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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Swansea Preview

A two game unbeaten run now with no goals conceded and four points in the bag and Parky was clearly pleased with the result at Oakwell.
Blustery conditions perhaps making it a scrappy game but be careful Parky that the games don't run out on you. I did say last week that defeat against Barnsley was unthinkable and perhaps Parky took me to heart with some stout defending and a late surge that failed to get the goal that the baised reports say we deserved.
The fact of the matter is that we've now visited seven of the nine teams that have the worst home records in the fizzies - Blackpool, Forest, Plymouth, Barnsley, Doncaster, Norwich, Sheffield United (we're the eighth and Southampton are still the worst of all) with only a single win to show for our efforts and a total of six points from the 21 available. The words relegation form come to mind.
And before you get all excited about our back to back clean sheets, it must be pointed out that there's nobody better to play when wanting to defend than the duo of Barnsley and Plymouth who have the highest number of no-score games in the fizzies - Barnsley with 15 and Argyle with 14.
By contrast Swansea have only no-scored on nine occasions this season with the Addicks, surprisingly only one worse on 10. But obviously your next question would be - so how are Swansea at home? Labelled the fifth best in the fizzies on points won at home from 8 wins and 8 draws they also have the worrying statistic of least number of home defeats - only a single reverse all season and that to Birmingham 2-3 back in November after being in 2-1 in front at half-time.
But that large number of home draws does tell a story. It speaks of points lost when a win was at hand. In fact the Swans are the fizzies draw specialists with 15 - three more than anybody else - and have dropped more points than most from a winning position. Of course, we've well aware of exactly which team is currently the worst at giving away games, us of course. Seven times we've lost after going in front - against Preston, Wolves, Sheff.Wed, Brum, Sheff.U, Burnley and Bristol - , but take heart 'cause Swansea have similar problems and there must be something in the water in Wales because both Swansea and Cardiff have drawn the most games after leading, the Swans on 7 and the Bluebirds on 8.
Current Form A team with only one defeat in their last 15 fizzy games - a 0-2 defeat at Vicarage Rd on 17th February, although it should be pointed out that a massive nine of them were draws, including 8 draws in a row that would have bored even Curbs.
Who They Got? Overlapping fullbacks, high scoring midfielders and a hotshot striker. There's plenty here for Parky to get worked up about with the classy midfield of number 7 Leon Britton, number 14 Jordi Gomez and 24 Joe Allen probably the most important. It's these three that made the team tick and provide the chances for the strikers. And, although we don't usually get a look in, the fizzy team-of-the-week last week included the on-form loanee from Espanol Gomez ( as well as two Southampton players...).
They have a couple of injury doubts, however, with "influential" skipper Monk, who missed the 3-1 Championship win over Doncaster last weekend with a back problem and failed to recover in time to play aganst Fulham. Midfielder Joe Allen also missed the Cup game after he picked up a thigh strain against Doncaster.
DangerMan While we've been wasting our time for most of the season on 2 million man Varney, Roberto Martinez has been doing what appears to be excellent business in obtaining, at next to nothing prices, a couple of real hotshots for us to worry about. West Indian international Jason Scotland from Trindad and Tobago was somehow prised away from St. Johnston in the summer of 2007 for a reported 25k after a record of a goal every two games and is currently on 19 for the season and heading towards a repeat of his massive 29 for the Swans last year and behind him there's youngster Jordi Gomez, on loan from Espanol, on 15 in all games clearly enjoying his stay in Wales. And if you thought that maybe players hailing from warmer climes, wouldn't be enjoying a Welsh winter very much then think again, Scotland is on 14 goals in his last 15 games while Gomez has scored 5 in the last 5 games which is not at all bad for a midfielder. .
What's Their Secret Well, Parky, although they are billed as the third highest scorers in the fizzies with 49 goals you've come to the right place if you want to scrape another of them draws. Nobody can better their number of goalless draws, five in all and their favorite score is 1-1, and there's been six of them. So you won't be surprised to learn that there's only a couple of teams, Blackpool and QPR, with more stalemates than Swansea at half-time - seventeen now in all. The Addicks by comparison have been leading 12 times and drawing only 8 at the break.
So while they may be content to reach 45 minutes playing pretty football it has to be said that if you want to win this one Parky, you have to hit 'em before the break. Watch out for the first 5 minutes - they've scored 4 times in the first 3 minutes - and then impress on everyone the importance of getting a goal. And the reason for the rush? Because they've only been losing 6 times at half-time but have failed to win only of them.
History Another place where we've only won 4 times (with 12 defeats) and our last win there was 1965, 44 years ago...
Having said that, we don't play each other very often and since that 3-1 win there's only been seven games, of which we've only won a couple including this last encounter 2-0, back at the Valley in August.
Overall, we're in charge, the score being a close 16-15.
What're They Saying Martinez after last weekends home win over Doncaster "We saw plenty of character and without a doubt that was our best performance of the season." Opps..
As for Parky his comments after Barnsley draw were, "There are a lot of positives for us, the attitude of the players was excellent and we looked a strong side. There were no weak links and we looked a strong and resilient side and we had a couple of chances to go and win it but it just didn't quite fall for us."
Team News
Sorry Toddy, but Leon Burton returns from his one game suspension and will take your place on the bench. As for the starting eleven, with no substitutes used last Saturday because "the balance was right", its odds-on for another unchanged side this weekend.
Maybe they'll be a place on the bench for ZiZi although this weeks been pretty quiet on that front so with two vital home games coming up it could be that Parky's keeping him in reserve .
Elliot; Murty, Ward, Hudson, Youga; Soares, Racon, Spring, Bailey; Kandol, Dickson
Subs: Randolph, Holland, Ambrose, Shelvey, Burton
Summary A bit of a toughie then against a stylist passing team that have only suffered one home defeat, against Birmingham, all season. They've had a disappointing week being knocked out of the Cup on Tuesday by Fulham, and maybe that'll have tired them out physically and mentally, because that defeat was only their second in 19 games but the second in 10 days and another bonus may be the slight physiological advantage in having beaten them already this season.
But after the luxury of playing the relative blunt attack of Plymouth and Barnsley, it'll need 90 minutes of outstanding defending to keep this lot from scoring when you consider that only Coventry have stopped them in their last 11 home games in which they've managed to score no less than 25 times....

