Friday 31 October 2008

Barnsley Preview

It's the proverbial six-pointer against Barnsley on Saturday and if Pardew is not feeling the pressure for this one, he should be. It seems that we were lucky to come away with a point from Ipswich after a lacklustre performance from another much changed side. It hardly bodes well when the opposition manager says it looks like we went there to get beaten. Apparently we appeared more likely to score once we had got our goal, it's just a shame there were only eight minutes left by that point.

The opinion on the blogs since the Ipswich game seems to be one of general resignation that Pardew is not the man to take us forward. Unfortunately, without a win in five now, it is becoming increasingly difficult to disagree and if we don't get a result this weekend then the end could very well be nigh. He's running out of time and options and he needs a convincing and spirited display from this team against the Tykes to give him a fighting chance. However, to use his own words, we are currently 'a team in recovery' so whether we will see such a performance is far from certain.

One of the most frustrating aspects of Pardew's managerial reign to date has been his inability to pick a consistent side, so it's no surprise that the official website is reporting that 'he may tinker with his starting XI again for the game' (more). After the radical changes against Burnley, he returned to a more recognised line up against Ipswich. Apparently the new 'formula' that he had been working on wasn't the answer he was hoping for, something most of the crowd at the Burnley game could have told him before a ball was kicked. Perhaps it is to his credit that Pardew was quick to recognise his mistake, but some would say dropping Josh Wright, Grant Basey and Izale McLeod (all starters against Burnley) from the mid-week squad all together merely highlights the fact that he doesn't know what he's doing.

To be completely honest, I think the team he picks for the Barnsley game is largely irrelevant. He says he needs to pick a side which he feels 'will show more offensively than they did at Ipswich', which could be perceived as his way of saying that we can't create a chance for love nor money at the moment. We hardly have a wealth of attacking options, but we do need to have a go on Saturday. Barnsley are unbeaten in three and just notched their first away win of the season at Doncaster on Tuesday so will have their tails up. However, they do have the worst goal tally away from home in the league (that's two) and the worst overall away record (five defeats out of seven). We can't afford to muck this up.

At the back, I would imagine Pardew will stick with Hudson and Cranie at the centre of defence and I would hope with Yassin at right back, although his substitution for Semedo against Ipswich does leave you wondering. I don't know why Basey was dropped on Tuesday, especially when he had a decent enough game against Burnley and delivered the free kick for our equaliser. Kelly Youga didn't exactly make a great impression on his return with the concession of a penalty, so I'd like to see the Welshman restored to the starting XI.

I would only make one change in midfield I think, replacing Darren Ambrose with Hameur Bouazza. Ambrose has frankly done nothing this season to warrant a place on the pitch and, whilst occasionally frustrating, at least Bouazza has a bit of pace about him and creates chances either for himself or team mates (Nicky Bailey's goal against Ipswich being the obvious example). Pardew seems reluctant to play Semedo in central midfield and with Josh Wright seemingly out of the picture again, I can't see past Bailey and Holland for the starting positions (although there is always the option of bringing back Jonjo Shelvey). I would expect to see Lloyd Sam on the right wing.

Up front, Pardew predictably stuck with Varney again Ipswich for another zero return. Don't be surprised to see his name on the team sheet again on Saturday. He desperately needs a break, if only to drop to the subs bench, but one suspects he would make the starting XI even if he urinated in Pardew's kit bag. Continued resistance to play Chris Dickson from the first whistle and Izale McLeod's disappearance from Tuesday's squad means that it's likely to be one of Todorov and Gray to partner little Luke. With Gray not even on the bench for the last two games and Todorov saving Pardew's bacon last weekend, I expect the Bulgarian to start in spite of a mediocre mid-week performance. Of course, Stuart Fleetwood is back from his loan at Cheltenham Town but surely throwing him at the deep end would represent too much of a gamble, even for Pardew?

Inevitably this won't be correct, but I predict that the following team will be doing battle for us on Saturday: Weaver; Moutaouakil, Hudson, Cranie, Basey; Sam, Bailey, Holland, Bouazza; Todorov, Varney. Subs: Elliot, Primus, Semedo, Ambrose, Dickson.

