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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Looking Forward To Scunthorpe?

Just for a moment I'm going to forget about the possiblity of Andy Reid leaving. Injuries or not, he's our one player of class and we cannot afford, even at 4M, to let him go.
So on to other things. You'll be surprised to learn that if the Addicks was in Spain and about to play the team that they faced on Day 1 of the season, then we'd be exactly half-way through the season. Yes, a system more in tune with Teutonic efficiency than Spanish practice, reigns when discussing football fixtures here in España. All nice and neat every game runs in sequence for the first half of the season and then the teams play the reverse fixture all in the same sequence during the second half. So at the half-way point everyone's played everybody else and they even declare a Winter Champion and you know exactly where you are in the scheme of things.
In England, however, its all a bit of a mess and we don't know where we are and to compound the issue, there's more money seemingly floating around in mid-winter as teams bring in reinforcements during the sales and confuse us even more.
So, anyway we don't care about all that stuff, and we don't apparently worry too much if Reidie does decide to leave, 'cause after Tuesday we're on a high. Who's next for the chop, you're all demanding and in contrast to all the tough home games that we have lined up, its a team right down there in the basement, 23th placed Scunthorpe United.
Three points just waiting to be grabbed from a team looking like relegation certs with only 3 home wins and the second to worst record at home in the Fizzies, second only to Colchester.
The first game of the season was clearly not a good time to be playing them and after being in 6th place at the end of September, its all been a slow relentless slid down the table since then.
They've now gone 4 games, including a cup fixture at Preston, without scoring and have only have 1 win, away at Preston again, in their last 18 games. Their last home win was, once again over Preston, back on September 18, and since then from 11 games at home they've only managed 5 draws and 6 defeats.
But beware Pards, nothing can be taken for granted in this League as Kelly Youga will tell you. January 1st saw them almost overturn Barnsley at home, and they went 2 goals up thanks to Kelly himself getting his first League goal before 2 late goals meant another home draw, at 2-2.
And perhaps it should disturb someone that we don't seem to be at our best against the lowly teams. In our 7 games against the bottom 6, we've only got 9 points from 2 wins and 3 draws while against the current top 6, its 10 points from only 6 games with 3 wins and a draw and only 2 defeats.
So we're lost the same number of games against the bottom 6 as the top 6, although from one more game played. A situation that may be alright if you're thinking about any Play-Offs chances but a bit of a downer if you want to crowned Champions.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Charlton 1 Stoke City 0

A vital win for the Addicks with a late, late header from the 5' 8" Lloyd Sam in the 83th minute, for his second League goal of the season, just when we were all resigned to taking home our frustration at all the missed chances wasted.
So, not surprisingly, its a Big, Big win from Pards and, of course, he's 'really pleased with the quality we showed and patience we showed.'
Its a 'valiant defensive effort' with a 'brick like defence' from Stoke as seen by the telegraph but while 'Stoke lived up to their robust reputation, Charlton refused to be bullied with Matt Holland, in particular, giving as good as he got.'
The posh_murdoch was there as well and although they have forgotten their player scores they pick out Sam as the main man with a 'cool head' and 'nifty feet' and report Pardew as saying 'We are strong physically and know the division better now. We’re getting used to it and look a better side than the first match.'
The independent uses their dictionary with 'irrepressible enterprise in the face of increasingly obdurate defending' and rathers surprises us by hearing Tony Pulis throwing some compliments our way 'They will be absolutely devastated here if they don't get promoted, because other than West Brom I think they've got the strongest squad.'
And possibly the best report of the night comes from the sportinglife, complete with match stats, - 11 shots on target to Stoke's 2 - ( and with every single one of their ten minute match assessments saying 'Charlton are in control of the match') and tells of 'numerous squandered chances', while their aftermatch mike hears Pards saying that he's pleased with his new buy, 'Andy Gray did make a difference and his ability to hold onto possession in not a lot of room is key. He has taken us up a level.'
Stoke themselves see it as an 'unlucky 13', but heap praise on our saviour Weaver, with an odd 'outstandingly' last minute save from Parkin, while mocking Varney for 'somehow missing with the goal at his mercy' before providing the killer cross. But they do rather give away their limited aims by maintaining that they are still 4 points in front of Cardiff, while we are more concerned with how far away are Bristol City and West Brom.
So all in all a great night and to help you look forward to Saturday with an even better outlook, the stats tell us that we're now the 2nd best team in the fizzies when looking at results against the top half of the table with 23 points from 14 games, while Scunthorpe, our next opponents, have the worst record in the Division with just 6 points won against top half opposition.....
The Addicks: Weaver; Moutaouakil, McCarthy, Bougherra, Youga; Sam (Semedo 87), Holland, Zhi, Ambrose (Thomas 71); Gray, Iwelumo (Varney 66).
Used Subs: Randolph (g), Fortune.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Game 29 - Stoke City

