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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Crisis, What Crisis?....Episode 30

Tuesday saw a emotional, massive win for the Addicks by the slenderest of margins over those nobodies from Norwood with what was only our fifth fizzy clean sheet of the season. And it thankfully brought to an end the record-breaking dismal run of 18 games without a win that we thought was going to last forever.
But even after all the celebrations with that perfectly timed win against the rivals who apparently don't care, this is not a time to rest on our laurels. We now face another three games in 8 days, two of them away, starting at the weekend as we attempt to win our first two games on the trot since the 8th of December 2007, a 3-1 win over Ipswich, which is now 54 League games ago.
So there's no time to rest in this League as we dash up to Turfmoor on Saturday. Burnley are now ninth overall on the massive total of 43 points, nearly double the Addicks, with the fizzies 11th best home record, but with only three home defeats. They've also the 6th highest scorers with 41 goals but they have a bit of a leaky defence, conceding 42 goals making them the only team in the top half with a negative goal difference. In fact only 4 teams have conceded more - Southampton (44), Norwich(45), Watford (50) and of course the Addicks on 51.
But the Addicks are cock-a-hoop at the moment with an unprecedented 2 wins in the last 4 games, albeit by the slenderest of margins, whilst Burnley can only claim 2 wins in their last 10 league and cup games since Christmas Day.
Current Form So perhaps it's just the time to be playing Burnley for last Tuesdays 3-0 defeat at Watford now makes it five straight defeats in the fizzies to Barnsley (H), Doncaster(A), Swansea (H) and Preston(A). The last time they won a League game was a 2-1 home win over Bristol City back on December 20th. During that time, however, they have been somewhat diverted by Cup games against QPR, Spurs and West Brom only one of which have they lost.
Who They Got? Clearly determined to chase promotion, Burnley were very busy last summer with Scunthorpe United striker Martin Paterson being the first signing for £1 million (rising to £1.3 million depending on appearances) back in June who was Coyle's first permanent signing as Burnley Manager. This was followed by Dundee midfielder Kevin McDonald, former Dundee United left-back Christian Kalvenes, and Peruvian goalkeeper Diego Penny after Penny's work permit was granted on 27 June. Former Holland U21 international midfielder Remco van der Schaaf was signed on a free transfer and then was followed by Manchester United winger Chris Eagles for £1.25 million.
Another key man for the Clarets is 37 year old Scottish international Graham Alexander. After over 400 appearances for Preston, club loyalty didn't stand in his way when in the summer of 2007 Burnley came along and offered Alexander a two year contract whereas Preston were only offering a single year. And not surprisingly, now that Burnley have a Scottish manager, Burnley have become increasingly riddled, if thats the phase, with Scots. Captain Stephen Caldwell, another international, is now in his second season and there's the young U-21 international midfielder Kevin McDonald, and target man and another international Steven Thompson and then there's the two Irishmen Christopher John McCann and the ex-Blackburn and Wigan Alan Mahon.

DangerMan? There can be no doubt that this weeks dangerman is 21 year old Martin Paterson with a total of 16 goals ( 10 in the fizzies), seems a lot but then they've had no less than eleven cup games already this season.

What's Their Secret? Once you go in front look out because they have won 5 times after going behind and drawn another to gain a total of 16 points after losing a goal. Only one other team, Alexanders' old mates at Preston, have a better record after going behind. But what about their weakness' you ask. Well, there's not many, the only obvious one being that they'll be knackered come the weekend. The home game against the Addicks, what with all those cup games, will be their 9th in 29 days. And a second hope is that while the Addicks have now won 4 games against the top half, Burnley, after recent defeats to Barnsley and Doncaster, have now lost 5 games to lower half opposition.

History? There's been 23 games at Turfmoor and we're won 5 and drawn 4 and therefore lost 14. Average sort of figure. Since the war, the Second one , that is, we've won just twice there in the League, in 1948 and 1981. In fact the war did kind of mess up our run against them for in 8 pre-war games we beat them 5 times including twice at their place so it really came as no surprise really ( I'm only guessing, my Dad was there but I wasn't) that we beat them in our first encounter after the war AT WEMBLEY. And I've only just realised that they were a second division team when we beat them in the Final. Anyway, current score is 18-17 to them.

