With the transfer window coming to an end (but not quite closed at the time of writing) it’s time to turn attentions to the pitch. Following a week without football after not being involved in the second round of the League Cup, the Addicks will be raring to go and get back to winning ways against a tough Nottingham Forest side at The City Ground. Forest themselves came unstuck in the cup on Tuesday night thanks to some frightfully good goals in a 4-1 defeat to Wigan, but have strengthened their squad with the signings of Billy Sharp and James Coppinger. There’s no doubt this will be a huge test for the away side.
Charlton team news
Dale Stephens didn’t travel with the squad ahead of a proposed move to Aston Villa and despite the move breaking down, it’s unlikely he’ll feature tomorrow. This will mean The Addicks are forced to make a change to their starting line up for the first time this season. I expect Bradley Pritchard, who has been playing on the right flank, will come into the middle and either Scott Wagstaff or Danny Green will start on the right. New signing David Button will be on the bench after Sullivan didn’t travel and both Fuller and Haynes are pushing for their first inclusions of the season and may well be on the bench. Haynes has recovered from a hamstring problem will add extra pace in the dying moments of the match if needed whilst Fuller, although not ready to start, has improved his match fitness enough to be considered as a substitute.
Forest team news
The Kuwaiti owned club will be without new signings Coppinger and Sharp who didn’t sign in time, but that wont dent the home side to much, who have a wealth of new additions to pick from. Former Addick Greg Halford is likely to start, whilst Simon Cox, who scored in midweek, will lead the line upfront. Away from new signings, Andy Reid will get a good reception from the Charlton fans as he plays against his old club for the first time. On the injury front, Forest manager Sean O’Driscoll has a full squad to choose from baring striker Marcus Tudgay who has a groin problem.
Prediction: Forest 1-1 Charlton
I’m predicting a draw with an optimistic hat on, this will be an incredibly difficult challenge for Chris Powell’s men.
August. A time of early season heat, constant drinks breaks and pristine pitches. Fans are in shorts, the managers lose their jackets and there’s not an under armour in sight. The 25th August 2012, the second Saturday of the football season, was a little different. Heavy rain and lightning storms all over the country caused the Premier League game between Sunderland and Reading to be postponed and Wycombe V Bristol Rovers in League 2 to be abandoned.
The weather didn’t evade SE7 with a few violent lightning forks and persistent heavy rain taking its tole on the pitch, leaving the last half an hour or so a very scrappy affair with the ball not travelling as well as it should. But all the same, The Addicks kept their unbeaten record thanks to a 0-0 draw with Hull, a game they so easily could have won after an incorrect offside call, but so easily could have lost if it were not for the heroics of keeper Ben Hamer.
It was a game of very few clear cut chances for both teams, Hamer saved easily from Proschwitz early on whilst Pritchard saw a volley blocked after being teed up by Tuesday’s hero Yann Kermorgant. Hull’s biggest threat came through former Addicks target Sone Aluko, who kept the Charlton defence on their toes and forced Hamer into a number of quality saves. It looked the Yorkshire side would take the lead when Cory Evans fed through the Nigerian international, only for Hamer to pull off one of many impressive one-on-one saves. This seemed to spur Charlton on and for the remainder of the half they looked more likely to score. Bradley Wright Phillips saw a long range deflected effort saved by Ben Amos in the Hull goal, whilst a spell of corners saw Pritchard, Jackson and Cort on two occasions, one hitting the post, all coming close.
The teams went in at half time level, and during the interval, the heavens opened. As the fans in the lower tiers ran to the back of the stands to take cover, the players had to deal with the stormy conditions and the half started slowly as the ball began to hold up. After 10 minutes of the half though, The Addicks thought they had scored. Bradley Wright-Phillips got away from Faye and Chester in the Hull defence and broke free on goal after a ball over the top from Danny Hollands deflected off a Hull head. Wright-Phillips saw his shot saved by Amos but Kermorgant tapped in the rebound only for the assistant referee to raise his flag for Wright-Phillips. The replays clearly showed Wright-Phillips was onside, angering manager Chris Powell who felt that decision cost The Addicks a deserved three points. It was The Addicks though who rode their luck for the remainder of the game, with Hull coming close on a number of occasions. Aluko broke free into the box a number of times, seeing a shot blocked by Cort and Hamer adding to his one-on-one save collection. It wasn’t until the last minute that Hamer pulled of a miraculous double save, first from a one-on-one Aluko again and then reacting to Jay Simpson, pouncing on his feet and doing enough to send the ball around the post. There was still time for one more save from the Charlton keeper from Simpson in injury time, cementing his man of the match award.
