Monday, September 24, 2007

Hatters Bar the Way to Round Four Hat

This week’s midweek game is a third round league cup tie, away at Luton, and once more Charlton go into the game as favourites.

On an unbeaten run that stretches back over a month, Alan Pardew’s charges will be looking to continue their good form, and earn the possibility of challenging one of the better Premiership clubs in the fourth round.

Pardew (left, telling his team the round) certainly has options when he decides who to give a run out to in this match, and the likelihood is that as many squad players as possible will get plenty of minutes playing time in this game.

Although Nicky Weaver played in the first round at Swindon, it was Darren Randolph who stood between the posts in the last round home game with Stockport, and I expect our young Irish-American to don the gloves once more in this match.

At the back, Pardew has already said that Chris Powell will not play (as he expends too much energy jumping out of the tunnel when we win!), and that Danny Mills is unlikely to as well. The right back position will almost certainly go to the now fit again Yassin Moutaouakil and at left back, if he is fit, Ben Thatcher will probably also return, or if he isn’t yet fit enough, we could see a debut for young Aswad Thomas. The centre of defence is again likely to see changes from the now-ensconced league pairing, with Paddy McCarthy given a starting role (and the captains armband), and he will play alongside Fortune or Bougherra as, sadly, Sam Sodje played in the last round for Reading (and got sent off). I’m sure Sodje will have been as surprised as everyone to have made his first two outings for Charlton as a sub in midfield, but I'm sure he will eventually play at the back!

In the middle, Darren Ambrose is sure to feature, having been used sparingly since the birth of his daughter ten days ago, and Therry Racon could be the holding player if Jose Semedo is given a rest as intimated. I’m not sure if Matt Holland is considered fit enough yet to take a starting place in midfield, but I do think he will feature. If he cannot start, I think Dean Sinclair may get the nod with Matty as sub. The wide man role looks like it might go to naughty-boy Jerome Thomas, if he has got the message about his attitude and how it can affect team-morale. If he is still in the manager’s bad books, we may get a glimpse of the unknown Martin Christensen, or possibly see another exciting outing from Lloyd Sam who didn’t get much of a kick this weekend.

Up front, the obvious pairing seem to be to give the two forwards who need a game – Izale McLeod and Svetislav Todorov - the start they crave. Both could do with a good few minutes under their belts, and that would give both Chris Iwelumo (who may be sub) and Luke Varney a well earned rest.

This is the team that Pards might start with -

Darren Randolph
Yassin Moutaouakil
Madjid Bougherra
Paddy McCarthy
Aswad Thomas
Therry Racon
Matt Holland
Darren Ambrose
Jerome Thomas
Izale McLeod
Svetislav Todorov

Subs from Weaver, Sinclair, Thatcher, Christensen, Holland, plus all the first team outfield players bar Powell, Semedo, and Mills (and Sodje who is cup-tied).

The merits of the league cup are always under discussion: Is it good to continue a wining or unbeaten run, or possibly end a barren stretch; or do the games get in the way of the more important league aspect and simply bring unwanted injuries and suspensions?

Well, at the moment, with the vast majority of our squad being fit and raring for a game, we can live with our best players being given a rest and not worry too much if the reserves get a few (hopefully only minor) injuries. We are on a good run, and of course it would be great to continue this; no manager wants his side to lose, be it a competitive league game, or a cup game against a non-league club or the Premiership champions.

I think this game has actually come at a good time for the Addicks and will ensure that when the call comes for some of the fringe players to get a game, as they undoubtedly will need to over the course of this season (I reckon we still have at least 43 games to play!), they are as ready as can be.

My one to watch in this match is going to be Svetislav Todorov (left, with Andy Reid). Toddy has scored in the last three games in which he has featured, and another goal would go down well with the away fans at Kenilworth Road. With Varney and Iwelumo starting to look like a good pairing, our remaining Bulgarian needs to stay sharp and keep the pressure on the incumbent front two, especially as McLeod has assumed some sort of super-sub mantle.

Pedro45’s score prediction is a continuation of the good form we have seen over recent weeks – I think there is too much at stake for the players put out to fluff their lines and make a mess of it. Sure, Luton will be up for the match, and could cause a few problems in a tight game, especially if some of the untried Charlton pairings do not gel as quickly/well as they might. I think we will win 2-1, which is a reflection of how tight it might be.

It was a tenner wasn’t it Natalie?

Up the Addicks!

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