Thursday 30 October 2008

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 15

Big, big match at the Valley on Saturday. Lowly Barnsley come to town after their first away win of the season at even-lower Doncaster. The Tykes have mustered just two goals in seven games away from Oakwell which should ensure a smaller away following than Burnley managed. It's Kid-for-a-Quid this half-term weekend, so don't be surprised if our home gate is larger still than the 21,800-odd recorded for Burnley.

They face a stuttering Charlton side who appear to need a kick-start in games to begin playing so anything is possible. The "Pardew Out" element is growing more vociferous by the week as the Redvolution grows. I am now firmly in the "time for a change" camp but I will support the side and the manager until the end of the game on Saturday.

Like Burnley last week, this is a match our side should be winning routinely at home. Barnsley have won 13 of their 15 points at home so we can expect them to crumple if we get at them and take the lead. If we struggle to score, as we have done recently, then the crowd could grow restless and the attitude of the players could be pivotal. Pards is very much in their hands for this one and you've got to think they know it. That's why we should see clearly whether the problem is largely him or them.

Elsewhere, I see it like this...

Bristol City don't draw too many blanks at home and their 0-0 with the Blades in the week at Ashton Gate will have them trying that fraction harder for the win here. Reading were humbled at Burnley and a loss here could cap a poor week for the Royals.
Prediction; 1-0

Can't see City improving on their 3-1 defeat at Derby in the week. Burnley are a decent side at home and should have the better of this.
Prediction; 2-0

Cardiff City v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Spicy encounter here. Should be a raucous atmosphere and the Old Goal should take a sizeable following to the Ramshackle Stadium as it's just down the M5 and over the bridge. I'll go for Wolves to match Birmingham's win in Cardiff. Big Chris and SEB to net again.
Prediction; 1-2

Charlton Athletic v Barnsley
Should be a convincing home win but I don't think our players will overcome their recent dire form and we face another angst-fest at the Valley. Neither of these sides looks good enough to score more than once in 90 minutes.
Prediction; 1-1

Whoops! Palace fell down the stairs on Tuesday night and ended up in casualty. Mr Warnock had better watch out or he'll be joining Jan Poortvliet and Alan Pardew at the Doctors for sleeping tablets. Simes won't be too enamoured with Palace's ongoing mediocrity and the long ball football continues to stifle home gates. Wednesday have the same poor record away from home at Barnsley but they have shipped a whopping 21 goals, six more than Forest and Doncaster. Surely Palace won't lose again.
Prediction; 2-1

Rovers have still only scored twice at home all season. Swansea were unfortunate to go down at Wolves on Tuesday and I can see them going one better here. Should be a good game to watch between two footballing sides.
Prediction; 1-2

Ipswich Town v QPR
Rangers scalped mighty Brum in the week so will travel to Portman Road with a swagger. Having been mugged themselves in the week, Town will be careful not to miss their next penalty when winning 1-0. Rangers have not been great away but have only lost three. I think they might repeat our scoreline but get closer to deserving it.
Prediction; 1-1

Preston home win. I keep thinking Southampton will be too good to go down but it's getting increasingly hard to find a third side they are worse than at the bottom - unless of course we continue as we are for the rest of the season.
Prediction; 2-0

A cracker in prospect here. Argyle won at Wednesday in the week so go for the Sheffield double on Saturday. I wonder if any of their fans have just stayed up for the second game? Anyway, they will need to be on top form to win this as the Blades defend an unbeaten home record. I'm going to sit on the fence and take the draw.
Prediction; 1-1

Watford need to win here to overhaul the Seasiders in the table and get clear of us. Neither of them are going great guns at the moment, so home advantage should tell here.
Prediction; 2-0

East Midlands derby here on Sunday and no love lost between this two. The largest Championship gate of the weekend should see Derby inflict Forest's seventh away defeat of the season in eight games. 
Prediction; 2-1

Monday night fare this and another local derby. It might not have the emnity of Brum v Villa but both sides will relish this one. They have a habit of blowing hot or cold in derby games and this could be a cold!
Prediction; 3-1

Come on you Reds!