Although the display didn’t match the previous two games, Charlton once again showed they are no mugs and can certainly play in this league, which wasn’t helped by the weather. Powell has labelled Hamer as his best player so far, and few can argue with that after his display to effectively secure the point. Five points from three games is more than anyone could have asked for from a tough, tough start to life in the Championship.
After 45 minutes of pure joy, and another 45 of almost heart stopping tension, The Addicks are back in action just 4 days after that memorable victory against Leicester City. A fellow City, that of Hull, are the visitors to The Valley as Charlton look to maintain their unbeaten record against the Yorkshire club. The opening two games, against Birmingham and Leicester, on paper should have left The Addicks with nothing to show for their effort, but four points (and four that should have been six) has created a buzz akin to last season. That feeling like we can defeat whatever is put infront of us is back after pre-season apprehension and the signing of Ricardo Fuller has only increased the mood around The Valley. But this is The Championship. We wont every game. There are no easy games and Hull, despite succumbing to Steven Kean’s troubled Blackburn in midweek, is one of 46 tests.
Charlton Team News
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Chris Powell went with the same team on Tuesday night that started the draw against Birmingham the Saturday before, and I expect that trend to continue. Ben Hamer has been calm, comfortable and solid; Michael Morrison and Leon Cort have shared such attributes. Wiggins and Solly have impressed both in their defensive roles and going forward, supporting Jackson and Pritchard excellently. Up top, Bradley Wright-Phillips had arguably his best game in a Charlton shirt against Leicester whilst Kermorgant cemented his fans’ favourite tag with a goal to literally silence his abusers from the away side. New signing’s Ricardo Fuller is a number of weeks from first team inclusion as he aims to build up fitness but Dorian Dervite is fit and may push for a place on the bench. Scott Wagstaff will also be hoping to earn a spot among the subs but Pope, Hughes and Haynes remain sidelined with injury.
Hull Team News
The Tigers will be without star striker Matty Fryatt so pressure will be on new signing Proschwitz deliver. The German arrived from SC Parderborn 07 in a £3.3 million transfer but he’s failed to find the net so far. After fielding 5 at the back in midweek, manager Steve Bruce may opt to lose a defender in favour of an extra forward with Jay Simpson or Aaron Mclean likely to come should the decision be made. After admitting that their good work at the back was undone by their failure to take their chances against Blackburn in midweek, I fully expect Bruce to make this change to his formation. In midfield, former Charlton target Sone Aluko will line up against his one time admirers and will offer pace, skill and crossing ability to test The Addicks back four. Whilst at the back, former Manchester United youngsters James Chester, Joe Dudgeon and keeper Ben Amos will hope to show the talent that saw them on the books of such a prestigious club. They are also joined by brother of Johnny Evans Corey, also a fellow Northern Ireland international.
Prediction: Charlton 2-0 Hull
This is going to be a tough, tough game, but the feel good atmosphere will drive Charlton on to victory.
Yann Kermorgant turning towards The Jimmy Seed Stand with his index finger raised over his lips, flanked by Dale Stephens and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Yann Kermorgant pumped in celebration after the final whistle. Two iconic images that will be seen again and again and again. They epitomise what was one of those glorious nights every Charlton fan hoped this season would bring. A goal out of nothing for last season’s top Scorer Wright-Phillips and the goal that had to be from Kermorgant, although they had to fight for it thanks to Andy King’s goal and a late serge from Leicester, gave The Addicks their first three points of the season.
It was the first half display that won the game for the home side, but Leicester started well. Jamie Vardy looked quick and strong up top for The Foxes and was assisted on the flanks by the quick and skillful Lloyd Dyer and Ben Marshall. They failed to create any genuine chances though, and were limited to tame shots easily saved by Ben Hamer. The Addicks started to take control down the right hand side though, with Chris Solly and Bradley Pritchard looking lively. It was Pritchard who delivered the ball into the feet of Wright-Phillips, who turned his man and hit a long range effort into the bottom corner past the helpless Kasper Schmeichel.
