Sunday 30 September 2007

Weekend Championship Review

Hhhhmmmmm. No money this week but closer than it looked...

Barnsley v Cardiff.............. 2-1...... 1-1........1 goal away from a correct score.
Burnley v Palace................ 1-1........1-1....... None needed.
Colchester v Scunthorpe.. 2-1....... 0-1........Scunthorpe better than I think?
Coventry v Charlton......... 1-1....... 1-1.........None needed.
Hull v Ipswich.................... 2-2...... 3-1.........Knew there would be goals.
Leicester v Stoke............... 0-1...... 1-1.........1 goal from a correct score.
Norwich v Sheff Wed ........2-0 ......0-1.........Wednesday revival underway?
Plymouth v Wolves........... 1-2....... 1-1.........1 goal from correct score.
Preston v Bristol City....... 1-2....... 0-0.........No great surprise.
Sheff Utd v Southampton 1-1....... 1-2..........1 goal from correct score.
Watford v Blackpool......... 1-0....... 1-1..........1 goal from correct score.
West Brom v QPR............ 3-1....... 5-1..........Gregory wont make the Valley.

Just watched the performance of the Rugby World Cup to date. Argentina put in the most complete display against a competitive side so far. They were superb from front to back and the signs are ominous for Scotland next Sunday. Their pack mauled brilliantly and they hammered every breakdown winning an amazing amount of turnover ball. Ireland played their part and were fully committed, as you would expect, but they were well beaten in the end.

Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are certs for the semis. Argentina will join them if they can reproduce todays form. I'll be having a small wager at decent odds on Scotland to create an upset - they have a big game in them at this tournament (and it wasn't beating Italy) but the Pumas will need to be off-peak.

Saturday 29 September 2007

Coventry City 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

Lethargy and a need for Brownie Points meant I stayed in South-East London this afternoon and followed the game on BBC Radio Kent (always better than Radio London). On reflection I'm glad I did, as again, it sounded frustrating and we appeared vulnerable. Ultimately, we need to improve away from the Valley if we harbour realistic hopes of automatic promotion.

We started well enough settling quickly in defence and Lloyd Sam gave us the lead on 15 minutes after picking up a reverse pass from Danny Mills, cutting into the box and firing home from 8 yards for his first league goal. We should have had a penalty five minutes later when Luke Varney was clumsily pulled down but referree Swarbrick waved play on. Coventry managed a brief spell of pressure before the break forcing three successive corners but Charlton were good value for the half-time lead.

An open-mike at half time gave us the naffest "club-song" I've heard in years - a razzmattazz Sky Blue something-or-other. At least they followed this with Amarillo which would have had the 2,000 Addicks fans singing along.

Coventry upped the tempo in the second half and forced a series of corners. Weaver saved well from Mifsud and Powell cleared under pressure from Tabb. Adebola was introduced to maintain the momentum and Danny Mills had to clear off the line from him almost immediately. Varney and Iwelumo were being caught offiside as Charlton tried to break and Varney was replaced for fresh-legged McLeod on 65 minutes. The game became heated for a while; Zheng Zhi came in for some rough treatment, Mills clattered Mifsud and Pardew and Parkinson were warned on the touchline.

A mixup between Fortune and Weaver nearly cost us the equaliser after 76 minutes but we cleared our lines and Zheng Zhi immediately broke to feed Lloyd Sam in space but his shot went wide. Danny Mills was booked for a challenge on Mifsud and with six minutes left, Mifsud got his revenge. Adebola collected a long ball and played him in to beat Weaver and set-up a frantic finish. Charlton then went closest to taking all three points as Reid whipped in a cross which Iwelumo met inside the six-yard box but somehow managed to miss the target.

On balance, the draw was a fair reflection of the play and with everyone else in the top 8 also drawing, our second place is safe at least until West Brom play QPR tomorrow. We will need another point at least on Tuesday at Hull, if we are to have a chance of being in an automatic promotion spot after 10 games as per Alan Pardew's plan.

Friday 28 September 2007

Weekend Championship Preview

Barnsley v Cardiff

- The Tykes are going much better than I had feared this season and I'm going for them to win again tomorrow. Cardiff had a good win at West Brom during the week but Fowler and Hasselbaink aren't the future.

