Monday 31 December 2007

Colchester look vulnerable.....

New Years Day at the Valley promises to be a heartening experience and could set us up for a great 2008.

Colchester United are the visitors and they will arrive with the least confidence of anyone this season. They are bottom of the division. They have managed just one victory in the last 14 games and none in the last six. On Saturday, 17th placed Blackpool beat them 2-0 at Layer Road and by all accounts it was their worst display of the season and they were lucky the margin wasn't bigger. Their keeper Dean Gerken played a blinder.

So then, it looks clear to me - all we have to do is put out an attacking formation and get at them. Thomas and Sam must be told to take their full-backs on and run into space every time they get the ball. The full-backs must also get forward and support. We have to open them up and create chances because a goal is probably all it will take for their heads to go down. We need some urgency and we must create prolonged spells of pressure.

We need to play 4-4-2. I would start with the same back four (Moutaouakil, McCarty, Fortune and Powell) with Holland and Semedo in front of them in the centre. Thomas and Sam on the flanks with Iwelumo and Varney up front. Chris Dickson has to start as substitute and I would let Varney know that he has 45 minutes to help us get in front or Dickson starts the second half.

Assuming things go to plan, I really think we need to press on in this game and try and rack up some goals. There is no excuse for slowing down at 2-0 or using the occasion to give players a breather by bring on substitues, unless they go on with the instructions to continue to press forward.

Anything less than a victory will be unacceptable if we are to continue to challenge for automatic pomotion.

Come on Charl-ton!

Sunday 30 December 2007

Weekend Championship Review

That's it - no more gambling for me this season. My new on-line account shows a depressing series of debits and no credits this year. Who would have forecast Boro winning at Pompey or QPR at Watford?

The Championship continues to be largely unpredictable and is the tightest of the four divisions with only 25 points separating top from bottom (I got four correct results and one correct score yesterday). Watford's home form is becoming a bit of a Jonah for them and we have to hope it continues until after we visit them. West Brom are beginning to look like they will skate away with the top spot and their goal difference looks unassailable and effectively gives them another point. They have three away games in the next four and we have to hope that they will suffer a couple of defeats; Ipswich on New Years day will be a toughie and they also have to go to Hull and Preston.

Bristol City and Stoke are now occupying 3rd and 4th places and are 4 and 2 points respectively ahead of us. Bristol City have had their wobble and are putting a run of results together. Stoke too look a form side and we need to catch the pair of them because Watford look like they could drop out of second in the coming weeks. Our next two home games could prove pivotal in terms of ambitions for the rest of the season. We must be looking for 6 points from bottom-placed Colchester and 17th placed Blackpool. If we can do this we should make ground on the teams above us and we may then get the opportunity to leapfrog Watford and Stoke when we play them on 19th and 29th January.

In addition to facing us in January, Stoke must also go to Ipswich and will do well to survive both of those unscathed. Bristol City, by comparison, look to have an easier month. They have Coventry and and Colchester at home, followed by Palace away and then Blackpool at home.

It's not worth worrying about the sides below us because if we can't stay in touch with those above us we will are going to fade anyway. However, Palace are on a good run and proving hard to beat, although I thought they rode their luck at Bramall Lane on Saturday. Plymouth are still in touch and will be close to a play-off spot come May. Close behind them are Ipswich and Wolves. I don't think Wolves have enough quality to get promoted but Ipswich have, if they can overcome their appalling away form.

The January transfer window offers the prospect of changing the balance but I think it will take some biggish money (£5m+) for any of the top 10 to make any significant changes to their fortunes. West Brom will probably feel like they are doing well enough. I'm not sure Watford or Bristol City have the funds. Stoke are not flush either and they face the added difficulty of attracting anyone to live near Potteries. Unless Richard Murray is playing a good game of transfer poker, we don't look like we'll be spending the requisite sums. Plymouth don't have it, which leaves Palace, Ipswich and Wolves. I suspect Neil Warnock will have agreed his transfer kitty when he took the job on and Jordan is usually reasonably supportive of new managers. Having said that, Warnock has been talking down his requirements in recent weeks. Ipswich have new funding and could get in a couple of quality players. Wolves will have something to spend, but not enough to make a major difference. Outside of these, Coventry should have some money to spend but they have ground to make up.

Best wishes for 2008 - let's hope that our injury situation improves dramatically this month because that will be like signing several new players!

Saturday 29 December 2007

Leicester City 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

I turned down an offer to go to this game because of train disruption out of Euston and the fact that I have a mate's birthday drink-up this evening. It was slightly more disappointing then to find out there was no live commentary available. Arlow White was covering the game for Radio 5 Live and described the first half as "extremely low on quality." Matt Holland mustered Charlton's first effort after 23 minutes and Leicester didn't get theirs until 32 minutes.

It looked grim after 78 minutes when Clemence scored for Leicester but there was a twist in the tale when Paddy McCarthy netted the equaliser in the last minute hooking home a loose ball at the back post. McCarthy's recent redemption continues apace and, having been early critic, I am happy to acknowledge it. Leicester fans rated him and you don't get Player of the Season awards without showing prolonged form and ability. This important goal gets us to 40 points and will do McCarthy's confidence a power of good.

Elsewhere, it was a mixed day for Addick fortunes. West Brom thumped Scunthorpe and Watford conceded four at home to QPR as their home record begins to make ours look good. Bristol City won at Burnley and Stoke drew with Plymouth. We are in desperate need of two successive home wins and we should expect to get them against Colchester and Blackpool.

The Big Bet

Right then - this will be the last bet of the season for me if it doesn't come in. I will cut my losses and put the money in the kids bank accounts instead. No pressure then.

This week Iam going for a 7 result accumulator but on slightly shorter odds; Birmingham, Chelsea, Portsmouth, Spurs, Watford, West Brom and Millwall. Roy Hodgson has yet to arrive at Fulham and they will be meat and drink for a pumped-up Brum. Chelsea's home record is frightening and Newcastle are playing like rabbits caught in the headlights. Pompey have had four scoring blanks at home recently and I fancy them to knock a few in against hapless Boro. Spurs should have too muh for Reading who have picked up a few points recently and will be feeling pleased with themselves. Watford and West Brom can increase their lead in the Championship with routine home wins and I think they will do just that. That leaves the Lions who had a good home win in the week and who will be fired-up for another today. Crewe blow hot and cold and more often than not it's cold away from home.....

A £30 outlay could net you £785....Good Luck!

Friday 28 December 2007

Weekend Championship Preview

Last football matches of 2007. Another disrupted Charlton side will limp out at the Walker Stadium where we will face an aerial bombardment with the re-united Fortune-McCarthy partnership which was so dodgy early season the most likley central defensive pairing. Hopefully, Paddy will continue his improved performances since returning to the side and, perhaps, will be driven by the added incentive of putting in a faultless display against his former club. If Fortune also puts in a decent shift, this could give us the platform for a result, although Iwleumo remains a doubt up front and Pards might need to consider giving Chris Dickson his first start with Varney in a 4-4-2 as we don't look capable of playing 4-5-1 without Big Chris.

Barnsley v Southampton

I'll go for Barnsley to edge passed temperamental Southampton, having let 2 points slip against Stoke in the last minute on Tuesday.

Prediction; 2-1

Burnley v Bristol City

Burnley could and should do us a favour here. After two draws they are due a win and I think they will get it.

Prediction; 2-0

Colchester United v Blackpool

Blackpool will be cock-a-hoop after thumping Coventry 4-0. They have only won twice on their travels this year but will fancy their chances at Colchester who look like a side who have lost all confidence.

Prediction; 1-2

Coventry City v Ipswich Town

Coventry's players will still be smarting from the Iain Dowie post-match rollicking following home defeat to Crystal Palace. This may be Michael Mifsud's last chance to score for the Sky Blues as he may be a Premier League target and Coventry might cash in as part of their rebuilding plans. Ipswich will surely get it right on the road soon, but not here I fear.

Prediction; 2-0

Leicester City v Charlton Athletic

A hard-fought game in prospect here and Charlton's fortunes will be built on the centre-back pairing. We showed plenty of character at Norwich and will need more of the same. I would have gone for a straightforward home win prior to the Norwich game but have reappraised our chances and will opt for another battling draw which both sides will probably be happy with.

Prediction; 1-1

Norwich City v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Norwich will feel they let two points slip on Boxing Day and Glenn Roeder will remind his players of this again before they step out against Wolves. The Old Gold slipped to a 2-0 defeat at Hull on Boxing Day and another defeat at lowly Norwich would represent a miserable Christmas. Wolves remind me so much of Newcastle - all that hope and optimism weathered by perpetual disappointment.

Prediction; 2-0

Plymouth Argyle v Stoke City

Plymouth are another home side this week who I believe will do us a favour. Stoke are on form and their battling display at Oakwell got them a point on Boxing Day with a last minute goal. It might be asking too much to expect them to do it again against a rejuvenated Argyle who also kept going to the final whistle against QPR.

Prediction; 2-1

Preston North End v Cardiff City

A dour game in prospect here; Preston lost at home to Scunthorpe on Boxing Day having won at Southampton in the previous game. Cardiff's fortunes have improved in recent games and they have moved several places clear of the drop zone. They might have pulled off a shock win at Watford but for a 93.5 minute equaliser - I think they can go one better here.

Prediction; 0-1

Sheffield United v Crystal Palace

It falls to Neil Warnock's old side to stem Palace's rise and I reckon they will have just about enough incentive for doing so.

Prediction; 2-1

Watford v QPR

Surely Watford's poor home form can't continue, can it? QPR will feel hard done by letting a point slip at Plymouth on Boxing day and it would have represented progress following their 2-1 win against Colchester. Much as we'd like to se it, I don't think lightning will strike again and Watford should get home comfortably here.

