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Monday, February 19, 2007

The Wigan Chase ( or is it Handicap?)

OK, Monday morning and only 5 days to go before the season starts to really get going. But while we all look forward to Saturdays epic against the Hammers, there's another very important game taking place on Wednesday night over at Vicarage Road between bottom club Watford and 17th place team Wigan. Its Wigans game in hand over us and if they win they'll be 8 points clear of the Addicks and with a much better goal difference. The game was abandoned on December 30th with the score at 1-1 and although a home win would push us down to the bottom of the table, it's vital that Watford do the business and deny Wigan any points on Wednesday. With their "lucky" win over Ipswich in the Cup on Saturday, Watford have now won 4 of their last 6 games in all competitions and continue to fight, so a home win is not so unlikely.

With Sheffield in 15th and Man. City in 16th, both 10 points clear of us, it would take a monumental run of victories on our part to catch either of them up even though Man. City are not enjoying life at the moment without a win in 4 games, so it looks like Wigan or bust. And with Jewell's team realistically being the only team we can catch to reach 17th, any points they gain against Watford are going to make a difficult job that much harder. Fortunately, Watford will also see it as a game they cannot afford to lose so it becomes a must win for both teams.

To gauge the size of our task in catching Wigan, I had a quick shifty at their remaining fixtures and as far as we're concerned it doesn't make for good reading. They have 12 games left and they have to play every one of the nine other teams in the bottom half of the table. That leaves just 3 games against top-half opposition with Bolton ( whom they beat at the Reebok) and Newcastle at home and Liverpool away.

And while you could argue that playing against other teams fighting for their lives may not be the easiest way of getting three points, its best to point out that 3 of their home games are against teams currently floatly aimlessly in midtable ie Spurs, Middlesbrough and Fulham, all of which have only one away win to their name this season, plus another home game against West Ham, currently, the only team not to have won away all season. So, not what you might call a difficult run-in.

Yes, we were inspired by Wigan's disastrous run recently of 8 consecutive Premiership defeats, which ended with a 2-1 win over Portsmouth, but they then surprised us all by almost beating the Arse at New Highbury. And before you get too carried away, its best to remember that they have at least the knowledge that they can string a few wins together to get out of trouble with the memory that they won 4 on the trot in October/November, a run that terminated with their win over the Addicks. If you can remember its now 61 games since the Addicks managed to win even 2 games in a row.

But if you need a second opinion, the beeb, tired of discussing life at the top end of the table, turned their attentions a few days ago to the problems facing teams at the bottom of the table. They looked at the three games between the bottom three in February and voicing their opinions are none other than Graham Taylor, our former striker Mark Bright and Hammers stalwart Julian Dicks, "assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the three teams going into this potentially season-defining spell." They give some interesting views but maybe you shouldn't take their opinions too seriously as they all go on to predict a home win for the Hammers in their game against Watford a week ago.

And then there's BBC Sport football expert alan hansen that threw his hat into the ring with a few mixed emotions recently. Seeing Wigans' failure to hold on at the Arse as a bonus to "the bottom three", he then goes on to pronounce - "Out of the bottom three Charlton look the team most likely to have a chance to me." So there's hope yet, it seems..

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