The negative way to approach this game would be to highlight the fact that we haven't won in five, the positive way would be to remind ourselves that we haven't lost in two and have come from behind on both occasions to secure a point. We really need to score first against Barnsley to get the crowd on side and give the players a bit of belief. In his interview Pardew at least acknowledged the following: "In the past when we've got the first goal we've been restricted so we're trying to get into a mode where we get the first goal, then go on and get a second and then a third". I just hope that this isn't more meaningless rhetoric and he can actually deliver, or else he will be left without any more straws to clutch at.

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Ipswich Town Preview

The games are coming thick and fast at the moment, with a mid-week trip to Ipswich for the Addicks this evening. Kelvin and I made the relatively short trip to Portman Road last season for a game which was best forgotten (I always seem to be saying this!) as our play-off hopes took another dent, so I hope for better on this occasion. It was of course only three weeks ago that the Tractor Boys were at The Valley, a game for which I was absent although the reports were hardly glowing in spite of a 2-1 win. Saturday's encounter with Burnley will certainly have given Pards something to think about in his team selection and it's fair to say we won't see the same starting XI (well, let's hope not anyway).

With the exception of Nicky Weaver, Pardew seems to have played every player in every position in which they are comfortable so far this season and you would hope he knows his best team by now. I'm pretty sure he doesn't but Saturday should have given him some clues and I hope this is reflected in tomorrow's side.

Starting at the back, hopefully the penny has dropped that Martin Cranie is not a full back (left or right). He looked completely out of position on the left on Saturday and the decision was even more baffling given that Grant Basey and Kelly Youga were both available. However, he did put in a relatively assured performance at centre back in the second half in place of the tiring Linvoy Primus. On this basis, I would start him alongside Mark Hudson in central defence with Grant Basey moving to left back. I'm not sure what Pardew's thoughts are on Kelly Youga at the moment but I don't get the impression he'll be bringing him back for this game. At right back, Yassin put in a decent performance against the Clarets so it's difficult to see him being displaced.

Once again, we are left guessing what formation Pardew is going to play so there could be an extra midfield place up for grabs. Lloyd Sam has made an impact in the past two games when he has come off the bench and is deserving of a starting place in my opinion. Curiously the official website ( more) speculates that he could play on the 'left flank' which is confusing and would be a waste. He seems to link up particularly well with Moutaouakil on the right, not to mention the fact that he is right footed of course, so to play him on the other side of the pitch does not make sense. I would want to see Bouazza return to the left flank but the same official match preview doesn't even mention him so he may not be in Pardew's thoughts (or am I reading too much into this?). I expect we will see Ambrose on one side of the pitch or the other against his former club, although I don't think he deserves this on the back of his last couple of performances.

In the centre of the park, Nicky Bailey had a poor game and looked like he was missing an experienced partner in the middle. Whilst I thought Josh Wright's second half performance against Burnley was encouraging, I'm not sure it merits a starting role tonight and I would imagine that Matt Holland will return. I would actually like to see Semedo given a chance alongside Bailey although I doubt Pardew shares my view on this one. He also has Jonjo Shelvey at his disposal after he returned from England Under-17 duty, although I would not expect him to make an appearance here.

So what's going to happen up front? Todorov deserves a start after digging us out of trouble on Saturday, and although he may tire I think he will be given that chance. I don't think he is the kind of striker you can play up front by himself, and for that reason I think Pards will give him a partner to run around with. I would not expect that to be Izale McLeod given his performance at the weekend and he may be lucky to get a place on the bench. No mention of Chris Dickson in the official preview and I'm struggling to think what he's done wrong. He's been given a few minutes here and there at the end of a handful games during which he has at least shown a little bit of urgency. I appreciate he's not the finished article, but did McLeod really deserve a chance ahead of him on Saturday?