Prediction; 2-0

West Bromwich Albion v Scunthorpe United

Home banker of the day. Having scored 4 in successive home games against promotion rivals, thois looks like meat and drink to the Baggies.

Prediction; 3-0

Thursday 27 December 2007

A New Year's Dream....

With New Year fast approaching, little work to do and time for contemplation, I lapsed off into a world of my own thinking about what might be in 2008....

Tuesday 1st January- The biggest home gate of the season turns up the Valley to see Charlton thrash Colchester 4-0. Chris Iwleumo scores twice in the first half before being withdrawn as a precaution nursing a niggling injury. Matt Holland nets a 25 yard free kick to make the game safe and Luke Varney applies the gloss in the final minute with a swaggering finish after beating three players. Kevin Lisbie hits the woodwork in both halves by way of a Colchester consolation. The win moves Charlton back to 4th, seven points off the leaders.

Wednesday 2nd January - Although a Public Holiday in Scotland, Walter Smith comes back early to complete the permanent signing of Amdy Faye for £2m saying "now that we are out of Europe we need tougher characters who are committed to the cause to help us battle for the SPL title."

Friday 4th January - Despite his sending off in the Hull match and the game of bluff over a permanent move, Danny Mills agrees to a loan extension until the end of the season saying "it's better to be in the shop window than the stockroom."

Saturday 5th January - Mills celebrates his renaissance with a spectacular 30 yard winner in the F A Cup 3rd round to secure a 1-0 win against the Baggies.

Monday 7th January - Sam Sodje loan also extended until the end of the season as Steve Coppell decides Reading can survive in the Premier League without him. Charlton draw West Ham at the Valley in the fourth round.

Thursday 10th January - Izale McLeod moves to Crystal Palace for £2m as Neil Warnock swoops. Simon Jordan announces that he plans to travel to the Valley by train for the Friday 8th February clash to show solidarity for the Sydenham Cowards.

Friday 11th January - Alexander Song loan confirmed, Pardew says he starts in midfield at Blackpool tomorrow.

Saturday 12th January - Charlton win 2-0 at the seaside as Jerome Thomas and Luke Varney score in the first half to kill the game.

Monday 14th January - Double signings announced; James Beattie signs from Sheffield United for £2m saying he "couldn't bare another season outside the top flight." He is joined by Danny Murphy on a free transfer who acknowledges that "leaving Charlton was the biggest mistake of my career." He also announces his separation from his wife blaming "irreconcilable differences."

Tuesday 15th January - Andy Reid is running again and on track for a January comeback. He's had a bad bout of Delhi Belly, reputedly after a night out in Greenwich with Paddy McCarthy (who hasn't played since Boxing Day) and has reportedly lost a stone in weight.

Thursday 17th January - Sylvan Distin moves to Charlton for £1m having been unable to find another buyer in the transfer window.

Saturday 19th January - Charlton become the 8th side to win at Vicarage Road this season as James Beattie nets an injury time winner. Charlton move above Watford into second position, three points behind leaders West Brom.

Monday 21st January - Peter Varney announces "treble your money" as Charlton promise free season tickets for two years for all fans who renew before the end of March should Charlton fail to win promotion but manage it next season.

Tuesday 22nd January - Ben Thatcher, Osei Sankofa and Cory Gibbs all report for training.

Saturday 26th January - In front of a sell-out home crowd, Charlton ease pass an out-of-sorts West Ham with a 2-0 win. Alan Curbishley had rested eight players "but thought we still had enough to get a result."

Tuesday 29th January - Charlton go joint top after beating Stoke 2-1 at the Valley. Stoke took the lead but were blown away in the second half as Lloyd Sam and James Beattie both scored.

Thursday 31st January - Alan Pardew named Manager of the Month as Charlton sign contract to expand the east Stand during the close season to increase the capacity to 31,000.

You can guess the rest....

Wednesday 26 December 2007

Norwich City 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

Charlton ground out a draw at Carrow Road as the Red Mist claimed another victim. For the third time in the last four games, Charlton had a defender sent off and it cost them two points. All this at a time when injuries are severely limiting Alan Pardew's options. Charlton's disciplinary record under Alan Pardew has been in marked contrast to that under Alan Curbishley where we were invariably in the running for the Fair Play award. Maybe that is more a reflection on playing in the Championship than anything attributable to management styles.

Jonathon Fortune and Danny Mills were spectators today having been sent off in recent games and Sam Sodje joined them following a two-footed tackle on Darel Russell after 30 minutes. It might have been so different if Sodje had managed to stay on the pitch as Charlton were leading thanks to a Zheng Zhi strike when he saw red. The Addicks had weathered the early Norwich pressure to breakaway and take the lead. Varney broke down the right and his cross was knocked back to Zheng Zhi who skipped passed the first challenge and beat David Marshall with a weak cross-shot. Jamie Cureton hit the side netting and Norwich finished the half attacking but couldn't get the equaliser. Nicky Weaver had made several good saves, the best coming from a Jason Shackell header after he had beaten Sodje to a corner.

Alan Pardew started the second half with Izale McLeod replacing Chris Iwelumo, whom I assume is still carrying a knock. Norwich were quick to re-start and Chris Powell had to clear off the line after a free-kick was headed passed Weaver. Charlton were inviting pressure but regularly counter-attacking, with Thomas and Zheng Zhi linking well on the break. Norwich upped the ante and Huckerby hit the side netting after 70 minutes. They weren't to be denied minutes later however, when Huckerby's corner was headed in at the near post by Darel Russell.
Dion Dublin was brought on to pressurise the Charlton defence in the final 15 minutes. Pardew responded by taking substitute McLeod off for Lloyd Sam, which doesn't say a lot for McLeod's chances of progressing his Charlton career when there is already plenty of speculation that he'll be pawned in January. Nicky Weaver saved from Huckerby on 90 minutes and Holland and Bougherra both blocked shots in the melee that followed. Charlton held on in the three added minutes for the point which pretty much maintains the status quo with the chasing pack.
Stoke equalised at Barnsley in the 90th minute. Ipswich and Wolves were both beaten by Leicester and Hull respectively. Below them, Plymouth beat QPR in the last minute and Palace won at Coventry. Unfortunately, Watford scraped a point at home to Cardiff earlier in the day and were joined on 44 points by the Baggies who humped Bristol City at the Hawthorns 4-1.
An even weaker Charlton side will take to the field at the Walker Stadium on Saturday and we will need another dogged performance to get anything from the game. The other fixtures on Saturday could see Watford and West Brom increasing their leads in the automatic places, so we will likely need to beat Colchester at the Valley on New Years Day to stay in touch with the chasing pack.

Seasons Greetings

Seasons greetings one and all! Just back from the Christmas Day binge and getting settled for the Norwich game courtesy of Radio London 94.9fm. I am afraid I can see nothing other than a home win this afternoon. Norwich have a decent squad of players, certainly better than their season showing so far. With the defence we are forced to play I can seeing Norwich scoring a couple. Ambrose's injury will help us in midfield with Semedo getting a start and Zheng Zhi getting more room to operate - so we should be able to get a consolation.
Watford have already slipped up at home to Cardiff, although they were desperately fortunate with a 93 and a half minute equaliser.
C'mon you Reds!

Monday 24 December 2007

Weekend Championship Review

Another set of surprising results in the Championship this week. Coventry got tonked 4-0 at Blackpool - so much for the pressure being off after the club was saved from Administration - then again, maybe they need the pressure. Cardiff managed a home win, Ipswich failed to win at home and Norwich and Preston both recorded away wins. That's my excuse for only managing three correct results.

The Big Bet went west too, although Bristol City, Reading and Palace all won, Ipswich and Wolves could both only muster draws. If only....

Richard Murray's Programme Notes

The Chairman's Annual Report summary included in Saturday's programme made sobering reading. As well as recording an understandable drop in turnover and a net loss of £9.9m (in spite of the Bent ransom), Murray had some interesting comments to make. He detailed the £18.6m player investment made last year and has commented that it often takes two years before a new squad of players are playing to their potential and getting the consistency of results that they deserve. Added to this the fact that the Directors have recently stumped up £9m to keep the club operating optimally, it really does look like there will be little new money available next week to bring in reinforcements.

Alan Pardew will need to show how good a motivater he is in the coming weeks if our promotion campaign is to stay on track. That will mean preparing to take some risks on blooding some of the fringe players because the side we put out on Saturday will lose more points than they gain between now and February.

Sunday 23 December 2007

Charlton Athletic 1 v Hull City 1

This game lived down to all expectations. Yes, we have an injury crisis and it was anyone's guess what side we put out but it was an uninspiring line-up and we got a performance to match. Blackheath Addicted got it right seeing Hull as a pub team. They were there for the taking but proved to better than us over the 90 minutes and will be disappointed they didn't take all three points.

We started with Weaver (my Man of the Match), Mills, Sodje, Bougherra and Powell in a defence that looked somewhere near reasonable. Unfortunatley, Sodje was quick to join the injury list and the unfortunate Paddy McCarthy was re-introduced to first team football as if to ensure the back-four looked as weakened as the rest of the side (he did ok).

In midfield, Pards got it wrong for me. Holland and Ambrose are both lightweight and putting them together is a recipe for disaster. Holland is always honest but he is one-paced, can't tackle, gets caught in possession and has not been able to shoot from distance since he left Ipswich. Ambrose shows too little too often and was anonymous once again yesterday. Jerome Thomas had an ok game but was double-marked and didn't get a lot of space. I was expecting Lloyd Sam to be the tormentor in chief yesterday, following his harsh dismissal at Hull, but he looked intimidated and it was no surprise that he made way for McLeod at half-time. Zheng Zhi was also included in a five man midfield. He had an ordinary game but at least helped us compete in midfield. I would have preferred two upfront but we would have been exposed with only Holland and Ambrose in the middle. That left poor Iwelumo alone again shouldering the goal-scoring burden and he got little close support from midfield.