Wednesday 29 October 2008

2008 in perspective

Last night's result means we have won  4 out of 14 games so far this season or 28%, or getting on for only 1 in 4 played. If you look at the disappointing results from 1st January 2008 to the of last season, we had 6 wins from 21 games, or 28%, getting on for only 1 in 4 played. The maths on the aggregate number of wins for 2008 is therefore easy - the answer is 28% - consistent eh?

Another way to look at it is to extrapolate that over 46 games and you find yourself in deep relegation trouble. Well we know that already, don't we? Taking draws into consideration, we are on target for 49 points, a win shy of Leicester's unimpressive 52 points which consigned them to League One this year.

Yes, Pardew has been unlucky with the unexpected severity of the cost-cutting measure enforced during the Summer but he declared himself satisfied with what he was left with at the start and said it was good enough for a top 6 finish. It obviously isn't panning out that way and eight months of consistent relegation form cannot be viewed as a blip however long you look at it. No, we simply need to try someone else. Before you all jump in, that obviously comes with attendant risks and costs but doing nothing isn't the answer either as our stock continues to fall, supporter interest plummets and a catastrophic second relegation threatens.

The only issue that should be up for debate now is the timing of Pardew's departure and a new manager coming in. Ideally you want the new manager to get a week with the players before a winnable home game, in the hope you get the immediate bounce and confidence boosting win before you go on the road under the new bloke. Too late for Saturday, but the next home game isn't until Saturday 22nd November. Therefore, the Board should be busying itself identifying the man they need with a view to relieving Pards of his duties after the Birmingham away game and introducing the new manager.  

The players too have a role to play in this. If he hasn't lost the dressing room, then they could come out on Saturday and blow Barnsley away with a determined performance. Unfortunately, that logic also applies to the Burnley home game and last night's match, neither of which gave us that performance, and the prospect of getting it on Saturday looks slim.

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Ipswich Town 1 Charlton Athletic 1

On the face of it, a good away point at Portman Road. However, the underlying performance was extremely poor and the point was fortunate. Barnsley looks like a must-win for Alan Pardew.

Unable to find a commentary, I joined the Charlton Life match thread which was a different way to follow the game whilst listening to Five Live. There were about 70 people following the thread which was largely negative but not surprising bearing in mind our scarcity of chances and generally pathetic display. With ten minutes to go I was consoling myself with the prospect of a final show-down for Alan Pardew on Saturday and the opportunity for the players to see the back of him with another inept, win-free display at home. Sad to say, but when Bailey equalised, I felt cheated. It sounded like we had a few frantic chances to completely rob them at the end.

The side was pretty much as expected - a return to the old faithfuls and a 4-4-2 that played more like a 4-5-1 with Todorov dropping back into midfield, possibly to try and get a touch. Youga came in at left back, Cranie started in central defence in place of Primus and Holland was back in the middle with Bailey. Hard to be objective with only text and comment updates but we sounded poor throughout the side. Ipswich scored from a 35-40 yard free-kick which shouldn't have beaten Weaver by all accounts. Nothing much heard from Sam, Varney, Holland or Bailey until his goal. Darren Ambrose did get a number of mentions but maybe they are fixated on him up there, like he was a sheep or something. Pardew threw on all of the subs towards the end once again as he tried to press all the buttons. Strange that you can't compete for 80 minutes and then go flat out for the win.

Elsewhere, news wasn't much better for us. Forest won at Palace (ok not so bad either) and Southampton took a point at home to Coventry. With Barnsley beating Doncaster we are now level on points with the Tykes and two clear from third bottom Southampton. We simply have to beat Barnsley on Saturday. The Board will be praying for three points because they can't afford to sack him and I'd love to see us turn the corner but I am resigned to another disappointing performance and probably not a winning result. If we don't put in a performance on Saturday I believe the Board will act before our next home game.

