likely that only Jose Semedo will feature again just one year on.

When we met last season, Charlton had accumulated 32 points from 17 and today we stand on 31 points from 17. The crowd that night was 15,885 which is unlikely to be beaten this time around disappointingly, even factoring in the forecast freezing temperatures.

The crowd will be boosted however by the fact that I’ve invited a Dutch work colleague for the second half of a South-East London mini festival of sport (beginning with Andy Murray vs Roger Federer at the O2 Arena).

I mention the fact that he’s Dutch because he was brought up watching the Ajax side of the 1970s, inspired by the majesty of Cruyff and Neeskens. He’ll certainly find plenty to admire about Semedo and Racon then.

I don’t expect an easy victory by any means but for my charity bet I’ll opt for a 2-0 win, perhaps an early goal supplemented by a late breakaway to seal the win.

NY Addick bets £10 on Charlton to win 2-0 (at 8/1)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Yeovil Preview

Amidst the disappointment of Tuesday's performance, it's easily forgotten that we somehow actually won. The sign of a good side perhaps?

We certainly seem to be a (very) good side away from home, scoring seven more goals on the road than the next most prolific travellers.

At The Valley it's an entirely different story, with 1-0 being the only scoreline that we have managed to win by (six times in League and Cups admittedly).

The 'truth' about our qualities probably lies somewhere between the two extremes, a view emboldened by the fact that we remain only four points ahead of Oldham in 11th despite the recent fabulous run.

Momentum might be challenged by at least one forced change, with Joe Anyinsah doubtful after his injury picked up at Peterborough.

Jose Semedo will return in midfield, with Therry Racon moved forward from the holding role he did not look comfortable playing against Barnet.

Pawel Abbott didn't do his chances of a reunion with Paul Benson any good with a lacklustre performance, so the role will likely be handed to Lee Martin whose recent brace focused attention.

Yeovil have struggled all season and sit just one place from the foot of League One.

Their two away wins were achieved by a single goal against fellow strugglers Walsall and Rochdale, in the space of an early October week.

The have conceded at least two goals in each of their past five League games, whilst last weekend's 3-1 home defeat to Dagenham & Redbridge means they arrive feeling as short of confidence as the Addicks are buoyed by it.

The Glovers have heavily opted for loan signings to bolster a tiny squad, but so far with scant return.

Ex-Charlton keeper Ben Roberts (who made a solitary substitute appearance in May 2003 against Fulham) will likely be on the bench, but the Addicks connection ends there.

My midweek bet on a 6-0 victory was a little optimistic with hindsight, so I'll keep things more real this time.

Some of the odds are plainly ridiculous (eg. Paul Benson odds-on to score at anytime), but if my hypothesis above regarding Martin's role is accurate, he looks good value to get on the scoresheet. I'll express the view two ways.

NY Addick bets £5 on Lee Martin to score anytime at 10/3
NY Addick bets £5 on Lee Martin to score first at 9/1

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Elliott Robs Barnet

With my spirits lifted by the news about Prince William, I opted to attend the game in the end, although my joy was tempered by the fact that it's just so hard these days for young couples to save enough for a deposit on a first home.

What I witnessed was surely the most inglorious qualification for the 2nd Round in the FA Cup's famous history, the Addicks will face Luton or Corby in ten days time. I really pick my matches.

So Barnet join Bournemouth, Notts County, Dagenham & Redbridge, MK Dons, and Sheffield Wednesday as the sixth team this season to leave SE7 with a 1-0 defeat.

If Rob Elliott has ever played better I'd be amazed. I counted fully NINE outstanding saves, and inbetween them the unfortunate Bees hit the bar.

He must be awarded a '10' for his own performance (it couldn't have been improved), but I will refrain from awarding the whole team marks for fear of wearing out the '3' button on my computer.

With the exception of Elliott, only Paul Benson, Kyel Reid and Gary Doherty emerged with any credit on a frigid night, and two of those were second half subs.

It all leaves me wondering, do I just happen to see staid and uninspiring performances, when instead we've resembled Brazil in recent weeks?

Or is the optimism engendered thereof going to fade as quickly as a reject from X Factor?

Parky opted for a 4-5-1 with Reid given plenty of licence to attack.

Indeed I spent most of the first half deciding whether he was freer than Aung San Suu Kyi or the Chandlers, and concluded neither analogy was remotely appropriate or funny.