The first half was dire and I think the only effort on goal was the Hull opener which was fortuitous, coming as a result of a clearance deflecting off Powell and falling to Frazier Campbell. Danny Mills was busy throughout the first half looking for a booking. He put menace into every tackle, was leaving his hands, arms and elbows in his opponents faces and also making a meal of every challenge on him. Bryan Hughes seemed to be his principal target for some reason. Must be something personal there because you never imagine Hughes having given him a hard time in the past.

Izale Mcleod was introduced at the start of the second half in a bid to create something up front. He had another disappointing 45 minutes and Chris Dickson must have been wondering why he was recalled from Gillingham. The Charlton equaliser came from a free kick which was floated deep to the back post. The Hull defence missed it completely and it fell to Iwlemuo and Bougherra who were umarked five yards out. Bougherra was first to react and he couldn't miss. For five minutes you actually believed we would get a winner but the game did not improve. Danny Mills then managed to get himself sent off for dissent which meant we spent the last 15 minutes defending desperately to cling on to our point.

We need some good news on the injury front soon and will be in trouble if the team is not strengthened in Janaury. Mills is off back to City saying he's not been approached about a permanent move, so yesterday was probably his last Charlton appearance - quite fitting then that he left the Valley with a red card. Reading are rumoured to be taking Sam Sodje back to bolster their team which will be hit by the African Nations Cup. If we add to that the current injury list, I think Pards needs four or five new players early in January. I also believe the time has come to get the likes of Dickson, Christensen and Arter involved. If they aren't going to get a chance when we are down to the bare bones then we shouldn't be employing them.

Norwich and Leicester away now look like very hard games and Christmas is looking like an iceberg on the horizon. Results didn't go for us yesterday either with Bristol City, Stoke and Watford all winning. If that's not depressing enough, Palace are up to 10th and, amazingly, are only seven points behind us.

Merry Christmas Mr Scrooge.

Friday 21 December 2007

The Big Bet

Only two more goes at beating the Bookie this year and I need a win to get back in front. My five team accumulator this week is Reading, Bristol City, Crystal Palace, Ipswich and Wolves. Reading have a six-pointer against Sunderlandand will want the points before the African Nations Cup kicks in and they recall sam Sodje. Bristol City are at home to a poor Barnsley away side. palace have a tricky home game with Plymouth and I have gone for the draw elsewhere, but have taken this on the basis of marginal comfort in the evnt they win. Ipswich should beat Burnley, and again I have gone for an upset elsewhere but the odds for a home win are surprisingly good. Wolves are one of my bankers this week.

A £30 accumulator will net you £714.42.

Weekend Championship Preview

Tomorrow's match at the Valley promises to be an exciting pre-Christmas affair. All eyes will be glued to the tunnel to see who emerges wearing the Red shirts and what formation will we deploy. On the face of it, it's game we should win comfortablyhaving beaten Hull City at their place in October. However, our current injury crisis means we will need to beat them with a weakened side , some of whom won't have played together in a competitive game and may be playing out-of-position.

There is every chance that the much-talked-about Chris Dickson could make a dramatic Championship debut having been recalled from his Gillingham loan. If he does play, his meteoric rise from non-league football to international status could be capped by a Roy of the Rovers performance and a match-winning goal. That really would be an early Christmas pressie.

Meanwhile, here's how I see the others going....

Blackpool v Coventry City

Coventry should be on a high having been saved at the eleventh hour. They are an all-or-nothing side away from home and I can see them celebrating on the prom.

Prediction; 1-2

Bristol City v Barnsley

We could do with an away win here but Barnsley are like fine French wine - they don't travel well. City look to have got over their recent wobble and might be knuckling down to business.

Prediction; 2-0

Cardiff City v Sheffield Utd

Sheffield United have been blowing hot and cold. They are in danger of losing touch with the play-off pack and need a good Christmas. They might have too much for a Cardiff team who are poor at home.

Prediction; 0-1

Charlton Athletic v Hull City

City will be without their talisman, Dean Windass. Chris Dickson should make his Charlton debut in a game he is destined to score in.

Prediction; 1-0

Crystal Palace v Plymouth Argyle

Palace have crept up to 15th and Warnock has made them hard to beat. Plymouth though, are good travellers, as we found out and Paul Sturrock is quickly rekindling the fire he set in his first spell at the club. That might be enough to get Argyle a point.

Prediction; 1-1

Ipswich Town v Burnley

Ipswich will drop a game at home soon and Burnley are capable of doing it. I'll stick my neck out here and go for the upset. Well, it is Christmas.

Prediction; 1-2

QPR v Colchester United

Not one for the purists this. Rangers need to bring in some fresh faces in January because I'm not convinced their manager has got the current team playing for him. Colchester are heading back down but will scrap all the way.

Prediction; 1-1

Scunthorpe v Norwich City

Norwich can leap-frog Scunthorpe if they beat them and I'll go for them to do just that.

Prediction; 0-2

Sheffield Wednesday v Watford

Watford are mis-firing right now and this isn't a good time to be playing Russian Roulette with Sheffield Wednesday. I fancy Wednesday might cause an upset here.

Prediction; 2-1

Southampton v Preston

Thumping home win for me here. Saints slammed in four in their last home game and got a good point at Coventry last week.

Prediction; 4-0

Stoke City v West Bromwich Albion

We could do with a draw here and I think we've every chance of getting what we want. West Brom looked good last week but they aren't that much better than everyone else.

Prediction 1-1

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leicester City

The impatient Milan Mandaric is getting a bit of good medicine at the moment and he's paying the price for not having faith with his managerial appointments. Ian Holloway will get it right if he's given enough time because Milan will give him the money he needs, but they are still struggling at the moment and it doesn't matter how much money you have when you can only buy players during transfer windows.

Prediction; 3-0

Wednesday 19 December 2007

"There won't be a big spending spree in January"

Those words from the mouth of Chairman, Richard Murray. I suppose we could debate what "big" means but the in the context of the sentence it sounds like "smaller" than we might have been expecting. The fact that he went on to talk about selling as well as buying probably reinforces the expectation setting that we are talking "small" because we haven't got any really "big" assets that we would want to sell (almost pleased that Reid's injured!).

Assuming no change of heart, then this looks disappointing. Especially so when you consider the current injury situation. We've never really bought big in January, although Pardew was given more room than most last year, but he was new in and the club were trying to fend off relegation, not win promotion. In the circumstances, you have to hope that the injury situation improves quicker than currently anticipated and that it doesn't worsen - all this when the weather and playing conditions are deteriorating.

It's hard not to get a feeling of deja vu when we have shown limited ambition in the past and it's cost us. There is not a lot of money slushing around in this league so we won't be alone in having minimal funds but there are one or two probably exceptions and that is all it will take as things stand to see us having to retrain our sights on a play-off place instead of an automatic promotion spot. Ipswich and Coventry are the likely beneficiaries here.
Expectations duly re-set, it will be interesting to see just what changes we make and how Pardew reacts to this news.

Tuesday 18 December 2007

Reid Blow

Charlton's hopes of a prosperous Christmas were dealt a big blow today when it was revealed that Andy Reid will be out-of-action for 3 to 4 weeks with an, as yet, unconfirmed knee injury. This is bad news because we do not have anyone who can perform the same or a similar role in midfield. He is also notoriously slow to regain full fitness, so we ought to prepare for being without him for January. Serious consideration must now be given to strengthening midfield because our options look limited without him.

This will be a test of Pard's tactical nous because we need to consider adapting our playing style if we are to cope until his return. Without a holding player who can play through the middle and find and support the front two, we will need to make much better and quicker use of our wingers. Whoever does get deployed in the middle will need to be disciplined in holding the central position and looking to get the ball out and forward quickly. They will have to stay in touch with the back-four if we are not to invite lots more trouble than we can handle.
Matt Holland needs close protection and support when he plays or he gets isolated and quickly by-passed. I don't think we have another player in the squad who can do this and, even Reidy, has probably been less than ideal in this role. Whatever happens, I really don't want to see any centre-pairing of Holland, Ambrose or Zheng Zhi as this will be woefully light. Either Semedo or Racon should start and possibly both with Thomas and Sam giving width. A 4-5-1 formation may even be better at home without Reid although this obviously reduces options for crossing wingers.
Fasten your seatbelts....

Monday 17 December 2007

Weekend Championship Review

Much closer on the predictions front this week with 7 correct results, two correct scores and one goal away from two more. The Big Bet went down but it was looking very positive at 4.25pm with four teams winning and Pompey drawing. West Brom, Bristol City and Carlisle all won but Millwall slipped to an unfortunate defeat having been reduced to 10 men and Pompey conceded against Spurs.

Charlton slipped to 5th as Bristol City and Stoke took advantage of our defeat but things tightened at the top with Watford losing at home again. Ordinarily, we should have room for improvement this week because we would expect expect to complete the double over Hull City at the Valley. Watford are away at the unpredictable Sheffield Wednesday and fourth placed Stoke entertain West Brom. I can see Barnsley slipping to a pre-Christmas defeat at Bristol City but with one or both of the other results doing us a favour. The big question is, will we be able to get a decent enough side out to beat Hull City?

Iwelumo, Reid and Ambrose all look likely to miss out on Saturday and none of the other longer-term casualities look ready yet to return to the fray. This could be the chance that some of the B team have been waiting for. Thierry Racon must come into the reckoning in midfield and may join Semedo if Moutaouakil is ready to return at right-back; I suspect Izale Mcleod may get another chance to show that he has something to offer us beyond January and he should start in a 4-4-2 with Luke Varney. Assuming Chris Dickson is recalled this week I would have him on the bench as an incentive to the front pair and as a wild card should we need it.