So it's one of those make or break times again. A series of games over the next 5 weeks, all at home, against four of the other 5 teams currently in the top 6. These games will not decide our season, there's another 14 matches elsewhere that will do that, but it'll tell us, Pards and the players what exactly can be expected come May 4th.
The pity of it all is that recently we have not been so hot when it comes to make-or-break games. Last season, in a spot of trouble, but a home game against Watford was going to set us right with 3 easy points. Well, no not exactly, a 0-0 draw. And later on pressure games against Sheff. Uoo, twice, Middlesbrough, Watford and the biggest being away at Blackburn, with none of them being won. OK, there was the Hamsters game and an impressive 4-0 scoreline but the 2-2 draw at Anfield when the pressure was off perhaps said it all.
But despite our recent form, only 1 win in 9 games and with 6 draws in the last 8 games, everyone's been pretty upbeat about tonight. Kelly Youga tells us that 'Stoke are a very physical side, but if we can keep the ball down and play football, then we can beat them', while Bougherra is meanwhile forecasting a bit of a 'surge'. However, the calm voice of experience, Killer, cuts through it all and predicts a 1-1 stalemate and at the same time warns us all about the danger of our ex-trialist Ricardo Fuller....
And tonight is not going to be easy. Unbeaten for 12 League games going back to their defeat on November 10th at home to Sheff. U, they've been beaten just 5 times this season, fewer than anybody else. And that defeat against Sheffield was the end of a sticky patch that saw them lose 3 out of 4 games. And although we have gained more points away from home than they have, we have to remember that they've only lost 2 out of their 14 away games, at Southampton and Bristol City, the best record in the fizzies.
And they score plenty of goals, 46 in the fizzies, second only to West Brom although they do have a few off-days. For while we may score less (41), we do usually score and while have they have failed to score 6 times, we, despite our bad shooting, have only failed in 3 games to find the back of the net.
But to emphasize that the policy of Tony Pulis is to attack, you only have to look at the record of his defence with only 6 clean sheets, among the worst in the Division, and with 35 goals conceded, more than 10 other teams..
So it therefore follows that Stoke have now gotten the mentality that losing a goal doesn't affect them in the slightest. In fact they expect to concede and they have the best record in the fizzies for getting points after the other lot have scored first, having got 17 of their 47 points after going behind.
So what to do? Well, with Stoke scoring more goals in the first 10 minutes than any other 10 minute spell, its obviously important for Pards to wake everybody up before the start, no early daydreaming from anyone. And it'll be a repeat of our last game at Watford with an early bombardment. And its worth noting that they've scored three goals at all of Barnsley, Blackpool, Sheffield Utd, Scunthorpe and Palarse and on only two occasions have they failed to score away from home, the defeat at Bristol and a 0-0 at Burnley where Andy Gray played the whole 90 minutes.
And Stoke have also come into some money and have been the biggest spenders in the Championship so far this month, with Ryan Shawcross, Danny Pugh and Leon Cort joining permanently for a combined fee of just under £3million, and Andy Griffin returning for £300,000.
As for their attack, the danger men are obviously number 10 Ricardo Fuller (12 goals), number 9 Richard Cresswell (8), and number 7 Liam Lawrence (8), and in those three they've got forwards that obviously know where the goal is and there's also Ryan Shawcross and defender Leon Cort with 6 apiece.

As for the history, in 28 League games at the Valley, its 16 wins, 7 defeats and 5 draws.

As for the Addicks, the main question for Pardew is whether or not Andy Gray will start. Although always eager to keep an unchanged eleven, with the good work recently put in by Luke Varney, it'll be no surprise to see Chris Iwelumo step down once again and this time see Gray take his place alongside Varney.

So its looks odds on to be:

Weaver; Moutaouakil, McCarthy, Bougherra, Youga; Sam, Holland, Zheng, Ambrose; Gray, Varney.
Subs: Randolph, Fortune, Semedo, Iwelumo, Dickson.

And the Prediction. After a run of 5 1-1 draws in our last 8 games, Killer and newyorkaddick both see a repeat with another 1-1, while pedro45 forecasts a 2-0 home win. So with their attack, in particular Fuller, odds-on to score, but with a defence likely to concede, we'll have to score twice to win, so its a 2-1 win for the Addicks, with Gray notching his first goal....

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Valerón Returns.....

You'd never believe the amount of meaningless tosh that is delivered up daily on spanish television. Its gossip pure and simple and consists of following selected well-known people around in the street with cameras and asking stupid questions and then debating the answers in the studio for about 4 hours.....
And now on Sunday afternoons, more meaningless stuff has appeared. Yes, its Scottish football.
Not content with boring the pants off us with Udinese v Milan ( 0-1, 87th minute), TVE2 have decided that after that they'll spice up our lives with the delights of Inverness CT v Rangers. And with Mrs Nelson enjoying her usual siesta and the newpaper nowhere to hand, it was made even more meaningless by the fact that I couldn't even figure out who was who and even though you'd expect table-topping Rangers to be playing better stuff that Inverness, the football was so bad it was impossible. The beeb called the first half 'subdued' which was very kind of them I thought and the game finished 1-0 with an 88th minute goal to top of the League, Rangers. I was fast sleep by this time, of course.
So I should have known better than to sit down last night and watch more action (sic) in the form of Everton v Chelski. Anybody else make the same mistake? And was it the tiring efforts of the days pruning or the dire football that lead my mind to drift somewhat with no goal in sight? If you stayed awake then you would have seen the only, 69th minute, goal scored apparently by Cole but once again I was in the land of nod.
Whats happened to good football? That's the point. I can remember the whole nation booing like crazy when Ray Wilkins ( the crab) dared to imitate the Germans and pass the ball sideways, for Gods sake, in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. What's he doing, is he crazy? He was sent-off, of course, and quiet rightly too. Now everybody does it and we're supposed to enjoy one teams longer possesion and denying the opposition a chance to score.
So, I suppose, I should have enjoyed the Spuds 5-1 demolition of the Arse on Tuesday, but I didn't. Maybe I know too many Arsenal fans or is it their style of football that I admire and seeing Rosicky and Hieb conjure up moves but on the other hand I can't really make myself like Spurs. How can anyone enjoy watching a team play in all white, for pities sake, just reminds me of Real Madrid.
So being as subjective as football always makes us, you'll all be pleased to know that the point of todays tosh is to bring to your attention the fact that one of my favorites, Juan Carlos Valerón, has just returned to training after nearly 2 years out through a knee injury in February 2006.
Yes, he's now 32 and we have all given him up for dead and just when he should be thinking of hanging up his boots, he's back and is determined to come to the rescue of Deportivo, currently 2nd to bottom of La Liga. Video of his past glory, here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How About Diaby, Arsene?