With snow failing across the country this evening, perhaps the weather will save Pards for now. If he survives Saturday, we face two consecutive defeats at Plymouth and Birmingham before we entertain Sheffield United. No matter how you look at it, the end is nigh and we will enter the lottery for a new manager in the hope of getting us out of the relegation quick-sand.

Fleetwood returns

Be careful what you wish for. An old Chinese proverb that I am reminded of this morning.

Having bemoaned the fact that we started with Izale McLeod on Saturday when Chris Dickson didn't make the bench and Stuart Fleetwood was out on loan, Fleetwood has now returned to the club. Good news I thought, although the article in the Gloucestershire press goes on to explain that he's been sent back by Martin Allen after failing to impress in seven games. Hardly the confidence boost he needed or an auspicious return under which to get a chance to notch his first Championship goal. 

With all the talk about our failing strikers, it really looks like we will continue to perm one or two from Varney, Gray and Todorov. McLeod, Dickson and Fleetwood look just what they have always been - lower league goalscorers. I haven't give up on Dickson but Pardew must be desperate and he is obviously convinced that the man he signed from Dulwich Hamlet is not the answer. 

With no money to spend and nothing obvious coming through the ranks, how long before Darren Ambrose is pushed upfront again? In the circumstances, we must persevere with Luke Varney unless he thinks it's time for a rest. Kevin Lisbie will be having a chuckle to himself this evening.

Monday 27 October 2008

Midweek Championship Preview, Game 14

Another full Championship programme tomorrow night. We make the shortish trip to Portman Road to face Jim Magilton's men who will be bouyed by a very good win at Plymouth on Saturday. Town were as good at home last season as they were bad away. Their second win of the season away will have them looking for their third home win and I can't see us stopping them. We simply aren't scoring enough goals to win games - two in six away games is meagre fare, although we have only conceded six. I'd go with an attacking 4-4-2 formation but suspect AP might revert to type and put out a defensive 4-5-1 using the usual suspects. If we do lose we could slip closer to the teams below us, two of whom, Doncaster and Barnsley, face each other. Again, Barnsley at home looks like a big game - how sad is that?

Two play-off contenders clash here and home advantage might tell. United stumbled past Preston on Saturday whilst City shut out Barnsley in south Yorkshire for a point. 
Prediction; 1-0

Reading failed to win at home for the first time this season and might find this a long trip. Burnley will see this as a chance to move into the play-off zone after four points in two on the road. 
Prediction; 2-1

Cardiff City v Blackpool 
Cardiff did it again on Saturday with Ross McCormack netting the winner at woeful Forest. Dave Jones really is getting the best out of his team and you have to fancy them to beat Blackpool who have only lost once away so far this season.
Prediction; 2-0 

A decent point for the Eagles at Blackpool on Saturday and they will be relishing this one. Home banker as Forest consolidate their lead at the botttom of the table.
Prediction; 3-0

Derby County v Norwich City
Rob Hulse scored again for Derby as they drew 1-1 with Coventry at the weekend. Norwich made it two in two as Leroy Lita fired a late winner at Carrow Road. Derby look favourite but I'll take Norwich to battle for a point here and wouldn't be surprised to see Hulse and Lita on the scoresheet again.
Prediction; 1-1

Doncaster Rovers v Barnsley
Barnsley could overhaul us if they win this and Rovers could get within three points; truly frightening. However, both sides are struggling to score; Rovers have only scored two at home and Barnsley only one away! 
Prediction; 0-0

Can't see it I'm afraid. Kevin Lisbie is due another goal against us and he's worth a punt for the winner.
Prediction; 2-0

After their early season nosebleed when leading the table, Preston have slipped back to 15th and have lost five in six. Watford have been blowing hot and cold and much will depend on what frame of mind they arrive in. I'll go for them to bounce back after their unfortunate 3-2 home defeat by Wolves.
Prediction; 1-2