A win against Hull will be a great boost as we can expect one or two more to return next week and to get results against Leicester and Colchester. Three more wins in succession and we should finish New Years Day back in the automatic promotion places.

January Sales

January transfer speculation is beginning to mount. Our priorities must be to keep Mills and Sodje, at least to the end of the year. Beyond that we still look short up-front but the difficulty is getting anyone in who we can afford who is actually any better than we've got. Loathe as I am to say it, Marcus Bent is probably one of the more attractive options open to us (cover for Iwelumo and he can be recalled), but that might be a step too far for Pards. Wigan, too, might fight hard to keep him bearing in mind their predicament and his hat-trick this weekend. The elusive midfield tiger remains a requirement, particularly as Reid is looking vulnerable (to tiredness and Christmas Pudding).

Beyond the possible incomings, I guess we shouldn't rule out losing one or two. Reid is rumoured to be a target for the big boys but I'm not convinced he has enough mobility/pace to attract an offer we couldn't refuse. I suppose Thomas could still be on someone's shopping list (Birmingham?) but I can't see anyone else being targetted.

Saturday 15 December 2007

WBA 4 Charlton Athletic 2

West Brom scored four, took all three points and have gone top of the table. Charlton can have few complaints and were comprehensively beaten. Nicky Weaver made several good saves or it might have looked worse.

Alan Pardew won't be too disappointed. His side competed well in the first half and had even managed to take the lead through a fine piece of play from Thomas on the right flank. He skinned the young Albion full-back and left him on his back-side as he floated in the cross which Big Chris did very well to reach and direct back across the keeper. The goal came against the run of play but we hadn't looked ragged. Roman Bednar had hit a post and Weaver was busy but we looked strong. The Baggies hit back before the break when Bednar latched onto a through ball and managed to turn it inside the advancing Weaver. Big Chris turned an ankle and couldn't continue which will be a concern for Pards.

West Brom started the second half in top gear and Zoltan Gera headed home a fine cross at the back post. He squeezed it passed a surprised looking Nicky Weaver who looked to me like he'd shut his eyes. If Weaver can take any criticism for the second it would be harsh and he more than made up for it seconds later with a one-handed diving save from a follow-up header. West Brom created a number of good chances to kill the game but it was the Addicks who scored next. Luke Varney (on for Ambrose) broke free on the left and Izale Mcleod (for Iwelumo) slotted home. At this point anything looked possible but we were fortunate to be level.

Justice was duly served with Gera again thumping home a powerful back-post header from another delicious cross. We still had time for another couple of half-chances before substitute Kevin Phillips sniffed a fourth following a goalmouth scramble and ended the contest.

A heavier-than-usual looking Andy Reid was substituted in the sceond half and appeared to be struggling, so we have to hope that's precautionary and that Iwelumo's ankle doesn't turn out to be as bad as it looked. Hopefully this defeat can be turned to our advantage and be the stimulus for a convincing win against and double against Hull next week.

The Big Bet...

A rushed effort this week, so not feeling as confident as usual. Maybe the better for it?

My selections this week are West Brom, Portsmouth, Bristol City, Carlisle and Millwall. I know you should never bet against your own team but I am working on the basis that it would be a minor compensation if we get beaten and I'll happily lose the bet by 3pm if we can get something. Not bad odds at 21-20 either. I expect Bristol City to beat Cardiff at evens and Pompey to beat Spurs at 6-5. Leyton Orient are going well but I am banking on the long trip to Carlisle taking it out of them - I am assuming, too, that they still travel at 57 mph to away games! That leaves my last selection and I have been persuaded to take Millwall at evens. We are entertaining Millwall season-ticket holders this evening and I though it would show a sense of goodwill at this time of year. Besides, he's convinced me that Kenny Jackett has turned the corner at New Den.

A £30 accumulator could net you £1,033.20. Get on it!

Wednesday 12 December 2007

Weekend Championship Preview

I wonder why I'm bothering because the obvious thing for me to do in making my predictions, is to do them and then change them all, in the knowledge that I couldn't fare much worse if my recent predictions are anything to go by. Anyway, for those interested....

Blackpool v Stoke City

Stoke have moved confidently into fourth. Their away form is solid and they will fancy this one.

Prediction; 1-2

Bristol City v Cardiff City

Surprising win for Cardiff at Blackpool in the week. Bristol City should be too strong for them at home though.

Prediction; 3-1

Burnley v Preston North End

Lancashire grudge match this. I'd love to see Preston get something to pour a little more cold water on Owen Coyle's erection. However, Preston have yet to win away all season and aren't bottom of the table for nowt.

Prediction; 2-0

Colchester United v Norwich City

I suppose this is a bit of a derby too. City have actually managed to scramble above Colchester and need to start getting points away from home. Colchester are in danger of returning from whence they came if they are not too careful.

Prediction; 1-1.

Coventry City v Southampton

Ooh er! Absolutely anything is possible here. Coventry may have been saved by the Ray Ransom consortium or they could be in Administration and bottom of the table. Emotions will no doubt be running high whatever happens and that could be the spur for the Sky Blues.

Prediction; 2-1

Crystal Palace v Sheffield Wednesday

Palace have only won a couple of games under Neil warnock but they have only lost a couple too. They have certainly become harder to beat and Sheffield Wednesday will need one of their more extragavant performances to turn the tables. Palace are one place above them and that might be the incentive they need.

Prediction; 1-2

Hull City v Leicester City

Leicester went down 3-1 at Ipswich on Tuesday to only their second defeat on their travels. They will find this a tough game but have had six draws away so far.

Prediction; 1-1

Ipswich Town v Scunthorpe

A home banker. Ipswich to forget their away-day blues and win at home yet again.

Prediction; 3-0

QPR v Wolverhampton Wanderers

My heart says Rangers, my head says Wolves. Based upon their unlikely win at Burnley in the week, I'll give Rangers the benefit of the doubt and a share of the points.

Prediction; 1-1

Sheffield Utd v Barnsley

All pigeon racing and ferretting is cancelled this weekend. The Tykes are in town for this People's Republic of South Yorkshire derby. Sheffield have blown up after winning at Charlton and Coventry. A 3-0 home defeat by Stoke followed and a 1-0 reverse at Norwich last time out. Barnsley are durable but not good travellers. A goal either way should settle it.

Prediction; 1-0

Watford v Plymouth Argyle

After two successive home defeats, Watford find themselves in a position us Addicks fans know only too well. Like us, I expect them to bounce back.

Prediction; 2-0

West Bromwich Albion v Charlton Athletic

I have a bad feeling about Saturday. We are going to have several defensive changes and our centre-back pairing will again become the focus of some attention. No doubt we will sit a midfield five just in front of the back four to give them some protection but this will encourage West Brom to attack us and restrict our attacking capabilities. Whoever plays for West Brom up front, I think they will have every chance of scoring. The way this season has been going, it is also an ideal time for us to take a backwards step having taken a couple of steps forward.

Predcition; 3-0

Poor home form?

Ipswich Town recovered from defeat at the Valley to win again at Portman Road last night, beating 10 man Leicester by three goals to one to mainatin their impressive home record - 28 points from a possible 30 (but they have managed only 4 away from home!).

Meanwhile, on a hill in Lancashire, QPR did Charlton a favour by winning against the odds by beating Burnley 2-0. Burnley would have slid into fourth place, two points behind us if they had won. Their home record is currently fourth worst in the division with only two home wins and five draws. If only....

Our home form needs to be put into perpsective. Whilst it's been disappointing and very frustrating in the manner of some of the defeats, it might stand scrutiny come February. Next up are Hull and Colchester, followed by Blackpool, Stoke and Palace. These games give us the real prospect of turning things around and building some home form and confidence before the harder home games that follow in the run-in months. We need to mainatin our away form if we are to reap the benefits of home improvements, although West Brom is looking increasingly like honourable defeat would be acceptable.

Monday 10 December 2007

Weekend Championship Review

The unpredictability of the Championship continues apace. This week the only result I managed to get correct was our home win! My bet also went down the pan with the early match at Villa Park. I could kick myself for betting against Pompey. Charlton and Southampton won but Plymouth and Scunthorpe could only draw. I am going to limit my betting on Championship games in future and have decided that I will not bet again after 1st January if I do not get some recompense before then! There.

New Years Day Table?

Looking ahead and considering where we might start New Year, we have a tough run in to 2008 with West Brom, Norwich and Leicester away and only Hull at home. Assuming we can beat Hull (thumped 4-0 at St Marys on Saturday), we will do well to pick up another 4 points on the road. That would put us on 44 points.

By comparison, Watford and West Brom have easier looking fixtures; Watford have three at home against Plymouth, Cardiff and QPR with only an away test at Sheffield Wednesday. They will expect to take 9 points from these games which would put them on 49 points. West Brom, meanwhile, also have three at home with Charlton, Bristol City and Scunthorpe and an away at Stoke. They could expect to beat two of the three at home, draw the other and maybe get a point at Stoke. That would give them 8 points and keep them above us on 46 points.

Our charge to the top of the table, then, might have to wait. I have said before that we face a tougher second half to the season as we play our top 5 promotion rivals all at home and our away games encompass the four sides who have beaten us at home already, as well the two drawn games (and Watford). Dominating the returns from the Valley matches against Watford, West Brom, Bristol City, Stoke and Wolves will be key. A second-half season ticket looks an attractive proposition.

Up the Addicks!

Calzaghe Sports Personality of the Year, thanks to Blue Peter

Remarkably, Joe Calzaghe won the BBC Sports Personaility of the Year last night. Having watched his pal Ricky Hatton lose in Las Vegas early yesterday and thereby missing what would have been a nailed-on win for the Hitman, Joe was the natural winner following the year he's had and having come close on several occasions before.

