Friday, April 28, 2006

Rovers and Out!

It's the last home match of the season, and the antipathy is pretty bad. The effort of writing a final home match preview is tough when the season is ending on such a low note. Clubs of similar stature and ability have European football to look forward to; Cup finals to play in; excited anticipation of another season in the Premiership - but not Charlton. The official website Blackburn Rovers match preview is here.

The team have a whole host of injuries, along with Hermann's suspension. It is unikely there will be many changes from the team thrashed at Bolton last week, simply due to lack of bodies being available.

This is the team I expect, subject to fitness, Curbs to put out -

Stephan Andersen, Osei Sankofa, Chris Powell, Jonathan Fortune, Gonzalo Sorondo, Matt Holland, Radistan Kishishev, Bryan Hughes, Jerome Thomas, Jay Bothroyd, Darren Bent.

Subs from Thomas Myrhe, Chris Perry, Kelly Youga, Dennis Rommedahl, Darren Ambrose, Jason Euell, and Kevin Lisbie.

My one-to-watch in this match is Darren Bent, who needs just two goals to total twenty for the season. Every time I tip Dazza though, he seems to fail to score, so I'm hoping for a change of luck here.

Pedro45's score prediction is a 1-0 defeat; Rovers are a bogey team, and beat us 3-2 in the League Cup with three goals in the last fifteen minutes. Hopefully tomorrow goalkeeping errors will not contribute like they did that night, and we can get to fifty points for the season - no mean achievement. Somehow though it doesn't seem very possible...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Long Tall Al-ly

Bolton Wanderers 4
Charlton Athletic 1

There's not a lot I can add to the depressing result at the Reebok yesterday - here's the official club match report.

Alan Curbishley picked what he thought was his best team, but they fell well short, if you'll excuse the pun, when trying to cope with Bolton's incessant high balls into the area. Sam Allardyce obviously got the tactics right, picking three tall forwards, knowing that they would be up against the much shorter Osei Sankofa, Chris Perry, and Chris Powell. Only Sorondo had the height to cope...

Unable to contain the airial threat posed by a tall Bolton side, Vaz Te scored the first with a ten yard header from a Nakata cross (left). Davies added a second after twenty minutes, after a goalmouth scramble where Myrhe palmed the ball away, and an offside Borgetti broke free to score the third after half an hour. With no way back, Charlton played the holding game (at last) and did not concede the fourth goal - after Myrhe dropped a cross - until near the end of the match.

At least by then Darren Bent had notched his 22nd goal of the season, albeit with a penalty (left) after sub Bothroyd was clunked on the back of the head by Jaaskelainen. This was during Charlton's best period of the game; Bothroyd and Fortune had provided the needed height as second half subs, and lightweights Ambrose and Rommedahl were sacrificed. From the radio commentary, you would not have known that either had taken the field during the first forty five minutes, so little did they contribute! The side could at least compete with two extra six footers, although it was obviously true that Bolton eased off considerably.

With Blackburn to come to The Valley next Saturday, a team that plays the game in a similar way to Bolton, the omens don't look good for Charlton to meet Curbs expectation of 50 points this season.

Probably the most interesting Charlton related thing to happen on Saturday was Kevin Lisbie's appearance on Soccer AM. Kevin told how he has one more year on his Charlton contract, but he doesn't know if he will be offered a new one or whether he will be sold. "Lis" also talked about how he doesn't go out much with "the boys"; how he may or may not join them on their end of season Miami holiday; and how he loves going bowling and may in fact buy his own bowling ball! His average strike record of five or six per game is not in any way matched by his goalscoring prowess! Sadly, "Lis" wasn't able to take part in the end of programme shooting task, which bearing in mind his scoring record and shooting accuracy, is just as well.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Wandering stars?

Charlton's penultimate away game of this Premiership season is at The Reebok Stadium in a match against Bolton Wanderers.

Both sides have that end-of-season look about them - Bolton without a win in six games (with five defeats!) and Charlton so inconsistent its unbelievable!

The official website match preview is here.

Injuries will obviously confirm changes to the Charlton starting line up following the carnage that seemed to take place at The Valley last Monday; Marcus Bent, Jonathan Spector, Hermann Hreidersson (who has subsequently been banned anyway), and Jerome Thomas all limped away from that match, and Gonzalo Sorondo (groin) and Osei Sankofa (cut shin) also picked up injuries too. All of a sudden, the defence looks a little thin of bodies...

The team I expect Curbs to put out, presuming he plays 4-4-2, is therefore as follows -

Thomas Myrhe, Osei Sankofa, Chris Perry, Gonzalo Sorondo, Chris Powell, Darren Ambrose, Matt Holland, Bryan Hughes, Radistan Kishishev, Jay Bothroyd, Darren Bent.

There is an option to switch to 4-5-1 in this game, with Dennis Rommedahl playing instead of Bothroyd, but it may be that Curbs wants the added height of Bothroyd to counter Bolton's airial threat.

Even though Bolton are on a tough run themselves, this is not an easy game by any means for the Addicks. Charlton have lost the last four matches against Bolton, so anything like a positive result will be a big bonus. Bolton will be without El Hadji Diouf, who is still not fit according to manager Sam Allardyce.

My one-to-watch in this match is Osei Sankofa, who will probably make his third appearance for Charlton in the game at the Reebok. Osei has waited a very long time for his chance, and I'm hoping he will take it and show the potential in the first team that he so obviously has.