Prediction; 2-1

Burnley v Crystal Palace

- Burnley are another side who I believe are over-performing and they will be confident of beating struggling Palace. I'll go with the draw here because Palace are desperate and Peter Taylor looks like a dead-man-walking.

Prediction; 1-1

Colchester United v Scunthorpe

Yet again, another two sides who are surprising a few people. I can see Colchester edging this one.

Prediction; 2-1

Coventry City v Charlton Athletic

Coventry will be bouyant after their exploits at old Trafford in midweek. Charlton will need to kill the game for 40 minutes if they are to stay in touch and maintain hopes of coming away with something. If they can do this I think they will get a draw because we have a goal in us.

Prediction; 1-1

Hull City v Ipswich Town

Both of these sides are improving and I can see an open game finishing close.

Prediction; 2-2

Leicester City v Stoke City

Great result for Leicester in the Carling Cup winning 1-0 at midland rivals Villa but Stoke have started strongly and I fancy it may be a case of after the Lord Mayors' Show. It's also high time their autocratic Chairman demonstrated his power with another managerial change.

Prediction; 0-1

Norwich City v Sheffield Wednesday

Norwich looked poor at the Valley the other week but so too did Wednesday and they have had an appalling start. Wenesday have at least got their first points but I can't seeing them adding to their tally tomorrow.

Prediction; 2-0

Plymouth v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Mid-table dogfight tomorrow which could go either way. Wolves have been blowing hot and cold whereas Plymouth have been performing better away from home.

Prediction; 1-2

Preston NE v Bristol City

Preston look to be struggling to re-adjust after losing David Nugent. City meanwhile are flying high with several good away results already, the last being an impressive 3-0 result at Coventry.

Prediction 1-2

Sheffield United v Southampton

I can't see either of these sides finishing outside the top 10 come May. Both have picked up encouraging wins in recent weeks and United will be hoping to build on the 5-0 trouncing of Morecombe in midweek. The saints should provide tougher opposition.

Prediction; 1-1

Watford v Blackpool

Championship pace-setters Watford may be without Marlon King and Darius Henderen tomorrow (both flu) so might not find this quite the formality they might have otherwise expected. Blackpool have been very competitive so far and I don't see them getting a hiding.

Prediction; 1-0

West Bromwich Albion v QPR

Looks like a banker home win. Albion will want to prove that their 4-2 home defeat by Cardiff was a fluke. Loftus Road looks to be an unsettled camp and I just hope John Gregory can hang on until they've been beaten at the Valley.

Prediction; 3-1

Thursday 27 September 2007

Coventry just got harder...

Saturday's trip to the Ricoh Stadium took on an extra dimension last night as the Sky Blues were boosted by a superb 2-0 away win at Old Trafford. Iain Dowie's charges thoroughly deserved their win by all accounts against a re-shuffled Manchester United team and confidence in their camp will be sky high. They can expect the highest gate of the season for our visit, so we are going to need to be at our best to avoid a second successive defeat away from home.

Their team doesn't look like world-beaters on paper (Stephen Hughes, Dele Adebloa, Kevin Kyle and Leon McKenzie) but Dowie has obviously got them playing as a team. They have picked up 3 more points on their travels than they have at home, so will be desperate to get going at the Ricoh. They have won one, drawn one and lost one at home, to Preston, Hull and Bristol City respectively and will know that a victory will get them level on points with us and haul them into the play-off places.

Alan Pardew may need to out-manouevre Iain Dowie on Saturday to get a result and I think it could be a high-scoring game. I'll plump for us to share 5 goals with spoils going to the manager who gets the tactics right.

C'mon you Reds!

Tuesday 25 September 2007

Out of the Carling Cup

Fairly predictable exit from the Carling Cup this evening, losing 3-1 in extra time at Luton. From the BBC London commentary it sounded encouraging enough, in that we created plenty of chances to have won the game, but were second best on the evidence of the play and it was no surprise to see Luton go ahead and win it in extra time.

Dean Sinclair scored his first for Charlton and Harry Arter made his debut. Plenty of other positives although the number of good chances we squandered sounded disappointing.

