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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