Surely though, he owes his win to Blue Peter following the phone-in scandals of the last year. The media always seem to know who's won this award in advance (no big surprise) and all the hubbub in the last week has been over whether or not Ricky Hatton could pip Lewis Hamilton. Last year's award went, astonishly and embarrassingly, to HRH Zara Phillips. This, when the contest was supposed to be decided by viewer votes. The nation voted for a privileged equestrian event winner? I don't think so, even it she is a Royal. BBC sycophancy had intervened.

What was interesting yesterday, was a phone-in and listener poll run by Radio Five Live which was heavily in Calzaghe's favour. I swore never to watch the programme again after having wasted two hours of my life and I didn't watch last night. So, I am really pleased that Joe has won and that the phone-in scandals have given us something more than a few casualties at the broadcasters.

Sunday 9 December 2007

Hatton Outclassed

Ricky Hatton was out-boxed by Floyd Mayweather and stopped in the 10th having hit the canvass for the third time in two rounds.

He gave it everything he had but couldn't find a chink in Mayweather's armour. The fight was rough in places and referree Cortez did not help the flow in the early rounds by continually stopping the fight everytime the two men tangled. Mayweather was was ducking low and hooking his head under a Hatton arm which was causing Cortez to intervene and it frustrated Hatton's game plan to put Mayweather under pressure from the off and try to wear him down. Hatton did catch Mayweather with a good punch that sent him reeling in the opening round but it looked better than it was.

Hatton won a few of the first 6 rounds but Mayweather never looked in any serious trouble and stepped up a gear in the 6th. His punches were much more accurate than Hatton's and he repeated landed good rights, especially in the 8th when Hatton looked in real trouble. Mayweather's corner knew the fight was theirs and Hatton's told him he couldn't afford to lose any of the last three. Ricky tried to open up in 9th and 10th but was vulnerable as he came forward flailing and it was a left from Mayweather to an exposed Hatton that did the damage. Hatton fell forward, head-butted the corner post and fell back onto the canvass. He was quick to show signs of recovery to Cortez but you knew it was over. Mayweather followed up quickly with several punches and Hatton hit the deck for the last time.

He was clearly a little bewildered immediately after the fight but acknowledged that he hadn't been able to disrupt Mayweather and he "got caught with a punch." I think he'll see from the replay that he got caught too often and too easily.

Mayweather was gracious in victory towards Hatton and appeared to say he was packing up to move into promotion. He also tried to get the vocal British contingent in the audience on his side by saying he had always dreamed of fighting in the UK and that he loved the "UK fans." He was roundly booed.

Saturday 8 December 2007

Charlton Athletic 3 v Ipswich Town 1

A thoroughly entertaining game this, which Charlton won by half time and yet Ipswich contested for the 95 minutes. At half-time it looked like the thrashing we've been promising someone all season and yet you knew Ipswich didn't deserve it based on their home form. So it proved with Town rallying in the second half to make a contest of it.

Ipswich were poor for the first 45 minutes. Charlton were allowed to dominate possession and it lead to the opener when Matt Holland over-lapped on the right and drove a fine cross into the heart of the box for ex-Townite, Darren Ambrose, to power home the first. After the number of ex-Addicks to score against us so far this season, it was sweet revenge. Big Chris bundled home a strange second when least expected and all of a sudden the Valley breathed easy. Better was yet to come when Ambrose stroked home a third before half-time after being served on a plate by the quick thinking Reid.

So, 3-0 at half-time and Ipswich looking vulnerable to a tonking. Er, no, this is the Charlton, this is the Valley! Not sure what the half-time instructions were but "hang on" was probably the message. I was looking for the 4-4-2 switch to up the ante, but no, we stuck at it. The Ipswich half-time talk was obviously shorter, more direct and probably louder. As a consequence they bossed the second half, missed a penalty, hit the crossbar and managed a fine consolation through an exquisite Counago back-heel. They left themselves too much to do, however, and the points were secured.

Nicky Weaver had a fine game and capped it with another penalty save. The back four stood up to some real pressure; Fortune was excellent and Sodje answered everything asked of him; Powell was ok but was put under a lot of pressure, and Mills had his quietest game of the season, although things hotted up for him in the last 30 minutes.

Andy Reid was nearly back to his best; Matt Holland had a decent game and his cross for the first was perfect; Zheng Zhi held his own and, I thought, had a better game than of late. Lloyd Sam did ok but has much more to offer. Save a place then, for the man of the match for me, Darren Ambrose. If only he played like this every other week instead of twice a season, I wouldn't be calling him lightweight and asking for his dismissal. He arrived with perfect timing and was also on hand to dispatch the killer third after a quality build-up and lay-off from Reid.

Iwelumo was less effective up front and had to watch lots of won headers being steered away from goal. I would have switched to 4-4-2 at half-time and got Varney introduced early. Unfortunately, Semedo was first sub for Sam before Varney came on for Reid. Too late.

In between times Ipwsich rattled the woodwork and generally did all they could to get back into it but the game had been lost. Their fans though were superb; they brought the biggest visiting allocation so far this season by 1000 and were vocal throughout despite being three down at half-time. Our professional performance was spoiled at the finish by an unseemly brawl in which Jonaton Fortune managed to get red carded. I hope Pardew smacks his arse too because this was completely unnecessary and the sort of thing that better teams limit.

West Brom snatched a last minute winner at Leicester to keep us in third but we will leap-frog them next Saturday with a win at the Hawthorns and could catch Watford too if results go for us.

All-in-all we really can't complain. We have every chance of going into the New Year in pole position and, frankly, there isn't a lot to beat. What we need is some overdue home form and to stick at battling away from the Valley. Not too much to ask for is it?

Off to bed now so I am awake and ready to throw punches for Ricky at 4am! There's only one, R-I-C-K-Y H-A-T-T-O-N!

Friday 7 December 2007

Addicks-Hatton Double?

The perfect weekend for me would be a comprehensive winning performance by the mighty Reds tomorrow afternoon, topped off by a stunning result in Las Vegas which would see Manchester's finest crowned undisputed welterweight champion of the world.

Charlton are 8-11 and Ricky is 11-8 which probably tells you as much as you need to know about their respective chances. Charlton must surely get the home performance they are more than capable of and long overdue in delivering. An expectant Valley will not be patient, so I am praying for an early breakthrough which will steady the nerves and should enable us to play a bit of football. Ipswich's wretched away form must be playing equally on Suffolk minds and an early Addick goal might cause them to lose heart. I've gone for a 2-1 Charlton victory and will stick with it.

Ricky at 11-8 is the outsider. His 43-0 record is more impressive in statisical terms that Mayweather 38-0 but the differnce in class of respective opponents put Hatton in the shade. Mayweather is at home but you won't realise that tomorrow night. This is the fight of Hatton's career if he loses but you suspect Mayweather will still be good box office in the US with one defeat on his card. Ricky needs to win this to seal his place in the truly great category of British fighters and it would also give him the swan-song he craves against Oscar de la Hoya.

It's impossible not to warm to Hatton's honesty and his infectious personality. A fantatical city fan (you knew it wouldn't be United), an unashamed sports enthusiast and a bloke you'd love to be able to call a mate. Ballooning in weight in between fights on beer and curry, we know all we need to about The Hitman.

This looks like a desperately close fight and I don't think Hatton will win if it is. He would need to outpoint Mayweather heavily in order to get the verdict, so he is going to have to up the ante and go for it. He's more than capable of doing this but Mayweather is equally capable of adapting his style to suit. Mayweather is naturally a bigger man that Hatton (relatively!) and will be fighting at his natural weight. Ricky, in contrast, will be fighting a couple of weights above what is his natural weight (when he's boxing) and that could be the difference. If he can pull this off, it will be the biggest British boixing success since Lloyd Honeyghan beat Donald Curry at the same weight back in the 80's. It promises to be a classic.

Thursday 6 December 2007

Weekend Championship Preview

Another important weekend programme in the race for promotion to the Premier League. Spare a thought too for Cardiff and Coventry, both of whom are peering down the wrong end of Administration shotguns.

Barnsley v Crystal Palace

Palace are perking up under Neil Warnock but I expect Barnsley to be too strong at Oakwell.

Prediction; 2-1

Cardiff City v Colchester United

Cardiff were dire on Tuesday and have bigger off-the-field problems to contend with. Colchester will believe this is a game they can win having run Watford close. I can see Super Kevin Lisbie netting here to atone for the equaliser he missed on Tuesday.

Prediction; 0-1

Charlton Athletic v Ipswich Town

Here we go again. Surely this time we'll get it right? Ipswich have a similar problem to us in that their home and away form is so inconsistent. They are bound to pick up a win on their travels sooner rather than later but I think they will have to wait a bit longer. Form here might suggest a draw but I am opting for Charlton to score first and go on to secure the points.

Prediction; 2-0

Leicester City v West Brom

West Brom conceded four at home in the Coventry derby and that will have hurt. Leicester meanwhile need the points and I expect them to give the Baggies a hard game.

Prediction; 1-1

Norwich City v Sheffield Utd

Not a good time to be playing Norwich, who are regaining their confidence under Glen Roeder. Sheffield United have been as inconsistent as anyone in this haphazard division and this is a hard one to call. However, the memory of their battling, counter-attacking performance at the Valley is still fresh in the mind, so I can see them winning here if they score first.

Prediction; 1-2

Plymouth Argyle v Bristol City

West Country derby this and both sides continue to punch above their weight. Paul Sturrock will be keen to pick up where he left off and I think Plymouth will edge this.

Prediction; 1-0

Preston North End v Blackpool

Another passionate derby that has seen significantly better times. Preston are in the bottom three at the moment courtesy of terrible away form. They have been decent at home, however, and will leap-frog Blackpool if they win. All the incentive they need really.