Pedro45's score prediction is a little predictable itself - a 2-0 defeat. With the defence stretched, I can't see Charlton containing the Bolton forwards (or midfield) and I think they will concede at least twice. But in this most unpredictable of seasons - up, down, up, down - anything could happen and we could get our first away win since October. Now wouldn't that be quite nice!

Up the Addicks!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Birthday honours

News broke today that not only is Alan Curbishley a Queen fan, but Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is a Curbs fan too!

On the occasion of her 80th birthday celebrations (her birthday is actually tomorrow...), Lizzy visited the BBC studios at White City. There, among a whole host of questions that were fired her way, was the one that has been troubling the nation ever since Sven decided that a large pay off was better than paparazzi pestering for another year -
Who should be the next England football manager?

Ever diplomatic, her majesty responded by saying that she had every confidence that the FA would pick the best man for the job, but she added that she personally would prefer an Englishman to be given the responsibility. When pressed further on who, among the English managers in the running, would she like to see, she firmly said that Alan Curbishley would be her pick.

This, it is thought, is as a result of Prince William's visit to the New Eltham training ground earlier in the season as part of his Princely duties, and the positive feedback he gave to his mum as a result.

It is well known that Curbs is a big Queen fan too, though only musically, and he even owns several copies of Freddie Mercury's autograph, which came to him via his band manager brother, Bill. Bill has also already provided Alan with several copies of Roger Daltrey's and Robert Plant's monickers, though Curbs is known to have wanted but failed to get the signatures of other musical luminaries such as Alexei Smertin and Eider Gudjohnsen previously.

Curbs has promised his many loyal supporters to try to get some of the following signatures in the summer according to various media over the last month - Owen Garvan, Shane Supple, Jason de Vos (all Ipswich), Lee Bowyer (Newcastle), Francois Clerk (Lyon), Boaz Myhill (Hull), Jermain Pennant (Birmingham), Stephen Warnock (Liverpool), Curtis Davies (WBA), Zat Knight (Fulham), Antony Gardner (Spurs), Marlon King (Watford), and Cameron Jerome (Cardiff). No doubt every other decent player from the relegated Premiership clubs, and also those from the non-promoted Championship teams will be linked with a move to The Valley soon too.

Monday, April 17, 2006

From the ridiculous to the sublime...

Charlton Athletic 2 Portsmouth 1

For 78 minutes, almost every Charlton fan who was at The Valley today would have said it was the worst performance of the season. Bearing in mind some of the pigs-swill that has been served up over the last few months, that was saying something. One nil down, no apparent hope, all subs used and just twelve minutes left...

Then it all changed. With Hermann Hreidersson a spectator receiving treatment by the corner flag, Darren Bent turned and broke free down the inside right channel, cut inside the centre back, and squared the ball across the six yard box for Bryan Hughes to oh-so-simply sidefoot Charlton level. The whole momentum of the game changed in that single moment of magic from Charlton's top scorer.

Alan Curbishley had started the game by recalling Chris Powell and Jerome Thomas and leaving out Chris Perry and Jason Euell. But things didn't quite go to plan personnel-wise...

Soon, Marcus Bent had pulled up when chasing one of those oh-so-frequent punts down towards the corner flag that our defence seem to specialise in. In his place came Jay Bothroyd. Not long after that, Jonathan Spector made a hash of a clearance, and as he retrieved the situation to concede a corner kick, he fell awkwardly and was carried off after dislocating his shoulder. In his place came Osei Sankofa, almost three years after his last outing in the first team.

Portsmouth took the lead after half an hour; D'Allessandro working space on the right wing before curling a sublime shot into the far corner. Myrhe had no chance of getting anywhere near it as it arced high into the net. Our Tommy has now seen three great long-range shots whizz past him this year (Viduka, Parker, and this one...).

The team were playing awfully, with no coherence, a lack of imagination, painfully dull, and inept too. At half time, the booing must have influenced Curbs, and Darren Ambrose warmed up on the pitch and came on at the start of the second half in place of the extremely poor Jerome Thomas. Quite frankly, six or seven of the players would have been substituted if that had been allowed! Ambie immediately set about linking with best mate Darren Bent, but poor service helped little.

Myrhe saved well from Todorov as Pompey seemed to be cruising to the three points, then, finally, Charlton clicked, and scored.

Harry wasn't happy at all... With the scores level, the injured Hreidersson became an extra centre forward, due to his lack of running power that would have been a problem in defence, but this actually worked to Charlton's advantage. Ex-Charlton youngster Linvoy Primus, who had won almost everything in the air previously, suddenly found big Hermann a handful. Bent's pace out wider was too much for Pamerot, and even the lethargic Bothroyd started to up-the-anti and show willing.

With five minutes left, Hreidersson flicked on for Darren Bent to burst into the penalty area and smash a shot past Dean Kiely. The Valley erupted, and for the first time in the afternoon more noise came from the three home sides than the Jimmy Seed stand housing the Pompey travelling support. Ambrose then burst clear after another Bent flick but just failed to raise the ball sufficiently to get it far enough over Kiely, who scampered back to save. Charlton survived the last few minutes, although not without scares, and another three points were safely tucked in the bag - Redknapp well and truly mugged! Charlton moved up to eleventh in the table as a result.