What're They Saying? There's a very positive article from new boy Spring on the official site and among all the encouraging stuff he ended by saying "The preparation before the game and through the week was spot on, and we didn't carry any passengers out on the pitch. Everyone contributed, which is exactly what you need."

Team News After a record breaking win on Tuesday the team should need little encouragement to provide another fighting performance. But in a way this game is going to be much more difficult than was the Palarse encounter. After two wins and two defeats away in Sheffield in the last four games for the Addicks its yet another away game, but the gap to safety continues to grow and few people could have failed to notice Doncaster's 1-0 win at the very same Bramall Lane where we lost just a week ago.
In the last 6 games in League and Cup we've managed just 5 goals and never more than one a game. In fact the only times we've scored more than once in the last 14 games has been the two home games against Derby and QPR. In the meanwhile, both Doncaster and Forest have won 4 straight fizzy games and with both scoring 9 times. Even Norwich have scored 9 times since Christmas Day all meaning that we still sit 5 points adrift.
The reason I point this out is that Burnley have not lost a game 0-1 all season and it may require two goals to win on Saturday. A change to 4-4-2 on Tuesday with both Gray and Burton was changed after an hour and Saturday may be just the time to see the lively Dickson make his first fizzy start. To reinforce the argument that I made on Monday, we need to find a striker that's going to score goals. I sometimes wonder what the paragraph above entitled Dangerman would look in an opposing teams Blog because I can't find anyone amongst our strikers that I would term "dangerous". And in only three games this season - Reading, Plymouth and Derby - did two of our strikers find the net in the same game.

Anyway, we'll see changes in defence as the injury to Fortune is likely to see a makeshift defence start the game with either Holland or Youga in central defence alongside Mark Hudson. Murty is also carrying a knock so a back line-up of Moutaouakil, Hudson, Holland and Youga will probably be the best that we can manage.

Therry Racon was not seen against Palarse but can be expected to be at least on the bench against Burnley with Bailey and Spring probably keeping their places. Both wide men were impressive on Tuesday, so Sam and the on-loan Soares will surely keep their places.

Elliot; Moutaouakil, Hudson, Holland, Youga; Sam, Bailey, Spring, Soares; Gray, Burton.

Subs: Randolph, Basey, Racon, Dickson, TODOROV...
Verdict Its 54 fizzy fizzy games since a consecutive win but we need one now if only to keep the momentum going. To sum up we're playing a team with a leaky defence that should be tired after their 9 games in 29 days and, perhaps, low in confidence after suffering 5 league defeats in a row. Slipping to 9th spot, hopes of promotion are starting to fade but with a 4 point gap to the Play-Off places they can't afford another upset. So a 1-1 draw looks the best we can expect.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Crisis, What Crisis?...Episode 29