So what's Pards thinking about right now over his morning breakfast? Figuring out if it's a jam or marmalade day? One round or two? And meanwhile, over the table, the missus just can't understand why he's in such a good mood this morning, despite the burnt toast.
But while she's busy musing and planning a weekend shopping trip with hubby, Pards has jumped in and told her that sorry love, its not really a 'free weekend' after all, 'cause he's got a couple of tickets for him and Parky to see the Arse play Newcastle in the Cup, because he's made plans to pop in to see his old mate Arsene before the game on urgent business.
He's conscious that the shell-shocked Wenger ought to be left alone for a couple of days before any advances so Saturday seems just about right. For Pards experience will have told him that there's a squad of interesting kids up there that have now got nothing to do for the rest of the season, after last nights comprehensive defeat in the semis of the Kids Cup. And after that walloping, they'll be nothing but a big problem for Arsene as they struggle to come to terms with a 1-5 scoreline.
No, its a quiet convalescence they need, away from their mates in North London, down there in the fizzies, with all that space to run about and enjoy. So who's it to be Arsene? Last season it was Alex Song that lifted us with 12 appearances, and Pardew's mouth is watering at the prospect of another loan deal with no capital expenditure worries.
Meanwhile over at Parky's household, he's free from making any boring phone calls and is trying to figure out what to do about the arrival of Stoke on Tuesday. It's his job to look at the videos and stats and analyse the opposition's strengths and weakness and find a clue to getting the three points.
So he's been looking at the stats for Stoke and found some interesting facts.
First thing he's noticed is that they score a lot of goals. With number 10 Ricardo Fuller (12), number 9 Richard Cresswell (9), and number 7 Liam Lawrence (9), they've got 3 forwards that know where the goal is and between them they've got 30 of the 46 fizzy goals, a total second only to West Brom. So they can score but in doing so, they'd do seem to neglect their defence a bit with 35 goals conceded, more than 10 other teams.
And while we score less (41), we have fewer off-days and do usually score and while have they have failed to score 6 times, we have only failed in 3 games to find the back of the net, despite our bad shooting...
But to emphasize that the policy of Pards mate Tony Pulis is to attack, you only have to look at the record of his defence. While we can feel a bit sorry for the fans at Molineux, ( and bemused at Mick McCarthy) - a team that have managed a massive 13 clean sheets and the embarrassing and pointless record of conceding less than anyone and meanwhile scoring less then anyone - Stoke have only managed 6 clean sheets - only Coventry and Colchester have less.
But it therefore follows that Stoke have now gotten the mentality that losing a goal doesn't affect them in the slightest. In fact they expect to concede and you'll probably see them all having a good laugh about it as they are the team with the best record in the fizzies for getting points after the other lot have scored first, having got 17 of their 47 points after going behind.
So what to do? Well, with Stoke scoring more goals in the first 10 minutes than any other 10 minute spell, its obviously important for Pards to wake everybody up before the start, no early daydreaming from anyone. And its worth noting that they've scored three goals at all of Barnsley, Blackpool, Sheffield Utd, Scunthorpe and Palarse and on only two occasions have they failed to score away from home...... So its probable that plan A should be to stop them scoring.
Meanwhile, Pards couldn't care less about all that number nonsense, he's busy plotting what he's going to say to tempt any of Diaby (only 5 Premier starts this season), Gilberto Silva (only 4 starts), Denilson ( a single start) , and even Alex Song (a massive zero starts) to make the short but meaningful trip to the Valley for a few months of actual football.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

So Who's This Andy Gray Anyway?

So what do we know of this Andy Gray character that Pardew has staked his all on, as well as 1.5 big ones, and rising to 2 big ones if you believe the Burnley website? Yes, he's just turned 30, doubled his wages apparently, played a couple of times for Scotland back in the distance days of 2003 when he was scoring goals for Bradford City and has been around quite a bit. Nobody expects loyalty these days and Gray's not renowned for any of that nonsense having been at 10 clubs in his 14 year career starting with Leeds - as you would expect as son of the Leeds legendary left-back Frank Gray.
Making his debut in 1995 at 18 as a central midfielder in the heady days of Premiership football at Elland Rd, he, not surprisingly, failed to make the grade and after 22 games in that first season with Leeds and no goals, he was loaned out to Bury and then moved to Notts Forest where there was more of the same with 64 games and only 1 goal.
After further loans at Preston and Oldham, and at some unknown point converting to a striker role, he finally started to find where the net was at Bradford City in 2002.
In the season 2002/03 he got 15 goals for Bradford in the fizzies and got the same total again in 2003/04 after having been sold to Sheffield U in the middle of the season in February 2004.
Another season in the fizzies with Sheff U on 2004/05 and he improved to 18 goals which prompted newly promoted Sunderland to buy him. He made his debut for them against us on 13th August 2005 at the Stadium of Light and started well, scoring in a 3-1 defeat, that also saw our Darren scoring twice on his debut.
Things went all downhill from there and after 21 games ( 8 of them as sub) and no further goals, he was loaned on to Burnley in the following January, 2006.
And there he's been ever since, finding life easier in Tier 2 and with 5 goals in his first 6 months there, followed by 14 goals last season, he does seem to have reached somewhat of peak with 13 goals so far this season. Although we do seem to have caught him at a bit of a bad moment, because he hasn't scored in his last 8 games and his last goals for Burnley were in fact the 2 he scored at the Valley back on December 1st.
So a career total of 76 goals in 250 games but how does that compare with say Big Chris. Well, our Chris is a bit younger than Gray, 18 months in fact, and has apparently got only 66 goals in his career, so not much to choose between them, goals wise. And perhaps we should compare him also with the 29 year old Todorov himself - although it does seem a little unfair with 32 international games - for Toddy has also got no less than 66 goals as well, but in an injury-plagued career of only 110 starts ( plus 49 subs ) and a good few of them were at the top level.
But, of course, Pards hasn't brought Gray to the Valley for his goals but as a replacement, however temporary, of Todorov and his ability to open defences, particulary at home. And Pards has emphasised the point three times recently and seems to have found an excuse, sorry reason, for our poor home form. So he's been full of praise for Toddy and what we've been missing, 'We have missed him, he's been a bad loss for us because we've missed his technical play. I don't think our link-up play has been as good as it should have been, partly due to his absence. We've played ZiZi in that role at times, to good effect away from home, but it hasn't quite worked at home'
Odd then, and its easy to be critical isn't it, that Gray doesn't appear to have been able to do the same at Burnley with only 3 home wins in 13 games and only 2 teams, Colchester and Scunthorpe have a worst home record in the fizzies.
Anyway, we'll all be able to judge for ourselves next Tuesday night against Stoke City, when no doubt we'll see our new striker first hand, and playing alongside probably Luke Varney.
And 4th placed Stoke, three points above us but with only 2 defeats in 14 away games, couldn't present a stiffer challenge.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Gray Day, or is it just Monday....