It is tough to call a man-of-the-match on this performance... Sorondo was good, as was Powell, and sub Sankofa. The midfield struggled all afternoon to cope with D'Allesasandro, O'Neill, and Davis, so none of them win the vote. So I guess that, over the last twenty minutes and because it had such influence over the result, Dazza wins hands down. He did get booked after removing his shirt in the wild winning goal celebration along the west stand touchline, and I hope that caution doesn't come back to haunt Charlton in the Fair Play League standings.

I doubt if Curbs will think much of his players performance today - it is unlikely that Spector will play for Charlton again this term (he can't play in the season finale at Old Trafford anyway...), and there must also be doubts about Marcus Bent and Hermann Hreidersson for Saturday. Those that step up to the plate will need to be at their best with tough, physical games coming up at Bolton and at home versus Blackburn. The fact is that the whole team need to be playing better if they are to get any more points this season.

The Bells Toll for Charlton

Another day, another game. This Easter Monday Charlton welcome Portsmouth to The Valley for their latest Premiership clash.

The official club website preview is here.

Rotation seems to be the name of the game when picking the team at present - with so many games coming along so quickly, it's a good job the squad is larger than usual and also predominantly fit. Who will Alan Curbishley pick today? There will probably be a recall at left back for Chris Powell, and Bryan Hughes and Dennis Rommedahl could also both feature. It's also possible that Stephan Andersen will get a run out in goal following the howler that Thomas Myrhe made on Saturday, though my own opinion is that Curbs will stick by his Norwegian keeper.

If Powell returns, will Hermann Hreidersson move across to centre back in a re-shufled defence or will he be rested? Perry has been playing well recently, so he too will not want to miss a match, and Sorondo has also had a couple of good games when fit and picked. The only likelyhood in the defence is the presence of Jon Spector at right back, although even his position is under threat from Osei Sankofa who it woud be great to see make his home debut (I think) after many years of waiting.

The midfield will also require a report on fitness, tiredness, and form before being picked. Holland, Hughes, Euell, Ambrose, Thomas, Rommedahl, and Kishishev are all in contention, and any combination could play. Much depends on the formation Alan Curbishley decides to use, though in recent home games, he has run with 4-4-2.

Up front, Darren Bent continues to miss; Marcus Bent continues to get the best out of opposition keepers; and Shaun Bartlett and Jay Bothroyd just continue. Any two of the four will play, and poissibly all of them at some stage during the game.

Pompey have an average defence, a solid midfield, and an average forward line. If LuaLua is fit, he poses the biggest danger (four goals in his last four games), and the midfield is also likely to score against Charlton. O'Neill, Mendes, Davis (who has scored the The Valley before) and D'Allessandro all pose a danger.

This is the team I would like Curbs to send out at 3pm today.

Myrhe, Sankofa, Sorondo, Hreidersson, Powell, Rommedahl, Kishishev, Holland, Thomas, Bent (M), Bent (D).

It may or may not be Charlton's best team, but at least it would be attacking and entertaining.

My one to watch in this game is going to be Thomas Myrhe. He needs a good game after letting in that soft goal at Craven Cottage, plus a couple of other weak-ish efforts at the Riverside. If he is to be the long term guardian at Charlton, he needs to up his performances. If Tommy needs to know what sort of consistency is required, then he only need look to the other end of the pitch today. There he will see a keeper - Dean Kiely - who served Charlton for six seasons, consistently at a very high standard. Deano will get a great ovation at The Valley today, his first game back in SE7 since joining Portsmouth in January. I hope he plays out of his skin, but has to pick the ball out of the net the same number of times that he did in his last game here for Charlton (5!).

Pedro45's score prediction is a hard fought 1-1 draw. Portsmouth are on a role, but if Charlton can get in front - and against Pompey's defence, they should be able to score - then a defeat should be avoided.

Comeo you reds - send us home happy at Easter!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Tired of SE7

Fulham 2 Charlton Athletic 1

A reasonable performance, but much of the same old story in terms of result - Charlton left another riverside today as tired losers once more.

The official website report is here.

Curbs made four changes from the team beaten by Boro - out went Rommedahl, Powell, Bartlett, and Hughes, and in came Ambrose, Marcus Bent, Sorondo, and Euell.

The radio commentary told us that Charlton were unlucky, and but for two fabulous late saves by Anti Niemi - one from Marcus Bent, and one from Herman Hreidersson (left) - Charlton would have had at least a point. It did seem as though the players (of both sides) were just going through the motions for much of the match though...

Chances were made and given, and Darren Bent, who missed a few it seems, now hasn't scored from open play in seven matches - hardly World Cup form!

The first goal conceded was a shocker by all accounts - with Thomas Myrhe beaten poorly at his near post by a Boa Morte free kick.

The good news, if we are to have any, was the equaliser, Jason Euell's first Premiership goal since November 2004 - will it be his last for the club?

The winner came again from Boa Morte, after he beat the whole back line in a dribble from the half way line apparently... Maybe someone should have kicked him?

The funniest moment was when Malbranque fell to ground once more after hardly being touched, gaining another free kick; the ball ran to Curbishley in the dug out, and he whacked it straight into the prone player! He may get a reprimand for that at some later date, but at least it showed he still cares and has the passion that the rest of us do too.

More good news is that no bookings were picked up, and with just four matches left, Charlton have a realistic chance of being the best behaved team on the Premiership pitches this season. This in turn gives us the opportunity once more of being in the ballot for a UEFA Cup place - the only chance Charlton have of getting into Europe.