Another defeat, our 19th of the season, but at least we said goodbye to Sheffield with a bit of a late flourish with claims for a last minute penalty of course prompting Parky to moan that we never get given penalties. Whatever, and although he's not wholly responsible, I'm sure he's glad to get rid of the city of Sheffield against whom our seasons' tally was 5 games, 5 defeats, 6 goals for, conceded 16. All meaning that we probably won't be crossing swords with either of them next year, unless we get them in the Cup of course.
But looking on the bright side, and desperate to be in some way positive, we weren't entirely blunt up front in any of the 5 games and did at least score in every one of them. And although we've conceded more this season, 51, than anyone else, there's still one statistic where there's loads of teams worse than us and that's in the number of games where we failed to score. We've failed to find the net in 9 games out of the 28, but there's no less than 6 teams worse than us including Doncaster, Southampton and Derby.
So, anyway it's the big one next, Palarse. And maybe its the extra heat of a local derby that we need to ignite some kind of result. And while many were lamenting another pointless journey to Sheffield to face the Blades in the Cup, perhaps Parky was not too unset with the challenge. Because it won't have slipped his notice that if you want a preparation for a game against Palarse there's probably no better place than Bramall lane to plan your tactics.
There was no sign of Warnock in Sheffield but the mark he stamped on the club is still there and the game might just have given Parky the edge he needs to get ready for Tuesday night.
As for Warnocks current charges they sit way up there in 10th place on the embarrassingly distant total of 40 points.
Current Form After 8 without loss, they've done their best to encourage us by losing their last two fizzies games, 0-1 away to Bristol City and a shocking 1-4 defeat at Sainburys to Ipswich which Warnock blamed on the ref not giving them a penalty. And they've also got themselves knocked out of the Cup, 3-4 at Watford, where two late goals from Danns and Ifill made the score respectable although Warnock was complaining again about the referee this time for a disallowed headed "goal" from Fonte.
Who They Got? Well, there was one person looking forward to Tuesday no matter what the score and that was Paddy McCarthy. Already on three goals for the season, which is one more than he got for us, he's probably the only person who regrets that Pardew is not still around. Unfortunately, Paddy got himself injured in the 3-1 win over Norwich on Boxing Day and is out till March with that dicky shoulder of his. Also missing would appear to be Ben Watson, who sees to be on his way to Wigan.
DangerMan? They've got a whole possee of people scoring goals but they have only two main strikers to look out for. Up front against Watford in the cup at the weekend was the bean pole 6' 4" from Galway, number 9 Alan Lee. He's only been at Sainburys since August and after injury troubles has only scored twice. As Lee's backup there's Shefki Kuqi; a bizarre combination even in this day and age of a Kosovo/Albanian playing 52 times for Finland. A 2.5 m buy from Blackburn in the summer of 2006, perhaps its his 6' 2" frame and Leaburn-like record of only 6 goals in those 52 internationals that don't exactly endear him to Palarse fans and what's more he hasn't scored for 5 games now. He's number 32 Parky. And with either one of two big boys up front you can see what to expect come Tuesday. As for their goalscoring, Kuqi has 6, and Beattie, Ifill and Watson are all on 5.
Whats Their Secret? Thanks probably to Warnock, Palarse seem remarkably similar to the Blades in that when they get something neither team likes to give it up. So whilst the Addicks and Norwich continue at the bottom and have the fewest number of scoring-first games, 9, the lot from Sainburys whilst doing it only 11 times have the same attributes as United and haven't lost any of them.
Team News Just about the best summing-up of our season appeared in the Sporting Life match report at the weekend. "Fighting spirit has not been a characteristic of Charlton's miserable season so far" was the charge and its something that Parky has to ensure is visible on Tuesday.
What, and who, else will be visible against Palarse is not very clear and maybe that how Parky would like it. One good thing to come out of Saturday was the goal that Dickson got after coming on for the "ineffective" Deon Burton in the 58th minute. Its only his second goal for the club with the first coming at the Hawthorns last January in the cup replay that we lost on penalties after scoring twice in the second half. Varney and ZiZi missed their spot kicks, to dump us out 4-3.
I'm tempted to plead for a Dickson/Todorov strike force but it won't happen so I'll just add that Chris is now our leading striker counting the minutes that its taken him to score each goal. He's now played 231 minutes this season for the one goal at under 4 hours per goal. Not a statistic that's going to get him into the Hall of Fame but its already better than any of the other strikers that we have. Gray's next in the list with 7 goals - one every 4 hours 20 minutes. Third most effective was Waghorn with one goal in his nearly 6 hours played and 4th is Todorov with his one goal taking him over 6 hours. You get my drift, I think, because 5th and 6th in this sorry season of ours is the current player up front, Deon Burton, with his one goal taking him over 8 hours of football ( it was a penalty), while last of all is Luke Varney, the player that Pardew rendered such love and affection on, who, with over 12 hours played managed just two meagre goals.
And there's more good news in midfield for one person who doesn't seem to be relishing the encounter is Tom Soares. A Palarse youngster he spent 5 years there before moving to Stoke last summer and told the Croydon journalists this week that if he scores tomorrow he's not going to celebrate. Well, makes a change from Varney, I suppose, who couldn't wait to congratulate the Duke back in December.
As for the team, with Elliot's possible clanger for the Blades first goal on Saturday, it looks like Randolph between the posts with Murty and Basey returning at fullback. Hudson and Fortune at the back and with Sam and Soares out wide leaves 4 places left.
Bailey, Shelvey, Spring, Racon, Holland, Ambrose battle it out for midfield while Burton will lead the line in a 4-5-1 format.
A team then:
Randolph; Murty, Hudson, Fortune, Basey; Sam, Bailey, Racon, Spring, Soares; Burton.
Subs; Elliot, Moutaoukil, Holland, Gray, Dickson
Verdict A defeat in this game would be unthinkable and would hand them their first double over us since 89/90, 19 years ago. But this has been a season when the unthinkable happens all the time and the number of records broken by us and teams against us shows no sign of abating so it won't surprise me if its defeat number 20 for 08/09. Lets just hope for a draw then.

