Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hot and Bothered

Charlton Athletic 4 West Ham United 0

Wow. What a game. What a result!

I spent all day Saturday moping around, anxious, nervous, you name it - would the game be shown on Thai TV tonight or would I have to bite my nails and get someone to text me the scoreline?

It didn't help that my wife got the time wrong; thinking it was coming up to ten pm, we made our way back to our room, only to find the Fulham Manyoo game still had half an hour to run. And then, after more tense moments, with just fifteen minutes to go before kick off ESPN announced that they would show the game from The Valley and not Liverpool instead - this probably displeased most people in Thailand except me!

It is very strange watching your team on TV from abroad when you are used to seeing them live. The atmosphere is totally different for a start, and you lay on the bed or sit on a sofa with your feet up.

I cheered when Ambrose knocked home the first goal; cheered when Thomas stroked home the second, after I had mentally been imploring him to do exactly what he did; I screamed when Dazza hit home the third goal; in the second half, I was more restrained, only waking the wife three times - when Hasselbaink hit the post, when Thomas clipped home the final goal, and when Zhi headed against the bar in the last minute. It was an emphatic scoreline that fully reflected the play from both sides. Fully deserved, although maybe a better team would have pulled a goal or two back.

Curbishley did what Curbs always did - spoke to Merv, chatted to Peacock; swapped players around; didn't take anychances or risks - would Pardew have sent out that side for the second half being three down? No... and there is the difference.

The atmosphere was muted on the TV I watched, with commentary very laid back - contrary to reports of those who were there. The studio guests (Steve McMahon and Gerry Armstrong among them) all thought either West Ham or a draw were likely results, no doubt pandering to the local bookies!

"What does this mean then?" asked my wife after the game - nothing I said unless we do it all over again next week against Watford.

The confidence was apparent, the effort immense, and Pardew really does now have the belief in the team that we can go out and play and get decent results each week. The Spanish trip does seem to have helped, even if Reid and Young were a little naughty! Is it enough to get us out of the mire? Who knows, but this is a great start to the run in.

I'm going to be in the same boat next week (metaphorically) in trying to see the Watford vs Charlton game on Thai TV, and I doubt my luck will hold two weeks running. If any of the south-east Asia based Addicks know which channel the game will be on, I'd appreciate a comment (Cheers!).

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Is the Honeymoon Over?

Well mine isn't yet, and hopefully it won't be for Alan Pardew either. Being in Cambodia, it is tough to chat much about the game on Saturday, as catching any Charlton news isn't very high on the agenda right now; maybe on Saturday, when I hope to see the game on Thai TV it will be.

I can't really guess who Pardew will put out, but think it has to be those that did well against Man Utd, plus the returning injury victims, minus anyone who is still injured or got broken in Spain. Maybe -

El Karkouri
Bent D
Bent M

After the recent Celebrity Alan-Swap, West Ham have even more Charlton connections - Newton, Bowyer, and Spector,(who is suspended I believe) amongst others. Hopefully, all will get a good reception up to kick off and then a torrent of noise to show them who is the better club. Biggest victim (in more ways than one) could be Mervyn Day...

My one to watch has to be the returning Darren Bent. We need the goals mate.

A score prediction in a tough match like this could be anything, and in conversations I've said I think it could be three or four nil either way. Then again it could be dour and goalless. I have to go for a Charlton win though, so will plump for 2-1 to the Addicks.

Come on you reds! May the best Alan-team win.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Played off the Park?

Manchester United 2
Charlton Athletic 0

Well, not quite, and it wasn't as bad as it may have been (and what I thought it might be). Beaten, but showing plenty of spirit and passion, Charlton could even have snatched something from this match if they had been blessed with much luck.

Alan Pardew gave debuts to Madjid Bougherra and Alexandre Song (left), and also to Zheng Zhi, who came on as a first half substitute for Amady Faye. Darren Ambrose was also a starter, for an injured Jerome Thomas, as was Souleymane Diawara for Hermann Hreidersson.