The game remained somewhat end to end, but The Addicks had control in midfield and were creating the better chances. Much like Saturday, set pieces were being used to great effect with Leon Cort header being saved from a Jackson corner. It was a set piece of sorts that brought about goal number two for The Addicks. A long throw from Danny Hollands skimmed the top of Cort’s head and fell perfectly to Kermorgant, who rifled home on the volley and preceded to run down to the half way line, giving the Leicester fans his silencing answer to their abuse. It was a moment that will certainly live long in the memory and no less than the big Frenchman deserved. He almost added to his tally towards the end of the half, having another volley saved after wonderful play out wide by Rhoys Wiggins. Paul Konchesky’s cross-come-shot was almost met by the stretching foot of Vardy just before the half time whistle, but The Addicks had done more than enough to deserve their two goal cushion going into the break.
New signing Ricardo Fuller was unveiled during the interval, a signing that was already known by many but still raised the positivity about the place even further. This was sent down a notch just five minutes into the second half however, as substitute King got on the end of Marshall’s ball and tapped in and the near post to make it 2-1. Normally in such a situation, Chris Powell’s team have a tendency to sit back, but despite 40 minutes of onslaught, they tried to get forward and create chances of their own, which was a delight to see. Leicester created chance after chance, substitutes Nugent and Knockaert especially, with Vardy and Dyer causing problems, but Wright-Phillips fired just wide and played in Stephens moments later only for Schmeichel to beat him the ball. Although The Addicks were creating less chances, their’s were arguably closer. That was until with less than 10 minutes to go, Dyer broke through and got one on one with Hamer. What looked like a certain goal ended in, somehow, a shot straight at Hamer’s feet. Leicester kept coming though, and whilst in four minutes of injury time Knockaert went on a winding run only to lose his footing at the crucial moment and Vardy hit a free header straight at Hamer. Somehow, The Addicks held on.
It really was an unbelievable display and the atmosphere was electric come the final whistle, summed up by Kermorgant’s double fist pump. The man loves this club and I’m so glad to have him, he showed what Leicester were missing last night.
Two teams high on confidence, plenty of sub plots and the first Championship match to be played at the Valley. Tuesday promises to be an exciting affair. Leicester come into the game on the back of a league victory against Peterborough and an emphatic 5-1 hammering of Barnet in the Capital One Cup whilst Charlton fans have had their confidence lifted by a strong display that merited victory in their 1-1 draw with Birmingham. Once again, on paper it’s nailed on to be a win for The Foxes but never rule out this Charlton side.
Home Team News
The Addicks have no fresh injury concerns going into the game but Pope, Hughes and Haynes remained sidelined. Consequently, it would be appear obvious for Chris Powell to name the same team that played so well at St. Andrews. That would see Leicester old boys Michael Morrison and, more dramatically, Yann Kermorgant start against their former employers. Morrison, along with manager Powell, is respected among the Foxes’ fans but Kermorgant is enemy number one following his famous penalty miss in the 2009/10 play-off semi final. The Charlton fans’ favourite will have more support than ever, and a goal tomorrow night from the Frenchman will lift the roof off The Valley. With inexperienced Moore expected to start at Right Back for the away side, Jackson and Wiggins linking down the left and delivering balls for Kermorgant and Wright Phillips will be crucial to an Addicks victory.
Away Team News
There’s also a couple of familiar faces in the Foxes’ team as Paul Konchesky and Martyn Waghorn are expected to return to the Valley. One time youngest ever play Konchesky is expected to start at the back along with new signing De Leat, Morgan and youngster Moore, whilst Waghorn is likely to have to settle for a place on the bench with the abundance of attacking options available to Leicester. The abundance in attack is counter acted by a number of defensive absentees with Whitebread and St. Ledger both injured. Leicester’s bench was top heavy on Saturday and any injury at the back could give The Addicks a huge advantage. The Key for Leicester will be their wide man with Dyer and Marshall both very talented and likely to cause Wiggins and Solly serious problems.
