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Monday, September 29, 2008

Looking Forward to Palarse?

So for the faithful its time for that appalling journey down to medieval South Norwood and that depressing stadium disparagingly known as sainburys, recalling as they nose-dive towards Croydon those poignant memories of those turbulent days back in the 80's when Lennie gave us four amazing years of Division One football. It was all a bit magical including the journey to the other side of the world and a bit surreal, being in a stand for all those years in whose name I never understood. Who was Arthur Wait? I never did find out and to tell the truth, I really didn't want to.
The opposition's home form so far has been distinctly scratchy with 0-0 draws against Watford and Burnley, they then beat Swansea 2-0, but last time out lost to Plymouth 1-2. They also beat lowly Hereford 2-1 in the League Cup Thing. So 5 points at home and only home 3 goals in 4 fizzy games. But we shouldn't be too carried away perhaps by their low Relegation position in the League for a difficult away fixture list tells a lot. They have suffered 3 defeats at Preston 0-2, Reading 2-4 but held Wolves for an hour before losing 1-2, Wolves narrowest home win.
So with the Addicks having scored twice away from home and conceded 3, Palarse are the complete opposite and have scored 3 times at home and conceded 2. Expect a low scoring game then with only a couple of goals in it.
So they don't score many, 7 so far, and as befits a low-scoring outfit its a midfielder, Australian international and new boy number 10 Nick Carle that is top goalscorer with an unimpressive two goals ( one from the penalty spot). Number 9 and another new recruit Alan Lee from Galway scored 12 last season for Ipswich but has still not got off the mark for the Eagles and currently makes Luke Varney look quite prolific. Our old boy Paddy McCarthy has also got one goal after getting a late consolation in the last home game against Plymouth. He didn't start that game but played the full 90 last time out against Ipswich. They also have the worst naughty boys record in the fizzies with 18 yellows and 2 reds, over twice as many as the Addicks.
But Warnock was gushing after their last game, the 1-1 draw at Ipswich, "It was as good as we've produced this season. We looked strong and played some good counter-attacking football."
As everyone knows the history of our games against these peps is pretty atrocious with 23 defeats in our 26 seasons together. With only 16 wins and 13 draws, that means we have lost a total of 44% of the games. And at sainburys, of course, its even worse with only 5 wins and 17 defeats in the 26 games. So if you thought it was only you that didn't like the place, it's clearly one place that the team would prefer to avoid as well because of all the places in the fizzies its second only to our dismal record at Preston of 5 wins in 31.
Of course, you can point out that things have improved and continue with the very good news that of those 5 wins stretching back over 83 years, 3 of them have come in the last 3 visits to this miserable venue. And, of course, we are currently unbeaten in the last 7 (SEVEN) games ( as long as you ignore the League Cup defeat at the Valley in October 2004) against these ungrateful peps so what's to worry about.
And if you need reminding - fat chance - those 3 (THREE) successive 1-0 away wins came courtesy of the following three players with the last being just over a year again on 1st Sept with Todorov coming on a sub and scoring after only 7 minutes on the pitch in the 74th minute. And we all remember Denis Rommedahl's extra-time 93rd minute winner ( his first goal for the Addicks) in Dec 2004.
Before that it was Paul Kitson with another late winner in the 82nd minute in March 2000 on our way to be the Champions. That was our first League win there ( we had won in the Cup in '69) in 65 years for our last League win before that came in 1935!
So are we going to continue the run? After a dismal performance against Wednesday, Pards is clearly going to make changes. In fact there's "three or four players who are champing at the bit to play." And if you need any hints he's already given us one; "We have a lot of strength in midfield and we might have to look to an area there to make the side stronger.
So the problem, for Pardew, is not the defence, its the midfield and with Basey being preferred as sub on Saturday and replacing Cranie - and Semedo staying on the bench - we could see another formation as seen against Forest with Basey starting in front of an unchanged back four.
Ambrose also came on against Wednesday and can Pards' comments apply to him as well? Possibly, and perhaps its time to consider putting more "seasoned players" in for a derby. Ambrose played both derby games last year, and in fact if he does start he'll probably be the only Addicks outfield player to remain from that win last September.
As for the strikers, Varney will start that's for sure but who will be alongside him? Drifting down to 14th and a win needed badly, it would have been a good game to start the experienced Todorov but he doesn't seem fit enough at the moment to be anything other than a second half sub. So it'll probably be Gray unless Pardew decides that he wants another flirtation with a 4-5-1, with a lone Varney up front.
Incidentally, as Pards searches for the key to success, perhaps he should do something about our shooting. According to the stats on football-league there's nobody in the fizzies have had less shots on target than we've had.
Team: Weaver; Cranie, Hudson, Primus, Youga; Sam, Bailey, Holland, Basey, Ambrose; Varney
And Prediction: After Saturdays show, a 1-1 draw is the most I think we can plan for - but go on Pards, surprise me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Looking Forward To Wednesday