Friday, February 20, 2009

Barnsley Preview

A disappointing week so far for the Addicks and that's without a ball being kicked. On Tuesday the likely trio of Doncaster, Watford and Barnsley all accelerated into the mid-table distance with wins over Bristol, Swansea and Wednesday while the only jokers in the Tuesday pack proved to be luckless Plymouth Argyle who lost yet again. One out of four is not really what we had in mind but at least the one loser was the one suffering the most from frightening form. Argyle, without a win since Boxing Day and sinking like the proverbial stone, continue to relentlessly close the gap to the Addicks with a 1-3 home reverse to Palarse. Never were we more pleased to see Warnock win.
And then on Wednesday Derby failed dismally to join in the fun and games in the struggling pack with an enormous 4-1 victory over 38 point Blackpool. Both now have the same points which cannot be said of Forest another team who have forgotten how to win after their four wins in a row with only a single point now from their last 4 games.
As for Barnsley, after stinging defeats to Southampton (h), Norwich (a), Ipswich (h) and Bristol (a), no less than five players were dropped and the newcomers turned it around with a 1-0 win at Hillsborough, their first game in February, and lifted them up to 18th place on 35 points and still with a game in hand over most of their fellow strugglers.
However, the Tykes remain a low scoring team with only 9 goals in their last 12 games ( even the Addicks have managed 12) with a total of only 30 goals in the fizzies - only 3 teams are worse - with the Addicks currently on 34. Another plus for us is that while the Addicks have only failed to score 9 times, Barnley are the worst non-scorers of the fizzies - along with hapless Plymouth - with a massive 14 games goalless games.
Current Form The Tykes were looking a bit rusty recently with only 2 wins in the previous eleven but a short trip over to Hillsborough on Tuesday certainly soon cured that. The recent run of four straight defeats was ended with a 1-0 win courtesy of "a moment of brilliance from Barnsley's Jamal Campbell-Ryce" according to the beeb and obviously showed that their three weeks rest - thanks to their game against Palarse called off because of snow and then the clash with the Blades postponed because of their cup tie with Hull - has done them a world of good.
Who They Got Then? Its the United Nations of Barnsley or is it the football equivalent of Noah’s Ark with a couple of players from 7 countries plus the odd one from Germany, Iran and Argentina tossed aboard at random while a stray couple from England also appear on the boarding list. Manager Simon Davey is certainly promoting a mixed bunch at Oakwell featuring a German goalkeeper, Heinz Müller; a Dutch right-back, Van Homoet; a Jamaican, Darren Moore, as well as the Brazilian Dennis Souza at centre-back; another Brazilian, De Silva in midfield along with the Moroccan Mounir El Haimour, the Argentine Hugo Colace, and the Spaniard Diego León. Ah, and the oddity of two Englishmen who both insist on being called Irish, midfielder Martin Devaney and striker Jon Macken. As for the statutory Englishmen they've the two defenders Bobby Hassell and Robert Kozluk.

Up front, joining Jon Macken are the Nigerian, Kayode Odejayi and Daniel Bogdanovic, a Maltese international born in Libya. To add to the cosmopolitan atmosphere, three new additions in the January window included Andranik Timotian, an Iranian midfielder from Fulham, the Maltese mosquito Michael Mifsud from Coventry and an Englishman, well scouser, Adam Hammill, a left winger from Liverpool.

DangerMan? Although without a goal in 8 the current top scorer is the Manchester-born Irishman Jon Macken on 6 but there's a bit of a drought going on as he's only scored twice in the last 14 games since he put two past us on November 1st in Barnsley's first ever win at the Valley. Sadly, then, after the recent arrival of the two Maltesers - internationals Bogdanovic and Mifsud - he only managed the bench on Tuesday. So forgetting Macken and these two potential bogeymen, ( at your peril, Parky) step up Jamal Campbell-Ryce to the role of this weeks Dangerman. After scoring the winner on Tuesday the ex-Addick winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce is also on 6 goals for the season and is eagerly ticking off the days till Saturday to add to his total much as he did in April last year at Oakwell. As least he can give a piece of hope to the six youngsters who have this week been released by the club as Campbell-Ryce becomes the latest player to prove what we have been missing. And a bit a bad luck already is that his ban for collecting 5 yellows is not operative until their next game against QPR.