In all likelihood Pardew will probably turn to one of his two experienced strikers: Luke Varney and Andy Gray. The mental pressure must be mounting on Varney and I honestly think he needs to be rested for this game (watch him start and score a hat-trick). Furthermore, as New York Addick points out, Pardew risks losing further credibility by persisting with a player who is simply not doing what he is put on the field to do. There is every chance that he will make space for him out wide which to some extent would remove the responsibility from little Luke of being on the pitch to primarily score goals, but that would be burying his head in the sand. Having said all this, Andy Gray and Svetoslav Todorov do not strike me as a natural partnership so Varney will probably get a start.

So all things considered, here is how I see then lining up: Weaver; Moutaouakil, Hudson, Cranie, Basey; Sam, Bailey, Holland, Ambrose; Todorov, Varney. Subs: Eliot, Primus, Wright, Bouazza, Gray.

Ipswich are probably favourites for this one having been unbeaten since we took all three points from them at The Valley, and you certainly wouldn't bet against Kevin Lisbie scoring after he found the net against Plymouth at the weekend. I hope (and it is hope, not expectation) that we can come away with at least a point and build a bit of confidence ahead of Saturday's fixture against Barnsley, but we need Pardew to pick a team which will give us a fighting chance of doing that.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Charlton 1-1 Burnley

A point won or two lost? On reflection, a draw was probably a fair result but I'm pretty sure Luke Varney won't have been sleeping too easily since Saturday. It was the typical game of two halves: in the first half we didn't look like we knew what we were doing, second half we actually resembled a football team.

Pardew's choice of starting XI was radical, baffling and unsuccessful. Andy Gray wasn't even a substitue and neither were Kelly Youga or Jose Semedo, with Izale McLeod, Josh Wright and Grant Basey along with the returning Mark Hudson making the starting line up. Holland and Bouazza had to make do with a place on the bench. The most worrying aspect of the line up was seeing Martin Cranie start at left back. It seems Pardew will fit him into the team wherever a space becomes available so don't be surprised to see him start up front against Ipswich on Tuesday.

Anyway, whatever Alan had in mind with his new look team didn't work . We looked completely disjointed and I don't recall us having a shot on goal in the first half. It could have been worse as well had it not been for the referee ruling out Martin Paterson's strike which he initially appeared to have let stand. As it was, we fell behind shortly afterwards when Steven Thompson lashed home what looked to be a fairly avoidable goal. Not much else noteworthy happened in a first half which I imagine the players and crowd will want to forget.

Nothing was happening for us. Josh Wright looked out of his depth, Nicky Bailey was having a poor game, Cranie looked out of place at left back, Ambrose was having his usual frustrating game, and please do not get me started on Izale McLeod. I have no idea why he was started ahead of Chris Dickson (who did not even get a place on the bench and must be wondering what he has done wrong), and it's fair to say he hardly cemented his place in the side. He contributed absolutely nothing and it was to everybody's relief that he was withdrawn at half time.

Pardew threw on Lloyd Sam and Svetoslav Todorov at the interval and we started to look like we kind of knew what we were doing. Josh Wright looked more assured, Sam added a bit more thrust and Todorov showed how a striker should position himself and he was on hand to nod in Grant Basey's free kick with 15 minutes remaining. It looked so easy but we've made heavy weather of easy chances all season, a point rammed home when Luke Varney somehow managed to miss having rounded the Brian Jensen in the Burnley goal. To be fair, he had been forced wide but this is a striker we paid two million quid for so you do expect better. When the full time whistle went, the team were actually applauded off the field by a crowd who I thought were excellent throughout.

Pardew's starting XI was worryingly bad and really did strike me as a panic selection. If the first half performance had carried over to the second then I honestly think he would no longer be the manager of Charlton Athletic. To give him his dues though, he recognised that he had made a mistake and the substitutions he made at half time paid off. What will be interesting is to see whether he's actually learnt from this and makes a decent team selection at Ipswich tomorrow evening. Barnsley at home next Saturday is probably the more important game, but if we can get something from the trip to Portman Road then so much the better. If we play like we did in the second half, there is a chance that we might.

Friday 24 October 2008

Burnley Preview

To say it's been a rollercoaster week as a Charlton fan would be somewhat of an understatement. I can't remember the last time there has been so much thought and comment on the blogs, and a lot of my week has been spent reading and digesting it all. Opinions of events both on and off the field have been varied and it's pretty clear that emotions are running high amongst the Addickted right now (and with good reason).

