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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Preston Preview

Another "unlucky" result then, with a penalty save by Elliot and a goal by ZiZi the highlights, as another game passes us by. ZiZi did himself no harm by getting himself into the fizzy team of the week although there must be question marks over Parky's continuing use of a 4-5-1 when three points are so urgently needed. Then again if he had any strikers scoring goals there won't be any argument, but of course we don't.

So with only 2 wins in the last 28 League games and, thanks to Barnsley's win over Palarse, now 14 points adrift of the safety net of 21st place ( but with a game in hand!), Parky will fight on till the maths rule out any lingering hope of a miracle although the Board should by now be preparing the club for the return to League One after our 28 long years away, and surely all we can speculate on now, apart from ghoulishly forecasting the exact date of our official demise, is exactly how many of Saturdays players will still be around come August.

Precious few perhaps, as it was mentioned - as a plus point in our favour - in the Fans Forum last week that many players contracts will be up this summer, with most therefore leaving on a free and with the fizzy big spenders grabbing whatever choice players remain, we face the prospect of a team built around Elloit, Youga, Wright, Fleetwood and the never-say-die Matty Holland, soon to be 35. The shame is that with Bailey, Racon and ZiZi now playing we have a team that at least can be called one. ZiZi is a cert to go but will Hudson, Shelvey, Racon and Bailey form the heart of the team next season or will they be sold off to the highest bidder?

And judging from the bloggers recently there won't be many turning up in the stands cum August either, with dejection and apathy reaching levels we haven't experienced for decades.

So as a bit of a pick me up perhaps we should take a look at Leicester now 9 points clear at the top of League One, as a case to follow. Far from keeping all of their team from last season, you'll be pleased to know that of Saturdays winning team at Millwall only 5 played in their last fizzy game at Stoke back in May. The question is can we rely on Parky choosing the winning 5 to retain for next season, always assuming, of course, that they wanted to stay.

Of course, there's more of a case for comparing ourselves with last season's fizzy wooden spooners, Colchester, rather than Leicester, who, rather than sitting at the top of League One are down there in 11th place, 6 points away from a Play-Off spot. And maybe even that comparison would be unfair to Colchester, who, at this point last season had 33 points, 5 more than we have, finished on 7 wins, 22 defeats and 38 points - a figure that at the moment looks distinctly distant for the Addicks.

So on to Parkys next test with the arrival at the Valley of Preston, who are currently just outside the Play-Offs in 7th place equal on points with 6th placed Cardiff but unfortunately having played 3 games more and with only 3 wins in the last 11 games have it all to do. Those three wins were all at home and in fact their only away win in the last 4 months came at unlikely Molineux 3-1 back in January. And to emphasize that problem, only the relegation-struggling quartet of Norwich, Barnsley, Watford and the Addicks have a worst away record than poor old Preston.

Current Form So perhaps its just the time to welcome Preston North End, currently the worst away team in the fizzies over the last 5 games, with only a single point gained. After reaching a top six place a few weeks back they have managed somehow to lose their last three away games at Palarse 1-2, Forest 1-2 and Southampton 1-3.

DangerMan Top goalscorer is Number 33 ex-Liverpool Neil Mellor, currently on 9 goals but with only one goal in the last 5 months and that in January, so this weeks DangerMan has to be number 26 the giant beanstalk, ex of Stoke and Hull, 6' 4" Jon Parkin, ominously carrying the nickname of "the beast" and with 8 goals in total but with 6 in his last 8 games!

Whats Their Secret? The time to attack Preston is in the first 20 minutes when have managed to score a meagre 3 goals this season but conceded a wapping 15! In fact their first half record over the season is pretty appalling for a top six chasing club and they have only been leading at the break eight times.

And this match could well be billed as the First-Half kings against the come-back Giants as, amazingly, the Addicks have been leading 14 times at the interval, with only Wolves and Reading having "won" more, while poor old Preston have sat down to their cup of tea with a leading smile only 8 times in their 38 games. Cue some choice words from manager Alan Irvine because, while the Addicks traditionally fall apart after the break, the Lilywhites do exactly the opposite during the second half because after the interval Preston have the best record of all in the fizzies with 18 "wins".

And while there remain three teams that just cannot win after falling behind - Plymouth, the Addicks and Cardiff - Preston, after the first twenty minutes, have more determination and have come back from the dead no less than 5 times to win, with only Burnley better at the job.

History You'll all remember our last home win over Preston in the old Third Division on the very last day of the season back on 29th April 1975. A 3-1 win, after being a goal down at half-time, secured third place and took us back to the Second Division at the first attempt. Happy days!

However, our home record against Preston has not been very good of late with defeats in the last two games. 1-2 last season and 0-3 in 1979. Overall its a distinctly unimpressive loss of 20-30 although they have only won nine times in 30 League games at the Valley. And Preston it was, who gave us our second away defeat of the season back in August, a 1-2 loss after we have lead 1-0 at half-time, a bit of a prophetic happening as a half-time lead turning into a defeat has now occurred 5 times this season. In fact a 1-2 scoreline has been our favorite this year with no less than 8 of them.

Team News Will we see two strikers take the field this weekend? With such a strong midfield, all scoring goals, its extremely unlikely, although the last two times we used 4-4-2, at home to Plymouth and Watford, we scored twice both times. But with Dickson falling from favour, he hasn't started the last three, and is still looking for his first fizzy goal perhaps we should have a detailed look at our strikers.

Kandol has at least scored twice in his 560 minutes played, making him our leading available striker, whereas Dickson with 788 minutes played, has just a single Cup goal against Sheffield Utd. On a par with him is Deon Burton who has only started once in the last 8, and has only one goal, a penalty against Coventry, to show for his 783 minutes on the field. Meanwhile Todorov, also on one goal back in October against Burnley, has 395 minutes under his belt but was at least seen in the last home game against Watford, his first first-team appearance since the away defeat to Norwich in December. Not a very inspiring bunch then and with so many scoring midfielders Parkys got a hard choice to make.

At least we'll see the return of Darren Ward which should be the only change from the team at Molineux.

Elliot, Summerfield, Ward, Hudson, Youga; Soares, Racon, Spring, ZiZi, Bailey; Kandol
Subs: Randolph, Basey, Holland, Sam, Dickson

Summary The start of an 8 game winning run, or another sorry nail in our League One coffin? After the promise of February when we had our best month since August will we have another month without a win? Its yet another of those must-wins games for Parky although even he must be getting a bit sick of the expression. A 2-0 win to the Addicks would be in order but who is going to be brave enough to bet on such a scoreline? And with Prestons favorite scoreline of a 2-1 win being exactly the same as the Addicks favorite score of a 1-2 defeat, looks odds-on then another 1-0 half-time lead with two second-half goals for the Lilywhites.

1 comment:

Thomas Rooney said...

What are your thoughts on next season? Do you think Charlton will bounce back?

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Thanks a lot,