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Friday, November 28, 2008

Southampton Preview

So another undeserved defeat, making it eleven defeats so far, although not all undeserved, of course. But by all accounts Parky brought an improved performance with just a couple of surprises. Gillespie, now 33, brings experience on the right and the early return of Racon, paired with Semedo, gave us at last a balanced, functioning midfield. A pity then that the defence continues to disappoint.

Despite the warnings, not least by myself, to keep a careful eye on their number 9, the phase "unmarked Blackstock" seems to appear in all of the match reports. A couple of chances and he scores from both of them, but then that is what, in comparison with our own experiences, strikers are meant to do. For no matter how slick and pretty is your passing, its all wasted unless the striker can score. So Varney's gone to Derby. Has a certain ring to it, but makes you wonder which game, or games, they had him watched.

Regarding our defence, we now have the worst in the fizzies, along with Watford, both on 33 goals conceded. And perhaps more important, we have the third worst goal difference with -11, after Doncaster and Forest. And is it worrying us that Southampton, slowly escaping into the mist, arrive next full of confidence after becoming the first team this season to beat Reading at the Madjeski.

And just like QPR, its another club with a Head Coach as opposed to a manager, although Southampton have a more experienced one. Dutchman Jan Poortvliet has a reputation for succeeding in lower Dutch football and is reputed to have a good record of succeeding where there is little or no money to spend. Sign him Richard!

A turbulent time of late they've had a total of 12 managers/head coaches in the 13 years since Alan Ball left in 1995. A far cry from the 39 years between 1955-1994 when they only had 4.

And in contrast to our last opponents, QPR, where a tight little ground currently makes them home bankers, Southampton have only one win at home all season and have the worst home record in the fizzies. Unfortunately they are clearly better away from St. Marys with 4 wins, 1 draw and 4 defeats and they have won at Derby 1-0, Doncaster 2-0 and Preston 3-2 and more recently Reading 2-1...

Form Guide The Addicks are the only team in the fizzies without a win in the last 8, let alone last 9. Southampton, meanwhile, have won just two in their last 8. The Addicks have of course conceded the most in the last 8, while outscoring 7 other teams.

Whats Their Secret? There's no secrets here except a bundle of confidence from winning away from St. Marys 4 times this season. They have the 6th best away record in the fizzies. At Preston they came back to win 3-2 after being behind 2-0 and that game perhaps spells out one defect. Only one team, Norwich, have been winning at half-time fewer than their 3 times out of 19. So they're slow starters and although they wake up in the second half we obviously need first half goals to give them a problem.

Who They Got? As befits a team with money problems - part of their ground is closed to save money - top goalscorers are two youth products David McGoldrick with 7 and Andy Surman with 4.

And there's an old boy for us to worry about - the now 35, Chris Perry, at the heart of their defence, who played 84 times for us in those distant premiership days. And there were Addicks who wondered why Dowie let him leave in the fateful summer of 2006. And there'll be no sign of our most expensive signing Jason Euell, now 31. He was sent-off against Wolves on the 15th and is still suspended.

History Just when you'd fancy our chances on visiting St. Marys with them having the worst home record in the fizzies its just our luck that the games' at our place. And doubly bad because their away form is pretty good - and although its 11 to 7 to the Addicks at the Valley its still 23-16 in their favour with 13 draws.

Their last win at the Valley was in our relegation season of 89/90 by 4-2 but they haven't won now in the last 7 which have ended in 3 wins and 4 draws.
What're They Saying? Parky assumes command with another two arrivals and the departure of Luke, "I felt it was very important that we changed the dynamics of this group around, and I feel that's what we've done."

Team News Two new on-loan arrivals with the expected left-back 23 year old scouser Jay McEveley from Derby and 32 year old striker Deon Burton from Wednesday. And if you're losing count regarding loanees, we've already got 5 (only 5 allowed in any 16 man squad); they're the two defenders Cranie and Primus, two wingers, Bouazza and Gillespie and the striker Waghorn. Burton can't be here because of his goalscoring - he's only got one this season after 10 starts plus sub appearances and only 7 last season from 23 plus 19 from the bench - so it must be as stated; understudy to Andy Gray. As for McEveley he's had plenty of experience in the relegation zone with Derby last season in the Premiership.
After Thursdays additions, the team sheet is anyones guess but Parks may be thinking of reaquainting Hudson and Fortune in the starting eleven, as there seems a doubt over Primus playing twice a week and apart from the fact we're leaking goals we have to "rest" a couple of our loanees.
But expect one new loanee to start, namely Jay McEveley with Moutaouakil perhaps enjoying a comeback at Cranies expense at right-back. The midfield will remain unchanged, so there's only the strikers to worry about. And then there's the question mark over the three players that were missing completely on Tuesday - Moutaouakil, Bailey and Todorov - so Saturday could tell us whether they are injured or simply out of favour with the new boss.
Weaver; Moutaoukil, Hudson, Fortune, McEveley; Gillespie, Semedo, Racon, Bouazza; Gray and Waghorn,
Subs: Elliot, Holland, Sam, Burton, Todorov (Loanees in red)

Prediction A clean sheet these days would appear a distant dream so it all depends on how many goals we decide to gift away. A couple seems to be the average, so with an attacking 4-4-2 a must these days, a 2-2 draw is a possibility. Perhaps we all need to remember the heady days of 1998 when a 5-0 win set us on our way in the Premiership, although at the end of it all they survived and we didn't, proving how long a season can be. So can you have a true six-pointer in November? If Parky fancies the job he needs a win and now rather than later. But what is most important to kickstart the recovery is a committed, gritty performance from a home team in front of cheering fans.

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