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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.

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