What's Their Secret? Just like us they don't normally score first and 17 times out of 32 the opposition have gone in front, exactly the same figures as the Addicks. However, unlike the Addicks who still have not come from behind to win, Barnsley have done it twice against Watford and Doncaster both games ominiously at home. We were also equal on clean sheets before Tuesday - 6 for both teams - but with Wednesday failing to score on Tuesday its now 7 for the Tykes athough they've only had 2 in the last 17 games.
History The fact that we've only won twice at Oakwell since the war - the Second big one that is - will tell you that Barnsley is not particulary well liked by past Addicks. We've only won a total of 4 out of 21 at Oakwell and you have to go back 13 years to December '95 to find the last time we managed to get three points there.
In fact, since our double over them in 1993/94, we've only won 2 out of the last eleven games, that win at Oakwell in 1995 and a 3-1 home win in August 1999.
Overall we've winning this little encounter 17-14 which, incidentally, is one of only 8 ( out of 23) we are currently winning against the present members of the fizzies.
Team News The best thing after our Plymouth success would be an unchanged team but Deon Burton is one ruled out because of suspension after 5 yellows so expect his place on the bench to be given to Toddorov. Sorry, is that one "d" or two, I've quite forgotten.
One key member of the squad on Saturday will be Graeme Murty, tasked to tie up double-barreled star Campbell-Ryce and prevent his adding to his rapidly rising goal total but with the two new Maltese arrivals obviously enjoying their new club, Ward and Hudson will also be vitally important. And in these changing times it may interest you to know that while we may talk of revenge for their first ever victory at the Valley that we gave them back in November - 3 and a half months ago - they'll only probably be two players - (Hudson and Bailey) in the team tomorrow from the starting eleven that lost that day.

Elloit; Murty, Ward, Hudson, Youga; Soares, Racon, Spring, Bailey; Kandol, Dickson

Subs: Randolph, Basey, Shelvey, Holland, Toddy.

Summary Sorry, Parky but this would appear to be a must win game. A point would help while a defeat really cannot be contemplated and with other teams also improving we have to as well. Revenge is also in order after Novembers' sickening embarrassment. But the new loanees at the Tykes appear to working well and with that ex-factor winger currently on fire this game could be another one that gets away from us all too easily. Close your eyes Addicks, this may not be a happy sight.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Can Parky Do A Lennie?

Eight points away from safety now and a six pointer coming up on Saturday, against Barnsley who won at last last night at Wednesday. But before we get carried away with recent success, remember that its not only a question of how do we get 8 points to catch up, because we've managed 7 from the last 8 games, its more a matter of getting 8 more than the rest are getting.
One way of doing it, as Nicky Bailey said yesterday, would be to win all our 7 home games, simple as that. That would give us another twenty-one points and 46 in total would surely be enough to survive. But how can we realisticly expect twenty-one points in 14 games after only managing 25 in the first 32? How is that possible? Well, you could look at the example of Doncaster with their amazing run of 7 wins in their last 8 games after only 2 wins in their previous 20 or even Forests' 5 wins in the last 9 but forget both of those because there's an even closer example to hand.
Twenty-One years ago on the 13th February 1988, the Addicks were rock bottom of the Premier. Twenty points from 26 games in a 40 game season with only 4 wins all season and with no less than 12 defeats. Only one win in the last 6 weeks and things were looking pretty desperate.
We faced Wimbledon that day at Sainburys before a crowd - if you could call it that - of 5,590 and drew 1-1 but that day proved to be the start of a 14 game run that would see 5 victories, a total of 7 draws and only 2 defeats to secure a valuable 22 points! How did they do it back then with no fresh legs from loan deals and with only a handful of cheering fans to encourage you - (well, perhaps that helped!) We did have a goalscorer back then though, Garth Crooks, who got seven goals in that 14 game run to finish on 10 for the season; showing how vital a striker is to the team.
And if you believe in fate, or is it deja vu , there are a few similarities from that run 21 years ago. It also featured 7 home games and 7 away - and also included away games against Derby, Southampton and Coventry and a home game against Watford.
And to end the season a battle against one of our relegation rivals, this time Norwich, that year Chelsea. And who can forget that memorable fightback at Stamford Bridge, and what a battle it was with Leaburn knocked unconscious - and with Paul Miller scoring via several deflections 25 minutes from time to secure the point needed to avoid the Play-Offs.
How did Lennie Lawrence do it? No fresh faces every five minutes, clearly no money, a squad of only 24 and no home ground. And it was not all plain sailing. Back to back wins over West Ham and Southampton appeared to have done the trick, only to be followed by a dismal 0-0 home draw with fellow strugglers Oxford and then a second defeat in the run, 0-2 at Norwich but it all came good and it finished with three 1-1 draws, in all of which we conceded the first goal but fought back to equalise.
For the record the wins were over Sheffield Wednesday (h) 3-1, West Ham (h) 3-0, Southampton (a) 1-0, Watford (h) 1-0 and Newcastle (h) 2-0. Further draws with Wimbledon (h) 1-1, Derby (a) 1-1, Oxford (h) 0-0, Coventry (a) 0-0, and the last three games ended with Everton (a) 1-1, Spurs (h) 1-1 and Chelsea (a) 1-1. A sensational run with only two defeats - at Highbury 0-4 and at Norwich 0-2 to finish on 42 points; equal with Chelsea but with a four goal better goal difference.
Back then a reduction in numbers in the Premiership from twenty-one to twenty was another headache and with the bottom three teams relegated, you weren't even safe in 18th spot because the team 4th from bottom had the unwanted task of entering the Play-Offs with three teams from the Second Division. Chelsea then lost to Middlesbrough in the Play-Off final.
Magic Lennie, that's all I can say. But can Parky achieve cult status by doing the same?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Target Twenty-One