Gareth Ainsworth got a good point at Reading on Saturday and will know that he needs three more here if he has any chance of landing the job permanently. You have to think QPR's unrealistically ambitious Board will want a bigger name and someone with a lot more experience than Ainsworth. City look destined for a immediate return to the big time and a point here will probably do Mr McLeish. 
Prediction; 0-0

Both losers on Saturday, Sheffield Wednesday will be favorites here to preserve their unbeaten home sequence and move themselves back towards an unlikely looking play-off place.
Prediction; 2-0

You only need to ensure you have more points than three sides to avoid relegation. Southampton look like they will be one side we should finish above but we only have a two point gap at the moment and this will be another opportunity for them to close it.
Prediction; 1-1

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Swansea City
Exciting match in prospect here with two sides who pass and have a go. Both were weekend winners and this could be a thriller.
Prediction; 3-2

Sunday 26 October 2008

Charlton Athletic 1 Burnley 1

Yesterday's first half performance crystallised something for me; Alan Pardew is on his way out and it will happen sooner rather than later. It's only now a matter of affordability and it will happen when the Board realise the seriousness of our situation because we cannot afford relegation; he will be lucky to see November out. I actually like the bloke and have been reluctant to join the band-wagon in recent weeks by slating him. What was plainly clear yesterday in the starting selection was that he has run out of belief and ideas, and is pressing all the buttons at once in order to try and get a result. However you look at it, he seems unable to motivate the players during a match. The second-half improvement was due to the half-time substitions and positional reshuffle, not the influence of the manager during the game. Bearing in mind the events of the week and the evident call to arms from all connected with the club, the first half performance was unforgiveable.

After Tuesday's debacle Alan Pardew promised numerous changes but his options looked limited in terms of the personnel available. Perhaps he has been hurt by criticism in recent weeks of always threatening changes but hardly making any because he made three for the start and only one of them had any effect on the match. Izale McLeod was a surprise starter but had a shocker and you have to wonder what he actually offers us for the future. He once won us two penalties in a League Cup match against poor opposition but he has done absolutely nothing else and if it was a surprise he started the first half, it certainly wasn't to see him subbed for the start of the second.

Josh Wright was thrown into the midfield for his debut and whilst he struggled in the first half, he did at least get into the match in the second and made some promising passes. Mark Hudson was back in central defence alongside Linvoy Primus with Yassin Moutaouakil at right-back and the right sided Martin Cranie preferred at left back. Sorry, but that was another school-boy error when we we had a perfectly competent left-sided left back in Grant Basey playing on the wing.

Andy Gray was dropped and can have no complaints although you wonder what Chris Dickson has done wrong not to get a start or even make the bench. When we are desperate enough to try McLeod again you have to ask why Stuart Fleetwood is still on loan at Cheltenham. He's not a teenager and it was pointless signing him if he's not good enough to play in the first team.

The first half was truly abject and we did not create a single chance. No shots on target and no shots off-target. Burnley should have wrapped it up before their half-time oranges. The referree was better than many we have seen since being back in the Championship but he made a complete howler in disallowing a Martin Paterson goal for offside after he had over-ruled the linesman in the build-up to the goal. It was so bad that I had to apologise to a Burnley fan after the match. You could say justice was done in that Paterson was off-side and also because Burnley did score minutes afterwards with a deflected shot from Joey Gudjonsson. Burnley dominated the rest of the first half and the smallest away following of the season so far, must have thought they would be taking three points back to Lancashire.

Lloyd Sam came on at half-time for Linvoy Primus (presumably still struggling with an injury) with Cranie going to centre-half and Grant Basey finally dropping to left-back. McLeod was also spared any further embarrassment and Svetislav Todorov got the chance to prove just how wrong the initial decision to play McLeod was. McLeod should be grateful he was subbed at the break rather than face the ignominy of being loudly jeered off as that's what would have happened.