Prediction; 2-1

Scunthorpe v QPR

Like so many clubs before them, QPR look to me like a side haunted by the ghost of shabbily treated managers (I include us in this when I think Ian Dowie deserved a bit longer). John Gregory was not given a fair crack of the whip and Mick Harford was dumped having managed a minor miracle as caretaker. Ed De Goey is the latest backroom casualty and Rangers looked doomed.

Predition; 2-0

Sheffield Wednesday v Coventry City

We think we have been on a rollercoaster this year - nothing compared to Wednesday's home showings where they have won 4, drawn o and lost 6. Coventry picked up a great win at the Hawthorns where Michael Mifsud excelled again. This will surely be one of his last appearances for City as he will have to be sold if they go into Administration and he will be a January transfer target if they are saved. I can see him scoring here too, and that might enough for Coventry.

Prediction; 0-1

Southampton v Hull City

Hull are proving to be more resilient that I gave them credit for at the start of the year. Southampton have blown hot and cold all season and drew a blank at home against Wednesday in the week. I can't see too many goals in this one and am inclined to think it might be another stalemate.

Prediction; 0-0

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Burnley

As we know to our cost, Wolves have been strong at home this year having notched up 7 wins. Similarly, Burnley have been good away from Turf Moor where they have 5 wins to their credit.
Burnley are unlikley to receive any more early Christmas presents but will run this one close.

Prediction; 2-1

Stoke City v Watford

If I have woken from my slumber after the big fight (justice should see Ricky Hatton adding the WBC title to his collection), this will be good Sunday afternoon viewing. Like us, Watford are good away from home and recovered to beat Colchester in midweek. Stoke, though, are fighting to establish themselves as automatic promotion candidates and this should be an intriguing clash. I'd expect home advantage to tell and Watford have been wobbling of late.

Prediction; 2-1

Wednesday 5 December 2007

This Week's Big Bet

Flushed with successfully calling the Cardiff result, I have moved once again in the battle with Paddy Power. My five result accumulator this week banks on Aston Villa, Plymouth, Charlton, Scunthorpe and Southampton.

After Villa's impresive 4-0 win at Ewood Park, anything is possible and a home victory over Portsmouth is a good bet. Plymouth will be fighting for West Country pride when they entertain Bristol City. City have had a couple of good results of late but I think they are far from the finished article and Argyle will be smarting from their 2-1 defeat at Carrow Road on Tuesday evening. Charlton are a must at 4-5 to return to winning ways at the Valley against an Ipswich side who cannot win away from home. QPR's bounce seems to have left with Mick Harford and they have a difficult away trip to Scunthorpe. That leaves the Saints to beat Hull at home, something they will be fired up to do after drawing a blank at home to Wednesday.

A £30 punt here would net you £1000.19. I keep saying it, but I am overdue a windfall from the Turf Accountant.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

Cardiff City 0 v Charlton Athletic 2

Charlton's topsy-turvy rollercoaster season continued tonight with their sixth away win of the season at Ninian Park. On a wet night in south Wales, Charlton's 4-5-1 formation paid dividends again as they killed the game for 30 minutes, before scoring with their first effort on target after 34 minutes when Matt Holland drove home low after Loovens failed to clear properly following an Andy Reid corner.
Cardiff had little to offer in the first half and they were booed off by their fans. Thompson produced their only shot on target shortly before the Charlton opener and they managed their only corner of the half just before the break.

The second half was little better than the first. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink waddled on after 53 minutes but could do nothing to improve Cardiff's fortunes. Peter Wittingham clipped a post after 74 minutes but it was all over on 79 minutes when Darren Ambrose was brought down for a penalty. Andy Reid made it 2-0 from the spot and the home fans began to make their way home. Big Chris was carrying a knock for much of the second half and was excused near the end for McLeod. McLoed burst through near the death but blasted wide under a fierce tackle from Darren Purse and that was it - 3 points and another clean sheet away from home. Dave Jones might need a bottle of wine to sleep this evening.

Credit where credit's due - the 400+ charlton fans who made the trip were outstanding. I can only assume the BBC London Radio team were penned in with them because they were audible throughout the game; the chant of "Jimmy, Jimmy, what's the score?" was the loudest of the evening.

The win pushes Charlton into third place as Wolves went down 1-0 at Barnsley and we closed the gap on West Brom to a point as they were beaten 4-2 at home by Coventry. Watford recovered from 2-0 down to beat Colchester 3-2 but there's plenty of optimism in that result. Below us, Bristol City kept pace by inflicting another away defeat on Ipswich and Plymouth slipped up at Norwich where Glenn Roeder picked up his second home win. Burnley could only manage a home draw with Leicester, so a good evening for the Addicks.

Looking at the form of the leaders, it it interesting to note that we are not alone with our inconsistent form. Watford's home and away record is remarkably similar to our own; we have both scored and conceded the same number of goals at home and both have better away records, Watford with 22 points and us with 20. Sheffield United were beaten at home by Stoke 3-0, and Ipswich failed to win again away from home for the 10th time in succession.
Looking ahead to Saturday, we have to believe we can beat Ipswich in the circumstances. If we can, we have every chance of catching West Brom and moving into second place as they face a tricky match at Leicester who rescued a point at Burnley tonight. Watford are also at Stoke, so we can close the gap on the leaders to within 2 points. Wolves also face Burnley and Plymouth face Bristol City, so we have a great opportunity.
Palace and Millwall both won this evening, but it's tolerable when we also do it and remain a division above one and a division and half above the other.
Keep the faith!

Monday 3 December 2007


Four weeks ago I left the Valley convinced that we would beat Cardiff again when we played the return fixture; that game is tomorrow evening. They were distinctly average and noticeably short in the final third of the pitch and i couldn't imagine home advantage making enough of a difference to beat us.

The last two home performances have knocked the stuffing out of us but I believe we have something left and we again have something to prove. We need a strong, disciplined and patient display tomorrow but I think we can get something, especially if we score first. The pressure that a defeat will bring will be significant and the Valley won't be a place for the fainthearted if we have again lost three in a row when we trot out against ipswich on Saturday. So, if you push me, I'm going for a 2-0 win to the Addicks - a goal during normal time in each half; Big Chris and Luke Varney to get the goals.

Drinking from my half-full glass, I see that the fixtures would again appear to be favouring us; Watford are at Colchester, Wolves are at Barnsley, Plymouth at Norwich and Bristol City are at home to Ipswich. Only West Brom look easier at home to troubled Coventry but that's also a derby game.

Speaking of Coventry - what's going on there? Looks to me like they are trying to force the hand of a buying consortium by starting a process which will put them into administration in 10 days time. Very strange if you ask me. If they are close to a deal, why impose such a drastic deadline? If they are not so close, I can't see a consortium being forced into a negotiation on the current owners terms - especially a consortium lead by Ray Ransom who has already considered buying other clubs and not gone through with it. Smacks of desperation and Coventry could find themselves in League One with crippling debts. Ian Dowie might begin to look like a Jonah if that happens.

Sunday 2 December 2007

Weekend Championship Review

Twenty-four hours later and I am feeling more philospohical about our latest defeat. We remain in fourth place and in touch with the leaders. We have another two games this week, away at Cardiff who have a poor home record (W2 D3 L4) and home to Ipswich who have an equally bad away record (W0 D4 L5). Watford lost again at home and West Brom could only get a point at Palace. If our players truly believe they are good enough to get promoted then they will be hurting like us and embarrassed like us. Let's see how they respond this week.

West Brom in the 3rd Round at The Valley

After the last month's home form, Alan Pardew would probably have opted for an away cup draw. However it wasn't to be and we have the Baggies at the Valley. Should be a decent tie and we can look forward to slipping out un-noticed in an acceptable 1-2 defeat.

The Big Bet

The Big Bet went down the Swanny; Blackburn and Plymouth did the business but Reading and Man City were held and Sheffield Wednesday lost at home to Colchester! I remain convinced that I will get a win before Christmas.

Championship Results

Managed a meagre four correct results (One correct score) and four others within a goal of correct scores. The division continues to throw surprises; apart from Charlton and Watford both losing for consecutive home games (yes, our defeat was still a surprise), Sheffield United won at Coventry and Southampton won at Leicester. Colchester were also surprise winners at Sheffield Wednesday where the MotM Curse has struck again.

Saturday 1 December 2007

Charlton Athletic 1 v Burnley 3

Today was truly depressing. We found out that our ambitions for automatic promotion are paper-thin and we should probably settle for a play-off place if offered now. Sheffield United presented some reasonable quality on Tuesday and bore that out with their win at Coventry today. Burnley, I'm afraid, were distinctly average and yet sauntered to a victory abeted by an inept Charlton performance. Owen Coyle must think he's won the lottery.

The first goal, after seven minutes, was simple. A free-kick was played into the near post and Andy Gray beat Sam Sodje to the header and steered it in. If that was disappointing the second was calamitous and followed shortly afterwards. Another free-kick, this time floated into the box and I don't believe anyone moved an inch apart from McCann who ran in and headed unopposed. Andy Reid replied before half-time having taken a cross unmarked at the back post and rifling home. I thought that was enough to set us up for a second half revival. No such luck.

Charlton played better in the second half and had an equaliser ruled out for offside but Danny Mills spoiled an otherwise decent performance by somehow managing to reach up and touch a cross that didn't look like causing too much danger otherwise. Bizarre - 3-1 down and that was it.

It's hard to account for this defeat. Semedo was dropped for Holland and both Thomas and Sam were also sacrificed for Ambrose and Varney. Holland did ok but Ambrose is lightweight and
I believe has had histime at the Valley. Varney had a good game and I was surprised at his substitution. Having said that, he and Iwelumo don't play as a pair and this needs attention. Reid had a better game but our four man midfield laboured for long periods. Zheng Zhi wasted a couple of good chances, notably when again blasting over when Reid was in acres of space to his left, I don't think McLeod touched the ball when he came on and we need to recall Dickson. I didn't think I'd ever say this, but thought should also be given to bringing Marcus Bent back to give us some options for Iwelumo.