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.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Moanings

A Cup replay that seemed meaningless at the time and meaningless it has turned out to be. The illusion of actually winning a game has proved to be just that - an illusion. And so our winless League run continues, eighteen League games now without a win, and even that was thanks to an own-goal by Volz of Ipswich.
And as we gift four goals to Sheffield Wednesday, a team that had previously only managed 15 in 13 home games and before we arrived were the fizzies lowest scorers bar Southampton and Doncaster, we can now only expect the worst. We've 7 points adrift of the team above us, Southampton, another club seemingly determined to sink another league or two, while the safety of 21st position is now 8 points distance and we are handicaped by an inferior goal difference that is growing to alarming proportions and is, of course, higher than all the rest.
Its always dangerous for a manager to predict events and Parky has proved that sticking your head out to deflect a current problem can leave you with nowhere to hide when your prediction that one win would clearly lead to several proves a bit of a clanger. His subsequent anger towards the players means that they'll all spent Sunday sitting at home instead of doing extra training when it's a bit of in-your-face that is surely needed if only to find out who's got the guts to carry on. Lets hope that Parks, Kinsella and Chapple have instead sent Sunday afternoon sitting around a table figuring out where we go from here.
Searching for precedents, yes, we've been here before and its not over till its over but back in those days Lennie was in charge and we had players that knew how to fight. Was it 1987 when we had only one win in the first 3 months of the year but then managed 4 wins and 14 points in the last 5 weeks to earn a place in the Play-Offs. We were dead and buried then and coming from behind to win the Play-Off final was testimony to the fighting spirit that Lennie had installed. And we had a striker worthy of the name - Jim Melrose.
But sadly to say we would appear to be entering a new era for Charlton Athletic football club. Past games have proved beyond doubt that these players don't belong in this League. A first win at the Valley for Barnsley in 21 games and 78 years of trying and only a second for Coventry in 15 attempts. A first Bristol City win at the Valley for 30 years. The list goes on. Some hurt more than others such as a first League derby win for Palarse in 8 games. And we've given teams the chance to break more records - the first point for Plymouth after going behind, the first win for Wednesday after going behind. We've lost 5 times after going in front; the worst in the fizzies along with fellow strugglers Watford.
So as we obviously don't belong in this League we'll have to find another one more suited to the players that we have. Tier Three, for want of a better name, is nothing new to us. By my reckoning we've already spent 14 years there, the last being a one season stop in 80-81.
But if you're looking for some reassurances, rest assured that others have trodden this path before us. More recently Leicester, relegated last May, are determined to get back at the first attempt and are leading the race and are 7 points clear of third placed Millwall. Perhaps we shouldn't be comparing ourselves with teams of the size of Leeds, Wednesday or Forest but they have all experienced the same demise and sadly all took some time finding a cure.
Leeds are now in their second season in Tier 3 and struggling in ninth, Sheffield Wednesday were there for two years before getting back in 2005 via the Play-Offs and Forest had 3 years there before finally getting back after securing second place and an automatic spot in May 2008.
As for the present, we can take comfort, perhaps, in our next fizzy opponents Palarse's 1-4 home defeat to Ipswich and can only hope that Parky uses next Saturdays meaningless Cup game, unless you're thinking of the money, to find eleven players that are ready to provide at least a fighting spirit for the final 18 games.

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.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Forest Preview