No point dwelling on any of this, another game would have been a useful option for a maturing squad of players and maybe a money-spinner at home, but it would still have been a distraction from the day job this season which has to be a near total focus on winning league games. This defeat will quickly be forgotten if we can get something at Coventry on Saturday.


A second string Charlton side will take on Luton Town this evening in the Carling Cup. I expect us to compete with the mid-table League One side in what should be a close game.

There is nothing that would get me to Kenilworth Road this evening. Luton ranks alongside the Potteries and parts of Birmngham as the most depressing places in Britain to visit. Believe me, I've done the 92 and Luton's amongst the worst places you can find yourself in. Town planning skipped a couple of generations and it's a hotchpotch of inadequate shopping and leisure facilities crowded around dual carriageways surrounded by a large asian community who appear to have no/little involvement or interest in LTFC.

What doesn't help is that I still have the odd nightmare about my first visit in the 70's when we were hammered 7-1. To this day it's still the most appalling performance I can remember and you'll appreciate we've had some to compare with it.

Monday 24 September 2007

Charlton Athletic 2 v Leicester City 0

Well that looked straightforward enough. Two first half goals for the first time this season and another clean sheet. Interesting to see Alan Pardew compliment the Centre-half pairing again. Looks like Fortune and Bougherra might now get a run at it. Confidence in the camp must be at a high and the Luton game this week offers us the prospect of getting more of the squad players involved.

Coventry will be a good test on Saturday of just how far we have progressed. Iain Dowie won't get the same reception from that he got at Selhurst Park but by the same token I don't think our fans will be chanting his name. I'd settle for escaping this week unbeaten.

Meanwhile, Murrayfield yesterday was a disappointing non-event. Scotland's B team were never going to trouble World Cup favourites and the game was over as a contest after 5 minutes. The second half was boring and Scotland never looked like scoring. Frank Hadden has piled the pressure on his team ahead of the Italy decider on Saturday, although they should be too strong for the Azzurri.

Friday 21 September 2007

Roll on the weekend...

I'm missing the Leicester game tomorrow and am annoyed with myself. Back in close season, when Charlton-interest was at a low, I accepted an invite to Murrayfield on Sunday for the Scotland v New Zealand Rugby World Cup match. The fixtures weren't out then and, hey, we'll probably be away to Preston or somewhere else I have zero interest in ever revisiting.....

I will have to make do with listening in and using my imagination. I expect us to get something from this game and much will depend on how quickly the Leicester players are taking to Gary Megson. Therefore, I'm backing a comfortable victory, especially if we can reach the heights of much of the Norwich performance. Interesting to read the Foxes view of the game; all seem unaware that McCarthy has virtually no chance of even making the bench and they also seem to be relishing their chances against him! Three points will keep us in touch with Watford and we have a great opportunity to further consolidate because Watford have a tricky game at QPR, Bristol City entertain 6th-placed Burnley and Coventry and West Brom are away at Ipswich and Scunthorpe respectively. If we can win again, it will give us a little safeguard against the away trips to Coventry and Hull.

Meanwhile on Sunday, assuming Scotland pick a full-strength team (rumours of tactical resting ahead of the Italy decider), I have a hunch Scotland could cause an upset and lose by less than 20 points.

Tuesday 18 September 2007

Charlton Athletic 2 v Norwich City 0

It's looking good. The team are beginning to get to know each other and dictate a pattern of play. We played like a proper home team for 90 minutes and deserved our win.

The midfield was dominant for the opening 30 minutes with Reid pulling the strings and venturing forward at every opportunity. Semedo and Zheng Zhi were quick to the breakdowns and Lloyd Sam looks increasingly comfortable in the shirt. At the back SAP brought in Bougherra for McCarthy and it made all the difference with Fortune looking very asssured alongside him. Powell played a tidy game and Danny Mills provided the abrasion for Huckerby and finally Dublin.

Iwelumo headed onto the bar in the first half and Norwich cleared the rebound under presure from Varney. Varney looked a class act from the off and was unfortunate not have opened his account when put clear in second half only to slam his shot against the advancing Marshall.

Norwich came for the draw and it wasn't until 10 minutes before the break that they attacked with any purpose and caused Weaver to make the save of the game with a left handed reflex save from a snap-snot inside the box.

