Friday, March 31, 2006

Hammers vs Addicks - Rehearsal or reality?

Charlton travel through the Blackwall Tunnel this Sunday to take on a resurgent West Ham team, in a possible FA Cup semi-final rehearsal. What is for sure is the fact that three very important Premiership points are up for grabs.

The game is also the re-union meeting of the left-backs, with both Charlton's Chris Powell, and the Hammers Paul Konchesky, having played for both clubs.

Konchesky left Charlton last summer, having made his debut as a 16 year old. He had always wanted to play at left back, but Alan Curbishley seemed to consider him a bit lightweight in defence at the top level. Curbs therefore played him mainly in left midfield, where his attacking prowess and great crossing ability were put to good use. Konch thought he had a chance with England though, in his favoured position, and therefore wanted to make the most of his career at left-back. After a loan spell at Spurs (who also played him in midfield!), he finally left in the summer for his East London roots, with £2 million changing hands.

Powell, though, made the transfer in the other direction. Chrissy was one of the reasons why Konchesky couldn't be accomodated at left back in Curbs's team, having signed for Charlton in 1998, and settling in very well. Well enough to actually win five England caps early in Sven's inglorious reign. When Hermann Hreidersson arrived at Charlton, Chris found himself out of the first team last season, and at his age (he's now 36), he needed to be playing each week. Chris therefore went out on loan, initially, to West Ham and after three months made the transfer permanent. He was a key element in the Hammers play-off triumph last year but, although his contract ran out, West Ham decided not to give him an extension. Chrissy jumped at the opportunity to re-join his mates at The Valley, and he has had an amazing season, and played in many more games than he or the fans imagined. He is currently playing at a very high level; so high, that he has been mooted as an outsider for the World Cup squad if Ashley Cole remains injured!

Also going back to Upton Park, though not for the first time, is Alan Curbishley. The media still think that Curbs is a Hammer through and through, though he has actually been at Charlton for four times as long as he played at West Ham. Both he, and Mervyn Day, should get decent receptions though.

With Charlton bouyant after last weekends victory of Newcastle, and with a weeks rest since, I think it likely that Curbs will put out a very similar team to that who scored three times last Sunday. Marcus Bent needed the game, and should retain his place; the defence was pretty solid once more (and could do little about Parker's blockbuster); and the midfield is getting stuck in at every opportunity and harrying the opposition all day. Hopefuly, Darren Bent's ankle is a little better too.

This is the team I expect to see take the field -

Myrhe, Young, Perry, Hriedersson, Powell, Kishishev, Holland, Hughes, Thomas, Bent (M), Bent (D).
Subs from - Andersen, Spector, Sorondo, Ambrose, Bothroyd, Bartlett, Rommedahl, Euell.

Depending on the West Ham line-up, big Marcus may play wide right, or up front, depending which formation Curbs wants at any time. It is possible that Spector will play instead of Powell, but I doubt it, and I think that Chrissy may get a rest next weekend instead. Also, Rommedahl may play instead of Thomas, but this is much more likely to be a second half substitution.

West Ham played OK during midweek, but Manchester United were fairly easy 1-0 winners, hitting the woodwork a couple of times, and missing a few easy chances. Most of their forwards are fit, but the defence is creaking a little under pressure of injuries. It could also be Shaka Hislop's first game against Charlton since his faux-pas for Portsmouth early last season.

My one-to-watch this Sunday is going to be Matt Holland. Matty has been running miles and miles every game recently and putting in better and better performances. He returns to the club which gave him his start in the game, and I seem to remember that he has a pretty good record against them. Hopefully, he'll come up with his first goal of the season...

Pedro45 hasn't been too accurate recently in his score predictions, and doesn't really know what will happen in this match. It's one of those games that Charlton could win comfortably, and also one that Charlton could have a nightmare in. My own instincts go back to something that I agreed with a West ham fan (Hi Lee!) many years ago - we could win the league games, if they could have the cup wins. It's pretty much been that way since the seventies, apart from some di Canio inspired blips. Well, we have a possible semi-final coming up, and I'd much rather have the win at Villa Park, so I'm going to go for a 2-0 Hammers win this weekend, to definitely set up a Cup Final appearance! If I'm wrong, and we get a result in front of the Sky cameras on Sunday, it means we haven't got a prayer of either getting to the semi or, if we do, of winning it...unfortunately.

Come on you reds!

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