After only four minutes of the second half Darren Ambrose got a header in which was our first effort of the game and it drew ironic cheers from the Valley's largest crowd of the season. Lloyd Sam upped the tempo and we began to make headway on the right flank. Yassin Mouaouakil (my man-of-the-match) was able to get up in support and more space was created for Bailey who had put a poor first half although he looked to be playing with one eye on Josh Wright. Wright improved second half and Darren Ambrose looked more interested now that the others were making more of an effort.

Todorov finds space well (look and learn Andy Gray) even if he hasn't got great pace. His equalising goal was a simple close range header from a Basey free-kick and we looked to have the winning of the match within our grasp with 15 minutes remaining. We didn't do quite enough although Luke Varney should have won it at the death after seizing on a short back-pass and skipping around the stranded Jensen. Duff hared back and slid in to deny Varney's shot and it was all over. Weaver tipped a fierce Gudjonsson onto the bar in the second half for Burnley's only real second-half effort but they deserved a point. Having said that, they are another team we should be beating at home and we failed again.

Ipswich will gain revenge in the week for their Valley defeat and we have to beat Barnsley at home next Saturday as we are unlikely to get anything at Plymouth or Birmingham.

Liverpool have at least cheered me up this afternoon by ending Chelsea's unbeaten home run. Let's hope Bolton can piss on Harry "loyalty" Redknapp's chips in the later game. What a greedy bastard that man is. Tottenham deserve him.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Today's match could be pivotal

Today's run-of-the-mill home game to Burnley is threatening to take on added significance as it could prove to be pivotal in the playing fortunes of our team. Charlton blogs and bulletin boards have been awash with regulars declaring their loyalty to the club and their determination to ensure we get a positive atmosphere at the Valley tomorrow and that the team at least start with a twelfth man in the stands. 

It wasn't just regular posters either - Chairman Derek Chappell has even appeared on Charlton Life with the same message. Yes, it could have been a dog masquerading as the Chairman, but at least his answers read like they could have come from the Chairman e.g. he can't "hate" Millwall now that he's the Chairman, he only dislikes them (Non One Likes them Derek).

So, if we get a result tomorrow and the fans go home happy, we could have started something of a fightback. Conversely, if the atmosphere is improved but the performance and result aren't, it's hard to see what's going to change in the coming weeks. After today we face three aways in the next four and Ipswich, Plymouth and Birmingham will provide a meagre return which could see us slipping into the drop zone. That's a nightmare scenario because we played like relegation candidates for the last half of last season and simply couldn't arrest the decline. It would be hard to see how we would get out of it with no money and ongoing financial pressures.

But I'll finish on a positive note - a decent team performance today will build the support from the stands and, I suspect, a standing ovation at the end if we leave the field with three points. That would give us some much needed confidence for Portman Road on Tuesday and set a winning expectation for the Barnsley home game next week. Six or more points in the next 8 days would see us move comfortably back to the middle of the table and give us something to build on.


Friday 24 October 2008

Dowie Sack-trick

Iain Dowie was today relieved of his responsibilities at massive west London club Queens Park Rangers. Ninth place in the table in October and having won more than they have lost is clearly not good enough for the Super-hoops who invested several million pounds of their billionaire's fortunes during the close season on new players.

You have to feel slightly sorry for Dowie who has lacked resources or time at Charlton, Coventry and now QPR. At Charlton he wasn't given time, at Coventry he had no resources and, argubaly, he's had neither at Rangers. You can't see him walking into a comparable club any time soon, so he'd better hope his currency as a pundit is still strong.

Having predicted his exit in my post earlier today, the black spot moves to Jan Poortvliet at Southampton and with our own SAP moving in as lead challenger.

