Friday, September 21, 2007

Shooting at Foxes

Charlton take on Leicester City on Saturday and the Addicks will be looking for another three home points to push them ever closer the top of the league table. Tuesday’s home win over Norwich was well earned, if a little late in being confirmed, and a similar display (with better finishing) should see Charlton claim another victory this weekend.

It’s always interesting to read other blogs and the media's “official” match reports, and this week plenty has been written about Tuesdays game against the Canaries, plus Luke Varney’s debut, and Danny Mills game-running feud with Huckerby and eventually Dublin.

On the match, the correct result was achieved, but as it came via two late penalties, some negativity has been seen; this really does miss the point. For long periods (the first twenty-five and last twenty minutes approximately), there was only going to be one winner of this match, Charlton were that dominant. The only sour note was that possession did not equate to goals earlier. Mind you, if any or all of the three attempts that hit the bar had gone in, things may have turned out differently!

For Varney, his home debut was good in my opinion. Others saw him running into the corners, and missing the main (one-on-one) chance he had during the second half. I had a good viewing angle on his run through, and have to say that the keeper did well and gave him little to aim at. Sure, he could have squared it, but that was what Leaburn and co would have done and look at the stick they still get for not scoring enough! It was his first game at The Valley, and I thought he did enough to show that his pace is excellent, he has good stamina (that can still be improved), and he does cause defenders problems by running directly at them. He will get better too…

With Mills, it seems that he is on the edge with every game, and everybody seems to hate him. Upsetting Croydon fans on his re-debut is one thing, but he then came up against two teams that were local from whence he started, and that was guaranteed to bring him stick. At Layer Road, he came under abuse but maintained concentration, and did a good job. A couple of fouls were timed well but, had they been a fraction off, could have been dangerous, and may have resulted in a card to match his shirt. Similarly, on Tuesday, he was under pressure verbally most of the match it seems, but when Huckerby’s (and later Dublin’s) frustration came out, he remained on the pitch and relatively calm. He possibly should aim for a quiet game on Saturday, if just to take the pressure off himself and maybe Pards will think about bringing Yassin Moutaouakil back in when the game gets a bit interesting for Mr Mills.

So to the Leicester game; Alan Pardew seems to have pretty much everyone available again. The apparent injuries at Colchester to Todorov, Fortune, and Iwelumo were obviously not as bad as they looked, and all could have played on Tuesday (and two did). Moutaouakil made a surprise appearance on the bench if not the pitch too, and that only leaves Holland, Thatcher, Gibbs and Sankofa as probably not ready for Saturday though all are back in training.

Whether the squad availability brings changes from Tuesday’s line up is not clear, especially after such a good performance, but with the possibility of a rotation policy being used, I expect a couple of players to be rested/brought in.

In goal though, Nicky Weaver is a certainty, and Darren Randolph will provide adequate back-up from the bench.

Mills will probably start ahead of Moutaouakil at right back, and Powell in front of Thatcher (an ex-Leicester player) on the left side. In central defence, I expect the excellent midweek partnership of Fortune and Bougherra to continue, with Sodje as back-up leaving another ex-Leicester player – Paddy McCarthy – out of contention.

The midfield will be interesting, as competition is obviously very hot at present, and apart from Semedo, nobody has tied down their place/position for the foreseeable future. Sure, Andy Reid will always play when fit, but will it be centrally or out wide? Zheng Zhi, similarly almost a shoe-in, but in what position? A wide player will play, but will that be Thomas, (new father) Ambrose, or Sam (fresh from an excellent midweek performance). And Sinclair and Racon are ready, able and willing back-ups should we be hit by a bout of flu or Dowie hamstrings or or something…
Up front, the choice gets harder every week! Iwelumo looked slow and a little tired to me against Norwich, so maybe his injury was a bit worse than he told Pards before kick-off! Varney is getting fitter with every outing, and Izale McLeod really did a job when he came on for his ten-minute cameo. Then we have Todorov fit again, and looking to regain his place after a three-game scoring streak.

This is the side I think Pards will put out on Saturday afternoon –

Nicky Weaver
Danny Mills
Madjid Bougherra
Jonathan Fortune
Chris Powell
Jose Semedo
Zheng Zhi
Andy Reid
Lloyd Sam
Chris Iwelumo
Svetislav Todorov

Substitutes from Randolph, Moutaouakil, Sodje, McCathy, Racon, Sinclair, Ambrose, Thomas, McLeod, Varney.

Leicester are having a very average start to the season, much as Norwich, and in fact sit one place (and one point) below the Canaries, but with a game in hand. Ex-Addick Radostin Kishishev has been out of the starting team recently, but has been introduced during the second half of the last two league matches. Many Addicks hope he is in from the start this weekend, however it is doubtful he will be backed to score against Charlton as Kevin Lisbie widely was last weekend!

The Foxes won many plaudits this week when they “gifted” Nottingham Forest a goal at the start of their re-arranged league cup tie, after the original leg was abandoned (with Forest winning) due to Clive Clarke having a heart attack at half-time. Leicester went on to win thanks to two very late goals in that game, so fans are warned not to leave before the final whistle at this match!

Pedro45’s score prediction has to be based on how we might play, and who the opposition are – I cannot see Leicester causing more problems to this Charlton team than Norwich did (and probably less in fact). I will therefore predict a 3-1 win, in the hope that some of that possession we are bound to have is transferred into better goal-scoring opportunities, and that chances are taken.

My one-to-watch this game is going to be Zheng Zhi (left). Bound to start, ZiZi is starting to settle back into English football, and in his favoured central midfield berth. Alongside Semedo, he is forging a powerful partnership, but, especially in home games, he needs to make more forward runs into the penalty box when the wide players are holding the ball (pretty much as Ambrose does) so that the presence of Iwelumo, Varney, etc, are helped and any knock-downs fall to red shirts.

In some ways, Watford’s away win at Cardiff on Wednesday night has taken some pressure off the Addicks – we cannot go top this weekend now. The players are fans know, though, that only a win will do at home, and that with second place Bristol City taking on sixth pace Burnley, three points may move us up to second. The teams just behind us also have quite tough games (in this relatively even division), so that win could provide the gap between the top two and the also-ran’s which hopefully will just get bigger as the season progresses. Only then can we start thinking about the free-season tickets that we may all be getting next season.

Come on you Reds!

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