For once this season everyone thought we were going to win and we did, which when you think about it was a rather strange turn of events for a team that had only won once in their last 21 fizzy games. Of course, the fact that we were facing a team with only one win in 13 and with that win over six weeks ago may have something to do with it but it does, I suppose, speak volumes for the belief that we still have that we can save ourselves and as far as the team are concerned it's a winning attitude that we just have to maintain if we are to get out of this mess.
It goes without saying then that we need another win next weekend at relegation rivals Barnsley but while the main table still looks daunting with seven points to safety, at least the current-form-table looks much more encouraging. Over the last 8 games we now 17th with 7 points out of the last 24 available. Nothing to write home about perhaps but nevertheless there's no less than five of the bottom seven teams ( the only exception is Forest) with less points to show for their efforts over recent games and that all appear to be in a worse shape than we are going into the last 14 games.
I had thought that 45 was a reasonable target to aim for but even that may prove to be too low. And a look back at how the table finished last season was a bit of a shock with Coventry finishing in 21st place with 53 points! But searching back further at previous years its looks as if last year was a bit of a freak with it being the highest total in the last 10 years. Going backwards the totals of 53, 43, 43, 51, 52, 47, 50, 49, 47 and 48 would have been enough to secure 21st place. So anything between 43 and 53 to aim for, with a average of 48 points.
So to see just how many we really need, I worked out what the others had got over the last 14 games and added it to their current total to see if we could get a total to aim for.
Notts Forest (P32 - Pts 34; 9 pt gap) - 13 points from last 8(1.625 per game), 22 points from last 14 at 1.5 per game. So 1.5 x 14 = 21 + 34 = 55 total

Barnsley (P30 - Pts 32; 7 pt gap) also on 7 from last 8 (0.875 per game), 14 points from last 14 so at 1 point per game. So 1 x 16 = 16 + 32 = 48 total

Watford ( P30 - Pts 30; 5 pt gap) 7 from last 8 (0.875 per game), 15 points from last 14 so at 1 point per game. So 1 x 16 = 16 + 30 = 46 total

Norwich (P33 - Pts 32; 7 pt gap) 6 from last 8 at 0.75 per game, 12 points from last 14 so at 0.85 per game. So 0.85 x 13 = 11 + 32 = 43 total

Plymouth (P32 - Pts 35; 10 pt gap) - 5 points from their last 8 games (0.625 per game), 7 from last 14 games at 0.5 per game. So 0.5 per game x 14= 7 points + 35 = 42 points total.

Southampton (P32 - Pts 28; 3 pt gap) - 5 from last 8 (0.75 per game), 9 points from last 14 at 0.64 per game. So 0.64 x 14 = 9 + 28 = 37 total
OK, so what about the Addicks ? - 7 points from last 8 games (0.875 per game), BUT only 9 points from last 14 at 0.64 per game. So 0.64 x 14 = 9 + 25 = 34 total.
So, judged over the performance of the teams over the last 14 games we'd still finish bottom at three points adrift; but who's improving? What's the prediction looking at their point scoring rate over the last 8 games? So here's how all of the Relegation Haunted Teams would fare based on their current form.
Forest - 1.625 per game x 14 = 22 + 34 = 56 points total
Barnsley - 0.875 per game x 16 = 14 + 32 = 46 points total
Watford - 0.875 per game x 16 = 14 + 30 = 44 points total
Plymouth - 0.625 per game x 14 = 8 + 35 = 43 points total
Norwich - 0.75 per game x 13 = 9 + 32 = 41 points total
Southampton - 0.75 per game x 14 = 10 + 28 = 38 points total
Addicks - 0.875 per game x 14 = 12 + 25 = 37 points total

Now only a one point deficit but a result that shows just how desperate the situation actually is - there are simply not enough games to guarantee an escape.
And the only promising way to look at things is to see who has improved over the last 8 games the most and clearly we are head and shoulders above the rest.

