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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Crisis, What Crisis?

As we seek to patch the holes in our sinking ship with fresh loanees free from any relegation traumas the whole world seems to becoming a little surreal. And even more so if you were to cast our minds back 12 months to the New Year of 2008 and recall how we were eagerly calculating how many points we would need to get an automatic promotion spot.

I remember looking intently at the Table and trying to figure out what we would need come May. And along with several others I had worked out that the bottom team usually finished with around 40 points and that in the fizzies you could expect a points gap of another 40 between top and bottom. That gave a magic figure to aim for of around 80 points for the season to ensure your worries were over. At this point last season after 28 games bottom placed Colchester had 26 points, leader West Brom had 51 and the Addicks in 6th, had 44. If you care how it finished the same two bracketed the rest with Colchester on 38 and West Brom on 81.

I say all this, not for nostaglia reasons, but because I happened to notice that, although last season the gap after 28 games was only 25, this year due to the pathetic performance of the bottom team - and I suppose the large gap between the top three and the rest - the gap already stands at 40 points. Only God knows what it will be after 46 games and the end of a dismal year.

How few of us could have forecast that this season we would be taking the place of not only Colchester, but a poor Colchester at that. So perhaps we should be thankful for a weekend when we can forget about League points and the fact that after 18 fizzy games without a win, we only have another 18 left.

The shame is that after four defeats already this season to Sheffield teams its a pity that there's another one waiting around the corner, defeat that is. Fourth in the table, but tantalizingly, with only the ninth best home record, the Blades have suffered only 3 home defeats this season to Reading, Wolves and Burnley but have drawn 4 games, with the likes of Cardiff, Coventry, Southampton and Palarse all getting away unbeaten.

Just don't let them score first as they are one of a dwindling number of teams - now only 7 - that have not lost after going in front. They've done it 13 times and have won 12 of them. And Parky can forget his half-time notes if we're losing after 45 minutes - 10 times the Blades have been winning at the break and haven't lost one of them. In complete contrast the Addicks have been leading 8 times at the break and lost half of them....And to add to their confidence for the game, United have been losing 7 times at half-time and have only won one of them.......against us 3 weeks ago!

Current Form And in another stark comparison with the Addicks, United have suffered just 2 defeats in the last 18 games ( Reading and Wolves) and will approach Saturday with complete confidence after already having beaten us 3-1 at Bramall Lane just three weeks ago. And the Blades are now unbeaten in their last 8 League and Cup games.

Who They Got? A couple of ex Addicks are lurking in wait ready to exact the ex's rule with Sunderland loanee Greg Halford probably heading the list. Halford can only be looking forward to showing his ex manager at Colchester - our very our Parky - how far he's progressed since their first days together. And with manager Blackwell willing to change things around for the Cup, Halford played in midfield in the last round at Orient and helped himself to two goals and nearly got a hat-trick. There's also Keith Gillespie fresh from his 6 games for us last year although its doubtful that he'll play. On top of that there's 20 year old Anthony Stokes, on loan from Sunderland, who turned down Pardew a couple of years ago to head off to the arms of Roy Keane and has yet to score this season....
DangerMan Marcus Tudgay returned from injury last week just in time to enjoy himself in amongst the hapless Addicks rearguard, so who is it this week looking forward to boosting their goal tally? Sadly for him it won't be top scorer Kevin Beattie who on Monday took the place of Andy Gray and joined Stoke City. Next up then is the Irish midfielder 22 year old Stephen Quinn currently on 7 goals but is a player that Blackwell will probably decide to rest as he did against Orient. The strike force against us therefore will probably be lead by ex-Watford Darius Henderson currently on 4 goals for the season and Blackwell will give him the chance to impress against us before he goes shopping for another striker to replace Beattie. The last time we came up against a player with a point to prove was when we played Blackpool and Derby loanee Dickinson showed his contempt for the team that let Luke Varney take his place at Derby by scoring twice.
What's Their Secret? Well if you're looking for a weakness, forget it. The only thing that I can find is that their favorite score is 1-1. Their record against the Divisions crap - thats us - is the second best in the fizzies, they've got the second best defence after Birmingham with only 26 goals conceded and only 4 teams have scored more than their 40 goals.
History Three games and three defeats - that's the sum total of our knockout battles against the Blades. Two FA Cup exits in 1967, 0-1 at the Valley, and again in 1992 a 3-1 defeat at Bramall Lane after a Valley draw. And there's also a League Cup defeat in 1972, 0-1 at Bramall Lane after two draws failed to find a winner.
Team News With so many loanees in the building, the nonsense rule that the player can't play for two teams in the Cup in the same season, means that we'll be handicapped again this weekend
And after last weekends debacle Parkys' work is going to be even more difficult this Saturday. He's first of all got to decide which goalkeeper to choose with Randolphs' good performance between the posts in the last two games probably meaning that Rob Elliot, who has done nothing wrong really, will be left out again.
Meanwhile perhaps its time to rest captain Hudson who looks increasing in need of it as also does Bailey in midfield. We don't know if Racon is ready yet for a full game but Darren Ambrose will figure in Soares absence and Josh Wright could make another appearance after his good showing against Norwich at Carrow Rd.
The only other suggestion that comes to mind is please, please, please can we see a bit of Todorov. A man with more class than any other forward we have he alone managed to raise the team against Burnley with his only goal this year. What more has the guy got to do to get a game?
The team I expect, though, will be -
Randolph; Moutaouakil, Holland, Fortune, Basey; Sam, Bailey, Wright, Shelvey, Ambrose; Burton.

Subs: Elloit, Youga, Racon, Todorov, Gray

Verdict Already relegated to the role of minnows trying to achieve the impossible, I personally don't expect to see any giant-killing here. And you don't need me to tell you that the chance of a revival this weekend is as remote at the chance of Kaka changing his mind about City and deciding instead to join the Addicks.


Kings Hill Addick said...

Does that mean that if we beat United we also get Kaka?


nelson said...

Dream on, KH, but Kins' reckons they're beatable so I guess that one of two wouldn't be too bad.