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Monday, December 24, 2007

Half Way To Heaven Knows Where..

It's the half-way point in the 46 game fizzy season and time to see where we are. Thirty-eight points from 23 games with 11 victories, a situation that'll give us a total of 76 come May if we carry on as we have done. And you don't need much intelligence to figure out that at the current rate we'll only be due a Play-off place. Last season saw both 4th and 5th placed teams, West Brom and Wolves, end up on 76 points and both managed 22 wins, exactly double what we have now.
Pardew has made his excuses, "we've a new team that will get better" and on Saturday he was very unlucky with injuries, suspensions and flu all taking their toll.
But what of the season so far? Consistency will be the key to success in the Fizzies and we still havn't achieved it. To illustrate you only have to look at our monthly progress. We didn't start off too brightly back in August with a 1-1 draw against Scunthorpe, then a defeat at Stoke and only the second-half recovery against Sheff. Wed giving us our first three points. In September we raced to three victories and 2 draws and in that month we were the 2nd best in the League and up to second in the Table in a month only spoiled by the League Cup defeat at Luton.
October dawned therefore with us secure in that automatic promotion place but, after the Hull victory and the Barnsley draw which kept up the pressure on Watford, came the dreaded International break which preceded our disastrous run of three defeats in 8 days starting first at Wolves, and then quickly followed by our first home defeats of the season to both Plymouth and QPR. Second to 7th in a week was the result.
But, in true Jekyll and Hyde fashion, we bounced back in November with no less than 4 impressive wins in a row, all of them clean sheets and 3 away from home, in which we gave Bristol City their first home defeat, stopped Southampton scoring for the first time since April, welcomed Cardiff in our biggest win 3-0 of the season and then saw off Preston in a 2-0 away win. Up to 2nd again and the season well and truly back on course.
But before we had finished with November, a month in which we were the best team in the fizzies, a sting in the tail. Sheff. Uoo arrived, stopped us from scoring for only the third time this season in 20 games, and cooly departed with a stunning 3-0 victory.
The cards were on the table, as it were, and December did not disappoint. Another home defeat followed 4 days later, our 4th now, with a 3-1 loss to Burnley and we slipped to 4th in the table. All doom and gloom it seemed but no, our heroes raised themselves once more with a 2-0 win at Cardiff where Matt Holland put us on course with his first goal since the heady heights of Anfield. More followed with 3 goals in 25 minutes to see off Ipswich and we were off to West Brom knowing that a win would take us to top place in the League.
It was not to be of course, and we let in 4 goals for the first time since the alarm bells really tolled for us back at Blackburn in April. And our 1-1 draw against pub side Hull City has just completed the 23 game mark.
All in all, we are where we deserve to be, no more no less. Five away from 1st placed Watford, three points away from 2nd spot and another three above 7th placed Wolves. Despite the worries about our defence, we've kept the most clean sheets in the fizzies, 8 in all, but then again we've 7th in the list of goals conceded, 27 in total now.
In games against the top half, crucial if we do make the Play-offs, we've down in 10th place with only 4 wins in 11 games, whereas the three best teams are West Brom, Stoke and Burnley, all three potential opponents come May.
We've stronger in the second half than the first, scoring 7 of our 33 goals in the last 5 minutes. But we give away points too easily. After going in front we havn't been strong enough to keep a lead and have dropped 12 points with 3 draws, against Scunthorpe, Coventry and Barnsley, and 2 defeats, Stoke and Plymouth, the 18th worst record in the fizzies. OK, that's easily answered, perhaps, as we are the best team for scoring first, along with West Brom, having done so 15 times in our 23 games.
But, in typical Jekyll and Hyde fashion, we havn't fought back after going behind either. Only once have we won a game after going behind - Sheff. Wednesday - and only twice have we drawn games from a losing position - Hull and Colchester - and to made a simple comparison, Palarse have now done it 4 times, winning that is, and are the best fighters in the League. Must be that Warnock affect, lets hope the little irish fella is back by February 9th.

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