While we all debate whether Saturday was a point gained or two lost, we shouldn't forget that for the second game running we used our new-found determination to engineer a fighting come-back, and both away at promotion contenders.
But in spite of that, its still hard to push away from our minds that perhaps we could have won the game and while we can appreciate Pardew saying he'll take a point from Vicarage Rd any day, its worth remembering that since October, West Brom, Burnley, Bristol City, Plymouth and QPR have all done more and come away with all three, although perhaps not on a cold rainy afternoon unsuited to your style of football.
Dare we say it, but with our falling behind in our 86 point target, is it possible perhaps that Pardew has already settled for a place in the Play-offs. He's obviously an expert on the fizzies and has already pointed out that during the second half of the season the table will settle down with the top 6 now starting to put away from the rest, and thats happening with 3 points now separating us from 7th placed Ipswich.
And he's obviously conscious that our fate is now in our own hands with a crucial run starting in 8 days time with the arrival of Stoke City. Four home games running against Stoke, Palarse, Watford and Bristol City is a daunting prospect but will surely decide our fate and its all the better for the planned return of Andy Reid right in the middle of that run on February 12th at Sheffield Wednesday.
But if the worst happens and we finish outside the top two, perhaps we should note that of our fizzy games against the current top 8 teams, Saturday was the first drawn encounter, while we're already won 5 from 8 of the games, only losing out to Stoke and West Brom away. In fact, our games against the better teams have tended to bring out the best in us and we've now 4th in the table of games against the top half teams, with only West Brom, Stoke and Burnley doing better.
But wait a minute, what was that word I read in yesterday's posh-murdoch. Yes, thats it, cautious. 'Charlton manager Pardew was more cautious in his selection', presumably referring to his leaving new signing Andy Gray on the bench.
We haven't been called that for some time, and it's more a word we would associate with one of our previous managers. Lets hope its not catching, for caution at this point will surely only serve to leave us with nothing this season. And perhaps that is all we will get, for the task of building a new team in a year, and after losing so many Premiership players, should not be underestimated.
Its already been suggested that if we fail to go up this season Pardew will be off to pastures new, so its encouraging to read last week that Pardew still has long-term plans in place while talking about 23 year old Therry Racon, 'I would like to loan out Therry to a club in England, a number of French clubs would like to take him on loan, but I want him to learn the game here because he is a big part of my long-term plans. He played so well against Bristol City, but he hasn't really had a chance since then due to the form of our midfield players, so I'd like to give him some more experience of the English game.'
And while we still have high hopes for Chris Dickson, another new boy was introduced yesterday at Vicarage Rd in the 81st minute, as reported in the telegraph, one Al Bangura from Sierra Leone, a 19 year old that Boothroyd says after winning his appeal against deportation - 'our best result of the season'.
And just when we thought we were being ignored by the press, there's more good news from the independent where somebody else has noticed our fluidity of play although they did point out that it didn't apparently stop it being a humdrum match.
The guardian has also turned up with a report, called the match 'scrappy' and gave MOM to Watford's Tommy Smith.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Watford 1 Charlton 1

Back in the 20's, eight of our first 10 games against Watford ended up as draws and nothing much seems to have changed over the years. With more drawn games than wins between the two teams, yet another draw, this the third running, means we slip another place to 6th and now have only 1 win in the last 9 games, if you include our Cup exploits.
To make matters worse, the team overtaking us is Warnock's Palarse, who have now taken an impressive 34 points from his 18 games in charge. And as we continue failing in our attempts to get the better of Watford, the only saving grace is that Warnock, after his cup exit at Vicarage Rd, can't beat them either and has lost to them twice already, including a 2-0 league defeat back in October.
Meanwhile, Pards has staked all on an improved strike force and has finally persuaded Burnley to part with Gray in a deal that could cost us 1.5 big ones. After recently lamenting the lose of Toddy and coming clean about his reasons for chasing Andy Gray, Pards said, 'I feel our home form has cost us a top two place in the first half of the season, and it's not a surprise to me that, without Svetoslav Todorov, we have struggled to unlock defences who have sat very deep at The Valley. That was what we brought Toddy in to do, but we've not had him and won't have him in the second half of the season, so we have to replace him.'
Strange then that for all his scoring feats, Andy Gray, with 11 from 25 fizzy starts, has only managed 3 of them at home, while our own Big Chris has only scored 9 from the same games, but with rather more of them at home with 5 scored at the Valley...
Anyway, back to the disappontment of dropping further down in the table. Of the fans, frankie and drinkingduringthegame made it to the game, with the latter making the point that the Play-Off final is on May 26th.....So take a hint from an eye witness and keep the weekend free from any possible family committments and persuade the wife that a late holiday would be better this year.
On a rain-swept evening, apparently the only paper to brave the elements yesterday was the posh_murdoch. After seeing early Watford pressure and two missed chances in the first 5 minutes, they've obviously been to Vicarage Rd before this season as they then noticed that, 'not for the first time this season, Watford appeared to run out of ideas as the first half progressed and it was Charlton who began to dominate.'
And after going behind, 'Charlton, playing in their third game in a week on the road (?), refused to give up with Zheng Zhi and Matt Holland particularly deserving of credit for the way they drove the team forward and combatted the physicality of Watford in midfield.'
The sportinglife were there as well and include a few words from Pards, including the surprising news that Darren Ambrose 'is as good a finisher as we have at the club.'
There's more on watfordfc if you're really desperate, and they do make the surprising comment that 'Ambrose controlled the game for Charlton throughout' and admitted that 'their goal came just when Watford looked to be buckling under Charlton's relentless, fluid attacking.'
We now have a 10 day break before Stoke on Tuesday week and the team selection for that game will probably see the debut of new-boy Andy Gray, who replaced Iwelumo for the last half-hour, but who will start beside him? It definitely won't be Chris Iwelumo or Izzy McLeod so its between Varney and Dickson to play the second striker. Varney never stopped running yesterday so its probable that we will see the start of a new partnership of Gray/Varney with Dickson on the bench, once again.
The Addicks: Weaver; Moutaouakil, McCarthy, Bougherra (Fortune 89), Youga; Sam (Dickson 81), Holland, Zheng, Ambrose; Iwelumo (Gray 68), Varney.
Subs (not used): Randolph, Semedo.
Booked: Ambrose 6 (foul on Smith), Moutaouakil 34 (foul on McAnuff)
Goals: Ambrose (78 minute)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Current Target - 14 from 19....