The withdrawal of Zabeel Investments from negotiations yesterday was a blow, but after close to a two week gap after their initial 'indicative offer', perhaps not all that surprising. Like many, I'm not entirely convinced that their reasons for withdrawal completely stack up. There was a genuine eagerness amongst most for this deal to go through, and I include myself in that number. But now the deal is dead, I have started to ask myself whether there would have been such an appetite for it had the situation on the pitch not been so bad.

I think the reason many were so keen for this deal is that it presented itself as a kind of escape route from our current plight, buying ourselves out of trouble if you like. Manager not getting the results? Sack him and to hell with the financial consequences. Strikers not scoring? Buy a couple of new ones in January. As frustrated as I am about our manager not getting us results and our strikers not scoring us goals, it would be far more rewarding to come up with a more constructive and measured approach to the problem than simply throwing cash at it. I am conscious that this could be perceived as showing a lack of ambition and willingness to move forwards, but maybe I'm just stuck in the Charlton way of things.

Regardless of opinions on the takeover (or lack of), it's crucial that the club moves on quickly. Lest we forget, it's still about eleven men on a field on a Saturday afternoon trying to win a football match. This is something which we've not being too well at of late if it had escaped your attention. I wrote Tuesday's match report without having heard Pardew's press comments. Unfortunately I found them to be as predictable as I did disappointing. He commented that we 'lost our way' in the second half and also trotted out the usual line about bringing in 'fresh faces' for the next game (although worryingly he did say that this could be from 'outside the squad', which I hope doesn't mean he's thinking about starting one of the tea ladies up front or something).

To say we lost our way in the second half is to state the obvious and anybody at the ground on Tuesday could have told you that. The question is WHY we did, something which he failed to address. Fresh faces are all well and good, but are Josh Wright (promising youngster with no first team experience) and Izale McLeod (long term injury victim who hardly proved himself when fit) really going to be the solution? They are no better than the players who started in their positions on Tuesday. Pardew seems to be missing point. It's all about how to get the most out of the team you have on the field for ninety minutes, which he simply is not doing right now.

So what to expect tomorrow? Today's latest from Pards creates more questions than it does answers to be honest (more) and a detailed breakdown of this interview would take more time than I have at my disposal right now unfortunately. He does assure us however that he is going to change the team a bit, as well as the 'formula' of the way we play. What this means I have no idea but it sounds like a man on his last roll of the dice and I hope it pays off because we badly need a win.

For tomorrow, the return of Mark Hudson to central defence after his suspension is a given I would imagine. I thought Moutaouakil had a decent enough game at right back on Tuesday so would like him to retain his place, and I would also like to see Sam return on the wing to compliment the Frenchman. Matt Holland could do with a rest so I would put Jose Semedo in a defensive midfield role to allow Nicky Bailey to push forward. With Varney being given Pardew's backing despite missing a couple of decent opportunities against Bristol City, I expect Gray will be sacrificed with Todorov taking his place.

I have more chance of my lottery numbers coming up than predicting accurately the team which will take the field tomorrow, but here's my guess: Weaver; Moutaouakil, Hudson, Primus, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Bailey, Bouazza; Todorov, Varney. Subs: Elliot, Cranie, Holland, Gray, Dickson.

It's pretty clear that the team needs some support from the fans, and it's been throughly encouraging to read the comments on the blogs of those who are intent on providing it. We have a part to play in getting us out of the situation we're in and I will be there tomorrow to try and do my bit along with a few thousand others. If the players show as much of an eagerness and desire to fight back as the supporters, we might still be alright.

Thursday 23 October 2008

It never rains but it pours

The official club website has just ruined my day with the news that the Zabeel Investments takeover deal is not going to be happening (more). It has decided to focus on 'domestic opportunities in Dubai that complement the current Zabeel Investments portfolio'. Combined with 'the current debate around foreign ownership of football clubs and the worsening economic climate in the UK', that's good enough reason for them to do one apparently.