Forest - Aver. 1.5 pts per game over last 14 - currently up to 1.625 per game

Barnsley - Average 1 per game over last 14 - currently decreased to 0.875

Watford - Average 1 per game over last 14 - currently decreased to 0.875

Plymouth - Average 0.5 per game over last 14 - currently increased to 0.625

Norwich - Average 0.85 per game over last 14 - currently decreased to 0.75

Southampton - Average 0.64 per game over last 14 - currently increased to 0.75

Addicks - Average 0.64 per game over last 14 - currently increased to 0.875

So four teams improving and three going the other way and we are therefore left with the conclusion that we just need to keep improving. Target 21 was an effort to see what we needed to reach the comparative safety of 21st position. A similar number of 21 additional points would give us a total of 46 points. Would even that massive total from our remaining 14 games prove to be enough?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Plymouth Argyle Preview

A lucky reprive then on Saturday by the lingering white stuff and subsequently saved from the two-man firing squad of McCormack and Bothryd both eager to draw first blood. Presumably the postponement was encouraged by both sides - one to allow time to lick our wounds and for the other a well earned break after their recent exhaustations.
However, one opponent out of action can always provide an opening for the others and so it proved as Doncaster took the chance to accelerate up the table with a 3-2 away win over Blackpool which gives the fizzies lowest scorers no less than 13 goals in the last 6 games. But after a home defeat by Norwich we now have the apparent advantage of a game in hand to ease the fact that the gap to safety has now risen to double figures eg, 10 points.
Yes, as if you haven't noticed, there's now two teams 10 points away in the safety zone of 20th and 21st positions. Both teams have a vastly superior goal difference but ignoring Barnsley ( currently on four straight defeats ), the weakest of the two appear to be Norwich who now have only 14 games left. Time for a bit of maths so checking their records, over the last 14 they managed only 12 points so lets add another 12 to their current 32 which would give them a total of 44 points for the season. So we have a grand total of 45 to aim for! Thats another 21 on top of what we have from the rapidly diminishing total of 15 games. We need, therefore, a nice simple 7 wins from 15; or 5 wins and 6 draws (with only 4 defeats!).
The question is - can a team with a massive minus 23 goal difference with only 15 games left and an effective 11 points away from safety turn it all around and save themselves? Miracles do happen and perhaps we should have another look at Doncaster. With only a meagre four wins and 13 goals from their first 24 games, since meeting a Doncaster mate of mine at Christmas who had assured me that they were just unlucky, they've managed to won 5 out of 6 scoring those 13 goals.
So what of our next opponents, Plymouth? It's not news really that Argyle are currently a team sinking faster than the Mary Rose. Only a single win in their last 13 fizzy games and toothless as well. Only Doncaster with their paltry, but rapidly rising, total of 24 goals have scored less that shot-shy Argyle with their 28. But earlier in the season the Pilgrims did manage to won 4 games away from home at Watford 2-1, Palarse 2-1, Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 and their last one being a 1-0 at Coventry in November.
Argyle are currently 17th on 35 points and if you need comparison with our fellow strugglers ( at the time anyway) in away games over the last 3 months, they have lost at both Forest and Doncaster and drawn with Southampton.

Current Form One place above the Addicks and 23rd in this little table with only one win in last 8 and with a further 6 winless matches in all competions before that but they are unbeaten in their last two away from home with a goalless draw at Ipswich followed by a 1-1 draw at Preston.

Who They Got? Another ex-Addick returns to the Valley keen to display the talents that got him nowhere at Charlton. Back in August 2008, ex-addicks, or rather Iain Dowie hopefull, Simon Walton signed for Plymouth Argyle - after brief stays at Ipswich QPR and Hull - in what was a club record fee, estimated to be around £750,000. Last December he was placed on the transfer list after being sent off in a league match against Barnsley. But after missing four games, and with manager Paul Sturrock questioning his attitude and temperament, things seem to have settled down and he's returned to the fold and started in the last three - he's Number 4.

DangerMan Number 11 is the loanee from Blackburn Paul Gallagher and he's currently the top goalscorer with 7 goals. But after a now 11 game non-scoring run he's been moved into midfield for the last couple of games and the Pilgrims now have a new little and large strike force of number 25 the diminutive 23 year old Jamie Mackie currently on 3 goals for the season and number 14, the tall one, Rory Fallon, on five but who hasn't scored in 7. In fact strike force is a bit of a misnomer as they only have 2 goals between in the last 20 games.