The opening few minutes could have seen goals from either team; Park and Giggs went close for United, then Rommedahl hit the side netting, and Ambrose headed too close to Kuscak who saved well. Park opened the scoring after twenty four minutes, heading in a deflected cross. Charlton survived the inevitable battering that followed, and actually did better in the second half, with Zhi having a couple of (wayward) shots, and Bent almost getting a good header on target. The killer goal though came from a breakaway late in the game, and after Carson had saved well from Rooney, his flick was headed in by Fletcher, who always seems to score against the Addicks. The game finished with United having to have put on all their stars in order to make the game safe; the media may say United played badly, but maybe it was Charlton who forced them into doing that?

Results elsewhere involving teams near the bottom of the Premiership, and at which all Charlton fans now have to look, saw West Ham lose at home to Watford, Sheffield United win at home to Spurs, and Wigan lose controversially today at Arsenal. A five point gap remains between Charlton and safety, but it is another five points between Wigan and those other clubs on 30 points. With just eleven games left, it looks to me like Charlton need to win at least six of the remaining games; this is possible, bearing in mind the games left to play, but equally West Ham and Watford will be thinking the along similar lines.

The next couple of games - West Ham and Watford - need to be won; anything less, and I'm afraid that we can kiss goodbye to any chance of staying up. Sadly, I will miss both games as I am on my honeymoon; hopefully, the excellent Premiership TV coverage that Thailand seems to get according to regular correspondents should mean I can stay in touch with both matches as they happen.

The team now have a two-week break before that crucial Hammers match, and Pardew has wangled a 18-30 holiday in Spain for most of the lads. Here, fitness work is key - both mental and physical - as preparation for the final run in. Charlton really do have to get rid of the late season slump that riddled Curbishley's final years as boss, and a trip to Spain is as good a way of trying to break the jinx, or it's curtains.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Things Can Only Get Better!

Do you remember, back in 1994, when Charlton took over 10,00 supporters up to Old Trafford for the FA Cup quarter final? Half time, nil nil, and Schmeical had been sent off. The tannoy boomed out D:Ream's anthem, and the whole of the travelling support from South London sang along and bopped up and down. It was a fabulous moment, on a wonderful day, even though we lost (3-1).

Since then, things have got remarkably better, with two promotions and a long standing position in the elite league of English football clubs. Until this season, anyhow.

Now we are fighting for survival; hoping to pull ourselves clear of relegation trouble; not wanting to be down at (or near) the bottom of the league; wanting to survive; wanting things to get better.

This Saturdays fixture at Old Trafford presents an obstacle in that path, but whatever happens, we should and need to come out the other side strong, in control, and with belief, that we can win games, points, results, and struggle our way out of the bottom three in the Premiership. It will be tough, and none more so this season than this match, but we have to have that desire, will to win, commitment to succeed, whatever the score -win, lose, or draw - on and after Saturday.

If you compare team sheets, it is a game that we can wave goodbye to; we have no chance on paper. How can Osei Sankofa combat the skill of Christiano Ronaldo? Will Madjid Bougherra - if he plays, on his Premiership debut - shackle Henrik Larsson? Can Amady Faye stop Paul Scholes scoring? Will Dennis Rommedahl track back and nullify Ryan Giggs? How will Marcus Bent get free and score against Rio Ferdinand? Not a hope in hell then.

So why bother? Because we have to. Because we are in this same division on merit. We may have only won two draws in the fifteen games played against United in the Premiership, but those were against the odds too.

Alan Pardew (above) has the belief, and this is the side I think he will send out at the Theatre of Dreams -

Scott Carson
Osei Sankofa
Madjid Bougherra
Hermann Hreidersson
Ben Thatcher
Amady Faye
Matt Holland
Alexandre Song
Dennis Rommedahl
Jerome Thomas
Marcus Bent

Subs from Randolph, Diawara, Kishishev, Zhi, Hughes, Ambrose, Sam, Hasselbaink, Lisbie.

The managers hands are tied somewhat in who he can pick, with contnued injuries to three key players - Young, Reid, and Darren Bent - plus the one game suspension to Talal El Karkouri. At least Bougherra and Song seem fit for the first time since they signed and able to start if required.