Everyone needs a goal in life, something to aim for. Some want power and prestige, while most of us are content with the money. Being a football manager, however, Pardew has a more concrete goal in mind, end of season promotion.
At the beginning of the season his target was 26 victories to give us automatic promotion, so with 12 so far its a target of 14 more from our remaining 19 games. Impossible, I hear you say, we'll never do that, so you'll be pleased to know that its only meant to be a target.
Watford, won't be too concerned with our targets, for without a home win in the League since October 20th, it'll be our long and difficult Tuesday evening that'll be pleasing them, and with our 'best' team out as well. And, although they have gone 7 fizzy games at Vicarage Rd without a win, they'll be even more encouraged by their 2-0 FA cup win over Palarse - both goals coming from defender Dan Shittu - on January 5th, Palarse's first defeat in 15 games.
However, seems they've got a few problems with the news that 11 goal top goalscorer Marlon King appears to be off to Fulham, and he's even been quoted in the press already, 'I've got fond memories of Watford but this is a new chapter in my life. Last time in the Premier League my season was cut short by injury but this opportunity has come up. We've got Arsenal on Saturday and I'm looking forward to that.' So appears done and dusted, leaving a bit of a hole up front for Watford. They still have Darius Henderson, with 10 so far, who Pards will know all about about having had him at Reading - and then sold him to the Gills - and he's followed in the goalscoring chart by another one we know about, ex-Charlton player-without-having-played, Dan Shittu with 5 goals.
As for ourselves, Pards is reported to be pleased by the performance against West Brom but why did he feel that he had to field his best eleven.
For one thing, after 3 games unchanged, it'll be nice and easy for his mate Adrian to guess who'll be playing tomorrow and make his plans. Number two, they'll all be tired for what will bound to be a physical battle, with 34 year old Holland in the middle of it. And number three, there is still a glaring problem to be solved and we all know what it is, even Pards, thats why he's after Andy Gray.
Yes, it's the quality of our shooting. By my reckoning, we've had more shoots that anybody in the fizzies, except the inevitable West Brom, but currently stand second only to Southampton - by just one shot - as most off-target team in the fizzies. Says it all really.
So all in all, tired and with plans well in place to stop us, what's in store for tomorrow? Seems to me that nothing short of a surprise will prove to be enough to win the game. And the surprise, Pards, has to be the inclusion from the start of Chris Dickson. An away game, far from the expectant fans is surely the best way of introducing him full-time with the added bonus that it'll get us a clue as to whether we need Gray or not. If he has a bad game then there's even more chance of the board being persuaded to provide more cash and if he succeeds, then we needn't bother with Gray at all. Can't fail can really.
But don't get too excited, Pards says 'I need to consider when to put him on, or when to put him in the team, and it will be up to me to get the best out of him between now and the end of the season.'
So it'll be the self same eleven then.
Charlton: Weaver; Moutaouakil, McCarthy, Bougherra, Youga; Sam, Holland, Zheng, Ambrose; McLeod, Varney.
Subs: Randolph, Semedo, Thomas, Iwelumo and Dickson.
Prediction: 0-0 with no surprises as long as we can stop Shittu scoring.....and unless Dickson comes on for a late winner.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Name's 'Dickson', gaffer.....

'Absolutely brilliant', that's what Pards thought after Tuesday's defeat on penalties and who can deny him his personnel feelings of euphoria like the rest of us. And the obvious reason for his enthusiasm was in witnessing a display of character and comittment that brought us back into the game after going two goals down to undenyingly the best team in the fizzies. And, in turn, we can only applaud the team for the learning of a relatively new trait that has been sadly missing this season - the fight-back.
After pointing out a few days ago that fighting qualities were perhaps lacking in the team with only 6 points gained after going behind, we see a 2-0 deficit overturned at the Hawthorns to earn us extra time. To lose on penalties, after missing a sitter and hitting the post, Varney and Dickson respectively, was perhaps hard to take but Pardew, as ever the optimist, could see plenty in the performance of the team to get excited about.
We can only wait and see what will be the consequences of putting out our strongest team, that used to be our weakest team as pointed out by our own new yorker, in a cup replay just 4 days before a very important game at Vicarage Rd. Urged on by all of us to play some reserves, Pards ignored us all and put out the same team for the third game running.
Meanwhile, there's Watford, on 47 points, 4 in front of us in 3rd place and who will be itching to get back into the top two. A defeat will not be on their agenda. However, with nine wins and the best record by far in the fizzies away from home, they are, like Palarse and Burnley, not quite so hot at home, with even 12th placed Wolves having a better home record.
They've lost 5, won 5 and drawn 3 of their 13 games at Vicarage Rd and only scored 18 goals. The two teams recent last-6-game record has been very similar with the Addicks only getting 6 points, while Watford have not been much better with only 7 points. But while we have suffered somewhat recently at home, Watfords recent home form has been nothing less that atrocious.
Discounting their 2-0 home win over Palarse in the Cup, their last fizzy pop home victory was back on October 20th, a 1-0 win over Hull. Since then seven home games without a fizzy win, comprising 5 defeats by QPR 2-4, Plymouth 0-1, Bristol City 1-2, Burnley 1-2 and commencing their bad run, a 3-0 defeat by West Brom, and just 2 draws, Cardiff and Colchester both with a score of 2-2.
And if they thought that the 2-0 cup win over Palarse would turn things around, they were mistaken for they then lost their last game away, 1-0 to lowly Preston.
But they are still one of the 6 fizzy teams that have never lost after going ahead in a game this season, the Addicks have lost twice after going in front, and the best approach seems to be to match them till half-team and then attack as they have lost 5 games after drawing at the interval.
So, after our recent devastating form, it's surely an away banker. Everything would seem to point our way, although there is surely going to be a bit of tireness in our legs after an exhausting 120 minutes against the league leaders on Tuesday.
But there is a small problem for Pards. While the defence, and possibly the midfield, may pick themselves, we still have a small issue with the attack and in particular, in our shooting. As pointed out by blackheathaddicted when watching the kids do rather better in a 6-0 scoreline, the quality of our shooting does leave something to be desired, hence presumably the chasing of Andy Gray.
Meanwhile, there is promising news on the horizon, as the beeb in its match report on Tuesday's game, sees no problem in naming Chris Dickson, despite his only playing just over half-an-hour, MOM. Stick 'im in Pards, all you gotta do is choose his best partner.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