What's Their Secret? Well, they don't have one really except a seemingly determined leeming-like plunge to get into League One. And there's now only three teams, apparently, in the fail-to-win-club after going behind with, surprisingly, Cardiff joining strugglers Plymouth and the Addicks as completely hopeless after conceding. But whereas the Addicks have managed 4 draws after going behind (Burnley, Ipswich, QPR and Plymouth), the only point that the Pilgrims have managed to salvage after going behind is the one they got against us at Home Park in the last minute. But beware, because before their recent bad run they used to be a first half team and have still arrived at 45 minutes losing only 9 times whereas nobody looks forward to half-time and the quiet little chat with the boss so much as the Addicks with our 13 losing scorelines. However, during the second period there's nobody quite as bad at Plymouth, who have only "won" 4 times in the second 45.
History We're behind in this fixture 25-23 in League games and we haven't done so well as the Valley recently either. In the four games played at home in the last 20 years we haven't won a single one with 2 draws and 2 defeats, the last defeat being last year 1-2. Overall at home its 13-6 in the 30 games.
Team News A week off may well have done us good as we were awaiting the return of several key players, namely Mark Hudson at centre-back who we will definitely see alongside new man Darren Ward. Graeme Murty has also recovered after being subbed after 74 minutes at Bristol and we must be close to seeing our joker in the pack, ZiZi, back in action now that he's back to full training.
Saturday will also allow us to see new loanees Ward and Tresor Kandol - Wards number 12 and Kandol is 36.
As for the formation, its been the 1-2 cup defeat at Sheffield since we played a 4-5-1 with two strikers starting in the last three games. So as neither team are any good at recovering after giving away a goal you would expect a single goal to settle the affair. With this in mind I expect a 5 man midfield to ensure we don't give a silly goal away and a single striker - that of our Player of the Month Chris Dickson - as clearly our strikers can't score goals anyway so why waste time on two of them?
Elliot; Murty, Hudson, Ward, Basey; Sam, Bailey, Racon, Spring, Soares; Dickson
Subs; Randolph, Youga, Holland, Kandol, Burton
Summary So after a fixture where we were planning to play the best form team in the fizzies, we now face the second worse ( after ourselves, of course). Although the Pilgrims are the only team on the planet with fewer wins than the Addicks over the last two and a half months and with only one goal scored in their last six fizzy games. And with it being a game between two sides that cannot recover from going a goal down the first goal is absolutely vital. Our sequence of 3 consecutive games leading at half-time of course, still stands and remember that the last time that happened we managed to win the fourth 1-0 ( at Doncaster).
And to sum up - if we can't beat this lot, at this particular time, we may as well give up now.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Another Nail in the Coffin?