So our first goalless draw of the season, a scoreline that Curbs was particularly fond of, at currently struggling Forest. But then Curbs usually planned for such results on the back of a defeat or three and especially against superior opposition whereas here we were playing a team itself suffering 4 sucessive defeats and second to bottom of the table. Hardly a time then for planning another clean sheet but that is what Pards seems to have done with Basey employed in front of the defence in a 5 man midfield with only Varney up front.
Pards seeked to shift the blame somewhat onto a less that perfect ref for not showing his red card earlier and for missing a penalty area hand-ball whereas in contrast spectator Pedro45 puts more of the blame on Pards' team selection for missing out on a second away win in a week.
So a disappointing result for the fans anyway - (although Luke Varney is quoted in yesterdays Sheffield preview that it was a point earned rather than two lost so what do we know ) - that saw us slip a place down to 9th and although only a point away from a Play-off position, it has been pointed out this week that we are currently on a run of only 9 wins in the last 34 games (!) since losing out to West Brom at the Hawthorns 2-4 on 15th December last year. That's a sequence that has seen us get just 39 points from the 34 games - almost relegation form when you think about it.
So lets not think about it too much as we consider the next opportunity for Pards to get that win 10 under his belt since West Brom. Sheffield Wednesday are next and after finishing 16th last season and flirting with relegation a large part of the time, Wednesday were quick out of the blocks this season and were the very first fizzy team to score after less than a minute of their game at home to Burnley. A further goal 3 minutes later confirmed that they really are fast starters and the opening day 4-1 home win over Burnley sent them to the top of the table on that not so distant summers day, August 9th. Things since then, however, have settled down somewhat and after 7 games they have 9 points leaving them, as you would expect of a team called Wednesday, floating in midtable.
In fact after visiting in Nottingham a team with a bad home record, we now entertain one with an away record only better than the two pointless away teams, Forest and Palarse. For while Wednesday have continued their, so far, unbeaten home record with another win, 2-0 over Watford, and creditable draws against Preston and Ipswich its been their poor away record that has held them back with only a single point gained in the three away games. Manager Brian Laws may point out that visits to Molineux and Reading's Madejsky stadium don't usually offer much these days but he can't be happy that a defence that has let in 10 goals in the process with scorelines of 1-4 and 0-6 and he only has a 1-1 away draw at Swansea to offer any respite.
So a leaky away defence then but another important feature of Wednesday is their gung-ho attacking style for of their 9 goals scored no less than 6 have been scored in the first 22 minutes so with both teams tending to score first - the Addicks have done so 5 out of the 7 Fizzies - , you would expect a thrilling start to preceedings. However, as mentioned Wednesday are not quite the same team away from home and they, unlike the Addicks with two clean sheets, are currently having trouble down the other end for, after scoring in all of their first 5 games ( including their League Cup tie with Rotherham ) they have failed to score in their last two. After their last game, the 0-0 home draw with Ipswich, Owls boss Brian Laws praised his side, saying: "It was important that we bounced back, ( after the 0-6 loss at Reading ) and the fact that we got a clean sheet showed the character that's within the team." Which does somehow show a lack of ambition to my mind but does show how upset he was at a 6-0 loss. If it was chicken wings dished out after a 2-3 loss at Luton god knows what he chucked after losing 6.
Anyway, a summary of both the Addicks and Wednesday definitely shows a liking for scoring first and then unfortunately running out of steam in the second half. Both concede more in the 2nd half than they score and the Addicks are the highest club in the table with a negative second half record of only 3 goals scored and 6 conceded.
Pictured above is the current star at the Owls, number 11 Dutchman Etienne Esajas, with 3 goals, who's been at the club a year and who's already been included in the fizzys Team of the Week after the Wolves game. And while we have the top defender in the actim listings - Mark Hudson, of course, - Sheffield have, apparently, the 3rd best striker in the fizzies in Marcus Tudgay from seedy Shoreham-on-sea wearing number 7 who is also on 3 goals who it was that scored that first goal of the season after just 30 seconds. They also have another of the Sodje brothers, this time its Akpo, born in Greenwich, who scored a couple in the first game of the season but has been out with hamstring troubles. And last and by all means least is the one and only Francis Jeffers ( you won't need his number to pick him out ) who, usually denied a starting place, sometimes comes on for the last few minutes to run about a bit. You won't be surprised to learn that he has failed to score this season but I'm sure his presence will be appreciated by the Addicks.. or not.
League history at the Valley against Wednesday has been quite good for the Addicks with 9 wins, 5 defeats with 5 draws but overall it swings to Wednesdays favour with only 12 wins to their 16 with 10 draws mainly due to the fact that we rarely win at Hillsborough.
Unfortunately, recent events at the Valley tell a different story. Of the last 4 League games at the Valley they have won 3 of them with only a second half comeback last time out, inspired by Andy Reid and completed with 2 goals by Iwelumo, prevented them winning 4 in a row. So danger threatens Pards and just to emphasize what I've been saying about their early goals they got 2 that day in the first 15 minutes.
As for the Addicks, after playing around with the team last weekend, we'll surely see the lineup return to its usual, and beloved, 4-4-2 for Saturday. Perhaps it was the expectation of Forest's lively determination to put right a sorry sequence of 4 defeats in a row that lead Pards to try to pack midfield and anchor Basey with a place in front of the back four, as ably described by Pedro45.
But whatever the reason it would appear to have been Forest's appalling finishing rather than our formation that kept us in the game at half-time, plus award-winning Weaver of course. There are perhaps good reasons for Pards to concentrate of promoting the kids but what has happened to poor old Jose Semedo? Surely the holding role was his to fill.
He is clearly in favour of Basey at the moment and perhaps is secretly envious of the cautious approach of the likes of Wolves, Reading and Birmingham, all of whom appear to watch the game unfold before pressing on to win. All three have first-half records of leading 3 times, drawing 3 times and losing only once, whilst the steaming Addicks are the best of the Division and have been leading 5 times at the interval out of the 7 games played.
So will Pards keep his lucky 4-1-4-1 system from the last two games? or will we see Gray back in the fold with two strikers on show? Well, team selection would seem to be messed up a bit with the injury doubts over Fortune and Cranie and we may see Youga in central defence alongside Hudson with Basey filling-in at left back. And if Pards is keen to keep his 4-1-4-1 numbering system who better than Semedo in his familar holding role with Moutaouakil at right-back although there will be a need to make sure he watchs that number eleven of theirs.
Bailey and Holland look to have the midfield places currently sown up but there's the suggestion that we may see ZiZi for the first time this season although he's not been mentioned as being included in Tuesday's reserve runabout against Southend so it may be only a bench-warming appearance.
Meanwhile, Varney insists his goalless run will end soon and after so much faith shown by Pards - he's the only player now to have played every minute of all 8 games - one hopes so too.