West Brom Preview - FA Cup 3rd Replay (a)

I'm confused. Tonight we go into a replay of a Cup tie that, initially, it seemed nobody minded losing. 'Both myself and Tony Mowbray will be desperate that this game isn't a draw,' said Pardew. So my first thoughts, regarding what happens tonight, in this match that nobody wanted, were that we were going to see two reserve sides in action.
Well no, apparently not. For like a impatient gambler that has suddenly discovered a system of predicting where the roulette balls are going to land, Pards now, it seems, can't get to get started in tonight's game. In fact he's reported as relishing the prospect and comes up with the excuse that 'its not so much of a problem if you are winning games.'
So comes the news from the official site that the squad it unlikely to be changed from Saturdays marvellous 4-1 result. In fact, playing exactly the same eleven, is on the cards. But, Pards, I thought that the cup wasn't important, promotion is what matters.
So you'll understand the confusion and it means that we've already lost the psychological battle with Mowbray. We should have told him that we don't care a hoot about the cup and he'd put out his reserves and make it all the easier.
So desperate for further clues about the linesups I had a look at sportinglife and it seems that Mowbray is putting quite a few reserves out anyway.
'Tony Mowbray admits the FA Cup is second in his priorities for the season behind trying to win promotion. So he is likely to rest a host of key first-team players, with the likes of Kevin Phillips, Ishmael Miller, Carl Hoefkens and Robert Koren unlikely to start.'
'Alan Pardew is unlikely to make changes to his Charlton side.'
So it seems Mr. Mowbray is still determined to plan his exit from the FA Cup by resting his key players. And who can blame him.
On Saturday both Phillips and Miller started the game at Hull and in a bruising encounter with Hull's usual high total of fouls, 22 this time, both were replaced on 76 minutes with the score at 2-1 to West Brom, by the Czech striker, Roman Bednar, and Slovenian defender Bostjan Cesar in a move to 4-5-1. It seems likely, therefore that it'll be Bednar that leads the attack tonight, although the 6 foot Scot, Craig Beattie, is also tipped to take a part. Shame that he hasn't mentioned the need to rest the goalkeeper, Dean Kiely and that annoying left winger Chris Blunt that always seems to supply the crosses for Gera to head home. And remember that West Brom are still the highest scoring team in the country with a grand total of 59 goals and have won their last 3 home games, scoring 13 goals in the process, including 4 against us. Bednar has already scored 7 times in the fizzies, with Phillips on 16 and Miller also on 7.
As for Pardew, does he really mean to play the same 11 just 5 days before an important away game at Watford? What can he be thinking? Don't change a winning team? Get some more confidence into the team before the return against West Brom on March 22? And on the other hand he's saying that 'it would be good for Osei Sankofa to go and play some games, and maybe Therry Racon as well'. Well, I can only assume that having arrived at seemingly a winning formula, he is somewhat reluctant to change it. And I suppose that there are 10 days off after the Watford game before Stoke come to the Valley on Tuesday 29th.
So team prediction for the Addicks tonight is an odd one and the beeb also reports an unchanged Charlton eleven. But having found a solution for the exposure being given to Sir Chris in the remarkably improved Kelly Youga, will it be time to 'rest' Matty Holland before Watford? I think so and it probable that to avoid further changes we'll see a straight swap with Semedo.
So it looks like being Weaver; Moutaouakil, McCarthy, Bougherra, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Zheng, Ambrose; McLeod, Varney.
Subs: Randolph, Fortune, Thomas, Iwelumo, Dickson.
Prediction: We can only give some advice to Mowbray that it'll be best all round if he rests 34 year old Kevin Phillips for the all-important game against Cardiff at the weekend. These old-timers need their rest Tony. And in turn we can only plan to repeat the 4-2 success that Coventry had on December 4th, West Brom's last home defeat and the last time that 16 goal Kevin Phillips was not included in the squad for a home game.....
But our one stumbling block will again no doubt be that 37 year old goalkeeper, who after his 222 games in a Charlton shirt, still feels a little hard done by. Result a 2-1 defeat.

Monday, January 14, 2008

We Still Have to 'Do A Sunderland'

