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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sheffield Wednesday Preview

So our record breaking run has at last thankfully ended even if my mind failed at first to believe it. It doesn't say full time, maybe there was a crowd invasion and the game was stopped or maybe the floodlights failed with the score at 1-0 but no, seems miracles do happen and after 3 months and nine days the Addicks have at last fashioned a win.
Of course, it happened at a meaningless ( although not for the Norwich board who sacked Roeder afterwards) cup replay miles away ( for me anyway) on a cold Tuesday night and with a backs-to-the-wall 1-0 victory. But the fact that in the end the win seemed to be so easy and was achieved with a number of youngsters, if at first seems baffling then on reflection should give us some hope for the next 19 cup finals.
All we need now is to carry the confidence gained at Carrow Road onto the pitch on Saturday. Wednesday are one of the 15 teams that have already beaten us this season, 1-2 at the Valley, after we had gone ahead in the 20th minute with a rare goal by Luke Varney; which turned out to be his last for the club. So after losing twice to United, the other half of the steel city will be dying to do the same.
Obviously seeing a clear-cut victory but expecting people to stay at home because of the "lowly" opposition, they've reduced prices to ensure a full house and after giving away over 3 thousand freebies and selling over 20000 tickets they are expecting their biggest gate of the season which would be something as they had over 30 thousand for the derby win over the Blades. Whatever, the Addicks are getting used to big crowds and after our biggest away crowd of the season at Bramall Lane of 24717 we followed it up with our biggest home crowd against Forest.
The down side of all this is that unfortunately for us it's Wednesday's home record that has taken them up to 12th place. They've not got a great scoring record with only 15 goals scored at Hillsborough but with the meanest defence in the fizzies, with only 7 goals conceded in 13 home games, they have accumulated a total of 25 points at home (against our meagre 13).
With seven wins and only 2 defeats at home, ( 0-1 to Coventry in November and 0-1 to Plymouth back in October), they're up there in 12th spot with a total of 35 points. But they are not an attacking team as can be seen from the fact that only 2 teams have scored less than they have with their 26 goals, with the Addicks on 28.
Current Form - Four wins and only 2 defeats in their last 8 and 10 points gained but true to form with only 5 goals scored.

DangerMan - After suffering in recent weeks from the likes of Blackstock, Lita, and Earnshaw it could be that Lady Luck is at last looking our way. Wednesday's key striker is clearly number 7 Marcus Tudgay who appropriately has 7 goals to his credit but has been strangely missing for the last two games. Also missing since the middle of December with hamstring problems is youngster Leon Clark on 5 goals and the only definite news on missing players is that number 11 Dutchman Etienne Esajas, also on 5, has unfortunately broken his toe and will definitely not be playing. That leaves of course, their infamous number nine who has lead the attack in the last two games and who we are well familar with - Francis Jeffies. He's featured in 17 games so far this season and is still without a goal....

Whats Their Secret? - One weakness that they have is that they are not so hot against the Divisions crap teams. Not that we are any better, in fact, we are of course the worst with only a single win against the bottom half. But Wednesday have lost 6 times in 13 games to bottom half sides and have conceded 18 goals in the process, a figure only bettered by Norwich and Watford.
History - Shame we're not playing the Owls instead of the Blades in the Cup 'cause we've won all three games played but in the League its not so bright with the Addicks 17-12 down with 10 draws in the 39 games played At Hillsborough it's worse, of course, at 11-3 with 5 draws. So when exactly was our last win there? Well, forgetting the 4-2 cup win in January 2006 you have to go right back to September 1953 when we won at Hillsborough for the third consecutive time by a score of 2-1 and completed our very last double over them. That's 55 years ago then.
What're They Saying? From Parky on Tuesday night, "The league is so close with everybody capable of beating everybody else and what you need when you're in a position like us is a strong mentality and a fighting spirit."
Brian Laws has more of the same attitude after signing Michael Gray from Wolverhampton Wanderers on a one-month loan deal. The ex-Sunderland full-back ( these days a winger) is now 34 and is clearly another face dying to punish the Addicks for past failures ( he it was that missed the penalty in 1998). Laws tell all, "He is a strong character who will bring a winning mentality into our dressing room."
Team News With a large injection of youth on Tuesday paying dividends with everyone showing bravery and character according to Parky, it may well leave him with some difficult choices come the weekend. And there's another new face in the building in Stoke's 22 year old Tom Soares signed on a months loan. He's a midfielder or wideman depending on who you read and he's also ex-Palarse but then nobodys perfect. You can expect him to slot into midfield straight away, as long as he's fit that is although he did play for Stoke in their Cup defeat two weeks ago at Hartlepool which featured several reserve players as nobody at Stoke was taking the game too seriously. Disappointingly his place last weekend against Liverpool was taken by the strangely revitalised Amdy Faye.
Of the cup-tied new arrivals, Murty and Spring can expect to return at the expense of Moutaouakil and Josh Wright but the rest will depend on Parky's choice of formation. After a successful outing at last in an away game it would seem odds-on that Parky will play 4-5-1 again. With Leon Burton strangely missing due to the terms of the transfer ( so why was Varney allowed to play for Derby?) so Andy Gray looks like being the lone forward.
That just leaves the five man midfield to sort out and it'll surely comprise Bailey, Spring and Soares in the middle with Sam on the right. That just leaves one place open to either Tuesdays scorer Darren Ambrose, who has a "slight thigh injury", or starting with Jonjo Shelvey. With Premier clubs reported to be queuing up to splash some cash on the 16 year old, perhaps its Plan B with Jonjo sitting in the stands. A difficult choice for Parky or will he be told what to do by a board badly needing cash. Either way Jonjo will surely feature at some point during the game.

Elliot; Murty, Hudson, Fortune, Basey; Sam, Bailey, Spring, Soares, Ambrose; Gray

Subs: Randolph, Youga, Holland, Shelvey, Dickson

Verdict Said I wasn't going to do any more predictions, they're always wrong and it makes me feel like that stupid liverpool player whose name I've forgotten. So I'll just say that the games' between a mean home defence that seems to have mislaid their main striker against a team hot-foot from a morale boosting first victory in months but with a bunch of strangers in midfield and searching for their first League win at Hillsborough for 55 years....Looks like a 0-0 to me.

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