Read somewhere last week that a defeat cuts deeper into the soul than a victory. Well, they were talking about military defeat but at the moment a football defeat feels much the same, especially when they seem almost constant, although thankfully, I suppose, there's not a lot of bloodshed.
So another defeat, 19 now in the fizzies, as we continue relentlessly to break records. This was the first double that Bristol City have managed over us since 1927, 82 years ago and we now home in on our record number of defeats in a season. 1957 I think it was with 29 League defeats. Fifteen games to go, and if we continue in the same pattern as we have over the last 15, we'll break it to finish on 30 for the season. That must surely be your target now Parky - to try to avoid another record being set.
So what of Tuesday - a promising start, a goal, but could we, at long last, hang on to a lead like we did last week? Well, no of course not. There's three teams in the fizzies, Preston, Doncaster and Coventry who have let promising leads turn into dismal defeats three times, there's even Watford who have thrown away a winning looking result and instead lost 5 times. But nobody can touch the Addicks who have now gone in front 6 times and ended up with nothing.
One report said we lacked threat up front and looking at our goal-scoring chart its not hard to see why. Who's our leading goalscorer? With Gray out for the season, Varney moved on, and Bouazza and Waghorn gone back home, the leading strikers are now Burton, Dickson and Todorov all on one goal each. Our leading active goalscorer is a midfielder, Nicky Bailey, with 6. In fact the opposition in the form of own goals, namely Moritz Volz of Ipswich, are on a par with our leading strikers, enough said really.
I mentioned the other day that there's only been three games all season when we had two strikers score in the same game and that was being generous and calling Bouazza a striker so its really only happened twice this season with Reading and Derby being the rare exceptions. But when was the last time that a striker of ours scored twice in a single game? You have to back to April 5th last year when on-loan Leroy Lita got two against Plymouth.
And it really rubs it in when, once again, we come up against another two goal striker. Vokes, McCormack, Macken, Blackstock, Dickinson, Ellington, Quinn, Thompson and now Adebola. They've all got a couple against us. Not all strikers, perhaps, but it makes you wonder if the lack of a two goal striker is another record that we've determined to set this season.
So what about Cardiff? Well, we'll start by pointing out that the games aren't getting any easier and if you thought Burnley and Bristol were difficult there's even more to come. Cardiff are 4th on the same points as Sheffield United but with two games in hand and have been in the top 6 for most of the season.
They're also a team with the fifth best away record with only 2 defeats on the road to QPR 0-1 and Plymouth 1-2, both of them back in black November when they suffered 3 defeats in four weeks. But after the Plymouth defeat on November 22nd they've put things right and haven't lost a single game in the following eleven fizzy games since then. In fact after their 12 draws ( nine away from home) and with only 4 defeats all season nobody has suffered less defeats in the fizzies. They beat Coventry in their last away game and failed, narrowly, to beat both Birmingham and Reading in their previous two away games in the fizzies with the home side equalising in the last minute...
Current Form Seems the snow in London has arrived a few days early because while the Addicks are currently at rock botton in this little table with 4 points in the last 8 games, you'll be pleased to learn that Cardiff are leading the table with 5 wins and 3 draws to haul in a total of 18 points. Looking further back they're currently unbeaten in their last thirteen in League and Cup and with only one goal conceded in their last 6 league and cup games against the likes of Plymouth 1-0, Reading(Cup) 2-0, Birmingham 1-1, Arsenal (Cup) 0-0, Coventry 2-0 and Forest 2-0.....
The only bright spot on the horizon, apart from the hope of more snow, is that they may have their eye on their next visit to London next Monday for their rearranged cup replay versus the Arse.
Who They Got? Most famous names are Number 5 and captain Darren Purse and number 10 Irish international Stephen McPhail but both are being kept on the bench by the central defensive pairing of number 6 Hungarian international defender Gábor Gyepes and number 14 Roger Johnson while in midfield there's ex-Dundee and Rangers Gavin Rae and Joe Ledley. Ledley's been chased by the Premier big boys with 5m being offered but Cardiff have rejected all offers just so we can see on Saturday just how good he really is. And there's a new boy dying to impress during his loan spell and that's the Ghana international winger Quincy Owusu-Abeyie.
DangerMan Number 44 is youngster Ross McCormack and is one name to bear in mind, what with his 16 goals in all competitions so far, 14 in the fizzies but he's already scored twice against us, so the real Dangerman this week has to be his strike partner one Jay Bothroyd with 8 goals. A player with obviously a point to prove in front of a Valley crowd, he's number 8 in case you missed any of his 4 starts for us (21 sub appearances) in which he scored an unprecented 6 goals. Nevertheless he moved on to Wolves and joined Cardiff last summer for 350K. They both scored in their last away game at Coventry.
What's Their Secret? While the Addicks aren't too bad in the fail-to-score stakes with 9 failures to find the net, Cardiff are leaders of the pack. In only 3 games have their failed to score - equal with Wolves - with only one failure in their last 24 games......which was that 1-0 defeat at Lofus Rd. And similar to Bristol City they tend to save the best till last with no less than eleven goals scored in the last 10 minutes of fizzy games.
History On a happier note and the only positive news I can find is that we have a better home record against Cardiff than anybody else with the sole exception of Norwich City. In times past we used to love playing Cardiff at the Valley - 17 wins out of the 30 League games played there plus another couple in the Cup and with only 4 defeats. The last time they came to the Valley we stuffed three goals past Kasper Schmeichel from Sonje, Iwelumo and ZiZi and the only pity is that Schmeichel can't be loaned to all our remaining visitors as he let in another 4 for Coventry on the last day of the season as well. Overall its 28-19 to the Addicks.
Team News It's times like these that we used to pack the team with defenders and try to scrape a goalless draw, at least that would be Curbs' plan. Well, that's a no hoper this time as we only have 4 fit ones available.
Anyway, we'll at least be able to see at last our latest new recruits, Darren Ward and the Zairian who plays for the Congo, Trésor Kandol. Darren is the one with number 12 on his back and Trésor is number 36.
As for our makeshift defence Graeme Murty got himself injured again on Tuesday but it appears he's available and back in training is Mark Hudson. Parky, while thanking Matt Holland for his contribution, would be glad to have his planned partnership of Hudson and Ward at last take shape but is one day of training enough to see Mark back on the pitch, unlikely really.
As for the formation its highly possible that against such high riding opposition Parky will revert to safety first and play with a lone striker.
Elloit; Murty, Ward, Holland, Basey; Sam, Bailey, Spring, Racon, Soares; Dickson.
Subs; Randolph, Youga, Ambrose, Burton, Kandol
Summary In summary its a team with 2 wins in their last 24 games against another without a defeat in 13. One club heading for the top flight while the other is sinking remorselessly towards Tier Three. But if you believe in miracles and fairies at the bottom of the garden the last time we lead at half-time three times running - a sequence which also saw a win followed by two defeats - we managed to win the 4th game, a 1-0 win at Doncaster.
But with defeat cutting deeper and deeper - who said there's no loss of blood - I can't help thinking that there's another one just round the corner. Playing good football for just 45 minutes won't be good enough here so its highly likely that Cardiff will provide the class to keep everything nice and symmetrical by claiming their 20th win over us and thus making it 20 fizzy defeats for the season.... Unless it snows again!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Crisis, What Crisis?....Episode 31