We are at that stage where we all really just want the season to end, but unfortunately, we have a few more game to go yet. Monday's match with resurgent Pompey will be another tough encounter - they are six games unbeaten...

Some of the squad have things to prove - Ambrose, Hughes, and Sorondo - and some just want away - Euell, and Spector - so it will be interesting to see who Curbs picks for the next home game. Don't be surprised to see a switch back to 4-5-1 and the return of two least we might get some entertainment even if it doesn't guarantee results.

Finally, the media is full of the stories linking Curbs with leaving Charlton at the end of the season - be it for England (now unlikely) or another club (Newcastle, Villa, Man Utd???). I will be sad to see him go, if this is the case, but for the sake of the club, I just hope that a decision on this happens quickly, so we can all move on...

Friday, April 14, 2006

Bouncebackability test

Where to start? After the cup deflation, Charlton get back to Premiership mundanity with an away game at Fulham tomorrow.

The players, or some of them, will no doubt be tired afer the midweek exertions, so it is expected that Curbs will make changes in this busy Easter period of four games in ten days.

In goal, I suppose it is possible that Stephan Andersen may be given a run out if thought necessary, but, undoubtedly, Thomas Myrhe is still the number one goalkeeper at the club.

In defence, Luke Young is still out injured (he was badly missed on Wednesday night...), and fill-in right back Jonathan Spector also took a knock at Boro that could make him doubtful, so it is possible that Radistan Kishishev (or Kishishnashvilli as the Boro announcer called him at least twice!) may be asked to play in the right back position for the first time in a long time.

At left back, I expect Chris Powell to get a rest at the Cottage, and Hermann Hreidersson to move across from central defence.

That would leave the way open for Gonzalo Sorondo to return to the team, and play alongside Chris Perry. Jon Fortune is fit and waiting in the wings if any unforeseen injuries come about.

The midfield make up depends on the formation that Curbs decides to run with. If he switches back to 4-5-1, then Jason Euell, Matt Holland and Bryan Hughes can all hope to feature, as will Kishishev if not required at the back. Darren Ambrose will fight it out with Jerome Thomas and Dennis Rommedahl for the two wide positions. If Curbs stays with the 4-4-2 formation, he usually only plays one winger, and Hughes, Kishishev, Holland, Euell, Ambrose, Thomas and Rommedahl will battle it out for the four places up for grabs.

Up front, it may be that Darren Bent is rested again if his ankle knock hasn't recovered sufficiently to see him play all four Easter games. That would mean a return to the side for cup-tied Marcus Bent, and maybe (if two forwards start) a starting place for Bartlett or Bothroyd too.

The team I would expect to see take the field at Craven Cottage is -

Myrhe, Spector, Perry, Sorondo, Hreidersson, Ambrose, Holland, Kishishev, Thomas, Bent (M), Bothroyd.

Subs from Andersen, Powell, Fortune, Euell, Hughes, Bartlett, Bent (D), and Rommedahl.

My one-to-watch tomorrow will be Gonzalo Sorondo, as he is about the only player certain to play in my mind! He will also have his work cut out controlling the Fulham forwards - John, McBride, and Radzinski. He needs a good finish to the season if he wants to make a permanent move to England with Charlton, so should be up for it.

Pedro45's score predictions have not been too good recently; heart ruling head most of the time, so I am going to predict another tough day at the office for our boys - a tired 3-1 defeat. Of course, the lads usually prove me wrong, so I'm hoping the Addicks get all three points and finish the season on a high.

Come on you reds!

Downed by The Riverside

Middlesbrough 4
Charlton Athletic 2

The dream ends in disappointment once again...

Rather than repeat other blogs reports on the match, I thought I'd write more about the day, which certainly went well, apart from on the pitch!

As I had purchased a train ticket and booked a hotel the day after our initial quarter final draw with Boro, I did not take advantage of the clubs free travel service.

I got out of work and caught the tube up to Kings Cross; arriving after the free trains had left, the station was busy but only a very few Charlton fans remained. The 2.30 Newcastle express was pretty full, and on arrival at Darlington, I jumped straight into a cab which ran me around to my booked accomodation.

I dumped my bag in my room, then grabbed a couple of beers in the hotel bar with a friend who lives nearby. I hadn't seen her for four or five years, so it was good to catch up, albeit briefly. She drove me back to the station, and I waited for the Saltburn train to come in. I was surprised at how few Boro fans actually got on the train, as it was the last that would have arrived in time for the match. The journey across was good, but I couldn't see the planes at Teeside airport as we went past, which got me a little worried as to their arrival.

In Middlesbrough, I walked down to the stadium; even at 7.15, the roads were still not busy, though the closer I got, the more fans appeared from the tunnel under the railway.

Once inside, the atmosphere hit; it was pretty good on the concourse, as Charlton supporters grabbed a beer and a bite before the game, and up in the stand it was even better as the players came out to warm up.

The Boro PA announcer was extremely patronising; more so than the comments Brian Cole had made about some Croydon team in the past in my opinion, but I bet our directors didn't complain...

The game started - official club report here - and Bartlett and Bent had early chances to send us delirious.

Then the first kick 30 yards out, three man wall. Rochemback hit it well, but it wasn't exactly flying through the air. Myrhe scambled, but couldn't get across, and it sat in the bottom corner. Oh dear. Have to put that one down to you I'm afraid Tommy!