As the euphoria of Saturdays 4-1 win settles, I am reminded of something that Scunthorpe manager Nigel Adkins said back in August after our 1-1 draw, 'Its probably a good time to play them, they've got so many new players, it'll take a while to discover their best team'. Or words to that effect.
Well, after our 2 match unbeaten run we look, at the moment anyway, to have finally cracked the puzzle and have a side that can beat anyway, at least that's what Simon Grayson said at the weekend, 'credit to Charlton, they can take anyone apart on their day.'
But, at the moment anyway, there's no denying we are a Play-Off team, still seven points away from 1st placed West Brom and 5 behind Bristol City in second and 3 clear of 7th placed Ipswich and mainly because the problem with the Addicks so far has been a consistent lack of consistency. Our results taken monthly are a good illustration of that. On August results we were placed 12th, in September our results were 2nd best, October 21st, November 1st, December 13th, January 8th.
And now, if we are to get into the top 2 come May, the one thing we will need is consistency. Because with 12 wins, 7 draws and 8 defeats giving us 43 points so far, we are now exactly half-way to Pardews desired 86 points for the season. The trouble is we only have 19 games left, so we need 14 wins, 1 draw and only 4 defeats to enable us to get to the total. Fourteen wins from 19 games, looks pretty impossible to me.
As well as more consistency, another area that needs improving is our ability to fight back when things aren't going so well. From losing positions this season we have only managed to salvage 6 points. There's seventeen teams that have a better record than us after losing a goal and two of our possible Play-Off opponents stand out. Both have proved to be much tougher than us in that respect with 17 points won after going behind. One is Stoke and the other, you'll be pleased to hear, is Palarse. Pardew has always praised our superior technique, and Thatcher, Mills and Sodje were all brought to the club to improve our toughness and only one looks like surviving.
OK, you'll all say, the reason we rate so bad after falling behind is because we usually score first and that's partly right. Seventeen times out of 27 we go ahead in the game, but we often fail to hold on to the lead after going ahead. Bristol City, after scoring first 13 times, have only drawn twice in those games and dropped 4 points in the process. We have dropped 14 points - the 17th worst in the fizzies - from 4 draws and 2 defeats after scoring first. Is that a lack of toughness, looks like it.
But we can only look on the bright side, we've now scored 40 goals, 5th best in the fizzies behind West Brom, Watford, Ipswich and Stoke, two of which we meet in games over the next month. So its a tough period coming up with 6 games in that time including 4 against top 6 clubs, three of which are at home. February 9th, is of course, against Palarse and our record in these 6 games will be critical.
But, as Pardew has pointed out, we only have one away game left against a team in the top 6, with the crucial visit next weekend to Watford and its true that our form against top 6 teams has improved, although not from our own efforts but mainly because of the improvement in Palarse whom we beat when they were a bottom half team. However, one area that looks good on paper is that we've now rated 3rd in games against the top half, only behind the inevitable West Brom and Stoke, but again that appears to be mainly because of the rise in teams like Cardiff and Hull...
So all in all, on this rainy January Monday morning, and with the usual Charlton outlook on life, we still need improvements in consistency, toughness when falling behind and resilence to hold on to a lead. Not much to ask....
And once again we need perhaps to look back for some needed encouragement. One year ago, after 27 games, the top two in the fizzies were Birmingham on 53 pts and Derby on 50. Down there in 10th after their 27 games with only 40 points were Champions-to-be Sunderland. In their last 19 games they won 15, drew 3 and lost only once.
Thats the target, Pards, if we are to achieve an automatic spot. Perhaps we need to ask Keane how he did it, but nevertheless we have to be this years Sunderland.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Charlton 4 Blackpool 1

'Charlton were outstanding' that's just about all you need to hear about yesterdays result. And the words came from Blackpool manager Simon Grayson, whose team were on the receiving end of a 4-1 hammering.
And although Pardew takes the credit for his selection, and laps up the praise by admitting that he's had teams in the past that have always played the same, 'at Reading and West Ham which looked to attack and score goals', he can surely feel very thankful that several fortunate, and seemingly unplanned, factors have turned things around after the rather dismal showings over the Christmas period.
First and foremost has been the return of Kelly Youga from Scunthorpe. Brought to the club by Curbishley from Lyon as a 19 year old and on the same day as Darren Bent back in the distance days of July 2005, Youga has been out on loan at Bristol City, Bradford and finally Scunthorpe before making his debut last weekend against West Brom.
Given an impressive score of 9 yesterday by blackheathaddicted, after injuries and over-exposure of the other 4 first-choice left-backs lead Pardew to give him his chance, he's taken the opportunity superbly and one wonders why its taken the management so long to to see his talents. And he's been joined on the other flank by 21 year old Yassin Moutaouakil, who can be nothing but grateful for the self-inflicted demise of Danny Mills.
And in addition, one wonders if yesterday's 4-4-2 formation, containing front-runners Varney and McLeod, would have been tried if it had not been for the fortuitous timing of an 'unimportant' cup tie last weekend in which to experiment.
Anyway, another one enjoying himself is ZiZi, after apparently becoming the first Chinaman to score in the FA Cup during last weeks draw with West Brom, is at last making his presence felt and scored another two goals. He's now played more minutes than anyone else in the side, apart from Weaver, and scored 7 fizzy goals, plus another couple in Cups to take his tally to 9 for the season.
Pardew also had the odd news that 'after we go to Watford next week we will have played all the top six away - and they will all have to come here'. Strange sentiments indeed when comparing our poor seasonal home form to our 6 wins on the road, although there's only 4 teams that have now scored more than we have at home.
There's a match report from sportinglife along with their usual stats - 11 shots on target - whilst Rob Maul from the posh_murdoch had, it seems, a 'thoroughly enjoyable afternoon' and gives the credit to ZiZi with a 'Zhi inspires Charlton' headline and the inevitable MOM award. No less that 5 players are awarded 8 points - Yassin, Bougherra, ZiZi, Ambrose and Varney - with 'stellar performances' from the last three, while everyone else gets a 7....even Lloyd Sam, who it appears didn't have the best of afternoons.
Meanwhile, over at the telegraph its a case of 'Charltons early Goals Soothe Pardew' and reminds us that 'Blackpool are no push-overs' whilst also pointing out our wastefulness with a 'Jerome Thomas skied a glorious chance, created by Varney'.
And if you want to see what happened elsewhere and to ponder the rise of those boys down there at Sainsburys, who have now overtaken our good away record with 6 wins and 5 draws of their own away from home, then look no further than the guardian_cum_observer, although they've omitted to point out that it was Kevin Lisbie scoring, again, that was responsible for taking a point off Bristol City.
Charlton: Weaver; Moutaouakil, McCarthy, Bougherra, Youga; Sam (Thomas 70), Holland, Zheng, Ambrose (Dickson 77); McLeod (Iwelumo 77), Varney.
Subs (not used): Randolph, Semedo.
Goals: Bougherra 6, Varney 10, Zheng 24, 52

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fizzy No 27 - Blackpool (h)

