After last weekends match at Walsall was postponed, Norwich were able to play their game in hand rather earlier than we expected and so its down to 3rd for the Addicks after the bleeding canaries record their 12th win in 15.
The last time we suffered the disappointment of relinquishing an automatic 2nd place was back in November 12th 2007 when West Brom won 4-0 at Coventry to overtake us in the Fizzies Tier Two table after 16 games. We had won 8 out of the sixteen but would go on to win only 9 more of the remaining 30 games that season as a slow sinking feeling creep into the squad and we finished a lowly 11th. Nobody can imagine a similar scenario this year but Parky now has his work cut-out to avoid the Play-offs.
Nevertheless it seems light years ago since we last played the Pool as we were at the time simply praying for two successive League wins ( in the same season that is), not previously achieved by the Addicks since December 2007....70 games ago.
We got the win of course, 2-0 by goals by top scorers Burton and Bailey, but we have another target to aim for this weekend because after the draw at Brentford we are still chasing our first double of the year.
The Pool have no manager at the moment, only a Director of Football namely Chris Turner. He took over as caretaker in December 2008 after Danny Wilson, now at Swindon, was sacked and was upgraded to the grandiose title of Director of Football during the summer.
Following their first double whammer of the season back in October with consecutive wins over Swindon (a) 2-0 and Tranmere (h) 1-0 its been mostly downhill for the Pool with only three wins in the last 10 over those contrasting London sides Orient and Millwall at home and last weekend against Oldham.
But an impressive performance at Elland Rd in their last away game in which they went in front on 25 minutes becoming the first away team to score first at Leeds this season, apart from the other pool, Liverpool. True to form they then caved in and lost 3-1.
In fact their away record isn't bad with 3 wins ( they are one of only two teams to win at Gillingham and they are the only team to win at Swindon ) 3 draws and 6 defeats and as far as goals is concerned they have scored the same, 18, as we have away from home.
Last weekend it was Andy Monkhouse who crossed for Ritchie Jones to head Hartlepool in front after 32 minutes and added the second himself five minutes before the break. But they'll miss defender Peter Hartley next wekend as he was sent off seven minutes from time for an off-the-ball incident.
Both Hartley and centre-back Sam Collins are on 23 games for the season but Collins will also be out with an Achilles injury so Turner is struggling a bit with missing defenders while experienced centre-half Gary Liddle (hamstring) is also out.Dangerman
Top scorers are Andy Boyd and Monkhouse both on 8. Number 10 Boyd is a local boy but was a teammate of Matt Spring at Luton and then spent a couple of years at Orient. Number 11 is Andy Monkhouse whose claim to fame is based on the fact that he became Dennis Wise's first signing as manager of Swindon Town on June 22, 2006, signing a one-year contract.
Whats Their Secret?
The Pool start strong and have scored twice as many first half goals compared to the second half, but sadly they are hopeless at holding on to a lead. Sixteen times they have scored first, only one less than leaders Leeds, but seven times, just as at Elland Rd, they have gone in front but then wilted and lost the game whereas the Addicks are one of only 6 sides that haven't lost once after scoring first. But at the other end, while Leeds and Norwich lead the Division in clean sheets (13 and 11 respectively) you'll be surprised to learn that the Pool are the next best with 9 followed by the Addicks and Brentford with 8.
Cheer Us Up Nels
Upstarts Norwich remain one of only 6 teams in League One that have failed to win after falling behind, scoring only 4 points on the 7 occasions that it has happened, whereas the fighting Addicks have gone on to take 10 points on the 8 times that we have let the other lot in first. OK, they usually score first - 16 times against our 14 - but have also managed to lose 4 (Colchester (h) and Brentford, MK and Leeds all away).
As for the remaining games, obviously the teams to avoid playing are the top 7 away with only 4 home defeats between them. The Addicks are, of course, one of the 7 and have already played 3 of the others so are left with Huddersfield, Swindon and Millwall to visit while the canaries have 5 games left in Colchester, Millwall, Huddersfield, Swindon and lastly Charlton. And of the nine best away teams all with 4 or more away wins we have played 5 leaving just Colchester, Norwich and Leeds ( our last three home games) exactly the same number as Norwich with Southampton, Leeds and MK Dons. So on paper Norwich have a harder run-in with two more difficult away games than us and also have to play us at the Valley in April, a true six-pointer.
B**ger, I seem to have missed out lowly Brighton, somehow also on 4 away wins. We haven't played them at home but the canaries beat them 4-1 at the Carrow place so they can't be so hot, but they have won a remarkable 8 times in the 23 games played at the Valley so be careful Parky.
With only two games played there's not a lot of history about. Apart from our win at Victoria Park in August the only other game was a League Cup tie in September 2005 which we won 3-1.
But, of course, that short history can mean only one thing - there's a chance of a banana skin for Hartlepool are one of an unprecedented 8 teams (Carlisle, the Gills, Exeter, MK Dons, Oldham, Wycombe and Yeovil are the others) in League One that have never won at the Valley.
We can expect Christian Dailly to return at centre-half after his illness and partner Miguel Llera for the first time since Sam Sodje's previous suspension against Bristol Rovers. That was also Kelly Youga's last game as he limped off on 23 minutes with an injured left knee but Parky did say on the 23rd he was only 10 days away from returning so 17 days later will we see Kelly? Grant Basey has started the last 8 games but if Kelly is fit he's sure to start.
With Semedo moving back into midfield, Matt Spring, after enjoying the full 90 in the last two games, will move to the bench but will we use the same 4-5-1 formation that beat the Pool in August? That game was also the last appearance of Andy Gray before his, undisclosed fee, move to Barnsley. He cost Pardew 1.5m and made a total of 47 appearances for the Addicks scoring 9 times while Parky's purchase of the unheralded Deon Burton for a song has now made 49 scoring 17. Perhaps the comparison is unfair bearing in mind Gray's personnel problems but perhaps the truth is that neither come near Norwich's Grant Holt, now on 20 for the season who also have another two, Hoolahan and Martin, on 13.
Anyway, Deon is a must to start, barring any dead leg issues and with Sam, Bailey and Semedo in midfield Parky just has to decide on a formation to work around Wagstaff, Shelvey or Akpo Sodje. Which just leaves the question marks over Therry Racon, with only one appearance in the last seven, and Izzy McLeod with 4 minutes in the last 10 games??Elliot; Omozusi, Dailly, Llera, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Bailey, Wagstaff; Burton, A. Sodje.