Not sure I have the stomach for a football match after reading about more barbarism from Gaza as the Israelis seek to defend themselves from those pesky Palestinians locked up in Gaza prison. Home made rockets specially dragged through tunnels are no joke and have reportedly killed two Israelis so far but if everyone applied the Israeli mode of punishment in their attempts "to protect themselves" with over 700 Palestinians now dead then Parky can expect to hung, drawn and quartered and left hanging from the four corners of the ground if that win does not arrive this weekend.
So in an attempt to return to civilisation we can look forward to a mundane football match where, although we may hope to see a little heated football, we can all rest assured that, knowing Charlton, bloodshed will be at a minimum.
But as for that win that is needed so badly before we finally notch up 17 League games without a win, its a bit tough on us that a revitalized Forest are our next opponents. With new manager Billy Davies on board they have now cleared the bottom three hurdle and arrive at the Valley with an unbeaten run of 8 away games with their last away defeat back in October. And they appear to be getting better.
After losing all of their first 6 away games in the fizzies they finally took their first away points with a 2-1 win at Sainburys on October 28th with midfielder Matt Thornhill scoring his first goal of the season with an 81st minute winner. Since then, rather oddly, they have remained unbeaten away from the City Ground. Four consecutive draws at Coventry, Doncaster, Bristol City and Derby after the Palarse victory have now been eclipsed by three successive victories with an impressive 3-0 FA Cup win at the home of Man. City last weekend preceded by a 3-2 at Norwich and before that a 2-0 win at Southampton.
Form Guide With three wins and three draws in the last 8 Forest are climbing away from trouble and are now 5 points in front of us. And perhaps the really bad news is that the last time they failed to score away from home was in the 0-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday on 30th Sept.

DangerMen! This week its men in the plural because there's no less than three players battling out for the two striker spots. The choice is from top goalscorer, number 10, 8 goal Robert Earnshaw, but he and new manager Davies were at Derby together and Earnshaw was not exactly the bosses' favorite getting only two games in three months so perhaps we had better switch our attention to number 16, 20 year old Joe Garner, bought in the summer for 1.14 M and currently on 6 goals. Third on goals is the 6ft number 9, Nathan Tyson, who Parky should remember from his Reading days as Tyson was a member of their youth academy and although all three scored last weekend against Man. City, it was Earnshaw and Tyson that started the game with youngster Garney on the bench.

What's Their Secret? You don't want to concede first against Forest because they are one of only 7 fizzy teams that have not lost after going in front whereas the Addicks have now lost 5 games after scoring first with only Watford anywhere nearly as bad as us. But in true Jekyll and Hyde fashion, Forest are also one of only 7 teams, us included, that have never won after going behind. So the plan for Saturday has to be to score first no matter what.

What're They saying? New signing Graeme Murty has been singing the bosses' praises after signing this week. Seems he played with Parky at Reading and was greatly impressed by his application at a time when Parkinson was Reading captain.
History Along with Coventry, Forest are one of the teams in the fizzies that we have played the least, just 31 league games. We have the edge with 11 wins and 10 defeats with 10 draws. But they have made a habit of winning at the Valley and have won 4 out of the last 8 League games going back 22 years although their last win was in 1994.

Team News Skipper Mark Hudson was not risked against Norwich and will hopefully return whereas Nicky Bailey will be definitely missing because of the accumulated cautions rule. Added to that there's the departure of Bouazza to Birmingham via Fulham just when he is perhaps most needed, although Parky does take the heat off the problem by saying "I don't want any disaffected players around the building."
There is at least one new face in the building, as Parky likes to say. Graeme Murty, Reading captain, although he can't get a game there after injury, arrives on a short one month loan, presumably to test the waters but to add much needed fighting spirit. He can play on the right of midfield as well as right-back but expect Parky to use Murty's experience to replace one of the younger players, sorry Yassin. A return to a 4-4-2 formation has been asked by many but this is a game demanding our strongest players and Parky is going to need to use every bit of his experience to beat this lot.
Expect Hudson to have recovered from his reported ankle and knee niggles and join Fortune and McEveley in defence.
After vying for last weekend's MOM, both Holland and Shelvey should play in midfield with Sam out wide while the absence of Bailey should see the return of Semedo. Up front we'll surely see Burton continue although Andy Gray may be pressing for inclusion against his old club.
Elliot; Murty, Hudson, Fortune, McEveley; Sam, Semedo, Holland, Shelvey, Basey; Burton.
Subs; Randolph, Youga, Todorov, Gray, Waghorn
Verdict Back in the barmy days of summer when we were all dreaming of the forthcoming Fortress Valley season, not a single one of the 37 or so forecasters on CAFC Picks foresaw a defeat in this game. A few draws were forecast, but not a single loss. I wonder how many of them, me included, would like to change their minds right now because a defeat would appear more than likely. In fact there's more chance of the Americans voting against the Israelis in any United Nations resolution than there is of us winning. But this is the freaky game of football and if Derby can win at Manure then...................