No problem - long throw, flick on, bosh! Hoosey volleys in. One all. The Charlton fans go mental! All of a sudden, Boro knew they were in a game, and for the only time in the whole match, they looked shaken. Bent and Bartlett had chances, but these were either saved by Schwarzer or sent high and wide. The game settled a little, but it was real end-to-end for the first twenty minutes.

Boro's second goal was a lucky affair; Viduka bundled the ball forward and Perry and Herman couldn't cope; Morrison tucked it between Myrhe's legs...2-1. I still felt that if Charlton could hang in there at just one goal down at half time, they had a chance. Hasslebaink's header was fantastically saved by Myrhe, and the hope continued.

Still bouyant at half time, the crowd tried to lift the players for the second half. But Boro had other ideas, and just tried to kill the game. They had gained control of midfield; shut down Rommedahl (who got little help or support from Spector all game...); and played the ball to Viduka, Hasslebaink or Downing who held the ball as long as they deemed necessary.

The third goal was flashed in by Jimmy-Floyd, but a scrambled own goal (or was it Bothroyd's?) immediately after gave the game life once more. A famous comeback or an over-gambled last throw - Curbs sent on Jason Euell for Kish. Ooops - Viduka skips round Perry, then Herman, and it's game over.

The best team won, sadly.

I sat in the stand until everyone else had made their way out, and started my slow walk back to the station. I had the best part of an hour to kill, so ambled sullenly the road. There was a lot of banter between some Charlton fans and the Boro hordes waiting to get under the railway lines, that threatened to kick off, but the police controlled it well.

At the station, I sat on platform two, as the first Charlton train filled up on the opposite platform. About eight young (15 or 16 year old) Boro fans - dressed in chav-ish high fashion - were giving it loads across the tracks to the waiting train full of Londoners. It got louder and louder, and more abusive and vindictive, until...the gent sat near me had enough. He stood, took two paces forward, and undid his jacket to reveal an all:sports logo-ed Charlton shirt, and stood with his hands on his hips, ready for action, facing the boys. Eventually, one of the chavs spotted him, did a double take, then told his mates, who immediately shut up and looked sheepish! It was hilarious! A policeman moved across to keep an eye on things, and after having a word with the Boro fans, they started to sing and mickey-take again. This time, the response was almost the whole of platform 2 breaking out into "oh South London, is wonderful...". The chavs were completely outnumbered and almost surrounded. Again, they looked sheepish and quietened. The first train left, and the opposite platform filled with a new set of Charlton fans; cue more banter. Some Londoners came around to confront the Boro boys but the police quickly dealt with them. Our train arrived, and it was obvious that unless the police boarded too, the outnumbered Boro lads would be in big trouble. So it was that they were ushered to the back of the train and a police presence journeyed along to Thornaby where they got off, and they could give one last Churchill salute to the southerners. Great fun!

Back in Darlo, I walked to the hotel, kipped, and was joined next morning back on the station platform by many other Charlton fans, who had also overnighted in either Middlesbrough or Darlington, for the trip back to the old smoke.

It was a great day out for Charlton, with the only thing that went wrong being the result sadly.

Maybe next year...?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Onwards and upwards...

It's almost here, after three weeks of anticipation. The FA Cup quarter final replay - Middlesbrough versus Charlton; destiny, or disappointment?

Charlton haven't had too many big days since the dawn of new Millennium: Sure, we've beaten European Champions Liverpool; knocked Chelsea out of the Carling Cup; splashed out on England internationals; sold one of our players for £10 million; built a new stand; rolled over Arsenal at Highbury; and seen Alan Curbishley become one of the most sought after managers in English football. But tomorrow is a really, really, big day in the life of every Charlton fan and possibly in the history of Charlton Athletic.

The initial quarter final draw with Boro at The Valley wasn't a surprise. Both Middlesbrough and Charlton find it hard to score too many goals when they meet it seems, and the previous victory for the Addicks ten days before the cup game was against a much-changed Boro team. Chances did come along, but couldn't be taken. Darren Bent missed a sitter; Hermann Hreidersson had his effort fantastically saved by Schwarzer. Thomas Myrhe dealt competently with anything that came in his direction. The crowd were passionate and vocal; more so than at any other recent game. But the sides couldn't be split that evening. Boro were the happier of the two teams that night, and they will be confident in the replay on home ground.

History is with the northerners - this is the fourth time Charlton and Boro have met in the FA Cup. On each occasion, the initial game has been a draw, and Charlton are yet to win any of the subsequent replays.

After weeks of waiting, Operation Riverside can now start it's 100-plus engines, and at least 5250 Charlton supporters will travel north in an effort to cheer their team on to memories of 1947.

It will be tough though...

Both sides rested players at the weekend, with Boro having 24 hours less to recover after a local derby home defeat to Newcastle. The UEFA cup may also be a bigger prize than the FA Cup to aim at, but Steve McLaren won't be talking about that at the Riverside prior to 8pm.

Charlton made five changes prior to their draw with Everton, and the recalled Euell, Sorondo and Bothroyd will be hoping to maintain their places. Marcus Bent is cup-tied so at least one change has to happen.

How will the team line up? Who will Curbs pick for his biggest recent challenge?