Prediction: Charlton 2-1 Leicester
It’s written in the stars isn’t it? A Yann Kermorgant winner to give The Addicks their first three points of the season.
After 82 minutes, the minority of fans in the red corner of St Andrews were struggling to maintain control of their emotions. A header from Leon Cort following a cleared corner being swung back in by Johnnie Jackson and headed across goal by Jordan Cook gave The Addicks a 1-0 advantage that only a handful thought realistic. But 4 minutes into 4 minutes of stoppage time Charlton were brought back down to earth with a strike from sub Nikola Zigic to level the match at 1-1.
A score that on paper should probably be met with delight from every Charlton fan. However, given the context of the game, the most popular feeling was disappointment. Most importantly though, we’ve shown we wont be pushovers this season and will give anyone a game.
One moment that will be looked back on with regret is a miss from Yann Kermorgant in the first half. A contender for miss of the season on day one. The ball was crossed in by captain Jackson and, somehow, headed over with an open goal in his wake by the Frenchman from barely a couple of yards. Wright-Phillips failed to convert a number of chances and Jackson himself forced young England international Butland into a number of saves throughout the match.
Much like Tuesday night, there seemed to be a problem with missed chances, but unlike Tuesday night, the performance was exceptional. Leon Cort did not lose an ariel challenge all 90 minutes, unfortunately, after the 90 minute mark, 6’9 Zigic took control. Hollands and Stephens dictated play in a midfield battle against Mullins and Morrison. Solly and Wiggins were fantastic both defensively and going forward and a special mention to Bradley Pritchard for yet another bulldog-like display.
It may seem like Birmingham didn’t turn up and got lucky, but that isn’t the case. Chris Burke and Marlon King showed their class whilst Jack Butland radiated composure. Their best chances game in a spell just before Charlton’s goal, most notably through Burke and Nathan Redmond who both blazed over from promising positions. Curtis Davies was their Birmingham’s star man, holding off Wright-Phillips from running on to countless Kermorgant flick-ons. They’ll certainly be there or there abouts come the end of the season.
All in all, a very proud today to be an Addick, if not a little disappointing. But this is what The Championship is all about, and although a little harsh, there will be more days like this in the coming months. I’m sure they’ll be plenty of good days too.
Here we go again, the dreaded bleep tests have been run, the replica kit has been bought, the signings have been made, it’s time for another season of football in England. That may sound like it’s a chore, but it’s far from it. It’s quite the opposite. What a delight it will be to see Charlton Athletic in the second tier of football for the first time in three seasons, and the first season in a while which is being entered off the back of some optimism. Sure, the summer hasn’t been smooth and some of the optimism has vanished, but there is still a distinct lack of negativity. If anything, there’s a healthy amount of realism. Yes, this season will be tough but we’re unlikely to be in any serious trouble.
Birmingham Team News
The toughness of the Championship is epitimised in the first game, with last season’s play-off semi-finalists Birmingham City the challenge for The Addicks. New manager Lee Clarke has been quick to strengthen his squad in the hope that promotion will be achieved with Hayden Mullins, Peter Lovenkrands and former Addick Darren Ambrose all signing up, whilst the services of the stars of last term have been maintained. They’ve got the perfect mix of youth and experienced with new England star Jack Butland and U19 international Nathan Redmond schooled by the likes of Curtis Davies and Chris Burke. The only real injuWhatever team they decide to go with, they’ll be another 11 who will be disappointed to be missing out.
Charlton Team News
Charlton go into the game with doubts over Danny Haynes, whilst Andy Hughes and young keeper Nick Pope are two definite absentees. Their absence wont affect the starting XI though, with Ben Hamer starting in goal and Danny Hollands taking the holding midfield role. Stephens or Pritchard will partner him, with Jackson on the left and Wagstaff likely to start on the right. Pritchard may himself may start on the right if Powell decides to go with the team that beat Fulham last week. That will see Solly, Cort, Morrison and Taylor at the back with Bradley Wright-Phillips and Kermorgant starting upfront. New signings Dervite, Cook, Wilson and Kerkar will all be in the bench and be looking to make an impact late on.
Prediction: Birmingham 1-1 Charlton
The Addicks will be outplayed, or at least they should be on paper, but the spirit of the team and momentum from last season will play a part in a gritty draw.