The due diligence process must have meant the Zabeel people weren't really watching the football, as the parting shot of the statement was to wish the team 'every success in its quest for promotion this season and moving forward'. Thanks a lot. This news could hardly have come at a worse time and the much hoped for lift ahead of the Burnley fixture has evapourated. So it's a case of as you were ... 20th in the Championship and no money to spend. Any kind of good news would be very welcome right now!

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Charlton 0-2 Bristol City

Suffice to say, that was not the evening I was hoping for. It hadn't started well for me as I had to bunk off work early to get to the game, much to the annoyance of my boss and then had a pretty horrible journey to the ground. Things were looking up when I got to the Valley though when I heard that Yassin Moutaouakil had made the starting line up, and was then served a pint by a very cheerful and happy barmaid (which you don't find too often at the ground).

Everything seemed to be alright on the pitch as well to start with. Pardew had gone for what seemed to be a 4-5-1, with Ambrose playing behind Gray, Varney on the left and Bouazza switching to the right. For the opening twenty or so minutes we were all over them, and I think the clock was at 38 seconds when Varney found himself with only Adriano Basso to beat yet somehow failing. After that Kelly Youga went close with a decent shot from range, Ambrose and Bouazza were both denied good efforts and Andy Gray hit the post. And then it started to go wrong …

If I am honest, I got distracted in the build up to their first goal for a reason I can't remember (perhaps trying to figure out if we had ever turned out two loanees as a central defensive pair, or whether this was the first occasion we had two dreadlocked players in the starting XI … questions for another time) but when I had refocused I saw Lee Trundle bearing down on goal. He found the net when we we couldn't in seven previous attempts. You could almost see the confidence drain out of the men in red instantly, as well as the crowd. I doubt very much the boos at half time helped very much to be honest and personally thought they were entirely unnecessary. That said, I felt the frustration as much as the next man.

By the time their second goal arrived in the 52nd minute, we could easily have been a couple more down had it not been for Nicky Weaver. When it did arrive, Gavin Williams was given far too much time and space (sound familiar?) to curl in his shot and there was frankly little that Weaver could have done about it. Lloyd Sam and Chris Dickson were thrown on and at least showed a bit of urgency, with Todorov coming on slightly later to much less effect. Varney headed wide a decent opportunity late on and that pretty much summed up the evening. There was probably half the crowd left at the end to hear the team booed off the pitch.

It's so frustrating to watch us play the way we did for the first twenty minutes and then self destruct so easily. Players were literally transformed. Youga started brightly but then went into careless idiot form, Bouazza went from attacking threat to a bit part contributor … I could go on. Our manner of play in the second half compared to Bristol City's was like night and day. Their players were moving for the ball, looking for the pass, trying to make something happen. Charlton looked static, uninspired and showed little signs of positive movement.

To make matters worse, Norwich and Barnsley both won which moves us down a place and now just two points off the bottom three. I am afraid the evidence suggests we have got worse since last season. Back then we accumulated thirteen points from games against Sheffield Wednesday and Bristol City at home, and Crystal Palace, Preston North End and Cardiff City away. This season … nothing. I haven't begun to address Pardew's part in another deeply disappointing display but I'll wait until I'm a bit less tired and have had heard his press conference comments. Suffice to say, in a world where the phrase 'must win game' is rather overused, Saturday's home tie against Burnley really is a must win game.

Monday 20 October 2008

Bristol City Preview

Tomorrow night will be the first mid-week league fixture at the Valley this season with a visit from Bristol City. The same fixture last season was also a mid-week encounter resulting in 1-1 draw. Bristol City were league leaders at the time and it wasn't difficult to see why. Their compact and tidy brand of football demonstrated why they were mounting a promotion bid whilst we were stuttering, even is they did ultimately fall just short. They have not started out so strongly this term but sit just one point outside of the play-off places after a 1-0 victory over Norwich at the weekend.

We desperately need a win tomorrow, both to lift morale and improve on our desperate 19th place league position. With Hudson and Semedo both banned for this one after events at Cardiff, Pardew will be forced into a couple of changes, although it's not like he needs an excuse these days.