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Another Norwich Preview

Sixteen games without a win. Four points adrift at the bottom. And, of course, no real surprise after just 10 wins in the whole of 2008, that we've now equalled our worse winless run in history. Back in 1955 we had a similar run although that happened in Division One and spanned two seasons neither of which lead to relegation. And back then that run eventually ended in a resounding 3-1 win at Bolton in the third game of the new season with a Stuart Leary hat-trick and it goes without saying that there was none of the gloom that surround us now.
So with Parky now being installed as the permanent manager, with the promise of 4 new players this month its time to get back to the present and a cup game arriving at perhaps just the right time. After the shock of going in front against Sheffield and looking the best team during the first hour we got the inevitable jitters and conceded 3 goals in the last 25 minutes. The performance and a great goal from Bouazza, his fourth of the season, should serve to lift us and - sorry, you pessimists - you just have to believe that things are going to get better. It just needs a little luck, and a decent ref, to get us out of this morass because after 16 winless games in 1955 we then turned the corner and won 3 in a row.
Talking of luck, Norwich have had 5 own-goals to their name this year - we have just one - so a bit more luck perhaps than we've had but they come to the Valley after two defeats, 1-3 at Sainsburys and 2-3 at home to Forest. And although the Addicks, along with Watford, have the worst away record with just 6 points on the road, Norwich are not great travellers either with just 2 wins, the same number of defeats as us and the second worst away defence after Sheffield Wednesday with 24 goals conceded.
DangerMan - Leroy Lita's loan period ended at the end of the year but there's no mention of him being recalled or the loan extended and there's no mention, unlike their other loanees, of his being allowed to play this weekend. Being sensible, Parky will assume he's playing and will make the appropriate plans to try to stop him scoring his eighth goal of the season.
History - Although we have a very good record against Norwich in the League it didn't do us much good last time out when Leroy Lita showed us what he's good at by scoring the only goal of the game. We've never meet Norwich in the FA cup but two defeats in the League Cup in '81 and '91, both two leg affairs with defeats at the Valley, perhaps don't bode well for Saturday.
Team News - In better days we would possibly field a couple of second string players in not-so-vital cup games but I doubt that Parky will see Saturdays game as a meaningless fixture. A Cup game where we can forget for a while the hectic need for league points could be just the ticket that Parky needs to start a winning run.
He'll have to wait a while however to pencil in the teamsheet as its the turn of the year and all those loan deals are ending or renewing and there's the added complication that clubs appear to be reluctant to allow their loan players to be cup-tied.
At the moment we can welcome back Darren Ambrose, quiet at the back, while loanees McEveley, Bouazza and Waghorn were initially reported to be all missing although it now seems that Fulham have finally agreed to allow Bouazza to play.
And unless Parky quickly agrees an extension with Pompey then Cranie will also be missing at right-back, as his loan period has officially ended, perhaps giving Moutaouakil his first game since the 5-2 defeat to Sheffield. Or will Parky remember that the only time Semedo has started at right-back was on the opening day of the season when a 2-0 win deceived us all.
So the possibility of a changed teamsheet but if Moutaouakil does play and with Basey or Youga returning we could see the attacking fullbacks that so many are pushing for but will Parky be sensible and rest Hudson before the crucial Forest game? He's on 4 yellows and another in the cup could see both him and Bailey miss the 6 pointer although the only possible replacement for him now that Primus has left would be Youga or Semedo.
Meanwhile in midfield Bailey will be playing his last game for a fortnight before his suspension but who will partner him in the centre? Holland or Semedo? Holland would seem to be in the ascendancy at the moment and should keep his place but without a striker scoring in the last three games and with Bouaza apparently operating behind Burton last time out will Parky try to persevere with 5 man midfield of Bailey, Basey and Bouazza abetted by Holland and Sam that he sent out against Sheffield? I think he will because against a weaker team than Sheffield we could well have held out and won the game.

Elliot; Moutaouakil, Hudson, Fortune, Youga; Sam, Bailey, Holland, Basey, Bouazza; Burton.

Prediction Will it be another early cup exit or as Killer predicts a win at last. Of course, the 16 game run relates to League games only and even if we won on Saturday the abysmal run in the League would still be there but a win, however lucky, could be the tonic to lift the team, and us. And it would be typical Charlton to win against Norwich in front of the smallest crowd for years without all those missing season tickets holders and then follow it up by losing to Forest the following week. So in a changing mood, the last forecast I'm offering this season is a win for the Addicks, 1-0.