The game tightened in the second half but Charlton were still creating chances. Following Varney's miss, Reid had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock firing wide from 12 yards out when all around him were at sixes and sevens following a spell of pinball. As the clock counted down it looked like a draw might be on the cards. SAP had other ideas and brought McLeod on for Varney. The impact was immediate. McLeod hared into the box and fired inches wide from a tight angle. Minutes later he repeated the burst but this time from the right and this time Gary Doherty, who struggled all evening, put in the clumsy challenge that begged a penalty. Referree Singh obliged and Andy Reid smashed the opener. Before the Valley could draw breath McLeod seized the ball again and hurtled goalward. This time the challenge looked less obvious and it was closer to the edge of the box but the result was same. Singh pointed immediately to the spot and Andy Reid repeated the trick. In the dying minute as the Norwich faithful were waved on their way, Dion Dublin clashed with Danny Mills and stupidly kicked out during the follow-up which earned him a straight red card.

Up to third with Leicester at home on Saturday. This performance deserves a decent increase on the 21,533 there tonight, just less than 20,000 of who were Charlton fans.

Less-be be having ya!

Really looking forward to this evenings encounter with Norwich City. They are a club you can't help admiring. They have a decent stadium and good support - similar in both respects to ourselves. They have a good footballing tradition and civilised fans - again similar to us. Norwich is a great place to visit and, win, lose or draw, I have always had a good day out there. What's more they even have good old Delia Smith at the helm. They sold their initial allocation of 1500, so will be well-backed for a night game.

Enough of the platitudes. Tonight they come to the Valley a point behind us and, like us, looking to consolidate their start to the campaign. They have an experienced look about them: 38 year Dion Dublin will captain the side from the back and we are likely to face Darren Huckerby, Luke Chadwick and Jamie Cureton amongst others.

For us, SAP should start with Reidy in midfiled (for Thomas or Ambrose) and may be tempted to leave Luke "Skywalker" Varney on the bench if Toddy and Big Chris are fully recovered from Colchester cramp. What will be really interesting will be the centre-back pairing. He must change one but could change both - it will reveal something more of Pards personal view of where we've been getting it wrong in defence. I am predicting a close match and will go for 1-1 unless we can get a slice of good fortune (a pen) or a cracker of a goal. I'll also plump for Varney to open his Valley account.

The other talking point of this evening will be Iain Dowie's return to Selhurst. Personally, I hope Coventry cream them and Dowie sticks two fingers up to Jordan. Better still, Jordan can't control himself and confronts Dowie but allows himself to get too close (and out of reach of his minders).....

C'mon you Reds!

Sunday 16 September 2007

Colchester Utd 2 v Charlton Athletic 2

Before the game Alan Pardew would probably have settled for a point. As half-time approached he would have given anything to get level and at the the final whsitle he must have felt that a point was something of a missed opportunity. I certainly did.

Deciding to rest Reid after his midweek game for Ireland, Alan Pardew started with the weaker midfield that including Darren Ambrose, Jerome Thomas, Jose Semedo and Zheng Zhi. With the size of our squad and the anticipated quality of the opposition, I guess this wasn't the worst decision he could have made - that would have been leaving Reid out altogether.

The first-half started well enough but Colchester were giving as good as they got from back to front. We were clearly missing Reid's controlling and pushing influence in midfield. We needed a goal to up the ante but it was Colchester who struck first after half-an-hour. Teddy Sherringham continues to haunt us at 40. He fed Yeates who easily beat Nicky Weaver. Six minutes later and Colchester applied salt to the wound. For the fourth time this season a smaller opposing player has managed to beat the Fortune-McCarthy pairing virtually unopposed in the air from a set-piece to score. It had to be Kevin Lisbie. With fears of a rout on the cards, Todorov slid home from Iwelumo and settled the nerves just before the break. Collective deep sigh of relief and the chance to do something about this game.

Credit to Alan Pardew, he acted switfly at the break and introduced Reidy for Thomas. That added the missing ingredient in midfield at least and we began to hold and play. It was a Reid through-ball that resulted in Colchester losing Connolly to a straight red for a challenge on Big Chris. The home crowd were incensed and they may have had a point but I'd need to see it again before making Iwelumo the villain of the piece. As if to shelter Iwelumo from the abuse he was now receiving, Varney came on for him shortly afterwards and made a contribution to Zhengs equaliser with just less than 20 minutes remaining.