The only positive that you could possibly take from the two suspensions is that we might, and this is a massive might, see the long overdue return of Yassin Moutaouakil to the right back slot with Cranie moving inside to centre half. Yassin has been out of the side since the Preston game now for no discernible reason that I can make out. His replacement has hardly impressed having been hauled half way through the last two matches, and with not even a place on the subs bench for poor Yass I do wonder if something's going on here. We will probably find out tomorrow because as the official club website suggests (more), another alternative would be for Youga to move into the centre and Basey to move to left back. This would mean that a) we have a left back playing centre half, b) Martin Cranie will still be playing right back and c) I'll be very unhappy. Throw us a bone with this one please Pards.

I can't imagine any changes to the midfield, although there might be a place for Josh Wright on the bench given how short we are after suspensions, injuries and Jonjo Shelvey disappearing to play for England Under-17's (not great timing that). I don't know whether Svetoslav Todorov didn't make it off the bench on Saturday because we lost half our defence, or because he was being rested for this one, but either way I think we will see him start up front with Luke Varney. Andy Gray will probably have to settle for a place on the bench with Chris Dickson banging his head against a wall somewhere presumably.

I hesitate to predict a team, but I always do so here is what I am going for: Weaver; Moutaouakil, Cranie, Primus, Youga; Ambrose, Bailey, Holland, Bouazza; Todorov, Varney. Subs: Elliot, Basey, Sam, Gray, Wright.

If I'm being totally honest, I don't see us getting anything more than a point of this game and our rehashed defensive line has got to be on form to contain Trundle and co. We need to play the Robins at their own game - keep the ball, keep it on the deck and show a bit of determination and character. I really want to come out of The Valley smiling tomorrow evening so please, please can we have a win?!

Fed to the Bluebirds

"The lack of comment on blogs at the weekend was quite staggering and indicative of how feelings are running."

Oh dear. Different team selection, same result. I think the above comment from Pembury Addick neatly summarises the mood amongst Charlton fans right now. If the Zabeel offer doesn't come off then it's going to be a long hard winter without much to look forward to if things continue as they are.

By all accounts Charlton started brightly at Ninian Park but were stopped in their tracks by Ross McCormack's 18th minute goal. It was again slightly bizarre of Pardew to start with Martin Cranie at right back only to withdraw him at half time for Jose Semedo. Of course, this didn't work out very well on this occasion. The game was lost by the time Mark Hudson got his marching orders but the resulting ban is the more worrying aspect of this and his presence will be missed in the centre of defence. We now have two home games in a row and I would suggest that anything less than four points out of six against Burnley and Bristol City should be considered a failure.

On a brighter note, Kelvin and I had a great evening last night indugling ourselves in some American football watching. The NFL is throwing up some big surprises this season and it's been interesting viewing. The Tony Romo-less Dallas Cowboys lost their second game on the spin with a shock defeat to the St. Louis Rams, Buffalo and Tennessee both continued their impressive starts to the season, whilst the hapless Cincinnati Bengals went 0-7 with a loss at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Friday 17 October 2008

Cardiff City Preview

With all the news and views this week surrounding the potential takeover at The Valley, it would be pretty easy to forget that there is a game to be played this weekend. The Addicks make their way across the Anglo-Welsh border to take on Cardiff in a match would could see us overtake our hosts in the table to get somewhere close to the play-off places, or conversely edge closer towards the relegation trap door. Our opponents are not to be taken lightly having made a solid start to the season, losing just once. A mid-week victory at Ninian Park in early December last season was an encouraging victory, even if things unravelled shortly afterwards, and we will do well to get a similar result tomorrow.

Having missed the last couple of games, I feel slightly out of touch with proceedings but have read enough reports to understand that things have not drastically improved following the Sheffield Wednesday game. One thing I have stressed from the start of the season, and which I thought Pardew was doing quite well at at the start of season, is the need to keep a settled starting XI. It seems however that AP has got back into the habit of tinkering with the side in an attempt to chance upon a winning formula. It strikes me that he really does not know what is best team is and this, more than anything, is my biggest concern.