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 13

Here we go again and peversely, this is a game I believe we will all be looking forward to when on Wednesday morning it was one we were all dreading. The Arabs have buggered off and we're on our own again. There's a definate whiff of the Dunkirk spirit in the air and Addicks everywhere are closing ranks. This is just what we need right now and you have to believe there will be a positive reaction from the players. Game 13 might prove unlucky for the Clarets.

The Tykes got their third home win of the season in the week whilst City were making the best of their good fortune to be playing the Implodables. I can see Barnsley making it two-in-a-row here if they can get the lead.
Prediction; 2-1

City are top again and get a chance to increase their lead. Sheffield Wednesday have improved from last season but still lack any consistency. This should be a step too far and Kevin Phillips will fancy his chances of adding again to his impressive career total of goals.
Predictin; 2-0

Another battling performance from Palace in midweek to eventually be robbed in the last seconds at St Andrews. Blackpool have won two, drawn two and lost two at home and I predict another very tight game. It might be hard to separate these sides.
Prediction; 1-1

Charlton Athletic v Burnley
I honestly felt this game was lost on Wednesday after the Bristle defeat. However, I think there will now be a backlash from the stands and, more importantly, on the pitch. The team might get an even better starting support than they did on Tuesday and if we can produce another opening 20 minutes like we did against City then surely we will take the lead and the initiative. I believe we will need two goals to beat the Clarets, so I hope we press on if we get the lead. You have to think that our squad will feel collective relief at the Zabeel decision and we might get a rolled-up-sleeves performance for longer than 20 minutes or the first half. 
Prediction; 3-1

Coventry City v Derby County 
Coventry's home defeat to two late Burnley goals on Tuesday was a big surprise and Cookie Coleman will be demanding more here. It's a Derby derby of sorts and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Derby repeat Burnley's feat of a dramatic late win.
Prediction; 0-1

City fans have been purring since their demolition of Wolves in the week. Leroy Lita netted a hat-trick and could have had a couple more by all accounts. If he sees that much of the ball tomorrow Donny will be sunk as they look incapable of scoring more than one goal per two matches.
Prediction; 2-0

Cardiff take their unbeaten away record to the City Ground on Saturday confident that they can maintain it after coming back from two-down at Watford to scrape another draw. Jay Bothroyd netted twice in that game which means that he is now unlikely to score again until Christmas if his career showing to date is anything to go by. Cardiff will still be favourites here but this is the game of the weekend which I think offers the biggest prospect of a win against the odds (along with the Addicks).
Prediction; 2-1

Argyle know that another home win here will see them into a play-off position and that should be all the incentive Paul Sturrock's charges need. Ipswich are notoriously poor travellers and having picked up a point at Forest on Tuesday might feel their work's been done until they trot out at Portman Road again.
Prediction; 2-0

This is the televised 5.20pm match and should provide Reading with their 7th straight home win. They won't win them all this year and are due to drop some points soon. Rangers have been better when televised this year and this is also a relative derby. In the circumstances I think the Super Hoops might go close here but no cigar. Manager Iain Dowie looks like he might be seeing out his last few matches if Rangers lose any more ground on the play-off spots. 
Reading; 1-0

United are unbeaten at home having won three and drawn three. Can't see PNE troubling them here.
Prediction; 2-0

Both of these sides ground out 0-0's in the week. Saints will look for the same again but that should be too much against a Swansea side who will set about them at the Liberty Stadium. Defeat for Southampton might see them into the drop zone and their Dutch manager must be a close favourite with Iain Dowie in the sack race.
Prediction; 2-0

Watford v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Mick McCarthy is not finding it easy living at the top of the table. The five goals conceded at Norwich come on the back of several other defeats in recent weeks. Wanderers cretainly have the firepower to get goals but their defence is looking equally vulnerable right now. Aidy Boothroyd will have kicked his sides' arses after letting Cardiff escape with a draw in the week and he will want to see this one closed out. Watford to pip Wolves.
Prediction; 2-1