Statistics do sometimes lie but Saturday was a prime example of figures at last adding up. Burnley hadn't had a score 1-0 in the fizzies all season, and still haven't, and there's nobody better - except Preston - at turning over a losing scoreline. They'd already won 5 games after conceding, so a 2-1 win at the death was nothing new to them. Its not new to us either, of course, We've already conceded at the death to Plymouth and Derby, but perhaps its a bit of a relief to realise that even with all those dropped points added back on we'd still be in the shit.
Whatever, we've just got to dust ourselves down as they say and stick our chin out 'cause there's another chance heading our way tomorrow night. In the old days we had one home game followed by an away one before we returned home again but these days things are different. We're just entered a stange sequence of games as after Saturday we now have another away game at Bristol City followed by two at home to Cardiff and Plymouth then two away at Barnsley and Swansea, then followed by another two at home to Doncaster and Watford and then followed by another two away at Reading and Wolves.
Its a hectic, crazy schedule that takes us to March 14th with 10 games in 49 days and with only two fit proper centre-halfs and three strikers - sorry four, I forgot Todorov - our meagre squad could be found lacking - as if it hasn't already. And with only 7 games remaining after this crazy sequence the writing could be on the wall by Sunday morning, March 15th. Thats the Ides of March - a bad day for Julius - but will our 23 assassins have finished with us by then?
As for Bristol they are currently climbing the table and are now 11th on 41 points but as far as home record is concerned they are way down there in 17th best in the fizzies with the same number of home wins as the Addicks. And with Swansea they share the highest number of home draws - 8 - so its no surprise to see that their favorite score is 0-0, 5 in all. Don't know about you but I think that would suit me fine right now.
Current Form After a dismal run of only 1 win in 12 games late last year and sinking to 18th in the table, they obviously enjoyed their turkey and after beating Watford 4-2 away on Boxing Day and following it up with a 1-0 home win over the nobodies from Sainburys on the 28th they have started an unbeaten surge up the table. A 2-0 at Plymouth a week ago and a 2-0 home over Barnsley at the weekend means that they have now gone unbeaten in 5 games with 4 wins and the only blot on their recent record was a 2-2 home draw with no less than Wolves.....
Who They Got? It's much more interesting to see who they haven't got at the moment and there'll be no Marvin Elliot as the key midfielder has a torn groin muscle from the Robins' recent 2-0 victory over Plymouth and is out for weeks. And after keeping clean sheets in three of their last four games its a relief that to know that defender Jamie McAllister who after being booked at Plymouth will be serving his one-match suspension on Tuesday. So probably taking his place will be one player we are familar with and that's their new defender Izzy Iriekpen, who scored Scunthorpes' equaliser at the Valley back in the first game last season. Iriekpen has just signed from the Irons.
Dangerman? Top scorer for City is number 10 Nicky Maynard on nine goals. Only 22 and like our recently departed Luke Varney he's another product of the successful Crewe youth academy system but unlike Varney this boy knows how to score at this level. Picked up last summer for £2.2m but after being taken off against Plymouth with a "dead leg" he didn't play at the weekend and manager Gary Johnson will leave his selection to the last minute to let him recover. Against Barnsley the two-man strike force was Adebola and Stern John. So, after their 2-0 success at the weekend looks like ex-Crewe product (and Palarse) Dele Adebola (on 5 goals for the season) will once again link up with 2 goal Stern John.
What's Their Secret? They don't extend themselves too much in the first half with 13 of their 30 games being 0-0 at half-time which is bad news for us because of the 5 games that we were drawing 0-0 after 45 we have lost 3 of them. They also have the 2nd most clean sheets, 13, after Reading. But the really bad news by far is that although they are completely useless against the good teams - only Forest can equal their dismal showing of only 1 win against top half opposition in 14 games - they are nothing less than merciless when it comes to playing the crap. Fifteen games and not a single defeat against the struggling half of the table and only Wolves can better their haul of 33 points.
History The favorite place to visit for the Addicks in the fizzies is Derby where we've won 12 times in the League but up there with the best is Bristol City where we've won 10. In fact, in games at Ashton Gate the score is a close 11-10 to them. Of the 6 games played there over the last thirty years we've won three times and lost twice with our last success being a 1-0 last season with Chris Iwelumo's second successive 90th minute away goal. Overall, after last Octobers defeat at the Valley, Bristol first in 40 years, it now stands at 27-16 to us in the League which means that they are the only team in the fizzies where we've won more than half the games played.
What're They Saying Parky, bless him, saw on Saturday, "There were a lot of encouraging signs from the boys, there are lots of positives today and if we keep performing in the manner like that then we will have a good chance.”
Team News Playing his first game for us at Burnley was new boy Darren Ward, and forming a rock solid defence with none other than Matt Holland, has already been to Ashton Gate this season back in November with his previous loan club Watford and came away with a 1-1 draw and he may feel he has something to prove as it turned out to be his last game for Watford before returning to Wolves. Meanwhile, our other Rock, Mark Hudson, was having more injections over the weekend to try to recover from his hip injury.
After 18 sub appearances, apparently, Chris Dickson had his first fizzy start on Saturday and after setting up the goal should merit another outing but whether its Burton or Todorov beside him I'll leave you to figure it out. Meanwhile there's Tresor Kandol waiting on the bench trying to break his duck and not telling anyone that he hasn't scored in his last 7 games for Millwall.
As for the team tomorrow it would be a surprise if there were any changes at all after the fighting performance on Saturday, so....
Elloit; Murty, Ward, Holland, Youga; Sam, Bailey, Spring, Soares; Dickson, Burton
Subs: Randolph, Hudson, Racon, Basey, Kandol
Verdict After failing, just, to get a result against a tired, 5-defeats-in-a row Burnley, we are going to find it doubly hard to get the better of a resurgent Bristol who in contrast haven't lost only of the last five. And who, after a lazy first half, perhaps, they usually save their best till the end - just when the Addicks are prone to bouts of sleepyness - and have scored no less than 7 times in the last 5 minutes..........0-0 I'll take that.