Another worry is his recent habit of switching to 4-5-1 for away fixtures. If it was an effective alternative then I could perhaps understand, but it doesn't exactly seemed to worked wonders. It is pretty obvious to everybody watching that Luke Varney is not a lone striker and never will be. So the formation essentially dictates that we soak up pressure, try and hold out for a draw and sneak a goal if we're lucky. This is hardly the style of football of a team confident of gaining promotion.

Anyway, we are where we are and Mr. Pardew has some interesting decisions to make ahead of the trip to Cardiff. Whilst the loud cries on the Charlton blogs for the return of Yassin Moutaouakil to the right back spot continue to go unheard, there is the distinct possibility that Jose Semedo will claim the position following Martin Cranie's dismal showing against Ipswich. I can't imagine the remaining three at the back changing, although I wouldn't be surprised to see Cranie partner Hudson at centre half in place of Linvoy Primus. Youga continues to do just enough to deny Grant Basey a starting berth at left back.

The midfield line up has become a bit confused of late, although things have been simplified somewhat by the news that Zheng Zhi will be out for the next two to three months following foot surgery (more). I've expressed my disappointment at ZZ's absence enough times and I do now wonder whether we will seem him in the red of Charlton again. There must be wide spread relief amongst the Addickted that Nicky Bailey has recovered in time to start in the centre of midfield, presumably alongside Matt Holland. If Pardew does decide to go for 4-5-1, then there could be room for Darren Ambrose in the middle of the park too, with Sam and Bouazza on the wing. Sam is the player likely to make way if he decides to go for 4-4-2, with Ambrose moving to the right.

Up front, I'd be pretty frustrated if I was Andy Gray. You're the club's top scorer of the campaign, finding some form and score the only goal in a hard fought away win at Doncaster. You then get dropped for the next game at Forest, and then make way for Darren Ambrose against Palace and for a striker only just returning to fitness against Ipswich. All the while Luke Varney is not exactly firing them in left, right and centre. I doubt he'll get a start tomorrow but I wish he would. I imagine Varney will be up front by himself in a 4-5-1 or partnering Svetoslav Todorov in a 4-4-2.

The team Pardew puts out probably depends on what he has for breakfast, but I'm predicting the following: Weaver; Semedo, Hudson, Primus, Youga; Sam, Ambrose, Bailey, Holland, Bouazza; Varney. Subs: Elliot, Cranie, Basey, Todorov, Gray.

I can't imagine this being a very pretty game and any points we take away we will have to work hard for. Pardew needs to get his team selection correct, but the players also need to prove that they have the stomach for a fight. With potential new owners looking on, everybody should be aware of the need to make a good impression. I hope they do just that.

Monday 13 October 2008

Catching Up ...

As Kelvin mentioned in the Wednesday match report, I've been on holiday for the past couple of weeks sampling the insanity of Las Vegas, as well as the somewhat calmer surroundings of the Californian coast, so please excuse me for the lack of updates to the blog. I flew out the day after the Sheffield Wednesday game and was frankly too annoyed to write a report before I left of a match which is best forgotten. I subsequently made a conscious effort not to follow the football whilst I was away for fear of dampening my mood during my time off. Inevitably news of the Palace result reached me however, although I managed to deal with this with the help of about ten pints. I was in a slightly happier place when I heard we got a much needed win over Ipswich, albeit courtesy of an own goal.

Since I got back I've spent a fair amount of time reading and digesting reports and comments on the blogs of these two games, and it hasn't been encouraging reading. Confused team selections and formations, abject performances and surfacing doubts about whether Pardew is the right man for the job seem to be the prevalent themes. For my part, it is difficult to comment having not been at the past two games but the Sheffield Wednesday game alone was enough to raise some serious concerns. I made a conscious effort at the start of the season to take a positive approach to the club this season, but watching Wednesday dance through our defence twice in the space of five minutes was in itself enough to overturn any kind of self enforced optimism.