The easiest area to confirm is in goal where Thomas Myrhe has been in outstanding form since coming into the side at Christmas. He is vocal, a good shot stopper, and commands his area. He has not been beaten too many times recently, with just six goals being conceded in the last ten games, and three of those were away at Arsenal.

In defence, the obvious choices are to leave Spector at right back in place of the injured Luke Young; revert back to the central defensive pair of Perry and Hreidersson that have done very well together recently; and bring back the ever-youthful Chris Powell. Sorondo had a good game on Saturday though, and there is a little pressure to play him to counter the strength of Viduka, Yakubu, and Hasslebaink.

The midfield and forward line is also under a little pressure. Will Bryan Hughes be fit? If so, does he play? Do we "gamble" with one winger, or two, or three?!? Was Darren Bent rested or is his ankle knock more than just irritable? Should Bartlett or Bothroyd also play up front? I guess that those decisions are ones Curbs is contemplating himself now, and until we know how Hughes and Bent actually are, we won't know what the likely team or formation will be.

It would be great for Charlton to be positive; to play with two wide players even if they cannot stick two strikers up front from the start. Let's not forget that Charlton's best results against Boro this season have been when they played 4-5-1 - in the away game back at the start of the season, and after half time in the return league game at The Valley.

Therefore, this is the side I think Curbs may send out to respond to the cheers from the Valley faithful -

Thomas Myrhe
Jonathan Spector
Chris Perry
Hermann Hreidersson
Chris Powell
Radistan Kishishev
Matt Holland
Jason Euell
Dennis Rommedahl
Jerome Thomas
Darren Bent

The subs will be from
Andersen, Sorondo, Fortune, Sankofa, Hughes, Ambrose, Bothroyd, and Bartlett.

Boro have doubts about Quedrue (head injury) and may have other knocks after two tough games at home in the last week.

My one-to-watch in this most important fixture is going to be Alan Curbishley. He has had a few tactical battles with Steve McLaren over recent years, and actually has a very good record against his teams. McLaren won one game, at The Valley last year 2-1, and lauded it over Curbs that day and in the press the next. This season hasn't seen our manager react in quite the same way, but quietly go about his business of getting results on the pitch. The 3-0 thumping at The Riverside set the tone, and the return also proved that whatever Curbs could dish up was good enough for victory. The cup draw was a great battle, and Curbs really went for it in the home leg. He'll probably play it a little more cautiously tomorrow, but has the players who can get the win we all so badly want. He needs the players to believe. He needs the fans to believe. He'd also like Alan Hansen to believe, but Curbs cannot do the impossible!

Score predictions for games against Boro tend to be 0-0; why should tomorrow be different? It will be tight; it will be close; it will be tough. But with 5250 Charlton fans in the stadium, it will be noisy, that's for sure. If we fans can get behind the lads, we may well prove to be the twelfth man that Richard Murray wants us to be, and we all know what can happen with a man advantage! Boro had that advantage last week for their home UEFA cup tie with Basel and pulled off a great win; tomorrow they will not be so lucky.

Pedro45 thinks it the most obvious bet in the world to go to the unders market, and doesn't think there will be too many goals or even goalscoring opportunities. You have to be thinking about a one-nil win as a Charlton fan - Dennis in the last minute comes to mind and brings a smile. The mood on the trip up to Teeside will be bouyant; oh how we will float home if we can gain victory and set up a London derby semi-final against West Ham.

Me, I'll be going along to this away game, barring accidents, train failure, or exceptional weather conditions, all of which could happen!

Come on you reds!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Goalless again

Charlton Athletic 0 Everton 0

A bit like Operation Riverside coaches, you wait ages for one, then loads come along at once - Charlton played out their sixth nil nil draw in the last nine games against Everton at The Valley yesterday afternoon.

Alan Curbishley made several changes to the team that similarly drew with West Ham the previous week - Luke Young was a known casualty (and now looks likely to be out for the season unfortunately, putting his World Cup ambitions in doubt...); Bryan Hughes was another injury casualty, after suffering a bruised foot in training; while Chris Powell (expectedly) and Darren Bent (not surprisingly) were both rested. Jonathan Spector started at right back, Hermann Hreidersson moved across to left back, and Gonzalo Sorondo took the central defender spot alongside Chris Perry. In midfield, Jason Euell replaced Hughes, while Jerome Thomas played the wingers role instead of Dennis Rommedahl. Jay Bothroyd played alongside Marcus Bent up front.

Hreidersson was made captain, a little surprisingly, ahead of Matt Holland.

Everton lined up with eleven big blokes.

The game wasn't a classic, as can be found by reading the BBC report, though the official Charlton write up is probably a little more accurate. Without Darren Bent though, Charlton are a little shot-shy...

Everton started the better, but slowly Charlton drew themselves back into the game. Bent and Bothroyd started to get involved, although there was plenty of "discussion" and advice passed between players when passes went astray. Euell started to make forward runs, as there was little movement from the front two. Thomas seemed to be fouled at every opportunity, and referee Philip Walton seemed to find reason to blow his whistle at every minor coming together. In fact, the major reason why the game was tedious was down to Walton. He didn't really favour either team, but was increasingly poor in his judgement and decision making. He most certainly wasn't helped by linesmen who flagged for offside at every attack whether a player was interferring or not.

