As I sit in the jury waiting room eager to adjudicate on the dispensation of justice on behalf of her majesty, my thoughts turn to the forthcoming five fixtures. Brighton, Sheffield Wednesday, at home, Carlisle, Peterborough, Swindon away. The next five fixtures will be a trial by ordeal. If we come out of that lot with more than 9 points then the jury's verdict of the season so far and future prospects will be totally positive, however if we come out with six or less the fans verdict will be that Parkie is guilty of an inability to manage and will only feel that justice has been done when we see the back of him, Breaker and maybe Kinsella.
Our record at The Valley is an enviable one, played four, eight points, despite some disjointed un inspiring performances. 45 minutes here and there are not enough to cajole the faithful into loud raucous support, but it does lay foundations and I believe confidence of the team. The biggest test for the team this season at home comes this weekend , with the visit of table topping Brighton and Hove Albion. Managed by Guy Poyet, they have turned around their disappointing form of last season to be a confident formidable out fit. One of their season highlights from last year was their visit to The Valley when they toppled promotion chasing Charlton in a 2-1 victory, Richardson scoring with a daisy cutter. Brighton's charge stalled last week as the linesman and Bournemouth team conspired to turn the referee's legitimate award of a free kick into a penalty in injury time. For the players of Brighton it must be soul destroying to play at the Withdean where the fans are remote from the pitch due to a running track (something that west ham can look forward to if their Olympic stadium bid goes through). Brighton will have no concerns about a stadium that dissipates sound when they come to the Valley. The Jimmy Seed is probably the best stand in the valley for dispersion of sound towards the pitch. The low roof and traditional old fashioned build of the stand works to the advantage of the opposition and one of Pardoo's few intelligent remarks was that the away fans should not be given the benefit of that stand. Health & Safety fan security have prevented the move to some of the empty spaces at the side of the pitch. I have been an advocate of cutting large holes through the sides of the stand and insulating the roof with sound absorbing material.
The Brighton players will be up for this as they bring 3,500 fans to fill Jimmy Seed and pick off a few seats in the home end. We could convince our selves that this is a lost game before we begin. To do so however we need to come out of the blocks as we did for Dagenham & Redbridge and keep it going for a full 90 minutes. This is the first time we have had a team at the valley who will be attacking us from the off, although you could justifiably argue that Notts County soon realised that we were there for the taking. Since Notts County the team have shown some improvement and cohesion and we have started to see Benson repay the investment in him. With Brighton coming at us they will also be vulnerable to our attacks. Not playing against a packed defence we can allow our team to be expansive in their play. As you go down the leagues it is rarer and rarer to find quality creative midfielders that can unlock defences, with Brighton coming at us we can instead of working out how to unlock the defence we can focus on piercing it with through balls, crosses and counter attacks.
With Francis being absent last week, this weeks target for the fans has been Thierry Racon, who has been criticised for his contribution and positional play. I'm not the biggest fan of young terry, but when he is criticised by some based on radio commentaries it does seem a bit unfair. Thierry has bundles of potential, the good news is that with each game he is improving and that can only be good, he does need to score more goals and we know that he has a vicious long shot, something the club misses at the moment. One of the biggest pluses for Racon is that Frances will be back on Saturday.
It is I going to be an interesting match and one where I think the opposition will be strong enough and clever enough to know that Reid is the best creative player in the team, and will put two / three players on him, that will leave space elsewhere and we need to have a strategy for exploiting this.
Once we get past Brighton for better or for worse we face further challenges, as I said at the beginning we face a trial by ordeal, but if we can get through it half intact then this could be a great season.