Reidy did score though, pouncing with devastating effect on some sluggish defending to cut inside from the right wing and fire home at the near post.

Johnnie Jackson might have scored too when set up by Alan McCormack but as an attacking threat, we were largely bereft.

An embarrassingly poor attempt at a second half lob by Pawel Abbott summed up Charlton's and his night. He looked like a pub player on tonight's performance, with a physique to match.

I'm left aghast at how poorly a near full-strength side currently flying high in League One, can make possession of the football appear so challenging against supposedly inferior opposition.

Meanwhile Barnet fizzed the ball around at pace, yet retained enough control to set up their (ageing) strikers with quality ball to feet on numerous occasions.

Izale McLeod even made a late cameo and judging by the thickness of his gloves, you could tell he meant business.

Another ex-Addick Grant Basey generally looked comfortable in an unfamiliar centre back position, where his lack of pace can be more easily protected than at full-back. It's rare too to see a centre back taking all set-pieces with his cultured left foot.

Unfortunately it was all just a particularly poor demonstration of the way we usually play when I see Charlton under Parky, which makes the League One table all the more mysterious to me now.

By the final quarter-hour or so, home fans were left in a strange mental position, desperate to get home but conscious a deserved Barnet goal would likely mean extra time. We were on the edge of our seats, but not for the usual reasons.

The two saving graces are that firstly we somehow won, and second that only 4,500 or so Addicks witnessed it.

The other 12,000 or so who'll be present on Saturday will have noted only the victory and another clean sheet, and will thus conclude we're still terrific.

On this evidence we'll eventually be found out again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Plan Bee

"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too." (Rudyard Kipling)

I’m not sure if Phil Parkinson is a fan of Kipling, but he may well be based upon exceedingly good recent results.

He didn’t so much ‘keep his head’ as ‘change his team’, the catalyst for a quite extraordinary turnaround in results.

Given that it’s often better to be lucky than smart, the injury to Kyel Reid against Brighton forced Parky to push Johnnie Jackson into midfield, a move which simultaneously has solidified the midfield and improved the defence.

In a coincidental but unrelated move, Parky also opted to pair Paul Benson with Joe Anyinsah and have since seen the pair score goals in unison seemingly for fun.

In my self-appointed role as the unofficial club devil’s advocate, one might question why it took an enforced injury change for Parky to stumble across a winning formula, but suddenly the season holds immense promise. After all, it’s not as if the teams we have beaten have been divisional lightweights.

Obviously injuries and suspensions will soon upset the stable applecart somewhat, but of particular note is the fact that perhaps League One’s two most skilful and unpredictable players (Reid and Lee Martin) are waiting on the bench, ready to pounce and offer opposition defenders something different to worry about.

This was demonstrated with devastating effect at Peterborough.

Barnet should represent a straightforward route to a home tie with non-League opposition in the Second Round, but Charlton’s awful reputation in all Cups is not unmerited.

Moreover I suspect most fans are more excited about the prospect of a possible Wembley trip in the Johnstones Paint Trophy than a Third Round tie in the FA Cup.

Nonetheless Parky will be forced into a number of changes tonight, so it offers the chance for some squad players to put some doubt back into the manager’s mind regarding what really constitutes his best team.

Although it’s only a Cup tie, it remains rather mystifying why we are the joint worst home scorers in League One, yet comfortably the most prolific on the road, scoring almost three times as many away from The Valley.

The answer may lie partly in the impatient crowd, but it may also lie in the fact that with the pace of the likes of Wagsstaff and Anyinsah, we play at our best in a counterattacking style which is less potent when visiting sides are happy to defend deep.

If so then an alternative approach (hopefully one emphasising high tempo ‘pass and move’ may be the key to unlocking defences at home too).

I’ve a ticket for tonight’s game but will make a late decision whether to bother using it or not. The freezing weather and the possibility of extra time do not fill me with great appeal upon reflection.

If I make it, I suspect I’ll be seeing the following team: Elliott, Francis, Fry, Doherty, Fortune, Reid, McCormack, Racon, Wagstaff, Benson, Abbott.

My Peterborough charity bet paid off nicely, the 7/1 odds on Jackson scoring at any time looking even sillier now given he managed the feat twice.

I hadn’t factored in the fact that he’s the club’s penalty taker, but then neither it seemed had the bookies (who interestingly now have him at just 2/1 to score tonight!).

Therry Racon however remains interesting value at 11/2 to score tonight (2 goals in 2 games add to the attraction.