Team: Weaver; Moutaouakil, Hudson, Youga, Basey; Sam, Semedo, Holland, Bailey, Bouazza; Varney.
Subs: Elliot, Ambrose, ZiZi, Gray and Dickson.

And lastly the Prediction. Another clean sheet with a 2-0 home win.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Time For a Bit Of Revenge?

Seems I was right to hit the revenge button yesterday as a means to get the team stirred up for tomorrows game at the City Ground. Three points thrown away eighteen years ago at the sad Sainburys still rankles with me and Pards also has reason to be aggrieved with the Midlanders after a last minute winner there back in his Fizzy days with the Hamsters. He mentioned it yesterday and seems determined to put matters right.
So following on from an article by Man To Varney on doctorkish yesterday expanding on his feelings about our rightful place in the world, perhaps its just the right time to compare the lineups from our last game in Nottingham with tomorrows likely team.
Premiership boys we all were back in January 2007 when we travelled to the City Ground for an FA Cup Third Round tie and in the coach were the following players: Up front were the starting eleven, Myhre, Kish, Traore, El Karkouri, Jon Fortune, Denis Rommedahl, Faye, Holland, Ambrose, Marcus Bent and Jimmy Hasselbaink while the back row were occuped by the bench-warmers Darren Randolph, Diawara, Hughes, Jerry Thomas and Lloyd Sam.
Nine full internationals in the 16 and although a heady mixture of underachievers in our book ( sorry Kish), Pards in his 4th game in charge rightly expected more from a team languishing in 19th place in the table against a side far below us in Tier 3.
Forest though were on a high sitting in 3rd place, just 1 point behind the leaders Scunthorpe and keen to get back to winning ways after the previous weeks 5-0 hammering by 2nd placed Oldham.
Pards spells out what happened in an interview yesterday under a heading entitled "Pardew's personal agenda" and recalls how "complacency and a lack of desire and commitment had set in within the group", perhaps something that we could have told him when he started the job. A 0-2 scoreline dumped us out and left us to concentrate on League matters.
Tomorrows team is likely to see just three (or maybe 4) players left from that 16 just 20 months later with Fortune, Holland and Sam all likely to start in a unchanged team from Doncaster that reads:
Weaver; Cranie, Hudson, Fortune, Youga: Sam, Bailey, Holland, Bouazza; Gray and Varney.
Its a younger, fresher side and after the disasterous Monica era looks more like a Charlton team should look and more to the point it's been build by Pardew and if we ignore the homegrown talent in Fortune and Sam, there's only Youga and Holland remaining from Curbs' days although I suppose there's still Darren Ambrose and the inscrutable ZiZi waiting in the wings.
So there's really no excuses Pards, its an unbeaten run we want and against a side on a run of 4 consecutive defeats, conceding eleven in the process, what better time to exact vengence and walk away with another 3 points safely in the bag.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Looking Forward to Forest