Beating 10-men has never been a Charlton forte. Frankly we struggled after the equaliser and some dreadful defending from McCarthy, Fortune and Weaver might have handed Colchester the winner.

We simply can't keep conceding goals like this and expect to get something from games. The Fortune and McCarthy partnership at the back is not working and there has to be a better option. Madjid, Sam Sodje and maybe Cory Gibbs have something to offer here?

On a more positive note, the point puts us up to 5th in the table with two home games to come this week against Norwich and Leicester and we should expect to get 6 or at least 4 more points from these two. The other Championship fixtures are doing us favours at the moment and I can see us climbing into the top 3 if we can take 4 or 6 points this week. However, the table is very congested with only 3 points separating 17 teams so we must take this opportunity. We have to be picking the players who are playing best for us....

Layer Road hasn't improved since I was last there in the early-80's. For me it serves as a perfect reminder of how far we've come as a club because the Valley wasn't much better in the early 90's after we returned. The Championship is the limit of Colchesters' ambitions because they cannot progress with their tiny and delapidated ground, however, that doesn't mean you can beat them just by turning up!

Friday 14 September 2007

Six In A Row?

Something very unusual is happening. I was in Paris on Wednesday evening to see Scotland beat the World Cup finalists in their own back yard. Following Saturday's 3-1 defeat of Lithuania and the three Charlton wins in succession, tomorrow's clash at Layer Road could make it six in a row. We then have the prospect of two winnable home games against Norwich and Leicester. Dare I dream?

Wednesday first. What a day and what a night! Eurostar is a great way to travel and the sun shone all day. There was a fantastic atmosphere in Paris and it was good to see the beer tents set-up for the Rugby World Cup, full of guzzling football supporters. I'll wager they didn't bank on their best day's takings being a football match!

I reckon over 10,000 Scotland fans walked together from the Eiffel Tower to the Parc des Princes. It really was some sight with Parisienne drivers tooting their horns and waving from windows and balconies all the way. Liberating Paris in 1945 can't have felt much different! The match itself was closely fought and for all their possession France didn't really trouble Scotland and struggled to get out of second gear. Nil-nil at half-time was what Scots fans had been hoping for but none were prepared for happened mid-way through the second half. James McFadden picked up a long ball fully 30 yards out. With an attendent defender and no support you could see what went through his mind as he took aim and had a go. Seconds later and pandemonium in the stadium. Landreau in goal could only get a flailing left hand to it and only enough purchase on it to deflect it into the top corner. The last 25 minutes seemed an age but France could only huff and puff. At the final whistle the remaining French fans fled in disgust making the thousands of celebrating Scotland fans highly visible around the ground. You can guess the rest!

So, no pressure you Reds. I'm not expecting miracles but let's get out there tomorrow and play Colchester off the park. We'll have a good following in their tiny ground and I'm hoping we'll make it sound like a home game.

C'mon you Reds!

Sunday 9 September 2007

International Sporting Saturday

What a day for watching, viewing and listening yesterday! International football, cricket and rugby dominating. England managed a rare hat-trick of victories and Scotland maintained Euro 2008 ambitions.

Cricket first - having attended Wednesday's series-levelling one-dayer at the Oval, I was pleased to hear that England managed a win to take the series 4-3 at Lords yesterday. Freddie Flintoff was back to inspire England, although India were undone by their own batting performance. Good too to see my man-of-the-match from Wednesday, Dimitri Mascarenhas, put in another good perfomance and seal a call-up to the World 20-20 squad.

I watched the New Zealand - Italy rugby World Cup match yesterday on the box and whilst it went to form, you couldn't help noticing the power of the Kiwis, especially in the first half. They were foot and hand perfect as they rampaged through the Italian line time and again. Hopefully, the performance shows a weaker than anticipated Italy side, because New Zealand looked untouchable otherwise. Australia went one better later in the day racking up 91 points against Japan and England got off the mark against the USA with what was a disappointing performnace by all accounts.