The closest either side came to scoring in the first 44 minutes was when Richard Wright let an innocuous lob from Matt Holland bounce over his head. Luckily, it was probably drifting wide when Wright caught up with the ball and he scooped it out for a corner. As the injury time board went up, Beattie unleashed a ferocious volley, similar to the goal that Viduka scored at The Valley a month ago, but this time Thomas Myrhe flicked it over the bar spectacularly.

The second half saw Charlton more involved and dominant. Euell came close, as did Rommedahl (on for Kishishev), whose shot was headed off the line by Stubbs. Everton tried to break, but Perry was in excellent form again, and Sorondo enjoyed his battle with McFadden. Late on, the Uruguayan seemed to flick out at the Scot after they had both challenged for a high ball, and as play returned, the centre back was caught late by McFadden. He fell clutching his face, and though Walton missed the incident, the linesmen flagged. Amazingly, Walton booked McFadden without consulting the linesmen. This ineptitude just summed up he game he had...

The point gained keeps Charlton in eleventh place in the Premiership, still a point behind Everton.

My man-of-the-match was Chris Perry, though the whole defence played well yet again.

Ahead of the FA Cup quarter final replay, it was good for Spector, Euell and Sorondo to get full games under their belts, and the management have an interesting decision to make on who starts in defence up at The Riverside.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Moyes is back in town

With all the hoo-ha about Operation Riverside this week, it's quite easy to forget that Charlton have an equally important home game to play on Saturday, prior to the FA Cup Quarter final replay against Middlesbrough.

David Moyes brings his very large Everton squad to The Valley, and they will be looking to repeat the steamroller job on Charlton they did early in January. The official club preview is here.

Back in January in the first game of the new year, Everton won the match early on by lumping the ball forward toward Beattie, and after starting the game with a fortuitous penalty, two set piece headers from Cahill wrapped up the points after Matt Holland had dragged Charlton level.

For this match, Alan Curbishley can be expected to counter the aerial threat by playing a tall back line. The changes to the defence are required in part due to the injury that Luke Young picked up at Upton Park last weekend. His place is likely to go to Jonathan Spector, and it is possible that we will see a further change at full back too. Chris Powell has been rested in games close to where his presence really is needed, and it would not be a surprise to see him as a substitute ahead of the midweek game at the Riverside, and Hermann Hreidersson (left) revert back to the left back slot he has usually occupied in recent years. The gap in the middle - alongside Chris Perry - would be plugged by the fit again and match fit Gonzalo Sorondo - just his second start of an injury wrecked season. With Talal El Karkouri now on loan elsewhere, Curbs has fewer and fewer options throughout the team.

In midfield, there are unlikely to be too many changes, as Curbs has few realistic options; Hughes, Kishishev, Holland (left) and a winger, probably Dennis Rommedahl, will play. Curbs will want to get the flying Dane a little fitter in time for the cup replay, as he is proven against Boro, and will need to be at his sharpest in the FA Cup tie.

Unless Curbs tries a 4-5-1 formation, the two forwards will be messrs Bent and Bent. Big Marcus (left) will be playing against his former team, and I'm sure he'll be looking to do well against familiar faces. He is my one-to-watch for this game, and hopefully he can score against his old mates.

The side I expect to see take the field on Saturday is -

Spector, Sorondo, Perry, Hreidersson,
Kishishev, Hughes, Holland, Rommedahl,
Bent (M), Bent (D).

Subs will be from Andersen, Fortune, Powell, Euell, Thomas, Ambrose, Bartlett, and Bothroyd.

This is a tough game for Charlton, who do not have a great record against big strong teams like the one Everton will bring to town - results against the likes of Blackburn and Bolton do not bode well, but this has to be weighed up against the excellent recent home record. Since Boxing Day, when Reyes scored the only goal of the game for Arsenal, the only two home league goals conceded by Thomas Myrhe have been fantastic long range shots by Viduka and Parker. At the other end, 20-goal striker Darren Bent has been consistently knocking them in for the Addicks, so Charlton do have a chance of picking up maximum points once more.

Pedro45's score forecast is a 1-1 draw, saving something for the cup replay hopefully. A win would take Charlton back into the top half of the league, and above Everton, but I think that may be just beyond the team, especially as they may have other things on their minds.

The crowd will be important, and let's hope the Covered End sing up and send our lads off up north with a rousing reception.

Come on you reds!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Curbishley for England speculation mounts

It just will not go away...

Every time Charlton play a match, Curbs has to deal with the media at press conferences before and after the games, and each time, he is asked about the possibility of him taking (or being offered) the England Managers job. It's got so infuriating, especially as Curbs has nothing new to say, and it is to the detriment of any news being published about the forthcoming or latest Charlton match.

The latest Curbs chat was on Sunday, on Five Live - nothing new, just a repetitive monotone from Mr Got-no-personality himself. I wish they would leave him alone!

Today, the FA news release stated that Brian Barwick has a confirmed short-list of up to four candidates. It is thought that Steve McLaren, and Martin O'Neill are two, but no speculation has been forthcoming on the other couple of prospective England Managers. Could Curbs be on the list? Of course, but we'll have to wait till Friday no doubt for the next round of questions to be asked of him ahead of the Everton game.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Planes, trains and automobiles...

I had a similar story to many other Charlton supporters, I'm sure, today when I tried to get my Boro cup quarter final replay tickets. I got them, but it took quite some time, and worried me deeply, for a time, that I might not!

Inspector Sands also had trouble, though he queued up for his ticket...