A backs-to-wall win at Doncaster of all places, with a corner count of 14-1 to make things clear, has sent the Addicks soaring 8 places up the table to a respectable 8th place. Our third win of the season then from a third minute strike, the third of the season, by Andy Gray bought our third away win of 2008.
Pards was full of praise this time for his captains Hudson and Holland but of course its never enough unless we do it again of Saturday. Newly-promoted Forest are next, who after finishing 10 points behind Swansea last year still managed to secure the automatic runners-up spot ahead of Doncaster.
Their home form this year is a bit patchy after an apparently good start with a 0-0 draw against Reading on the opening day they then surprised away specialists Watford in their third game with a 3-2 home win before things started to go downhill. A 1-5 hammering at Molineux burst their little bubble and was followed by their first home defeat of the season 1-2 to Burnley. A further 1-2 defeat occurred on Tuesday at Preston leaving them on just 4 points and with only Barnsley below them in the table.
They've also got the embarrassing tag of worst defence in the fizzies with keeper Paul Smith having to fish around in the back of the net 14 times leaving them with a minus 7 goal difference.
Key man for them is obviously the Zambian cum Welshman Robert Earnshaw (pictured above at his audition for the Usual Suspects!) ex of Cardiff, West Brom, Norwich and Derby, all of whom paid around 3 mill for his services. In keeping with his price tag he's already scored 5 goals so far although 2 came against Morecambe in the League Cup. They've also got one Andrew Cole, now on his 12th club, and at 36 perhaps a shade too old for regualar football. So beware Pards, for that late substitution, he hasn't scored yet this season.
As for the History, rather astonishingly against a club with two European Cups ( oh, those were the days; English clubs ruling Europe) to their name, we rule the roost. Overall, after 15 years together, its 11 wins, 10 defeats and 9 draws.
At the City Ground we've won 4 times, with 6 defeats and 5 draws. Everyone remembers the last day of the season 0-4 defeat on May 13th 1989 as the peak of Lennie's achievement in the Old First Division. This was the one and only game in 4 years that didn't matter; we were already safe.
But for me there's a later game that overrides that sunny day and still rankles in my memory. It is the 1-1 draw at Sainburys in March a year later when a Joe McLaughlin error gave them a late equaliser 5 minutes from time and made our seasonal fight a terminal one. Just two more wins and then 6 straight defeats sent us down. And Forest remained one of only two teams that we failed to beat in our four years in the top flight ( at least that's my memory ). In 8 games against we lost 6 times.
So Pards, its time for a bit of revenge. You remember very well the last time we played them; 0-2 in the FA Cup in January 2007 in Nottingham. Your 4th game in charge of the Addicks and your second defeat in a week after losing at Highbury ( or was it the Emirates?) but surely the most embarrassing. There's only 3 players left from the squad that you took there that day - Holland, Ambrose and Sam - so most of the players won't understand your desperate need to get your own back.
Another early starter won't go amiss, for we have become a team that scores first ( only Birmingham have done better that us) and Forest are, not surprisingly for a team letting in 14 goals, a team that lets their opponents do just that. And for all the talk of our poor first half last Tuesday, it must be pointed out that one listing that we are head and shoulders above everyone else is our performance over the first 45.
Going in at half-time, one thing that Pards has been spared this season, apart from the Watford game, has been the need to mess about with the side. Five times out of six we've been in front and if games finished at half-time we'd be at the top of the League and its only been our second half performance that has let us down.
So Prediction then. A 2-0 win has a nice ring to it and would round off a good week for the Addicks.