For the main event, I was at a sunny Hampden Park to see Scotland beat Lithuania 3-1. Chris Boyd opened the scoring with a diving header from a quickly taken free-kick in the first half. Lithuania equalised from the spot early in the second half from what was a terrible dive from Hearts' player Mikoliunas (oh dear!). For 15 minutes Lithuania had their best spell without creating the chance they needed for the lead. Alex McLeish then made two substitutions that settled the game. Sean Maloney was introduced at a Scotland corner. He collected the ball immediately and sent a probing cross which Celtic team-mate McManus anticipated batter than anyone else in the box to bundle home. With less than 10 minutes on the clock, substitute McFadden found space outside the box and popped a superb shot into the top corner to secure the points. Paris on Wednesday will be a different proposition altogether.

England comfortably beat Israel to maintain momentum in their group ahead of the midweek home game against Russia, a win in which should put them in the driving seat for a trip to Austria and Switzerland next year - maybe then the press will lay-off poor Steve McLaren and give him and the players he has fit a little bit of credit.

Northern ireland lost in Latvia but their Euro chances were boosted by Iceland managing a 1-1 draw with Spain.

Friday 7 September 2007

Can Anyone Stop the Kiwis?

The Rugby World Cup kicks off this evening with what could be the best match from the opening four weeks as hosts France entertain Argentina. The French should be too strong at home but the Pumas will be up for it and could seize on any sign of choking if the pressure gets too much for France. The result tonight will really matter because both teams are locked in the group of death with Ireland and one of them is going to miss the boat.

The next four weeks will see plenty of rugby to entertain us as the football season continues to get underway. There is unlikely to be many shocks during the four weeks as the seeded teams do their stuff against the developing nations; France and either Ireland or Argentina should qualify from the group of death; England and South Africa will progress to the Quarter-Finals and Australia and New Zealand are bankers. The question-marks remain over Wales and Scotland. The Welsh have been horribly unpredictable over the last two years and generally poor. They will need to compete against the Fijians for the full 80 minutes if they are to get through. Scotland are improving but face a tricky game against Italy, a side who have recorded good 6 Nations wins against them in recent years. That one should be a bit tasty as both will be relying heavily on their maurauding packs to force the game.

Assuming things go relatively to plan, the Quarter-Finals on 6 and 7 October will pit England and South Africa against Australia and Wales/Fifi on one side of the draw and France and Ireland/Argentina against New Zealand and Scotland/Italy.

For the Semis it's hard to look beyond Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France or Ireland/Argentina (depending on who avoids the Kiwis in the Quarters). At that stage it will be harder to call, but the Kiwis are favourites, especially as they will be thirsting for revenge over their southern hemisphere rivals for recent reversals.

My tip for a potential big-game upset is from Ireland and/or Scotland. Ireland have a mature team who are nearing the end of the line (sounds familiar?) and have the capacity to beat the best if they fire on all cylinders. They have expected greater success in recent years than they have achieved and this could be their big shout. Scotland by comparison don't have the same quality across their team but they have a game-winning pack, no pressure and Frank Haddon behind them.

In amongst the rugby this weekend, I am going to watch Scotland at Hampden against Lithuania in a game the Scots will expect to win but which I suspect could be a banana skin for them. They have been pretty good so far during their Euro campaign in terms of winning to form as well as getting a couple of unexpected scalps. I hope I am wrong because I have tickets for the Parc de Prince next Wednesday and they need the 3 points if there's going to be any real competitiveness in that game. I expect England to see of the Israeli's tomorrow but the Russians could be the party-poopers.

Eight days to Colchester!

Wednesday 5 September 2007

Diversion at The Oval

Just home from an exhausting, yet thoroughly enjoyable day at the Oval. India levelled the One-Day-International series at 3-3 in a nail-biting finish.

As a traditional Charlton die-hard, I always feel slightly guilty when questioned on the subject of cricket. I know there is a long association of football and cricket, Winter and Summer, Charlton and Kent, Colin Cowdrey and all that. And yet I feel a fraud. The land of my birth doesn't do cricket. I can never recall having played cricket properly and my passing interest has been akin to that of my interest in American sports - not great. I have been at the Oval once before and also once to Lords. On both occasions it was for the first or second days of test matches, against India and South Africa respectively. Both were tedious and turned into drinking sessions.