United are on such form, playing so well, that a heavy, heavy defeat could be on the cards if Charlton do not show the team spirit that has been in evidence recently. If Fergie's team can put four past Spurs so easily, how many could they rack up aginst a team second from bottom in the league? Scary isn't it? New York Addict's prediction that a cricket scoreboard could be required isn't far off the mark. The words of "One Goal went past Perry" could well be changed in future, to read "past Scottie", and it might not stop at nine! Will United ease up? A couple of reasons why they may not - Scholes (98) and Giggs (97) are vying to beat the other to scoring 100 for United; and United may need all the goal difference they can get in order to stay ahead of Chelsea at the summit of the league.

I fear that the only hope Charlton have of not being completely swamped on Saturday is if Fergie rests some of his "stars" from the off, and if Charlton really do play as well as they have in the last few games but with a better, tighter defence. Maybe "Magic" can help here?

As last week, my one-to-watch is Scott Carson. He needs another big game if the score is to remain anywhere near respectable. He showed how good he is last weekend, let's hope he can play even better this week, and the defence gives him some sort of protection.

Pedro45's score prediction is going to be horrible; I know I don't want to see a 6-0 thrashing, but that would appear to be about the most sensible result to my mind. I don't thnk we have the players who can trouble United, and it may just mean keeping the score down and/or anywhere near respectable if we can.

This game is lost in the whole scheme of things, before a ball has been kicked; nobody expects Charlton to get anything out of this game. I wouldn't take an offer of 16-1 for a Charlton win. I do hope that we don't lose any sleep if we do get murdered, as we need to bounce back and be ready for the major games, winnable games, that are coming up after this one.

Up the Addicks!

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Down, but not Out

Charlton Athletic 0 Chelsea 1

However hard Charlton battled and fought, basically Chelsea were just too good on the day. It was a fair result, but one which gives all those connected with the club heart, because we tried to win, and could, with luck, have embarassed the Champions.

Unchanged, Alan Pardew's team started slowly. Chelsea knocked the ball around with ease, and Charlton just kept giving the ball back to them when they did get posession. Tactically, Pards had an interesting set up; he started with Rommedahl playing up alongside (and in front) of Marcus Bent, in an effort to utilise his pace. This wasn't a surprise, but using Jerome Thomas in a marking role on Makelele was! Thomas settled into it quite well, but it gave the team a funny shape, and Wayne Bridge in particular ran riot down the wing unopposed.

The goal, 18 minutes in, was a poor one to concede. Faye won the ball, then lost it through bad control to Shevchenko. Faye then won it back but was then outmuscled by the Ukrainian who knocked it to Lampard. Lamps took a touch to set it up, a brief look, then stroked it into the corner of the net from 25 yards - typical Lampard. I did think Carson may have done better, but he made up for any possible error later in the game.

Pardew then changed the formation, and Charlton settled back into a more orthodox 4-5-1 though Rommedahl was still pushed well forward. Half time came, and Charlton survived, but without too much danger to Peter Cech's goal.

The second half was much better from a home team persective, with Hasselbaink replacing Rommedahl, and a switch to a more usual 4-4-2 line up. The crowd came to life as they could see the effort being put in by most of the team, none more so than Marcus Bent who in both halves chased the ball across the whole width of the pitch as it was played across by Chelsea defenders, and then back again!

Kalou hit the post for Chelsea, and then Charlton had two chances to equalise, both falling to Amady Faye. Although he scored a couple of weeks ago at Portsmouth, the number 4 isn't prolific by any means. Striding on to a great turn and pass by Bent, he controlled and hit the ball with power from the edge of the area, only to see Cech make a very good tip over the bar. A few minutes later, Faye ran onto a long pass and seemed to shin the ball at goal, and straight at Cech, and safety.

Obviously the training ground efforts by Pardew and his team are sinking in to the players, with Faye making forward runs we haven't seen before, new formations being tried out, and nobody giving up. Sadly, corner kicks seemed to be wasted time after time. Rommedahl had obviously been told to chip the ball up to the near post, but this just didn't work, and a second half corner knocked to the edge of the penalty area was only ever going to a blue shirt. It is these areas that Pardew and Parkinson need to keep working on, as goal opportunities don't come along that often in the Premiership.

The last twenty minutes or so saw a number of substitutions - Lisbie for Holland, Diawara for Thomas (with Hrediersson moving up to a forward role) for Charlton, and Wright-Phillips and the icon that is John Terry coming on for Chelsea.