I think it is fair to say that Pardew realises he walking a tightrope right now. As much as I want to believe he is the man to take us forward, I'm afraid his record to date suggests otherwise. Whilst I don't hold him accountable for our relegation a couple of seasons ago, there were certainly games at the end of the season (draws against Reading and Sheffield United spring to mind) which left you wondering what might have been. Since then his Championship record has been average and his signings have been largely unsuccessful. For me, he talks the talk very well but has not been able to walk the walk. Reading his interviews and programme notes, I always get the impression he has the situation under control and that he has a master plan to take us back to the Premiership. Unfortunately, results have suggested otherwise and I think it is inevitable that questions are now being asked.

Of course, events off the field have taken on greater significance in the past few days. I was back in the country when news broke of the 'indicative offer' from Zabeel Investments. I was slumped on the sofa enjoying a cup of tea when Mark Bright popped up on the sports section of the London news with details of the potential deal. I had to quickly swap the tea for something stronger to try and believe what I was hearing and subsequent reading around this has been fascinating. Like most of the blogs, I am approaching this with cautious optimism. I won't allow myself to get too carried away until everything has been signed, sealed and delivered, and I would be extremely surprised if there was not a complication or two.

In an added twist (particularly for this blog), I read this on the Guardian website today. It seems ridiculous and is a very outside possibility, but Kelvin and I could soon find ourselves supporting clubs owned by the same people. I suggested to him today that this should mean that players are allowed to interchange freely between us and Liverpool. For example, we give them Darren Ambrose and Jon Fortune for the season, they give us Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard. Sounds fair … doesn't it?!

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Charlton 1-2 Sheffield Wednesday *sigh*

Football is a 90 minute game. It requires 90 minutes of concentration and at the top level (which includes the Championship), lapses in concentration are generally exposed and momentum can be gained and/or lost in a matter of seconds (or goals).

With Richard away sampling the delights of Las Vegas this week (oh how the other half live hey!! :) – I thought I’d provide the match review for our match against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.

A work colleague is a Wednesday fan and his face on Monday morning said it all. He’d expected nothing and came away with an early Christmas present. If I’m honest, I thought this match was a given. I thought that we’d enjoy a victory and thought it would be comprehensive as well. Sadly, I was wrong.

Charlton started the match well and were dominant in significant chunks of the first 45 minutes of play, but as we’ve experienced all too often this season, dominance does not win games. Goals do.

Charlton welcomed back the dred-locked veteran Linvoy Primus who rejoined Charlton from Portsmouth and was making his first appearance for the Addicks in over 15 years and within the first ten minutes, he’d nearly put the Addicks in front with a lovely header. Instead, it was striker Luke Varney who put Charlton in front on 20 minutes. Varney was again in the mixer when he hit the post on 25 minutes, but strike partner Andy Gray was unable to turn the ball into the net from the rebound.

It seemed as though Charlton were cruising to many but as the end of the first half approached in two minutes of madness, Sheffield Wednesday not only equalized, but also took the lead. Wednesday’s first goal came from Wade Small who must have called on divine intervention as the red shirts parted and after seeing off a tackle from Mark Hudson fired home thanks in part to the post that helped guide the ball into the net. Wednesday’s second came two minutes later courtesy of Marcus Tudgay as he danced into the Charlton half and was given FAR FAR too much time before he fired home to put the visitors 2 up on the stroke of half time.

Conceding before half time is a huge blow at the best of times, conceding two goals within the last 5 minutes of the half is just self destruction and if I’m brutally honest, its happened far too much this season. I’m finding it hard to pinpoint the cause, but I do think that something needs to be done at the back, in the middle and up front, because it is just not working. Is rotating the team the right thing to do? I’m not so sure. I think the important thing is getting a team settled to allow them to bed in… the problem however, is that I don’t think Pard’s knows what his best team is. I think he left it too late to get this decided. In my opinion, the first few preseason games are about giving everyone a run around and giving the young lads some experience, but for the last few games, it’s about getting the team to settle down and build a mutual confidence in each other, something which I don’t think our players currently have.

Palace (a), Ipswich (h), Cardiff (a) and Bristol City (h) await in our next 4 matches and unless the team find this mutual confidence, we are going to struggle to get what we deserve from these matches. I’m confident that the team will come good, just hope that the players have this confidence and that they understand that they are a top side in this division and that they should be fighting for promotion.