In a hunt for some longer-priced odds meanwhile that are ideal for a charity bet, I’m also going to go crazy and suggest the Addicks go one better than Saturday and hit the Bees for six.

NY Addick bets £5 on Therry Racon to score anytime (at 11/2)
NY Addick bets £5 on Charlton to win 6-0 (at 66/1)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Posh Accent

Four clean sheets in a row and two wins from Wembley. The 'Parky Out' brigade are notable by their absence.

I'm not really firmly in the 'Parky In' bridgade to be honest, but the last three weeks have shown just how dangerous short-term decisions can be based upon what in truth was a single poor home performance.

After that Brighton game I looked at the next four fixtures with trepidation, yet we've taken nine points from the first three of them.

Equally relevantly, the Brighton side that humiliated Charlton at The Valley have continued to humiliate, with Yeovil, Peterborough and Exeter dismissed without the concession of a goal.

Maybe the Seagulls really are a class apart (which if true suggests Gus Poyet may be a real star in the making), but Charlton have as good a chance as any side to grab second place.

Charlton haven't visited Peterborough since November 1993, when a single Garry Nelson goal gave the visitors three points.

The popular blond front man followed up that winner with a hat-trick in the home game, Carl Leaburn and (say it quietly) Alan Pardew also helping to secure a 5-1 win.

The Posh enjoyed a double promotion to the Championship in 2009, but Darren Ferguson was surprisingly dismissed just three months into the new season by colourful Spanish-based property magnate, Darragh MacAnthony.

An inevitable relegation followed, but they now have Gary Johnson in charge, a manager with an impressive record at Yeovil and Bristol City.

Indeed he was a name regularly put forward by anxious Charlton fans keen for an able permanent replacement for Pardew.

With the teams only separated by goal difference, the importance of this game is clear. However they have reached their respective goal differences in diverse ways.

The Posh are in the unusual position of having the most potent attacking force at home (21 goals) and the 2nd worst defence (15 goals). The recent 5-4 home win over Swindon summed up the entertainment on show.

By comparison, goals-starved fans at The Valley have seen just 14 goals scored in either net. Indeed Charlton have scored more goals in their past three away games (8) than they have scored at home all season.

Somewhat quietly therefore, the Addicks are now League One's highest scorers on the road.

I'm in the midst of an uncomfortably long betting losing streak, so I'm going to ignore all of the statistics above and opt for a goalless draw, a result which would not displease either manager.

The 7/1 odds on Johnnie Jackson scoring at anytime meanwhile seem attractive given he has managed 2 goals in 4 since being pushed into midfield.

NY Addick bets £5 on 0-0 correct score (at 14/1)
NY Addick bets £5 on Johnnie Jackson to score anytime (at 7/1)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Supermarket Sweep

I'm a Waitrose man myself, but it seems that Sebastien Sainsbury's proposal of marriage has failed to persuade Richard Murray to walk down the aisle (geddit?).

Sainsbury had very subtly indicated his interest in the club, by becoming director of a newly incorporated company called Charlton Athletic 2010 Ltd.

However it seems proof of funds were not forthcoming, which combined with plenty of unsubstantiated rumours about his character, has probably led most fans to breathe a sigh of relief that Murray held firm.

The episode is an uncomfortable reminder of the fact that when you are a considerably less than outstanding investment opportunity, then you can't expect to attract outstanding investors. He just has to see off Peter Ridsdale now.

We might dream that an investor with a bottomless pit of money will seek us out, but surely most of them are seeking instant gratification (witness the Liverpool takeover for example).

It's a shame really because in the context of football investment opportunities (which are pretty awful relative to virtually any other global industry), then Charlton Athletic actually is a pretty good one for those with a medium to long-term view.

The club is essentially available for nothing (subject to any existing obligations to creditors, including former directors).

It has a largely modern stadium, a relatively stable fan base, a solid local reputation amongst the community, and most importantly a good location (more about that later).

Assume that an initial investment in additional transfer fees and wages of say £25m could virtually guarantee promotion to the Premiership within five years.

The resulting TV money (even if received for just one season), and subsequent four years of parachute payments would more than repay the initial investment, and leave plenty of potential future upside if the club remained sensibly managed.

We could even dream of the prospect of a new stadium on the Greenwich Peninsula, a massive modern tube station, ticket promotions tied in with events at the hugely successful O2 Arena, and with the massive corporate demand potential at Canary Wharf just a short tube or boat ride away.