Wright-Phillips had two chances to make the game save, but first Carson made a great save, then SWP hit a shot wide when well placed.

A word about the ref - Mark Halsey. Not a favourite by any means, Halsey did keep the game flowing whenever he could and refused to give free kicks every time a player went to ground. At least he was consistent. He should have noted some of the bullying that went on from the Chelsea dug out though, as pressure was consistently put on the linesman by Clarke and "the chosen one", and Terry was also quite verbal when warming up.

A great effort by Charlton, this was a game that we can walk away from with our heads held high. Charlton did not lie down, even after conceding quite early, tried out different options, and gave it a real go. If we can continue like this over the next dozen games, and with Young, Reid, and Darren Bent to come back into the line up, along with Bougherra and Song, then Charlton have a real opportuniity to dig themselves out of the hole that Dowie put them in early in the season.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Blues up Next

Can the Alan Pardew revival continue? After excellent results from the last two away games, four points when none were truthfully expected, Charlton entertain Champions Chelsea at The Valley tomorrow. It will be another tough afternoon for the Addicks, and another where the squad is stretched due to injuries to key players.

Definitely out are new signings Madjid Bougherra and Alexandre Song, while Darren Bent, Luke Young, and Andy Reid are also deemed not to be quite fit enough just yet.

This is the side I expect Pards to release tomorrow -

Scott Carson
Osei Sankofa
Talal El Karkouri
Hermann Hreidersson
Ben Thatcher
Amady Faye
Matt Holland
Bryan Hughes
Dennis Rommedahl
Jerome Thomas
Marcus Bent

Subs from Randolph, Diawara, Sam, Ambrose, Kishishev, Hasselbaink, Lisbie.

This should be the third unchanged side on the trot for Charlton, and that is a luxury at this stage of the season, when consistency is a necessity.

My one-to-watch tomorrow is going to be Scott Carson. Whenever we play one of the decent sides we need our keeper at his best, and Scotty will need to be good to keep out Chelsea's bunch of expensive superstars. He wasn't too busy on Wednesday, but certainly earned his weeks wages with a late save last weekend at Fratton Park.

Pedro45's score forecasts haven't been too close recently, though I did plump for a win at Pompey. Realistically, you cannot back Charlton to win, or even pick up a point, however much the heart wants. I'm going to predict a 2-0 defeat, but hope that we can continue the good form and put up a fight that makes the Russian owned team play somewhere near their best in order to win.

We know that the players have had heart and passion instilled back into them after a terrible start to the season. If the effort matches the endeavour, a result could be won - let's hope so!

Come on you reds!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

One 'El of a Free Kick!

Bolton Wanderers 1
Charlton Athletic 1

Sometimes our heroes just make you proud...

The rubbish served up early on this season is fast becoming a poor memory, or a part of a nightmare. Last night, in a game few expected Charlton to get anything from, we saw the spirit that Addicks teams used to possess.

It didn't look too good early on - Pederson being given space to glance a header past Carson and in at the far post after just five minutes. But Talal El Karkouri soon blasted Charlton level with a bombshell of a free kick. So fierce was the strike, from 25 yards, that Jasskalainen could only glance it into the net off his shoulder.

The usual Bolton seige ensued for most of the rest of the game, but Charlton stood firm. A couple of penalty appeals were turned away, first after Faye tripped Nolan, then when Karkouri's arm hit a rolling ball as he fell, but the ref, in only his second Premiership game, did Charlton a favour on both occasions.

Charlton did have chances; Jerome Thomas missed his shot, then broke free twice. First his shot was well saved then he was caught dallying; with luck, all three points could have been won by left-wing Charlie.

The heroes though were the midfield, for once, and defence. Holland and Faye harried and blocked everything, and Hreidersson, Karkouri, and Thatcher did well too. Sankofa also deserves special praise, as I thought he might have been a weak link in a small-ish back line. He kept his side of the pitch well marshalled though, and is settling into the right back slot well (in much the same way Darren Pitcher did all those years ago...).

So four points from two tough away games brings Charlton level on points with West Ham, and just a couple behind fourth from bottom Wigan. We shouldn't expect anything from our next two matches (against the top two in the land), but if those other teams are still close come the end of February, a great turnaround could really be on the cards when all seemed lost just weeks ago.

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