Charlton drop to fourth, four points behind second placed West Brom, but the underlying situation is worse. Our home record is simply not good enough and we have had enough warnings and chances. I have no doubt we will respond in the coming games but that will be catch-up football and cannot make up for four home defeats in five games.

Looking at the bigger picture you have to say that we are nowhere near good enough to seriously consider a return to the Premier League with this squad of players. The inevitability of relegation would be all too obvious and we would be whipping boys.

Cardiff on Tuesday? At the moment I can't be bothered to even think about listening to it.

Thursday 29 November 2007

Weekend Championship Preview & The Big Bet

The Big Bet first - £30 accumulator on Blackburn, Reading, Man City, Plymouth and Sheffield Wednesday. Blackburn were surprisingly beaten by Villa 4-0 at home on Wednesday and I can't see them losing two home games in a row, especially against a Newcastle side low on confidence. Reading won't win too many games this year but Boro at home will be one they will be targetting in order to stay out of the relegation zone. I fancy Man City to win at Wigan - City are still fighting to maintain early season form and Wigan will be struggling with Steve Bruce. Plymouth to bounce back from home defeat by West Brom to beat Scunthorpe and Sheffield Wednesday to thump Colchester at Hillsbrough - just hope the Manager of the Month prize doesn't choke them. I am very confident of a win before Christmas, so get on it!

Weekend Championship Preview

Blackpool v QPR

Blackpool suffered their first home defeat of the season in midweek and I don't expect them to repeat the feat on Saturday

Prediction; 1-0

Charlton Athletic v Burnley

Three home defeats is enough for promotion contenders at year-end, let alone pre-Christmas. Pards to go 4-4-2 from the off, Charlton to score first and take the points. Let's send the repugnant Hillbillies home empty handed.

Prediction; 2-0

Coventry City v Sheffield Utd

On the evidence of Tuesday night I am going to go for United to win again. I think they counter-attacked very well at the Valley and didn't get the recognition from Addicks fans that their performance deserved. We might feel a bit better about Tuesday if they do win again too.

Prediction; 1-2

Crystal Palace v West Bromich Albion

Last Saturday I would have gone for a home win here but West Brom's resilence in winning at Plymouth midweek has made me think again. I'm going to opt for another West Brom win - two-in-a-row for Warnock is more than he deserves as well.

Prediction; 1-2

Hull City v Cardiff City

Hard one this, so I'm going for the home win and no Fowler/Hasselbaink goals.

Prediction; 1-0

Ipswich Town v Barnsley

Can Ipswich extend their impressive home record to 9 wins with no draws and no defeats? My take is yes, especially against a Barnsley side that don't travel too well.

Prediction; 2-0

Leicester City v Southampton

Leicester drew 0-0 at home to Cardiff last time out and Southampton lost at Ipswich. I'll plump for another scoreless draw here in the circumstances.

Prediction; 0-0

Plymouth Argyle v Scunthorpe

Argyle to bounce back from home reversal by the Baggies.

Prediction; 2-0

Sheffield Wednesday v Colchester United

Brian Laws' side to avoid the Manager of the Month award curse and beat Colchester comfortably.

Prediction; 4-1

Stoke City v Norwich City

Glenn Roeder has got the first couple of performances that Norwich were looking for when they appointed him. I can see them getting another at an inconsistent Stoke.

Prediction; 1-1

Watford v Bristol City

Good to see that Watford are human after all. They are in danger of a Charlton-esque wobble if they don't get something out of this game. City too are flapping badly at the moment. Watford to edge it and settle the nerves.

Prediction; 1-0

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Preston North End

Wolves are grinding out the results and remaining in the hunt. I think they will be too determined for Preston.

Prediction 2-0

Free Season Ticket Anyone?

Apart from anything else, wasn't the attendance poor at the Valley on Tuesday? After four successive wins, three of which were on the road, you would have thought we could be expecting a crowd close to the seasons top gate which was 23,671 for the visit of QPR. However, it was actually the lowest of the season - 20,737.

The visitors brought about 700, so the number of Addicks must have been c 20,000. I don't know the official number of season ticket holders but 17,000+ re-signed in April and the figure must have crept over 18,000. Assuming that to be the case, we have been struggling to attract game-by-game fans all season. Visiting supporter numbers are understandably down but if you exclude them the home attendance has been pretty static.

The club looks to have done as much as can be expected in terms of promoting attendance - £20 for every game is very reasonable - and it's apparent that there are tickets available for every game. The obvious conclusion is that Championship football has a finite appeal at the Valley. The question then arises about what would our gate be if the club had not run the "free season ticket scheme" this year? You have to think it would have fallen away, particularly for some of the evening games which present travel problems for many of our long-distance supporters.

So, I think the club will have little option but to extend the free season ticket deal next season if we fail to go up. No doubt they will try and lock us in sometime in April before the matter's concluded.

Tuesday 27 November 2007

Charlton Athletic 0 v Sheffield United 3

Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and admit that you were beaten by a better side on the night and tonight was one of those for me. Sheffield United came to play and they counter-attacked as well as anyone at the Valley for a long while. They defended with spirit and ultimately wore us down.

Charlton started very quickly with Thomas and Sam attacking with pace and directness. Both were being backed superbly by Mills and Basey but our chances were limited to shots on the burst from both of them. Chris Iwelumo lead the line again but his head-ons and chest-offs from crosses were invariably to no-one as he was isolated up-front. Zeng Zhi and Semedo were contributing but Andy Reid was nowhere to be seen. The back four had a decent first half with the painful exception of the penalty that Sodje conceded with what looked like an unecessary far post push as a cross was whipped in. Nicky Weaver dived with everything he had but James Beattie's far too good not to score from the spot. So, 1-0 down at half-time with lots to do against a team who were breaking quikcly and supporting in numbers when they got the opportunity.

Alan Pardew made the switch to 4-4-2 at half time with Varney coming on for Sam and Semedo unfortunate to be subbed for Holland, but I guess Pards was hoping for more attacking midfield impetus to support the front two. For 25 minutes it looked like it was going to pay dividends as we began to up the tempo and stretch Sheffield at the back. Varney was providing more speed upfront and creating more space for Big Chris. Danny Mills was bombing forward and played a big part in our best two chances, one of which should have gone in. The first saw Zheng Zhi chase a long ball into the box taking two defenders with him. He played a neat ball back into the path of Danny Mills who skipped inside the first challenge and fired in a low hard shot which Paddy Kenny could only parry at the far post. The ball fell to the looming Iwelumo but his shot was somehow blocked again by the scrambling Kenny. Several minutes later Mills overlapped on the left wing and advanced towards the box before threading a pass in to Luke Varney. Varney took it in his stride beating the first man and careering in towards the near post. With everyone committed he rolled it back to Zheng Zhi but he blasted over with the goal gaping.

Basey was subbed for Madjid Bougherra and I can only assume he was hurt; he certainly took his time leaving the field.

Sheffield United were continuing to counter and Beattie had a goal disallowed for a close offside having finished off a three man move in the Charlton box. Not unlike the QPR game the warning signs were flashing brightly. United's second duly arrived on 75 minutes following our failure to clear a corner properly. The ball looped up to a United player who took it passed the first Charlton player and rolled it in to the six yard box where I thought Weaver had made it his own but somehow Cahill got a foot to it and poked it over the line.

Charlton huffed and puffed in the last ten minutes but you could tell the belief had gone and it was no surprise when United scored their third. Another swift breakout from their half and Beattie streaked clear on the right, he centred and his pass was knocked into the path of Armstrong who was clear on goal and beat Weaver with ease from 20 yards.

I'd certainly like to know what was wrong with Andy Reid tonight; he was even a yard slower than normal, anonymous in the first half and only marginally more effective in the second. Not sure what Alan Pardew does next. Maybe he perseveres, maybe he starts 4-4-2 at home on Saturday and goes for it? Burnley will certainly have their tails up after winning at Watford tonight. We've also handed West Brom the incentive they need at Plymouth tomorrow night. It's going to take another away win or two to make-up for this slip-up and we simply can't afford another blank on Saturday.

Monday 26 November 2007

Blades Preview

Bryan Robson brings his steadily improving team to the Valley on Tuesday evening for an intriguing league game.

Relegated with Charlton last season, the Blades got off to a poor start and Robson's position was looking shaky. However, the vital signs appear to be returning and they will come to the Valley looking to atone for their slip-up at home to Plymouth on Saturday, which prevented them from climbing to 10th. They will also remember that they avoided defeat in the two Premiership games they played against us last season - drawing 1-1 at the Valley and beating us 2-1 up there earlier in the season when Keith Gillespie nicked a late winner after Reidy had put us in front.

They have lost four on the road so far - 1-0 at Watford, 3-2 at Palace and Scunthorpe and 2-0 at Bristol City. Their squad still looks distinctly Premiership, albeit maybe low-end. James Beattie has been scoring again and will likely be partnered by Danny Webber or Jon Stead.

According to the report of Saturday's game, United looked vulnerable at the back and Plymouth might have scored a second or third. Whilst 4-5-1 has been serving us well, I would like to see us start 4-4-2 at home as they have a goal in them and I feel we will need at least two to win it.

Sean Bean has been a regular vistor to SE7 in the past and has stopped several times at the Rose of Denmark for a pre-match beer. My impression of him has improved significanly as a result over the years - if he's down for the match I hope he enjoys his pint but goes home

I'm going for 2-1 and fancy a goal from one of our wide men and either Reid or Varney to wrap it up. We also need Jon Fortune and Sam Sodje to be on their game because James Beattie is a threat in the air and will need close supervision.

Come on you Reds!