Me, I had to use the oft-fabled (and abused) new telephone ticketing system that Charlton have installed recently for the first time (why no online bookings for those not requiring transport Mr Varney?).

This morning, when I checked the website to see if tickets had finally gone on sale (after so long it seems), there was the inevitable rush being reported. I waited till lunchtime, then guessed that everyone at work may have to call then. I finally tried just before 2pm, but my Company's phone system doesn't allow 0800 number dialling! It was around this time that Addicks Premiership Diary reported heavy demand and I began to worry - what if I left it too late?

Luckily, and through also being in the same boat (so to speak) as the good Inspector, I had already made my train and hotel bookings - the day after the drawn Valley game - and I didn't have to worry about lack of free trains or planes being available. But the match tickets were going quickly it reported, and I still just could not get through, even using my mobile.

I tried for two hours on and off, and finally, after that lovely ladies voice repeated for the ninth time that I should press 1 for cup tickets, I finally got into the queue and not dumped out again and told to call back later due to heavy demand.

I was the 19th person in the queue, which suggests that the phone system can only queue 20-odd people at a time - is this good enough? It took about eight minutes to get a real person on the other end of the phone, from 19th, to 14th, 12th, ninth, second, and then through. The harrassed voice that greeted me was one I could understand - she must have had a nightmare day - one of the busiest of her life no doubt! She was very polite, especially when I said I didn't know my membership number. Quickly, and efficiently, she dealt with my booking, and was a little surprised when I said I didn't need travel transport too.

The ticket is in the post she said, and it should be with me in a couple of days hopefully. At 10p a minute, it has probably cost me a few bob to get this ticket, and with over 13,000 callers in the first three hours, it could be that the club make enough from selling these tickets to pay Darren Bent's wages for a week! I am sure that supporters won't mind, especially with the club reporting a £5.1m six-monthly loss last week!

So I'm all ready; the time off has been granted, the train is booked, the hotel is booked, the ticket is ordered - all we need now is a result!

Up the Addicks!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Myrhe grabs Sheringham's gift

West Ham United 0
Charlton Athletic 0

Another nil nil draw for the Addicks, after battling Charlton survived a late onslaught at Upton Park today. It was a familiar display, with little to shout about up front, and a solid rearguard effort and workmanlike performances from the whole team.

The official site match report is here.

West Ham had chances through Dean Ashton after just a couple of minutes, and in the second half when Kishishev headed off the line from Zamora, and Myrhe saved brilliantly from birthday-boy Sheringham, both of the later two resulting from corner kicks. Other Hammers chances came and went without duly troubling the Charlton defence. Shaka Hislop, in the West Ham goal, was not really troubled at all, apart from a Kishishev lob which bounced over the bar, and a few early snap efforts from Darren Bent.

Rommedahl for Thomas was the only change made by Curbs to the previous weeks victorious team, but there seemed to be more emphasis on defence, rather than pushing forward.

The midfield, and especially Kishishev ran their collective hearts out in an attempt to nullify any threat West Ham may have had, but they could provide little in the way of ammunition for either Bent or Rommedahl to feed off.

At the back, Chris Perry was excellent once more, and Hreidersson and Powell also very solid. Luke Young had a good game too, although he was booked after an hour. He also went off with an ankle injury ten minutes later, and Curbs expects him to be out for a couple of weeks at least.

How Charlton cope with this injury, the first major one that the Addicks have had for some time, will be interesting. Jonathan Spector came on as substitute, and did OK, but it could be that Kishishev is switched to fill this role against Everton or Middlebrough. Hopefully, Young will be back for any potential FA Cup semi-final, and the injury will not effect his World Cup chances.

My man of the match went to Chris Perry, who is playing very well at the moment. He controlled the opposition forwards, and Ashton (who was substituted at half time), Harewood, Zamora, Sheringham, and Katan rarely had shooting opportunities from open play.

The result keeps Charlton in eleventh place in the Premiership, and within touching distance of the top half of the table. The one booking also retains Charlton's lead in the top division Fair Play league, and this is a back-door route into Europe that Charlton would like to keep open. A good finish to the season could see Charlton rise to the heady heights of eighth, but a poor finish will see Charlton slip to thirteenth. The difference in Premiership prize money is around £2.3m, so there is plenty to play for apart from just the FA Cup at Charlton these days.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Curbs splashes out on new striker

News has broken this morning that Alan Curbishley has captured one of the most sought after strikers playing in Africa, and incredibly, his surname is Bent!

Folo Paril Bent has scored an amazing total of 146 goals in his first 97 games for the Accra, Hearts of Oak team, who play in the Ghanain first division. Folo is just 19 years old, but stands at six foot three, and is apparently very fast and skillfull. He has played at Hearts of Oak since he was 11 years old.

The signing, for just £100,000, is Charlton's first venture into the African footballer market, apart from Moroccan Talal El Karkouri, who signed from PSG a couple of years ago, and numerous South Africans who have represented the club over the last 50 odd years. Previous scouting missions to Africa by Premiership clubs have unearthed huge talents like Kolo Toure, Lomana Lualua, and Doriva, who all now ply their trade in the top English division.

As Folo has signed outside of the transfer window, he is ineligible to play for Charlton this season, but he is expected to move to South East London, and vie for a starting place alongside namesake's Darren and Marcus Bent at the start of 2006/2007 season.

With Bent, Bent, and Bent starting in the team next year, you would have to be round the bend to believe this.

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