Today was completely different and I was entertained from the off. There was no hanging about. The fielding was aggressive and the batsmen cracked on. India struck early with two wickets and our sweep on the England score was immediately looking generous. However, they rallied, Pietersen weighed in, Shah made a ton from nowhere and new-boy Wright posted 50. As lunch approached fellow debutant, bowler Dimitri Mascarenhas, decided to hit out and I was astonished to see him smash each of the last five deliveries for 6 with exactly the same shot. Amazing - England finished on 316 after a rocky start - 20 runs above the top end sweep predictions of eleven of us!

I was looking forward to watching Sachin Tendulkar and he didn't disappoint in a strong opening partnership with Ganguly after lunch. They raced to 150 never looking in trouble before Ganguly went. India batted on and lost Tendulkar following what looked like an injury. Their scoring slowed and the odds looked to have swung back toward England as the overs disappeared. Needing 10 off the final over Uphappa made two boundaries and that was that with two balls left. I was immediately reminded of our recent finishes against Wednesday and Stockport and the traditional association of football and cricket. Maybe I won't feel so guilty next time cricket comes up in conversation and I might just make the effort for another one-dayer!

Monday 3 September 2007

News from the Lane?

Two snippets of news from White Hart Lane today that may be of interest....

Darren Bent has finally been goaded into making a statement about his decision to turn down the Hammers in favour of the Lilywhites. Bent told Sky Sports. "It was nothing to do with Curbs. “He's a fantastic manager. He did wonders for me and made me the player I am today by giving me my opportunity. It was just a career decision and I chose to join Tottenham." Clear enough to me.

The second piece is a rumour that we might be interested in taking 17 year-old "starlet" stiker Terry Dixon on loan? Not sure how that works with transfer window but presumably this would be about his development rather than any serious prospect of being considered for the first team.

Good to see the Colchester tickets have sold out quickly. We have only been given a 1000 but that will represent a larger percentage of the gate than we had at Selhurst on Saturday. It's got to help the players away from home when they know we are selling out and making a lot of noise. If we can maintain some momentum in the coming weeks and begin a prolonged challenge, then we might start to erode the travelling malaise of the last five or so years.

Sunday 2 September 2007

Crystal Palace 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

How good was that? A hat-trick of 1-0 wins at Selhurst Park (what a dump - it gets worse every visit). A battling team performance inspired in defence by Danny Mills, encouraged by Reidy and finished by Todorov. A nice drink before the game in pleasant surroundings (which meant a late train to the ground) and a few celebratory pints after the match up town in the company of gentlemen. Such a perfect day!

Super Alan Pardew must be a very satisfied man indeed today. He got the improvement he sought in defence instantly with the addition of Mills. McCarthy and Fortune looked the better for it and the concentration levels were evidently better. Powell was peerless as usual and a five man midfield was industrious. Iwelumo lead the line well enough but I would have preferred to have played 4-4-2 from the off. Having said that, Pards got it right because we competed well for an hour before Toddy's arrival and were having a lot of possession and creating chances.

Todorov's introduction and the move to 4-4-2 quickly lead to the winner. A scrappy enough goal that the raucous Charlton fans helped blow over the line. We played out the remaining 20 minutes relatively easily. Sub Idrizaj forced a fine save from Weaver but Palace didn't really step it up enough to look like getting anything. McLeod had the best chance of the game in the dying minutes when through one-on-one with the keeper but his shot was blocked. Palace were very ordinary, much more like I had expected at the start of the season, so their 4-1 win at Southampton begins to look like a fluke. Peter Taylor must be feeling the heat at the moment and they look like they have a long season ahead.

For the Addicks, everything suddenly looks rosy and the talk on the train back to London was understandably optimistic. One win at Selhurst doesn't make a season but it certainly helps cement our start. The international break next week will give us the opportunity to draw breath and get a couple more players ready for the fray. Luke Varney must be licking his lips in anticipation....

I should also report that Simon Jordan got the loud and frequent abuse from the travelling Charlton fans that he deserves. He spent the whole match standing in an exit, presumably so he wouldn't have to sit anywhere near Richard Murray and Co. The man really is a prick.