Sunday 25 November 2007

Weekend Championship Review/World Cup Draw

The betting drought continues; only the mighty Addicks came in for me! West Brom, Bristol City, Sheffield United and Colchester all failed to win. Bear with me here, I will get this right. It's like waiting for a bus....

Only four correct results this weekend too - with one correct score. Within a goal of three other correct scores but reversed by Barnsley, Leicester, Palace, Hull and Plymouth.

I think this week will bring a semblance of predictablity to the proceedings as class will show over two games in a week which sees consecutive home or away games for everyone (Sheff Utd and Burnley at home for us). It's for this reason I believe we will be clear second come 5pm on Saturday if we can pick up maximum points. This is very important for our promotion hopes because we have another two games the week after - Cardfiff away and Ipswich at home - which could see us get within touching distance of Watford. If we can do this, it could be a very profitable Christmas and we could turn it into a two-from-three race if, as I believe, us , Watford and West Brom can get some distance from the chasers.

World Cup Draw

Hot on the heels of European failure, England and Scotland found out today who they will need to overcome to qualify for South Africa in 2010. England will again face Croatia and will also need to overcome Ukraine if they are to qualify - Belarus, Kazakhstan and Andorra should not present problems, even to an under-performing England side. Scotland face Holland and Norway as well as Macedonia and Iceland. The group winners qualify as do 8 of the best 9 runners-up.....

We deserve our biggest gate of the season this week although neither Sheffiled United or Burnley are likely to bring more than 1,000 fans, so we might have to wait for that....

Up the Addicks!

Saturday 24 November 2007

Preston NE 0 v Charlton Athletic 2

Ultimately a fourth successive clean-sheet win for the Addicks. A rare live TV victory and it never really looked in doubt.

Charlton were first out of the blocks and controlled much of the first half. Thomas was finding a lot of space and no real challenge on the right. Zheng Zhi was busy in front of him and Iwleumo laboured tirelessly up front. Lloyd Sam saw less of the ball and Andy Reid had a very quiet game or Charlton might have wrapped this up long before the end. The back four looked comfortable throughout. Basey and Mills were sound and it was left to Sodje and Fortune to huff and puff against what pressure Preston did have. Charlton created the few real chances of the first half and it was no surprise when Zheng Zhi controlled a ball on the penalty spot away from all of the rest of the players with his first touch and pushed a low shot back against the on-rushing defence and through a narrow hole into the far corner of the net. It was perfect timing, coming as it did on 47 minutes.

Preston tried harder in the second period and forced three good saves from Nicky Weaver; the reflex stop from Sedgewick's close shot was the best since he's been at the Valley and he deservedly collected the Sky Man of the Match award. Charlton didn't create a lot in the second half but continued to have plenty of possession in the opponents half and you felt we had another gear if we had to use it. Holland, Ambrose and Varney were introduced towards the end of the game and it was left to Varney to add the second late in extra time; Iwelumo headed on a throw from Count Basey into the channel and Varney latched onto it, accelerating passed the last defender and turning in to goal where he beat the unfortunate Lonergan on his near post.

This was a good, professional performance and came on a day when Watford, Bristol City, Ipswich and Coventry all lost. The Addicks have stormed into second and closed the gap on the Hornets to 5 points. We are a point in front of West Brom and they are now under pressure to beat Wolves in their derby game tomorrow. With two home games coming up this week we again have the opportunity to consolidate our automatic position, especially as West Brom face tricky away games at Plymouth and Palace after their derby tomorrow lunchtime.

Let's get behind them this week!

Thursday 22 November 2007

Weekend Bet

The pressure is mounting; no wins so far this season. I do a five result accumulator most weeks during the season and have always won once and more often twice or three times. In my mind this gives me an overall winning position, although I've never actually recorded winnings and losings properly. This year, I am, through an on-line account and I am nicely in the red. A win before Christmas is overdue and would put me back in front.

So, my selections this week are...

1) Bristol City to beat Leicester at Evens; City are firing on all cylinders and Leicester are in a state of flux changing managers. Good price.

2) Colchester to beat Palace; 6-5 is decent odds - just hope my heart isn't ruling my head.

3) Sheffield United to beat Plymouth; ordinarily I would avoid United but Plymouth might be affected by the uncertainty around Holloway leaving and 4-5 is good odds in the circumstances.

4) WBA to beat Wolves on Sunday; 10-11 is another good price when WBA are going so strongly and recently thrashed Coventry 4-0 in an away derby.

5) I've had a few beers this afternoon so hope I don't regret this one; I was struggling for an automatic fifth when I saw the Mighty Addicks at 13-10. Not a great price but reflective of the bookies view and we are well overdue a live TV win. So I am going with it - all or nothing.

A £30 accumulator with Paddy Power would net you £1043. Good luck!

Wednesday 21 November 2007

What European Championships?

England joined the rest of the home nations this evening in failing to qualify for Euro 2008. In a dramatic game at Wembley, played in pouring rain on a dreadful pitch, England fell two-nil behind in calamitous circumstances in the first half, rallied to 2-2 in the second and then conceded a cruel third to crash out.

The Curse of the England Goalkeeper moved to poor Scott Carson as he made an almighty blooper for the opener, failing to get behind a softish shot and allowing it to spoon up and into the top of the net. England's back four were at sixes and sevens minutes later as Croatia played their way in and around Carson for the second. England looked shell-shocked and lifeless for the remainder of the half and it took the introduction of David Beckham and Jermain Defoe to bring some life to the corpse. Defoe's shirt was pulled for a penalty, which Lampard put away, but it looked very fortunate. David Beckham then whipped a trademark cross in for Crouch to bring down and volley home for 2-2. Home and dry we all thought but Croatia weren't finished and a fine cross-shot from 22 yards beat Carson who only saw it late. Darren Bent skimmed the top of the Croatian net but England were beaten.

The recriminations will begin and Steve McLaren has to bear the brunt of it. If I were him I would have already decided to resign if we failed to qualify and at least go with some self-respect. I suspect he won't, however, as it will probably be financially beneficial to be sacked in post irrespective of personal dignity.

England really need to look further than the Manager. The dinsoaurs at the FA need weeding out but it's difficult to see the turkeys voting for Christmas. McLaren undoubtedly had injury problems but this squad of players haven't done it for him when it's counted, much the way they didn't for Ericsson. The European Championships will excite as much interest here as the African Nations Cup.......

Weekend Championship Preview

I'm not doing my weekend bet until Friday. In the meantime, here are my Championship predictions.

Barnsley v Watford

Barnsley have won 5 and drawn 2 of 7 at Oakwell this season. They need a win to keep them in play-off contention. Watford meanwhile have the best away record in the division having won 6 and drawn 1 of 8 away matches. I suspect they will do a job on Barnsley here and return south with the points.

Prediction; 1-2

Bristol City v Leicester City

City need the points from their 3pm kick-off to climb above the Addicks. Leicester have only been beaten once away from the Walker Stadium all season - that being at the Valley. A result here would do us a favour but I fancy Bristol to edge it.

Prediction; 1-0

Burnley v Stoke City

Hard to call this one; both sides are blowing hot and cold. I'll cop out and call it a draw.

Prediction; 1-1

Cardiff City v Ipswich Town

Cardiff have managed only one home win this season but Ipswich haven't won away yet. The break may have recharged Cardiff's veteran frontline and they might be good for a goal that could win it.

Prediction; 1-0

Colchester United v Crystal Palace

Palace look to be in a spot of bother. I expect Colchester to win this and young Kevin Lisbie to apply some salt to the wound. This would be Palace's tenth successive game without a win and, I think, the seventh winless game under Neil "you've got five games" Warnock. Simon Jordan might just be wondering if he's made another mistake. Palace are in real danger of taking the lead in the relegation race and if Neil Warnock can't get a win soon I can see him mirroring Les Reed after Iain Dowie's start. Could be a delightful case of deja vu.

Prediction; 2-0

Norwich City v Coventry City

Glenn Roeder has brought a couple of new faces in to what wasn't a bad Norwich side anyway. I think they will start to put some results together and may get one against the Sky Blues. Coventry are poor one week and good the next. The uncertainty of the vaunted takeover probably isn't helping and Iain Dowie's being linked in the press with a number of the current managerial vacancies. Michael Mifsud has also been suggested as a target for the big boys in January.

Prediction; 1-0

Preston North End v Charlton Athletic

We could have done with a bit of prevarication from Preston but will have to face Alan Irvine's fired-up troops on the live TV game on Saturday evening. Hopefully we will catch them as yet unprepared although our live TV record hangs ominously and Preston have a decent home form irrespective. Interestingly, Alan Irvine informed the Deepdale faithful that he knows all about Charlton from our games against Everton last season. He might be in for something of a surprise.

Prediction; 1-1

QPR v Sheffield Wednesday

The fortunes of both of these sides have improved in recent weeks. Rangers need the points more than Wednesday and I reckon they have enough about them to get the win.

Prediction; 2-1

Scunthorpe v Hull City

Local derby here with both clubs struggling to make an impression in the division. I'll settle for honours even.

Prediction; 1-1

Sheffield United v Plymouth Argyle

Bryan Robson is fighting for his job at United and has been getting a response from his team in recent weeks. This has coincided with an overdue return to form for James Beattie. Wishful thinking but I can see United picking up the points to keep them going as they lose at the Valley in midweek.

Prediction; 2-0

Southampton v Blackpool

I can't see beyond a home win here. Southampton are due a result and Blackpool have been unimpressive away from the Tower.

Prediction; 2-0

West Bromich Albion v Wolverhampton Wanderers

My immediate inclination is to hope Wolves might get something from this derby game but the last time I thought West Brom might slip-up in a derby, they hammered Coventry 4-0 at the Ricoh. Therefore, I'm opting for a comfortable home win on Sunday.

Prediction; 2-0