So its the last game in our 'easy run' series with the arrival of Blackpool this afternoon. Thats right 5 games against opponents in the bottom half of the Table - Hull, Norwich, Leicester, Colchester and Blackpool - that would get us all back on target for promotion. Well, it hasn't worked out quite like that with only 3 points, from three consecutive 1-1 draws, gained from the first 3 games, followed by the 2-1 defeat in the last fizzy game against bottom-of-the-league Colchester.
Now its 14th placed Blackpool, with exactly the same away record, 3 wins, 4 draws, 6 defeats, that Colchester had when they arrived and they visit the Valley for the first time, in the League anyway, since October 1980 when they lost 2-1.
As far as our last results are concerned, we can all point to sucessive red cards affecting the games against Hull and Norwich while the contribution of Kevin Lisbie to the defeat against Colchester can't be denied. But there was no hiding the fact that the team was playing badly and the FA Cup perhaps arrived at the right time for Pardew. A home game where, whatever the result, he couldn't lose really was against the best team in the fizzies, West Brom, and he took full advantage by taking a couple of gambles. In came Moutaouakil and Youga at full-back and up front we had a strike force of Varney and McLeod.
And things were obviously improved by a performance that should have won us the game although yet another ex, Deano, combined with poor finishing meant yet another draw.
Today there's no nasty ex's lurking onimously, but there is another goalkeeper arriving that does know his way around the Valley. Of course, its Paul Rachubka at last making his Valley debut but in another teams colours. Although he was at the Valley for 2 years, 2002/04, after we paid Fergie 200K for him, he never actually played a game for us so can hardly be called an ex, but maybe he's got something he wants to prove .....
As mentioned a few days ago, Blackpool are experiencing rather a good run at the moment with the 5th best record in the Division over the last 8 games and with a win at Colchester and a draw at Sheffield U in their last two away games.
Top scorer with 5 goals is the number 11, Wes Hoolahan, who also appears to pull the strings, and is another Dublin born player that Reidie is bound to know. And they'll have their January signing, striker Stephen McPhee, playing for the first time. You remember him, he's already played twice against us this season with Hull, coming on both times as a sub and, in fact, scoring their goal in our 2-1 win up there.
Looking into the past, the history of the fixture gives us a clue as to how good Blackpool used to be and as far as the Addicks are concerned is pretty appalling reading. In fact, our record against them is the worst of any team outside of the Arse, Manure and Millwall. Even our record against Palarse is better than that against Blackpool. Of the 23 League games played at the Valley we've only won 8 against their 10 wins, with 5 draws whilst away from home its 4 wins, 5 draws and a whopping 14 defeats.
So what's Pards going to do? After perserving with a 4-5-1 for far too long, along comes a Cup tie at just the right moment and he's offered the tempting chance of not only trying out Kelly Youga for the first time but also to experiment with a strike force including Varney and McLeod in the same team. And the fact that it all seemed to work will give Pardew a bit of a dilema come this afternoon.
Although we only managed one goal against West Brom, thanks Deano, 13 shots on target tell a story of an attack that at least arrived at the party. Shame so few came to see the efforts, although at the moment it seems just possible that, with the crowd going against the team, a small crowd may have been the very reason for our better performance.
They'll be a bigger crowd today, but will Pardew have the nerve to play the same team? All-out attack in a Cup tie that he wouldn't mind losing is a bit different to a game where points are important. He doesn't need goals today, as a 1-0 win would suit him nicely. If his name was Curbs, it would be easy to predict and we'd know exactly what he would do, but Pardew likes to surprise the opposition as well as us.
So in a way it would be a surprise to see exactly the same team take the field on Saturday, with both Youga and McLeod retaining their places and that could be exactly what he does.

Here is the team that Pardew played against in the cup, with the main reason being given that he wanted to see a bit of speed in the attack. Weaver; Moutaouakil, Youga, McCarthy, Bougherra; Sam, Holland, Zheng, Ambrose (Basey 77); McLeod (Iwelumo 77), Varney (Dickson 77).
Subs (not used): Randolph, Semedo.

You'll notice that all the subs came at the same time, in an attempt to lift the team for another last 15 minutes of effort. A draw was not what was wanted you remember. So its my guess that the same eleven will start with the added bonus that today we have Jerry Thomas available to add yet more speed when their defenders get really tired.

Prediction: Blackpool have not won a game this season after they have fallen behind so the first goal today is vital and writing so late, its possible to read all the predictions and they all go for a win. Everyone is obviously mindful of last weekends result and hopeful that we can repeat the performance. And how much the word 'hope' finds its way into our predictions, is a matter for debate but its also important, as Pards has already outlined, that we get a result today before visiting Watford next weekend. So a win today is needed, not least because anything else could witness the appalling prospect of being overtaken by high-flying Palarse, who travel to play a Wolves team without a win in 6 games.
So, with hope springing eternal, it has to be a 1-0 win for me too.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Looking Forward to Blackpool.....

With only 2 wins from our last 10 home games, they'll be plenty of hopeful fans making their way to SE7 this weekend. Shame that most of those will be from Blackpool, while the locals in attendence will be praying, when they're not booing that is, for a return to normality.
The Seasiders (!) meanwhile will be hoping for more of the same, because their recent form is everything that ours is not. With the 5th best record in the Division over the last 8 games with only 6 goals conceded - only Palarse have conceded less - and unbeaten in their last 4 Fizzy games - including home wins over Burnley 3-0 and Coventry 4-0 - and a 2-1 away win at Colchester, while the only recent blip has been a relatively tame 1-1 draw at Bramall Lane.......So a very impressive record of late, especially when compared with that 2 from 10 record of ours.
As far as the seasons concerned, they're on 33 points, 6 off the Play-Offs, and down there in 14th place. But they'll point to a dire period in October and November as the reason for that when they won only 1 game in 10 and suffered 6 away defeats on the trot.
Since then, as mentioned, they have recovered well and while their current form is far better than ours there remain a few similarities.
While the Addicks have scored more goals, 36 to 34, we've both conceded 31 goals and have near identical records when the opponents score first. It's happened 10 times to Blackpool and 11 times to the Addicks and from that losing position we've both managed to collect just 6 points all season, they from 6 draws and the Addicks with 1 win and 3 draws.
Conversely when the Addicks have scored first and we've done it in 16 games, one less than the most, WBA, we've gone on to collect 34 pts.
Lets hope then that Pards can get some missing fire into the team by perhaps retaining- if not the players - then at least the formation from last weekends 1-1 with West Brom when after weeks of dire attacking football, we at last seemed to know where the goal was with a massive 13 shots on target. That only one found the net was due mainly to the performance of MOM Deano but it perhaps reflects our lack of a decent striker.
And to further avoid the title of Worse-Shots in the Fizzies - we've now second behind Southampton - all we need now is a little more work in the accuracy department, or maybe the acquisition of another Clive Mendonca....