The question is whether anyone serious is willing to forgo the aforementioned instant gratification, and see the above potential.

Unfortunately most billionaires don't have the patience, whilst the types of chancers we seem to have been linked with so far are presumably proposing to fund the ongoing investment with debt, and if ever an industry was ill-suited to a leveraged buy out then it was football (too unpredictable).

This is not the investors' problem ultimately (they could just walk away) but not such great news for the club and its fans who are lumbered with the debts. This story has played out already numerous times as Portsmouth fans will remind you.

In the meantime the big unknown is obviously Murray's financial position, and the timescale in which he and his family can continue to fund the ongoing operating shortfalls.

Ultimately it may be this issue which determines the timing and nature of any sale, rather than any honourable view about the motives of the buyer.

Oh, and let's not forget Phil Parkinson's ability to extract the full potential from his team too of course.

That might just allow us to preserve the status quo, which might be what we're all secretly hoping for anyway?

Friday, November 05, 2010

Bee Sting?

An away tie at Barnet would ordinarily have been a perfect one for me (my parents live up the road), but instead I'm sat here jet lagged 6,000 miles away in San Francisco.

By the time the game takes place however, I'll be onboard a Virgin America flight to New York which thanks to their wi-fi facility, should mean I'll be able to listen to commentary at 35,000 feet, a new Charlton-supporting experience for sure.

Phil Parkinson's side has turned the overwhelming negativity that followed the Brighton defeat into considerable hope, and full credit to him and his players.

It's hard to overestimate how important Paul Benson's goal at Carlisle was, because recovering from what might have been a desperately disappointing 3-3 draw would have been extremely tough.

However opportunistic goals like that one are precisely why Benson was signed, and his six goals (five on the road) have rapidly proved the early doubters wrong.

More importantly one senses the tangible degree of fresh optimism that having a natural goalscorer in the side can bring to the entire side, and not before time.

Pairing him with Joe Anyinsah meanwhile seems to have been a stroke of genius from Parky too. One would have to go back to the Hunt/Mendonca days in the late-1990s to recall the last time the Addicks had two strikers scoring in unison.

With three wins on the spin with an unchanged side, Parky now faces a dilemma which might be termed a 'high class problem'.

Do you change a winning side in the low priority Cup competitions, but risk a humiliating exit that might knock confidence throughout the squad?

I think a reasonable compromise can easily be reached via a handful of changes, which would still make us comfortable favourites to proceed in both matches.

Of the three Cups we compete in, the Carling Cup should certainly be the lowest priority (at least the Johnstones Paint Trophy offers a realistic Wembley prospect).

The FA Cup does not offer that to us at this point, but who wouldn't feel a frisson of excitement if we entered the 3rd Round draw and were handed a rare break from League One tedium in the shape of high-profile Premiership opposition?

Barnet have got off to a poor start under ex-Gills boss Mark Stimson, perhaps not surprising given their meagre resources and last season's narrow escape.

Without some type of new stadium solution (which the local council are remarkably unhelpful towards), it's hard to see how Barnet have any medium-term hope of progressing.

Their crowds are low even by League Two standards but are boosted somewhat by the fact that Arsenal and Spurs never play at home on the same weekend, and thanks to Sky often neither plays at 3pm on a Saturday at all.

Their sloped pitch and ramshackle ground might be termed 'charming' but frankly it's ridiculous that League football is being played in such surroundings given the wealth that permeates the domestic game.

Barnet's million-pound rated striker (surely some mistake? - Ed.) Izale Mcleod is unavailable, but injury-hampered Grant Basey may be in contention.

His career has taken a massive backward step thanks in part to that awful tackle at Bristol Rovers, although Richard Murray implied he somewhat short-sightedly turned down an Aberdeen move, surely a better option than Barnet despite the personal upheaval?

I think when all is said and done, with a draw being the result to actively avoid at all costs, I think Parky will select an attacking line-up as follows: Worner, Francis, Fry, Fortune, Doherty, Reid, McCormack, Racon, Martin, Abbott, Anyinsah. Subs: Elliot, Dailly, Semedo, Benson, Sodje, Wagstaff, Jackson.

Barnet probably represent decent value to win at 4/1, but I'll back Charlton's newly confident side to put in another professional away day performance and progress 2-0.

NY Addick bets £10 on Charlton to win 2-0 (at 15/2)